Herd News: Band falls apart after lieutenant stallion dies.

Home » Herd News: Band falls apart after lieutenant stallion dies.
Herd News: Band falls apart after lieutenant stallion dies.

Herd News: Band falls apart after lieutenant stallion dies.

Good or bad, we bring you news about the Salt River wild horses, this time the news is sad.

After a note to our fb page from a concerned citizen about a carcass in a remote area, our volunteers went out to search. They crossed the Salt River and hiked all afternoon until they found the body of a grey horse. It was decomposing and scavenged already, but we ID-ed him as Gandalf, the beautiful lieutenant stallion to King. Gandalf was one of the greats.

We estimate his death to have been around a week ago. After investigating and taking many pictures of the circumstances, we concluded that no foul play appeared to be involved. He must have died of natural circumstances, which could be anything from colic to internal organ failure to a fighting injury or a broken hip, which we have seen happen with the older horses in the wild.

We believe that Gandalf was a minimum of 20 yrs old, which was confirmed by his teeth. However he always had a youthful appearance and was full of life the last time we observed him on February 22nd 2020.

Gandalf has been King’s loyal lieutenant stallion for 15 years, most of his adult life. The band has been almost the same for all of that time, which is amazing when you think about it; how they never lost sight of each other that entire time. Being a family is what mattered most to them, together they ruled.

Wild horse dynamics are highly evolved and complicated. Lead stallions often rely heavily on the protection of their lieutenant stallions. A good pair, like King and Gandalf worked together like clockwork. Gandalf would stay on the outskirts of the band, to face any competition early on, and King would keep the band organized together and lead them away from danger.

Gandalf’s death indicates how crucial that partnership really was. Sadly we found every mare from King’s band and their 2019 foals, scattered throughout the Forest, each with a different stallion. This made us realize that King had no mare left, and we became concerned that he might be dead too. Luckily, later, he was found alive, but, all alone.

Gandalf’s absence spelled the end for this awesome and powerful band. The old King could not hold on to his kingdom, without his loyal Gandalf.

King is even older than Gandalf was. We know it from old photos, but you can also tell by the grey hairs on his dark face and his declining muscle tone.

We could always recognize King’s band from afar, because they were all browns and then there was him, Gandalf, the brightest most beautiful white grey horse with coal black mane. We will miss Gandalf’s charisma and we will miss seeing them all together as a family.

While us humans might pink away some tears over the death of this simply gorgeous Salt River icon, there is no doubt that this stallion will be missed most by a non human, his partner King.

All of the mares will grieve too, but they ended up with each a new protector, all young and vital stallions. It is how the new generation of stallions replaces the old, and that’s how life goes on, on the Salt River.


Thank you for the pictures Destini R, Robin O, and Luanne H. Thank you to the person who alerted us with a message without that we would have never known what happened.

We hope that even while sometimes sad, our supporters want to hear these stories.
Sincerely yours, SRWHMG.

Please respectfully observe the Salt River wild horses by always keeping a 50 ft distance.
If you want to support their preservation go to our donate page.