This stallion is the first wild horse that I ever photographed. Called Grey Ghost by the rangers, the stallion leads a band within Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
After discovering wild horses on our first visit to TRNP in 2010, David and I made a second visit to the park the following year. We arrived with high hopes of photographing wild horses again. To our dismay, we discovered that the park was using helicopters to dust herbicides for nonnative weeds. Of course, wildlife was scarce and skittish.
To my delight, however, we found Grey Ghost and his band on our first morning in the park. Although the stallion was as beautiful as ever, he was limping badly. (Later, when I blew photos of him, it appeared that he had a terrible gash on his inner left/front leg.)
When we found the band, I was more than excited. I was in a fairly good position to take photos, the sun was behind me, and the morning light was perfect. Slowly, I inched closer to the band, using sagebrush for partial cover. The horses were obviously aware of me but continued grazing peacefully.
As I inched closer, I began taking photos. Suddenly, the sound of a chopper came tremendously close, startling us all. The horses went on high alert. The chopper rose out of a gully not more than a hundred yards from us. The stallion turned and gallantly stood to take on this huge metal beast while his boss mare led the band to safety. Only after the entire band had fled did the wounded stallion turn to save himself. My heart broke as we watched him limp out of sight. In spite of the moment, I was able to raise the camera and take this one shot of him.
I am happy to report that during our third visit to Theodore Roosevelt, we found the stallion healed and still in charge of his band. Although this photo is a bit blown out around his haunches, it remains one of my favorites because of the story behind the photo.