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Wild Horses Deal With Greif

How wild horses deal with death and grief: A rare insight

 July 4, 2018William E. Simpson 20 CommentsWild horses

Two members of the wild horse herd near the Simpson ranch in the mountains of the Oregon-California border.

Two members of the wild horse herd near the Simpson ranch in the mountains of the Oregon-California border. © Laura Simpson

In today’s world of instant gratification and life as viewed through artificially colored designer glasses, some people shy away from the hard lessons and experiences that might result in experiencing very powerful emotions.

But it is exactly these emotions that drive the evolution of meaningful personal convictions, beliefs and inner strength. These lessons, if you will, are by example the heavy lifting that results in spiritual development. And as they say in gym, no pain no gain. Having a powerful sense of empathy leads to understanding, which in turn leads to compassion and ultimately love. When people deny emotion, they disconnect empathy, compassion and love.

Recently, my wife and I faced the hollowing pain of the death of dear friend. But this friend was not human and the life experience related to this death was beyond my knowledge at the time I experienced it.

Some background is needed to fully appreciate what I will explain.

Five years ago when my wife I moved on to our land in the wilderness mountains of the Oregon-California border, the first wild horses we met were an appaloosa mare we named Lucy and her cute little filly, who we named Pixie.

Lucy and Pixie.

Lucy and Pixie. © Laura Simpson

Lucy was still nursing Pixie, a little roan foal with a black mane. Lucy was underweight due to an overload of gastric parasites. Lucy was the lead mare of a small family band that held back about 100-yards away and watched our interactions. Lucy approached Laura and I with Pixie in tow as if to ask for help. Having a background in livestock production I had a sense of her problem. So we MacGyver-ed a solution by mixing some wormer (Ivermectin) with some oatmeal mix we had in the kitchen. She ate the mix as Pixie watched and then they went back down to her family.

About two weeks later Lucy and Pixie returned and this time she brought her entire family up to introduce us, including their mighty family stallion, who we named ‘Black’. Lucy had clearly benefited from the treatment and her ribs were no longer showing. Over the years, this family of wild horses as well as others adopted Laura and I as their human symbionts in this naturally balanced ecosystem. Pixie grew into a beautiful young mare; an appaloosa just like her mom, and this past spring she had a filly, having lost her foal in the previous year to predators.

And over the course of hundreds of social interactions with these and other wild horses, Laura and I have developed an empathic connection with them at a level that borders on a discrete communicative dialog. Some horse whisperers may use different terminology; I am still suffering some of the terminology learned in college physics. Another important term however is ‘coherence’ and I can say that at times we engage in coherent dialog with the wild horses. Here again some whisperers might call this reading or sensing the horse. The science of coherence is growing and more can be quickly learned by watching this 7-minute video:

In mid-June 2018, during the primary filming of our local herd in regard to a documentary about Wild Horse Fire Brigade by university film students from Colorado, we filmed Pixie and her foal we named Dove in the forest where they happily grazed and napped.

About a week later, I revisited the area this time with an Oregon Department of Forestry District Forester (Dave) who manages 1.8-million acres of forest in southwestern Oregon. Dave was interested in assessing the prodigious fine fuel loading in the area of our ranch in and around the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area due to the severe depletion of deer by predators, and which deer no longer graze off the abundant grass and brush, which creates hazardous fuel loading.

Pixie and her foal, Dove.

Pixie and her foal, Dove. © Laura Simpson

After a brief hike over mixed terrain we arrived at a family of wild horses standing near a large spring partially surrounded by juniper trees.  As we approached the family a lead mare who I recognized as ‘Shy’ came over to where we stood and checked us out; she didn’t recognize Dave’s scent.

As I explained to Dave what she was doing and the names of the horses we saw, something seemed wrong, the horses were acting a bit odd. Then as I checked out the area around the spring, I saw a white horse laying in the shade of a large juniper tree. I moved a bit closer to the tree and saw it was Pixie laying on her side. She looked right at me and a terrible feeling overcame me. It was at that very second that my eyes were drawn to her right rear leg, which had been virtually sawn off by barbed wire sometime in the past few days; she was dying.

It was a crushing sight and as the heartache filled my chest, I started looking for Dove in the shadows of the trees. After a few minutes another crushing reality hit me, being severely injured and unable to protect her foal, Pixie had lost her little filly Dove to predators.

