[light music] [horses neighing] - The violent clash of wild stallions battling to win mares.
[light music continues] [hooves thudding] Into this vibrant, perilous world a fragile colt was born.
Though frail at first, he soon revealed his strong, funny, precocious personality.
He grew up in a Montana wilderness of danger and excitement.
[thunder rumbling] [horses neighing] I watched him develop into a feisty adolescent and agonized with him when his freedom was threatened.
I searched for him through the seasons of his life.
I rooted for him like a proud parent as he fought to start his own family.
[horses neighing] Unique, daring, and resilient, he is a wild horse of dreams, a legend in the making.
[bird caws] [light music] [light dramatic music] The Crow Indians call them the Arrowhead Mountains.
Isolated and unchanged, they remain one of the few places where wild horses could find refuge over the centuries.
I came into their world with a camera and intense curiosity.
How do they live and survive?
Will they let me get near them?
Little by little they start to ignore me.
That's more than I could have ever hoped for.
I can't help coming back again and again to learn more about them.
[light music] My adventure began with a chance encounter; a family of mares, foals, and a yearling.
And a striking black stallion named Raven.
It's clear that he's the protector of the family group.
In spring, unattached bachelor stallions prowl the mountainsides.
[horses neighing] Raven must clearly show his dominance over the young stallions or face the loss of his mares.
Most confrontations don't amount to much.
But Raven senses the big bachelor is a real threat.
As his mares move closer, Raven needs to respond.
[horses neighing] Raven returns to escort his family safely through the forest.
It's late May, the height of the foaling season.
Two of Raven's mares have given birth.
[light music] His third, the young Palomino, has yet to foal.
Late in the afternoon, she leaves the band.
It's safer for her to give birth alone, under a cloak of darkness, hidden away from the main predator of wild horse babies, the mountain lion.
[light music continues] [owl hoots] [birds chirping] The next morning the palomino rejoins her band.
The fragile foal at her side takes my breath away.
Not at all like his older sisters, or any foal on the Arrowheads for that matter, he's nearly white.
[light music continues] His band is traveling uphill to the deep forest, and he totters on unsteady legs to keep up.
[light music continues] Besides his two sisters, he has a yearling half brother.
But it's his mother he focuses on, to fall behind is unthinkable for the colt.
[light music continues] After a march of several miles, the white colt sees what all the walking is about.
Water holes on top of his mountain home are still locked in ice and snow.
Below they've long since dried up.
Snow under the dense canopy of Douglas firs is their spring water source.
[horse snorts] Finally, the colt can stop and rest.
He's so thin, I can count his ribs.
His sisters are two months older and robust in comparison.
The colt nurses for a few minutes at a time in the afternoon light.
Would he ever grow to be as sturdy as his blue roan brother?
Even the simple act of lying down seems difficult for him.
I begin to worry he might not live.
I'd never seen a newborn wild horse foal.
Are they all so frail or just this little one?
And surely his white coat makes him terribly conspicuous.
Mountain lions, though rarely seen, are common, waiting in the shadows.
But once detected, the cat has little chance for a kill.
[light music] As he sleeps at the feet of his watchful mother, thin clouds sail overhead.
In that instant, his name comes to me.
The wispy clouds remind me of the upright hair on the colt's mane.
I'll call him Cloud.
[light music continues] Two weeks later I return to the Arrowheads to find the bands trailing to the top of the mountain.
The water holes are filling with the runoff from melting snow and family groups are coming to drink.
Most of the horses are small in stature and dark in color.
Many are golden duns and a gray color called grulla.
Duns and Grullas have dorsal stripes, zebra stripes on their legs, sometimes even bold shoulder stripes, colors and markings designed to camouflage.
Neither Cloud nor his palomino mother are camouflaged.
Even from miles away, I can see them coming to the mountaintop.
I'm thrilled to see Cloud alive.
The mares lead the way while the stallion, Raven, protects the rear.
They're making their first journey of early summer to the snow fed water hole.
Gone are the hesitant, wobbly steps of a newborn.
Now Cloud dances on nimble legs.
[birds chirping] Because Raven is a powerful stallion with close knit mares, the band enjoys a high ranking among the 30 bands of horses on the mountain.
