LOVELL, WY (FOX 13) - I've been fascinated by wild horses for as long as I can remember. And like so many of my fellow horse lovers, I fell in love with one in particular the moment I laid eyes on him. His name is "Cloud."
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting his herd and the other mustangs of the Pryor Mountain Horse Range with the woman who made them famous, Emmy award-winning filmmaker and Founder/Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation Ginger Kathrens.
I shot video with my trusty I-phone as we traveled to the top of the mountain in the foundation's UTV named "Big Sheryl". It's named for the woman whose donation made its purchase possible, singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. There was an original "Sheryl," which finally succumbed to one the rockiest trails I've ever traveled!
The Pryor horses are legendary, tracing their lineage all the way back to the early Spanish explorers. In fact, this is the first public wild horse range in the United States, established in 1968. That was three years before Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, meant to protect all wild equines.
There's nothing quite like getting to the top of the mountain and seeing dozens and dozens of wild horses appearing before you. Ginger says, "In one day you might see 20 times what you can see in a lifetime somewhere else. The horses come up on the mountain stop and there's a hundred horses up here."
We sat and watched with binoculars as band after band made their way to the local mud hole for a drink and a roll. It's sort of like the community pool for kids in the summer time. "This is the place. This little tiny mud hole behind us is the place. It's a great place just to sit and watch and observe and soak it all in," Ginger says.
Ginger has spent the past 22 years coming to this range; chronicling the lives of these horses, including its most famous citizen from the day he was born.
On May 29, 1995 she was shooting video for a special on wild horses when a tiny pale foal emerged from the trees with his palomino mother. Ginger named him "Cloud," and he became the star of her documentary for PBS Nature, "Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies."
That documentary was such a hit, she filmed two more for PBS, following Cloud through his life as a band stallion, weaving in stories of other horses in his life on the mountain.
"I've known most of these horses since they were little. some of them I'm even privileged enough to have named them. I know their mothers and fathers and where they came from," Ginger said.
I was delighted to spot 3-year-old Encore, Cloud's lookalike daughter. She was never far from her stallion, Knight. In my mind, they're sort of the teen lovers on the mountain. It was very sweet watching how he protects her, fawns over her. Ah, first love!
We also got to see Cloud's last son, Pride. The handsome buckskin has the same blaze and pink snip on his nose as his famous father.
But where is Cloud? It's the question Ginger gets everyday. He was last seen November 8th. She's still hopeful, but realistic. "It's troubling, but if he is no longer with us in a physical form, obviously he's here because you're seeing his offspring and they'll continue on," Ginger said.
Cloud would have turned 21 in May. "While so many of us are holding out hope that he'll surprise us, we also know his spirit is still here and will live for the ages," Ginger said. "I think he knows he's special or knew he was special. In some way I think he felt the love, and his story is one I was very proud to tell."
My sincere thanks to Tony Wengert and The Cloud Foundation for some of the photos and video in this story.
For a variety of reasons, America's wild horses in in peril these days. If you'd like to find out more about the Pryor mustangs and other wild horses, you can visit The Cloud Foundation website: http://www.thecloudfoundation.org/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCloudFoundation/?fref=ts
You can also visit the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses! The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center runs tours out of their center in Lovell, Wyoming. Check out their Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/Pryor-Mountain-Wild-Mustang-Center-498371643575809/