But then I noticed something else; there were several additional families standing nearby who were slowly moving into the area. My initial thought was they were there for water, but with so many large and excellent springs very nearby (within 300 yards), why would they all converge on one particular spring? As quickly as that though went through my head, the lead stallion from Pixie’s family walked about 50 feet from where he had been standing and to Pixie’s head. She raised her head off the ground and shared breath with the mighty stallion. Then in turn, one by one, the rest of the family did the same thing. I then realized we were intruding on a hallowed ritual, each of these beautiful sentient beings were bidding Pixie goodbye. As I watched, I realized that so many humans pass away these days alone and scared.

I instructed Dave that we should move back and give them some space, as one of the younger stallions decided to move the mare who was greeting Dave back into the family group.

As we moved farther back my eyes scanned the area searching for any sign of Dove, but continued to watch as the last family members shared breath with Pixie. Then her family moved away from the spring as another family moved into the same spot and the family stallion from that band and his lead mare went to the tree where Pixie lay and lowered his head. Pixie slowly lifted her head and the powerful stallion shared breath with her as did his lead mare.

It was the single most powerful emotional experience and transcended anything I had ever seen or felt before. And at the same time because of our friendship with Pixie, it was heart wrenching. I wanted to go to her side, but in doing so I would clearly be interfering in a sacred ritual of which I had no prior knowledge or understanding.

I led Dave away from the area informing him that I needed to head down the mountain and speak with my wife about Pixie.

Laura was also devastated when she heard the news, but we both agreed that I should go back up the mountain and if the situation was right, put Pixie out of her misery. I hurried back up the mountain. On my way up the mountain I collected a friend of ours who lives on some land that adjoins ours that is bisected by the road to end of the trail. My friend (Lynn) and I hiked to the spring expecting to see a family of horses. But none were in sight, and even with her devastating injury and crushed by the obvious loss of her foal Dove as she lay dying, Pixie had the final strength and courage to drag herself into the sunlight where she passed away.

And there, standing over her was a majestic guardian, a single bachelor stallion who Laura and I had named Red Sox a few years before. He was audibly crying over her lifeless body; making a haunting sound I have never heard a horse make before; a soul-piercing sound that I will never forget. It was like a whinny but with a hallowed, sad tone. This beautiful young stallion was one of Pixie’s playmates as she grew up … now he was the sentinel over her remains, lamenting her loss. I looked at him and asked and he moved back allowing me to go to Pixie’s head to say my own goodbyes. When I was done and moved away he moved back to where he had stood, directly over her.

As Lynn and I headed down the trail away from where Red Sox stood over Pixie I was torn about taking any photos of such remarkable events; It felt like it would be a kind of violation of the sanctity of such an intimate ritual. Wanting to have something to document such a remarkable event, I compromised and took one photo when I was 50 yards away from Red Sox; here is that photo:

Red Sox says goodbye to Pixie.

Red Sox says goodbye to Pixie. © Bill Simpson

Driving down the mountain, Lynn, who had just turned 80 years old and had lived an amazing life of adventures on the high seas and in the mountains said: ‘Never seen anything like that before’. As with most wild horses, Pixie had a huge spirit and incredible will to live. And in the end, she was surrounded by all her family and friends who provided a loving send-off. We can learn a lot from wild horses; even in how to deal with death and loss.

The following day I received an email from the District Forester who was with me when we first discovered Pixie and witnessed what was clearly a sacred ritual that few human eyes have seen. I have to say that I have a whole new level of respect for Dave given his empathy and understanding via his email, and taking the time to write even with the many demands for his time. As a firefighter with many decades of fighting wildfires and seeing all the carnage from that, his email carried great weight:

“I’m saddened by the loss and offer my condolences. I really enjoyed our visit yesterday and the opportunity to see what the horses are up to. I never have seen anything like it and the social interactions amongst the horses was quite intriguing. I understand the need to remove the old legacy barbwire and I hope somehow the process to remove it can be expedited. Firefighter safety is my #1 priority and I feel the same about the horses that are working up there.”

Many American wilderness areas (including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument) are laden with the remains of long failed ranching enterprises. Legacy barbwire from the late 18th and 19th century ranching and homesteading crisscrosses many thousands of miles of remote wilderness areas, passing through forests and across grasslands, presenting a deadly and silent threat to all wildlife, including wild horses.