They move with confidence.
While more submissive groups give ground, Raven and his family take all the time they want to drink and play.
[water splashing] On warm days they may even come a second time.
I think it's fun for them, like kids going to the pool in summer.
[horse grunting] A roll in the sand helps protect Raven's coat from biting flies.
Cloud and his sisters aren't the only foals on the mountaintop.
[horses neighing] [light music] 20 other playful spirits are celebrating the season.
[upbeat music] This foal is learning to navigate the terrain and this one to express submission to his elders with teeth-clacking gestures that seem to say "Don't hurt me, I'm little."
Other newborns are appearing too.
There are mule deer fawns and bighorn sheep lambs.
Black bears are common, though glimpses of tiny cubs are unusual.
Atop the mountain, a mother coyote regurgitates breakfast for her pups.
[horses neighing] Cloud seems to notice everything.
He watches a stallion herd a mare in an ears back, head down posture called snaking.
And then he mimics the behavior when a little filly comes to visit.
[light music] He watches Diamond roughhouse with a neighboring yearling.
And tries to copy his brother.
But he picks a yearling to spar with.
Reckless behavior for a foal.
[horses neighing] His mother breaks it up before Cloud gets hurt.
The colt is a general nuisance to his sisters.
"Get up, let's play," he seems to say.
[horses snorting] [light music] As summer ended, I hoped his family would protect him from the dangers of living free in this wild land.
[upbeat music] [hooves thudding] The seasons would fly by for me and it would be over a year and a half before I could travel back to the Arrowheads.
[light music] [wolf howling] [engine rumbling] My filming had taken me to exotic and exciting places around the world, but it had also kept me away from where I really wanted to be.
As in years past, I use an old cabin on top of the mountain to stash my gear.
I have no idea whether Cloud is alive or dead, but I'm hopeful I can celebrate his second birthday with him.
Raven has probably kicked him out of the band by now to avoid the threat of inbreeding.
It can be traumatic, even dangerous for these young stallions to leave the only family they've ever known.
Raven's band is easy to find, near the top of the mountain.
Cloud is conspicuously absent.
Raven looks wonderful and his new foals include a red filly with a bold lightning bolt down her face.
I'm amazed how tolerant Raven is when his brazen yearling sons try to mount Cloud's mother.
[horses neighing] Roving bachelors can be impossible to find in the enormity of the horse range.
Tillet Ridge, where Cloud was born, is separated by an impassable canyon from an even bigger ridge called Sykes.
[light dramatic music] When I don't see Cloud on Tillet, I scope over to Sykes.
A white horse!
It has to be Cloud.
But, how can I get a closer look?
A five hour, bone jarring drive down Tillet and up Sykes is my only alternative.
When I glass onto the ridge I spot a group of bachelors and Cloud is with them.
He watches as I approach, but doesn't run.
[birds chirping] [horses neighing] This is Cloud's new family.
Their gentle play underscores the importance of friends and family to wild horses.
In this, I don't think horses and people are so different.
[horse snorting] Within a few days, Cloud's group begins moving to the mountaintop.
Waiting there is another group of bachelors, and Cloud's brother, Diamond.
Pleasantries are exchanged.
[horses neighing] Everyone gets acquainted or re-acquainted, then they join into one rowdy gang.
The bay is older and heavier but the bold white foal has become a bold adolescent.
[horses neighing] His brother's play is a notch more intense.
When Cloud approaches, Diamond snakes him away, asserting his dominance.
I've noticed how a forceful bachelor will practice being a band stallion by treating a younger male like a mare, herding him as if he were a she.
Despite Diamond's dominance displays, the brothers remain close friends.
Nearby, a beautiful yearling, quite similar in color to Diamond, catches my eye.
He and his mother were stolen by a team of two stallions working together.
The younger bay fights the battles, leaving the old red stallion time to play with his mare and blue roan son.
[water splashing] Water games are some of their favorites.
At the time, I never imagined what an important role the blue roan would play in my life.
[water splashing] [horses neighing] It's interesting, as a foal, and as a two year old, I rarely saw Cloud dirty, as if he takes pride in his pristine white coat.
