SAND WASH BASIN — They start as tiny specks of color in the distance. Lighter colored ones are easier to see from afar, their shades of white, gray and tan contrasting the array of brown and green landscape that makes up the Sand Wash Basin.
Just over a week ago, a group of wild horses was grazing in the southern part of the basin near Moffat County Road 48. While drought has limited the amount of forage in the basin this summer, the horses almost constantly have their heads down, eating the grass that is there.
They are not skittish like deer. Instead, they calmly move along the landscape, quietly following each other in single-file lines. A foal bobs along with the group, occasionally running up ahead before prancing back to its mom. The band soon crossed over the road and continued on to the east, moving toward the middle part of the 158,000-acre basin bounded by modest peaks on all sides.
Unlike most hoofed animals, wild horses live year-round in small groups called bands, with allied mares and their foals making up the core. Distinct bands have been observed in the Sand Wash Basin for decades, with many of those roaming the southern part known as some of the most popular.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management rounded up that band of horses as part of what they call an “emergency” process to help the horses and the land. By Wednesday’s end, 608 of the nearly 900 horses in the basin had been rounded up, the most of any gather in Colorado’s history.