Monday, April 25, 2011

This Week on the Mustang A Day Challenge: April 15th - April 29th

This week on the Mustang A Day Challenge:  Grayson Highland Ponies
Amy Flood is the Mustang A Day Challenge Guest
this week.  This is one of her amazing photos of
the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands. On the right is
band stallion Smokey. The left is his yearling
filly, Flicka. You can follow the story of these
feral ponies on Amy's blog:
This week I am taking a small break from our wild Mustangs heritage herds. I am highlighting the photography and observations of photographer Amy Flood who documents the Grayson Highlands wild ponies here in Virginia.
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the manager of the Grayson Highland Sate Park, Mr. Harvey Thompson. He is a wealth of information on the History of the ponies, how they are used to maintain a healthy environment.  They are a big draw to people who have never seen a pony up close.
The following information was supplied to me by Mr. Thompson.
Thorny Hawthorn photo by:
“The ponies were introduced into the Grayson Highlands and surrounding mountains in 1960, as a way to control the Hawthorn. Hawthorn is a thorny fruiting shrub, native to the mountains of the Appalachians. It produces a red berry much like a crab apple. Its fruit is very sharp in taste and it comes from the pear family. Originally the Department of the Interior through the National Forrest Service in conjunction with the Virginia Park System,  introduced Sheep into the area to deal with the problem over growth of Hawthorn.
The sheep project worked wonderfully  until the snowfall in winter. Unfortunately during the winter the sheep would only eat those shrubs that were above the snowfall. Since hawthorn grows closer to the ground, the sheep ate mountain laurel which is a taller shrub. The mountain laurel causes toxic impactions in sheep when they eat too much of it. The sheep experiment failed. 
Smokey and Flicka digging through the snow.
their home range in South Western Virginia
 is above 4500 feet. Within the Federal and State managed
land is Mt. Rogers, the highest point in the State of Virginia.
Photography of Grayson Highland Ponies by
Amy Flood. Used by permission.
 The ponies were introduced because they would dig down into the snow, much like mustangs do in the west, to reach nourishing food that is healthy. As a rule they don’t eat the easy to reach mountain laurel but  love the sweet bark and sour fruit of the hawthorn.  The ponies thrived. The hawthorn is successfully managed and thousands of people come to see the wild ponies each year.
Currently there are three herds headed by three band stallions. Two are on the land managed by the National Forrest Service on Mt Rogers. And the third is on land managed by the Virginia State Parks system known as the Wilburn Orchard in the Grayson Highlands State Park. The ponies themselves are managed by a private group of local citizens called the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association.
The pony association watches over the general health of the ponies, maintains the herd numbers at a manageable 120 divided into the three separate herd locations. The pony association removes excess ponies that are auctioned at the annual  Grayson Highlands Fest held the last week of September each year. “
Grayson Higlands Pony standing amid a winter pasture of  Hawthorn.
Photo by Amy Flood used by permission.
The ponies are defined as truly feral, meaning these were ponies taken directly from local domestic pony stock and released into a combined 155,000 plus acres of Federal Forrest land and State park, then allowed to go completely wild. The three herds are made up of a mixture of hearty pony breeds the most prevalent being Shetland pony. These ponies are uniquely suited physically for the rocky alpine heights over 4500 ft.

To see the daily paintings go to
To read more about the Grayson Highland’s State park and activities you can participate in including pony watching and horse trails:
To read more about  Amy Flood’s  pony watching and documenting experiences with the Grayson Highland Ponies you can follow her blog here:
Photo credit : for hawthorn. This sight has wonderful documenting of edible wild natural foods.
This has to be one of my favorite photos of
Watson and Robert Carlson. Amy Spivey
 of  Lightning Bug Creek Photography, shot this one
after just 5 weeks of training. The Ft Collins Mustang
Make over will be held in June. This horse
 is really devoted to Robert. One of Amy's documenting
photo's shows Watson following Robert to help
 him set up the trail course. You can follow
both Robert Carlson and Madeleine LeClerc
on their Facebook Page
Two Reminders:
Remember that we are in the middle of our spring rainy season here in Virgina so we have a lot of violent storms mixed in with the gentle soaking rains. These storms may affect my ability to post the daily paintings. Be assured they are being painted, however, they may be late. If the paintings aren’t up by midnight Pacific time  you will be able to find them early the following morning.
This week the Ft. Collins Mustang Makeover painting will feature Watson and Robert. That will be the Tuesday painting as usual.
You can follow the weekly updates on R&M Performance Horse's Ft Collin's Mustang Makeover page on Facebook:!/pages/2011-CO-Mustang-Makeover-with-RM-Performance/119433394800806
Please Also Check out Amy Spivey's wonderful page on Facebook!/LBCPhotography
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter Weekend with their families. Many Blessings!!