He certainly puts himself in a position to get dirty as he teases the other bachelors.
[horses neighing] He even takes an occasional shot at a band stallion.
This was Cloud's playful life that summer with his colorful, extended family of bachelor stallions.
By mid-September everything would change.
[water splashing] [birds chirping] [light dramatic music] [helicopter whirring] The Bureau of Land Management, known as the BLM, is responsible for managing wild horses on public lands.
Periodic round ups are held to keep wild horse numbers low, some say too low, to ensure the long-term survival of the herds.
The helicopter drives frightened horses into a trap at the base of the mountain.
[light dramatic music] [helicopter whirring] [horses neighing] A Judas horse, trained to run for the corrals, is an effective lure for the social wild horses.
The blue roan yearling and his band fall for the bait.
[light dramatic music continues] Then I see Cloud's band of Sykes Ridge bachelors nearing the wings of the trap.
It's nearly impossible for me to watch.
[light dramatic music continues] [helicopter whirring] [horses neighing] As the gate closes, their freedom is swept away.
[horses neighing] But to my relief, Cloud is singled out to be released.
The reason, his unusual coat color.
The BLM hopes he will breed and pass it on.
He's isolated in a corral while his friends are freeze branded and readied for sale.
[horses neighing] Then he is released with two bands, the old red stallion and the blue roan's mother, and another band stallion and his mare.
There's no way a band stallion will allow a bachelor to tag along.
I worry because now Cloud will be on his own.
The BLM paints a blue line down his back so the helicopter pilot won't recapture him.
[light music] The auction of the wild horses takes place on a cold and gloomy fall day.
Potential buyers, most from the local area, take a look at what's available.
[horses neighing] They place silent bids on clipboards outside each pen and I become a wild horse owner that day.
Easy boy, don't be afraid.
If the blue roan yearling can never go free, I'll try to give him the next best thing, a home on my little ranch in the Colorado Mountains with my Spanish Mustangs.
[birds chirping] Fall has been kind to Raven and his family.
They were never rounded up.
[water splashing] [horses neighing] [birds chirping] Clark's nutcrackers gather in a supply of nuts from the limber pines.
They hide them as a cache for the harsh winter months.
And what of Cloud?
He seems to have vanished.
I start searching in the desert lowlands near where he was released.
In Big Coulee, the canyon that separates Tillet and Sykes Ridges, I find tracks of a lone adult horse.
But I can't tell Cloud's hoof prints from any of the others.
I search everywhere I've ever seen him.
[light music] An eerie silence wraps around me.
At the deserted water hole I find fresh tracks.
A mountain lion has passed this way not too long ago.
My old fears for Cloud take hold.
He is probably alone for the first time in his life and winter is coming.
[wind whistling] [light dramatic music] Winter can be a savage killer on the Arrowheads.
In 1977 all the older horses and every foal died in icy snows.
I find horses midway up on the mountain but no tracks higher up.
[horse grumbling] Below them a band is digging for minerals.
Pregnant mares need these mineral supplements they dig from the hillsides.
[crow caws] At the bottom, in the desert, Raven's band is eking out a living on the scant vegetation.
Even at lower elevations temperatures can plummet to 30 or 40 below.
Yet the horses seem to hold their own on a combination of weeds and determination.
[light music] In desperation, I search for Cloud in places where I don't expect to find him and my searches are completely unproductive.
[light music continues] [birds chirping] The following spring, I fear the worst.
But, if Cloud is alive, he'll surely come to the top of the mountain where the action is.
A big band led by the elegant stallion, Plenty Coups, is racing to the water hole.
They're followed by another band, and as I film I see another group.
It's Cloud, right smack in the middle of a band of bachelors.
[light music continues] [hooves thudding] These bachelors alluded the helicopter, like Cloud's brother, Diamond.
[light music continues] [horses neighing] A band stallion greets the bachelors, nudging Diamond out of the way, then Cloud.
[horses neighing] When the stallion pushes his weight around, Cloud pushes back.
Little does he know what a relief it is to see him.
As a three year old, he's bigger, stronger and more beautiful than ever.
