The Journey of Ohanzee and Odakota
Two colts are born wild on the rugged Pryor Mountains of Montana in 2014, sons of the once powerful band stallions, Cloud and Duke. This is their story.
RT Fitch and I discover Cloud and Feldspar’s dark, blazed-faced colt in May. RT suggests the name Ohanzee for the newborn. It is a Lakota word that means shadow, and we agree it is a perfect name. Ohanzee is a dark version of his famous father and a carbon copy of his beautiful mother.
A month later, Jack Sterling finds a newborn with his mother, Graciana. They are beyond Penn’s Cabin near the top of Sykes Ridge. By the time Jack excitedly tells us of his discovery, the colt is struggling to get up and nurse his exhausted-looking mother. Duke and the rest of the family are nearby. Jack names the dun colt, Odakota, which means friend in the Lakota language. At the time, we didn’t know he would one day become Ohanzee’s best friend.
Foals are naturally curious about each other and Ohanzee, whose coat has turned black, is no exception. He boldly invades the space of Duke's band and begins encouraging Odakota to get up and play. It's the band stallion's job to protect his foals and Duke is quick to have words with Ohanzee who mouths for forgiveness, then races joyfully away.
Next Ohanzee chooses Oro, the roan son of Galaxy and Maia to play with. They are having a great time until Outlaw Lady, Odakota’s half sister, shows up to play the role of the fun police.
As a yearling, Odakota’s favorite playmate becomes his older brother Naolin. Here he is with Naolin (Aztec God of the Sun) and his half sister, Navaho. At summer's end a bait trapping operation begins and Odakota is selected for removal. I believe the BLM reasoned the yearling would adapt better to a life with humans than his two year-old brother.
Meanwhile, Ohanzee’s life is also taking a dramatic turn. He isn't even a year old, when Cloud is injured by Inniq, a black bachelor. By the time Linda Hanick, Paula Todd-King and I locate Inniq with Cloud's family, Feldspar is shockingly absent. Only Ohanzee, Innocentes and her daughter, Orielle, remain!
Back over on Tillett on the last day of our visit, we spot distant horses on a hilltop as the sun is setting. Through my binoculars I can see a big blaze. "Feldspar?" I whisper. As quickly as we can we drive to the bottom of the hill and I begin climbing, trying to beat the darkness. When I crest the hill I see her. "Hello girl.", I whisper. She is with her mother and her sister in Mescalero's band. After all the awful happenings, seeing her alive and well makes it somehow seem less awful.
In the coming months, I glass onto Sykes and spot Inniq with Innocentes and Orielle, but Ohanzee is not with them. This is no surprise. Inniq didn't want a young male around, so he kicked Ohanzee out. Luckily, the colt finds bachelor friends. They lead him to an unfamiliar place in the low country along the paved highway in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
Ohanzee was with the bachelors when he was bait trapped and removed.
In September, after a lively internet adoption, all the young Pryor horses find homes. Ohanzee is adopted by Cloud Foundation Board Member, Jaime Wade, and Odakota by Emily Tomjack a young woman who works in the Mustang Ambassador Program with TCF Board Member, Susan Sutherland and Jaime.
Within weeks the two yearlings are on their way to a new life and a new home just east of Colorado Springs. According to Jaime and Susan, the yearlings were easy to gentle and halter train. They have an important "job," working to build young girls' confidence and leadership skills as Mustang Ambassadors.
On January 5th, Anne Breault, TCF volunteer (Twitter manager and designer) and I visit Ohanzee and Odakota at Jaime’s ranch. It is a bitterly cold day, but the boys don’t seem to care. They warmly greet us. In time they get tired of all the petting and kissing and trot off to play, dashing at each other, biting, spinning and rearing.
How fun to see them interact just like bachelor stallions in the wild!
Ohanzee and Odakota will be three years old this spring. It seems impossible.
I regret they are not in the Pryors, but will be forever thankful they have each other, a place to play, and a job to do -- helping young people discover confidence, friendship, trust and a sense of self worth.
P.S. Thousands of young horses like those in holding pictured here are awaiting forever homes. Please consider adoption. Their lives are in jeopardy as a push to kill them continues. TCF is working to prevent this cruelty and to convince BLM managers that "on the range management" can prevent warehousing. Our goal remains the same. Any foal born wild, will live its life in precious freedom with its family. This "on the range management program" will require your participation!
If you are interested in being part of the solution, join our volunteer on the range management team. Go to the National Volunteer Coordinator, National Volunteer Program. Thanks so much!