A Tribute to Gray Lady

Earlier this week I got the sad news that one of the first horses I met in Teddy Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), Ms. Gray Lady passed away. I only knew her briefly, but in the short visit my dad and I with her and Mystery’s band in 2011 I learned a lot from her. So, in no particular order, here’s a list of what I leaned from Gray Lady and her band.

1. Not to make assumptions. Since it was my first time visiting TRNP, one of my first visiting a wild horse range, and Gray Lady kept on making the flehmen response at my dad and me, I assumed that she was a stallion. In hindsight, all I needed to do was look and it would have been obvious, but in my defense I’d never seen a mare try to catch a sent as much as Gray Lady did. Now when I view horses, I am a lot more careful when recording my observations.

I think Gray Lady's making this face in almost all the photos I have of her.

I think Gray Lady’s making this face in almost all the photos I have of her.

2. The value of friendship. Except for when Lacey’s foal got pushy, Lady Gray was never far from Lacey’s side. It didn’t take long to tell that Gray Lady seemed protective of Lacey, keeping watch so the mother could eat. It was fun to see how close they were, and how much they enjoyed each other’s company.

These two were peas in a pod.

These two were peas in a pod.

3. The value of family. Even when the foal wasn’t Lacey’s Gray Lady seemed protective. She was very careful in her approach, and seemed to enjoy “babysitting” all of the foals. It reminded me that family doesn’t have to be blood.

She even seemed to look out for the resting foal.

She even seemed to look out for the resting foal.

4. The value of patience. Finally, after looking at us warily for most of our visit, Gray Lady laid down next to the foal. Those types of experience are what I strive for when visiting wild horse ranges. Running horses are quintessential, but I always prefer natural behavior.

Gray Lady Rest

These types of posts are never easy, but I can take comfort to know that she lived 21 long years in the wild. In some ways my lack of knowledge of the horses in TRNP makes this post easier, but it also means that I will no longer have an opportunity to get to know Gray Lady better. However, she lives on in Lacey, even though they weren’t related by blood. She lives on in her own foals, her band mates, and anyone else who had an opportunity to see her in the wild. She will be missed. I am extremely fortunate to have gotten to know her when I did.

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