[birds chirping] The lupine and bistort are hitting their peak as the majority of mares finish foaling.
Cloud's yearling sister, Electra, wanders from Raven and the band during her first heat.
Even though she's too young to leave her family, she gravitates to a mature band stallion.
Her brother apologetically comes to fetch her home while bachelor suitors go ignored on the hill.
No sooner back, Electra gives another mature band stallion a go.
Unlike the first, he's determined to keep her.
Despite her brother's calls, and her plaintive response, her premature break from her family will remain permanent.
Trod on out now.
Back home in Colorado, I continue to work with my wild horse whom I name Trace.
Little by little I win his trust.
I break up training with rewards.
He hasn't lost his love for water games.
[woman laughs] [light music] Easy now.
I grew up on a farm in Ohio and have always been around horses.
It was my love of horses that lead me into wildlife filmmaking.
But the challenge of training a wild horse is a first for me.
[gentle music] By fall, Trace is coming along.
Someday, I promise him, we'll go home together, for a visit to the Arrowheads.
[birds chirping] [gentle music continues] [wind whistling] [thunder rumbling] Another winter passes without a sighting of Cloud.
And spring roars in.
[horses neighing] [thunder cracking] [light music] [wind whistling] [birds chirping] [horses neighing] In early June, I'm once again relieved to find Cloud.
[horses neighing] He's in fine health even though he looks like a horse from the Wizard of Oz, dyed a Cheeto color from rolling in red mud.
[water splashing] As a new four year old he's entered his grunge phase.
Does he think he might be more appealing as a dark horse like the others?
[water splashing] He is tougher.
That's for sure.
[horses neighing] [light music] Cloud has grown up.
[birds chirping] He greets a bachelor who's with a yearling.
This is strange.
A yearling would normally still be with his band.
[birds chirping] Later, I was sad to find out why he wasn't.
His band had been struck and killed by lightning; his father, the mares and a foal.
[flies buzzing] [crows cawing] [birds chirping] The lightning killed another band stallion.
His carcass had already been fed on.
I could tell it was a bear from tracks left in the snow.
It could just as easily have been Cloud lying here at the top of the melting snowdrift.
He had been fighting with this stallion on the day of the storm.
[grass rustling] [crow caws] I can see the scars on his coat from fighting.
In a few days, Cloud begins his quest for a mare in earnest.
He singles out a mare belonging to the tough stallion, Mateo.
He can smell she's in heat.
He watches, feigning indifference.
Then he begins to follow the band, shadowing Mateo, step for step.
When Mateo feels too threatened he tries to run Cloud off.
[horses neighing] But Cloud just comes back.
Day and night Cloud dogs the band, following them everywhere.
Weeks pass into months.
Four year olds are rarely strong enough to become band stallions.
Few even try.
[birds chirping] But, they're not Cloud.
Every time Mateo turns around, Cloud is there.
[horses neighing] [hooves thudding] [horses neighing] Cloud tries to wear Mateo down with one long run after another.
But, in the end, it's Cloud who wears out and goes lame.
I wonder if Cloud's injury will prevent him from ever becoming a band stallion?
[birds chirping] Just over the hill, another drama is unfolding.
A new foal is trying to stand for the first time.
Try as it will, the little foal's back legs just don't seem to work.
The mare guards it from her curious two year old son.
As the hours pass, I realize something's wrong.
Even the band stallion, Boomer, tries to encourage the foal.
That's when another band moves into the meadow, led by the husky stallion, Looking Glass.
Boomer's little band moves away and the foal tries, but cannot follow.
Looking Glass' lead mare notices something in the grass.
She's joined by a second mare and a young stallion.
She seems to encourage the foal while Boomer's band looks on.
Then, Looking Glass approaches and I was shocked at what happened next.
[suspenseful music] [horses neighing] The mares try to stop him.
Boomer charges in, but it's too late.
[horse hooves clomping] I tell myself the stallion did the foal a favor, saving it from a lingering death.
But Looking Glass' aggression is disturbing, and haunting.
This summer death seems to stalk the mountaintop.
Bears move in to devour the carcasses, first of a mare who died while foaling then the lightning struck horses.
