I recently traveled to Shell, Wyoming, (population 85), for a photography workshop at The Hideout Ranch. I learned a lot about photography during the week I was there, but I also noticed that people in Wyoming haven't lost the art of conversation. Without exception, the locals wanted me to visit with them while they'd leisurely spin a yarn or two. I heard about the best way to rope a buffalo out of a cattle pasture, how to spot rattlesnakes on the trail, and where to pitch your tent away from grizzly bears by camping in the Bighorns and not at Yellowstone, but if you do camp in the Bighorns, you ought to have a can of bear spray with you anyway. It was refreshing to slow down the pace and talk with people again, away from cellphones and computers.
The one and a half hour drive from Cody to The Hideout passes by thousands of acres of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management in the McCullough Peaks area. It's flat, high desert land, covered with sagebrush and home to a herd of wild horses, one of several herds in the state of Wyoming. On our way to the ranch, we turned off the highway onto a short gravel road to watch the horses . A huge sign posted by the B.L.M. had a strict list of rules for visitors to follow. In order to keep the herds wild, there should be no interaction between the people and the mustangs, meaning no feeding them or approaching them. When I jumped down from the truck to get a better view, I was surprised to see how robust and large the horses looked. Although they are of mixed heritage, a recent DNA sampling revealed a strong draft horse influence that is reflected in their size. Well-fed, very tall and curious, the herd started coming towards us slowly. As we retreated back to the truck and climbed inside, I marveled at this glimpse of the Old West.
The Hideout Ranch participates in a Wild Horse adoption program and has a small herd of mustangs that they train over time to become ranch horses. Throughout the week, I had several chances to photograph these stunning horses, as they grazed, walked and loped over the snowy, Western landscape. Watching the horses was fulfilling in a way that listening to music or seeing a beautiful sunset elevates your spirit. Here is a photograph of the mustangs from the ranch. You can see more mustangs in the Wranglers and Ranches Gallery.