It is that time of year when horse racing, ever so briefly, enters national consciousness as the equine equivalents of Barry Bonds take to the tracks in pursuit of the elusive Triple Crown.
But the brief thrill of watching ’roided-up, goofily named thoroughbreds run in ovals pales in comparison to the joy of witnessing wild horses.
Colorado is home to four designated wild horse areas, all along the western edge of the state. My favorite—for no other reason than its proximity to my home—resides in the canyonland of the Little Bookcliffs just east of Grand Junction.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 horses inhabit this secluded range, which will hopefully one day gain designation as a wilderness area. The ancestry of the horses is questionable; it’s possible they are the descendents of true mustangs and/or horses maintained by regional Native American tribes, although they may also be the offspring of horses abandoned by ranchers generations ago.
Regardless of their lineage, the horses of Main Canyon have never let me down. In a dozen or so trips, the dogs and I have always observed at least one small herd of three to six. Often we’ve hiked along the more gradually sloping eastern wall of the canyon to find a good vantage point, then just sat and watched the horses, stockier and more chiseled than their domestic counterparts, graze and break into an occasional frisky gait through the flatland below.
But Main Canyon offers more than just wild horses. We’ve also seen bighorn sheep and coyote, and the Main Canyon trail itself can be full of surprises. On one early spring hike, we came across the ice falls seen here.