It was hot and dry and sagebrush was everywhere as far as we could see. We had been walking on a portion of the Oregon Trail for about a mile or two and already the group was strung out for about 40 yards. We were either looking down at the ruts or forward to see how far ahead the others were. No one looked behind. And then it happened. And it was the most exciting event of the entire OCTA convention that was held in Boise, Idaho in 1989.
Someone screamed. Others began to run. Some of us took out our cameras and began to shoot. Someone with more sense than all the rest of us put together — as I recall he was a teacher form Colorado — managed to get the attention of the leader of the attackers who were bearing down on us and got him to change course and the rest of the band followed him.
In less than a minute it was all over. All we could see in front of us was a cloud of dust. No one got hurt, thanks to that teacher from Colorado. Over the next twenty years I attended ten additional OCTA conventions and several other OCTA-sponsored events where we had a chance to walk a portion of the Trail. But I never ever experienced an event like this.
Oh, I got my picture!
Seconds later the herd passed us and a few seconds after that all we saw was a cloud of dust. We watched the dust dissipate and then we continued on our walk. Oh, and I got two more pictures.
I never understood exactly what happened that day. Some members of the group told us that they saw some of the mustangs off at a distance a few minutes earlier. They were watching us but did not seem to be too concerned that we were trespassing on their land. Wild horses normally shy away from humans but when contact is made they can get spooked very easily. What set them off that day we will probably never know. Maybe they just love to run free and we were in the way!
Afterword: We were walking that day on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM is responsible for the welfare of the herds of wild horses that graze on public lands in Idaho and other areas of the western U.S. Their methods of controlling the population of the horses has gained some controversy over the years. See here to understand how and why the BLM do the things they do. There are several horse-loving organizations that are opposed to the BLM policies and practices. See here for a sample of their side of the story.