In the below video an elk calf was slowly dying after being caught in a barbed wire fence. Fortunately, two hunters with a little empathy happened by and freed the little elk … here, at least, is one happy ending.

18 Acres Swain County, NC – Fontana Lake

Swain County North Carolina



This offering sets in the heart of the finest recreational area in southern Appalachian

With excellent frontage on US 19 West and less than a third of a mile to Fontana Lake, this unrestricted 18 acres offers unlimited opportunity for commercial, recreational, or residential development.
Picture your custom mountain sanctuary nestled in the bucolic forest filled with undergrowth of fern, wildflowers, and abundant mountain laurel.

Follow a series of old logging trails that meander throughout your forest home providing a private playground for hiking, biking, hunting, horseback riding, or ATV.

Mountain Path

Two Fonatana Lake marinas are within 4 miles. Within 7 miles are the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and access to the acclaimed Appalachian Trail made even more famous via the motion picture A Walk in the Woods starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. 
Also abounding in the area are many and varied opportunities for tubing, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, and horseback riding.

There are numerous building sites for private estate, family compound, or residential community development.
With some selective clearing there can be beautiful scenic views of Fontana Lake and the mountains beyond from any number of different home sites.

Harrah’s Casino, Great Smoky Mountains RailroadCherokee Indian Reservation, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are all within 30 minutes.
While visiting Cherokee you’ll want to be sure to take in Unto These Hills, a drama telling the Cherokee’s rich story from 1780 to the twenty-first century performed  live in the amphitheater under the stars.   During your day visit to Cherokee you will not want to miss a visit to the Oconaluftee Indian Village, an authentic recreation of a 1760s Cherokee Indian village complete with dwellings, work areas (where you can observe the traditional craftsmen plying their trades just as they did over two centuries ago), and sacred ritual sites.
The scenic and historic  mountain towns of Cherokee, (on the Cherokee Indian Reservation), Bryson City, Sylva, and Dillsboro are within just a few minutes drive and are sure to delight.  These mountain towns are not only scenic and entertaining in their own right but they have been the sites for a number of major block buster motion pictures.  Among them are:  Deliverance, Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,  and The Fugitive.

Development possibilities are limitless.

Priced under tax value for quick sell.


World Equestrian Games are Projected to be 2018’s Biggest Sporting Event in the USA!

In 2018, The World Equestrian Games (WEG) will be the world’s forth largest sporting Event and the Games will be held right in the backyard of the area of Western North Carolina that we serve.

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) World Equestrian Games began with great hopes and have grown into a trademark international platform from which to show equestrian sport at its best. Since 1990 the Games have been staged every four years, halfway through each Olympic cycle. They bring together the World Championships for all FEI disciplines.

Initially staged at European venues, and always at a new location – Stockholm (SWE), The Hague (Netherlands), Rome (ITA), Jerez de la Frontera (ESP) and Aachen (GER) – the Games moved outside Europe for the first time in 2010, into the heartland of horse country in Lexington, Kentucky (USA) for the Alltech-sponsored spectacular. In 2014 they returned to Normandy in France.

Once again this year the excitement crosses the Atlantic for the much-anticipated eighth edition at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) (USA).

The 2018 WEG has the potential to be the largest sporting event in North Carolina history with over $400 million dollars of projected economic impact and 500,000 spectators over the 13-day event in September.  TIEC is preparing for a daily attendance of 40,000 to 50,000 people.

The 2014 Games in Normandy delivered over $400 million in economic impact, and attracted 984 athletes, 1,234 horses, 74 nations, 1,900 accredited media from 52 countries and 575,000 spectators.

The disciplines of Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance and Vaulting were included in the first five editions of this equestrian extravaganza, Reining joined in 2002 and Para-Dressage in 2010.

Click HERE to access the Official WEG Destination Guide!!


Here, you can find a detailed history of each Games and the stunning achievements of the athletes and horses who have given their all in pursuit of those elusive medals.

Jackson County North Carolina Real Estate Market Report

After a 10 year buyer market with unbelievable values,  Jackson County real estate is entering a market that favors sellers. 

Year to date new listings declined 13% and pending sales increased 100%.  Closed sales increased 103% over this time last year.  Median sales price increased 44% and the average selling price increased 72%.  Even though days on market have increased it is still a good time for sellers to put their properties on the market.