[flies buzzing] The lone stallion's body is dragged down the snow field and into the valley below.
The young black bear smells me, I'm sure, but seems too nearsighted to spot me on my cliff overlook.
[flies buzzing] By August, Cloud disappears along with many of the bachelors.
As I hike far outside the horse range, I find part of his tail, a result of his fights with Mateo.
[crow caws] Cloud and the bachelors wander an immense area that includes the most remote canyons in the Arrowhead Mountains.
[light music] [crow caws] As winter bears down on the range, I know my search must focus out here if I'm to find Cloud.
[birds chirping] [snow rustling] By January the snow is six feet deep in places.
I see a group of dark horses and try to get a closer look.
I'm disappointed they aren't bachelors, but a family band who stay out here all year round.
Out here, they paw for every bite, but still look in great shape.
[light music] [horse snorting] All I can do is wonder if Cloud is faring as well.
[light music continues] Spring comes again.
My fifth year of following Cloud in the Arrowheads.
[bees buzzing] [upbeat music] Cloud's sister, Electra, has a foal.
She's with Cloud's nemesis, Mateo.
[hooves thudding] And Cloud?
He's sparring with the older bachelor, Conquistador.
[horses neighing] The scene is chaotic as band stallions try to steal each other's mares.
[horses neighing] Plenty Coups is chasing another stallion's mares when he realizes that Cloud has moved in on his band.
The blue roan moves in to drive Cloud away, leaving an opening for Conquistador.
[horses neighing] Cloud can't let Conquistador make off with the band and Plenty Coups is equally determined to run them both off.
Catching Cloud from behind, he tears a hole in his hip.
[horses neighing] Cloud quickly gives a warning to Conquistador.
Then he races back to make a try for a Plenty Coups mare.
Conquistador seems willing to wait it out while Cloud heads pell-mell toward Plenty Coup.
As the blue roan gives chase, his left front leg gives out.
What a battle.
I was proud of Cloud, but poor Plenty Coup.
A cold wind begins blowing the fog in.
Oblivious to the weather, Cloud is vigilant, keeping other stallions away from Plenty Coups' group, even the daunting Looking Glass.
Cloud baits Plenty Coups into chasing him.
[horses neighing] Will this strategy pay off and win him a mare?
[horses neighing] I catch a glimpse of Cloud before the fog swallows him up.
[birds squawking] The temperature drops 20 degrees in 20 minutes.
At times like these the little stove in Penn's Cabin is a godsend.
[fire rustling] I wonder if the young cowboy who built this place ever sat here and marveled at the wildness just outside the cabin door?
[wind whistling] The storm lasted for days and I had to leave the mountaintop without knowing what had happened to Cloud and Plenty Coups.
[light music] In late August, I make good on a promise to my wild horse Trace.
[birds squawking] We travel back to the Arrowheads, and together we search for Cloud.
After a few hours, we catch a fleeting glimpse of him.
[birds chirping] As we travel along the edge of the reservoir water hole, Plenty Coups, his leg still badly swollen, appears with his bachelor son.
He has lost all his mares.
[water splashing] It's been years since Trace has had a good roll in a water hole.
He doesn't seem to remember or care that he has a passenger this time.
[woman laughing] [water splashing] Go.
Come on, come on.
[bird caws] [horses neighing] We see bands of wild horses, and in the clearing, Cloud.
[light music] To my surprise, he looks fat and seems content.
[light music continues] And he's no longer alone.
I recognize the grulla mare and her half-grown yearling son.
Ironically, they are not from Plenty Coups band nor were they won in a furious clash of teeth and hooves, but in a moment of stillness.
[light music continues] The mare had given birth to a sickly foal, and when she stayed with her newborn rather than rejoining her band, Cloud found her and stood quietly by her side.
When the foal died, Cloud, the mare, and the yearling stayed together.
[light music continues] I left content, knowing that Cloud had the beginnings of a new family.
The seasons will pass and another Spring will bring with it a crop of wild horse babies.
And, just maybe, a Cloud colt will prance across the Arrowheads, precocious and proud as his remarkable father, and, I hope, forever free.
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