Good Time To Buy

Buyers should not be discouraged because property values though increasing are still at bargain prices and well below the highs of 2008.  That means that at today’s selling prices a buyer can reasonably expect appreciation if market trends continue.  Another motivation for buyers are interest rates that remain fair but are projected to increase throughout the year.

Good Time for Selling

Though the market is tending towards a seller’s market it is still a fairly balanced market making it a good time for selling and a good time for buying.


Buyers are better off buying now as interest rates remain fair and for sellers, selling in up markets is always preferable to selling in down trending markets.

Buying or Selling Horse Property? Consider the Pasture.

Smart horse property buyers know the value of good pasturage so the wise property owner will maintain pasture not only for the health of their own horses but to insure the property’s value remains competitive.


Understand How Grass Grows
Understanding how grass grows is an important step towards good pasture management. The leaves of grass or blades of grass are the light absorption mechanism that produces energy from photosynthesis. This energy is stored in the roots as carbohydrates and drawn on by the plant to produce growth. When grass is grazed (or mowed) the leaves are removed reducing the plants ability to absorb light and energy. With less absorption ability the roots begin to shrink as the carbohydrate reserves are depleted.

Horses and People Damage Pasture
Horses and people can be hard on pasture health. Overgrazing and heavy traffic reduce the health of pasturage. If left to their own devises horse tend to graze their same favorite areas leaving the grasses in those areas little opportunity to replenish their roots.

Healthy Pastures Need Healthy Roots
There are five basic measures you can take to assist healthy root growth.

  1. Use rotational grazing:  Give each area three to four weeks to recover.
  2. Mow less and cut grass high:  Mow only after removing the horses from the area leaving at least 4 inches height. Allow the grass to grow to 6 to 8 inches before grazing again.
  3. Fertilize:  Soil test pasture every 2 to 3 years and apply fertilizer as recommended. Your county extension office will have the test kits.
  4. Protect high-traffic areas:  Areas around gates, waterers, and feeding areas will not maintain healthy grass. Geotextile fabric under dense rock pads is one way to maintain these areas.
  5. Install a sacrifice lot:  The sacrifice lot is a small area that is “sacrificed” to protect the larger pasturage. A sacrifice lot should be a place that has naturally good drainage. Though smaller, it should be a lot sufficient to provide a place to turn horses out even during the dampest and coldest seasons while protecting the primary pasturage.

Improve Your Horse Property Value

Improve your property value by starting below the soil surface. A healthy and resilient pasture feeds horses, provides safe footing and reduces the cost of horse ownership.  A strong root system provides a solid foundation for maintaining the value of your horse property.


Summarized from Growing Horse Pastures From the Ground Up. The Horse, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: April 28, 2018.




When you are ready to buy or sell your horse property contact

Steed Talker Realty

the Farm and Equine Estate Specialist of Western North Carolina.

Jackson County Market Activity Report for Home Buyers

It’s April of 2018 and the real estate market in Jackson County is heating up more persistently than our temperatures. Whether you are a first time buyer or relocating to Jackson County now is a great time with Listings up 7% and Sales up 8%. Download this free 10 page market activity report for more details.

Green Up Your Western Carolina Horse Farm for Improved Value

When You are Ready to Sale Your Equestrian Luxury Horse Farm You Want the Highest Value Possible

Quite often we think that conservation and going green is something that only tree huggers do.  However, us Western Carolinians who value our equestrian lands, know that conservation is the only way to sustain the usability of our Smoky Mountain horse farms while maintaining and even increasing the economic value of our property.

US Rider provides a seven-point plan to green up the Appalachian horse farm and increase the economic value of the equestrian estate.

  1.  Manage Horse Pastures:

The most important part of greening up the equestrian farm is keeping horse pastures healthy and mud to a minimum.  Less mud means healthier pastures and healthy and cleaner horses means less time grooming the horses and more time enjoying the horses.

Keep the equestrian pastures healthy by rotation and manure removal on a regular basis.  Sample test and add lime and fertilizer according to analysis results.   Over-seed in the fall to increase grass density and help choke out weeds with reduced need for spraying pesticides.

Smoky Mountains Horse Property for Sale
Appalachian Horse Farm

2.  Set Up a Horse Barn Recycling Center:

Horse barns generate an enormous amount of trash, ranging from pop cans and water bottles to feedbags, hay bale twine, and plastics for bale shavings.  To discover what of all this trash is potentially recyclable, visit  Once you have an idea as to what can be recycled set-up a recycling collection area.

3.  Compost Horse Manure: 

A single horse can produce as much as 50 pounds of manure per day or nine tons per year.  Composing is the ideal solution for disposal of all this material.  Composing provides multiple benefits.  It kills parasite eggs and fly larvae and can also break down toxic chemicals.  Should you still end up with a surplus of material, consider selling the composted horse manure to local gardeners.

4.  Plan the Equestrian Estate Carefully: 

Equestrian Estate in North Carolina
Smoky Mountains Horse Pasture

Plan the the equestrian estate layout carefully.  Be sure that buildings are situated so that run-off runs away from the barn, feed, and water areas.  Be sure to have sacrifice areas where horses can be turned out when ground is wet.

Laying down gravel in places where horses like to congregate, such as around gates, loafing sheds, and water troughs can go a long way for minimizing mud.

When developing the site be sure to allow for a buffer between the horse pastures and any streams or wetlands to provide protection of water quality.

5.  Build the Horse Property Responsibly: 

Building with responsible and sustainable material whether building new or making additions to simply fixing fences is a wise environmental choice.   Using bamboo over wood can be an option for a wide variety of applications.  Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants and is typically grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides.  It is also strong and durable.

Be sure that your buildings include gutters that direct rainfall to appropriate drainage routes.  Also consider recycled tire rubber mats for barn aisles and walkways.  With a little bit of effort, you can find a wide variety of environmentally friendly options to include in equestrina estate building design.

6.  Let there be light!  

Maximize natural light.  Horse stalls with windows to the outside and horse barn roofs with cupolas not only look good but they also let in the natural light.  They also provide for better ventilation — good for human lungs as well as horses.

For artificial lighting, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.  Fluorescents use one-quarter the amount of electricity of incandescent and last approximately nine times longer.  For an even more efficient light option consider LED.  For more information about horse barn-friendly lighting, visit

Place outside lighting on motion detectors.  An excellent way to conserve further is with the use of solar panels.  A small solar panel may be all that is required to generate enough power to open electric gates or keep a water heater running or provide charge to an electric fence.

7.  Pest control: 

Where there are horses there are flies.  Where there’s grain, there are rodents.

Careful construction, horse pasture management, and manure composting can go a long way toward minimizing flies.  No matter how hard you try, the flies will still show up and rodents will invade the barn.  A natural and effective pest control device is the use of predator wasps.  Flysheets and natural sprays containing citronella can give the final layer of control.  If barn swallows come to nest, don’t chase them away as they love feasting on flies.

Proper grain storage is crucial for keeping rats and mice to a minimum.  For additional protection add a barn cat.

Remember that any little bit of greening up will improve the value so when you are ready to put your equestrian luxury estate up for sale you’ll get your highest value.  Start small and keep taking small steps toward a green and more environmentally friendly horse barn and equestrian farm.  Whatever steps you take will make for a cleaner barn and more productive farm.  Your horses will be healthier and happier.  And, not insignificantly, the property values of the your Appalachian Smoky Mountain equestrian estate will increase.

When you are ready to buy or put your horse farm up for sale, contact us for outstanding service.

Control Pasture Weed Growth to Increase the Value of Your Horse Farm

Well Maintained Horse Pastures Provide a Positive Selling point for Buyers of Equestrian Estates

Healthy Pasture for Healthy Horses

Horse property owners in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina know that weeds will invade the best managed pasture.  It is, therefore, no surprise to horse owners that constant vigilance is required to maintain the health of any horse pasture.

Most weeds are not poisonous for horses.  Nevertheless, if allowed to dominate a horse pasture the presence of any type of weed will reduce the quality of the forage and diminish the nutritional value for the horses.

Poisonous varieties can range from mildly toxic to lethal.  It is important for horse owners to be able to identify the species that can be a threat to the health and even the life of the horse.

The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care, published by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture produced a slide presentation illustrating some of the more common weeds found in pastures in the Appalachian regions of North Carolina.

Taking a moment to review the slide presentation to familiarize yourself with the common weeds in the Western North Carolina area will provide guidance for pasture improvement that will increase your horse property value but more importantly, it might just save the life of your horse.

Though poisonous the yellow Buttercup you see on the off side of the horse tastes so bad that he fortunately avoids eating it

When you’re ready to buy or put your horse farm up for sale, contact Steed Talker Realty for specialized service.