Bobbie Grover always loved horses while growing up in Tremonton, Utah, but after moving to Grantsville two years ago, wild horses in Tooele County’s West Desert have become her obsession.
In the last year of studying the herd, she has uncovered a knack for both finding and photographing them.
“I was bored one day, and I was looking around to see what there was to do,” Grover said. “I knew there were horses in Tooele County, so one day I took a drive to see if I could see any.”
She remembered it was a Sunday.
“I headed all the way out to Simpson Springs and didn’t see anything, so I headed back home,” she said. “And then something in my head said to turn around and take this road. So I turned around and took the road and went over a hill, and then, Wow!”
Grover cried at the sight of the horses.
“It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in life,” she said.
While growing up in Northern Utah, Grover thought that Utah canyons were the most beautiful areas in the world.
“My favorite would be when my son and I would go up Logan Canyon riding,” she said. “It was just beautiful there.”
But after discovering the county’s West Desert outback, she changed her mind.
“Going out in the desert here, I had to change my way of thinking,” she said.
Grover said she was married for 12 years while living in Tremonton, and then, “not married for 20.” She has three kids, with three grandkids and one more on the way.
When she sold her home in 2016, the plan was for Grover to move in with her daughter and son-in-law and their two children. She was working, but wanted a place to stay while she organized her life.
“It worked out so well with me helping out with the grandkids, that when they decided to move to this area, they asked if I wanted to come with them. And I did,” Grover said.
It was a good move for everyone.
“Moving down here was one of the best things I have done,” she said. “The people are awesome, too.”
And once she found the wild horses, Grover found a new hobby roaming the county’s dirt roads.
“I spent all summer out there, got myself a nice camera –— well nice for me — and just spent hours,” she said. “And I met so many people.”
One of the friends Grover met was Lynne Pomeranz, who teaches hands-on workshops specializing in wild horse photography. With Grover’s skills at finding the herds, it was a perfect match.
“I have only been out one time [where I came] back without seeing them,” she said.
Grover has developed patience while watching and learning about the herd, which contains a larger group, and then bands of smaller groups within the herd.
“They have patterns,” she said. “If I take a road and it is not a good road and I keep driving and say to myself, ‘what the heck!’ and I get a feeling, ‘Take this road,’ I turn around and there they are, up by the mountain.”
“If I listen, then I can find the horses,” she said.
When Grover was growing up, she liked to keep pictures of wild horses on her walls, but she didn’t know Utah actually had wild herds.
“But we do. And they are so beautiful,” she said. “Horses are all about families. They live and fight for their families. When a mare has a foal, the stallion and all the aunties [the other mares] help it.”
Grover said she has learned so much just sitting and watching.
“If I am feeling a little blue, I will just go out and watch them for a while and I feel good again,” she said. “It is like a little antidepressant.”
Grover also enjoys helping Pomeranz when he hosts his photography workshops. Many times she will go out in her 2006 Chevy Silverado to help scout out where the horses are hiding.
“I go and do a pretty good job of finding them when they don’t want to be seen,” she said.
Grover attributes her success to her love and knowledge of two main herds in the Tooele County’s West Desert. But, of the two, the north herd is her favorite.
“There are several different bands inside of each herd,” she said. “And I just learned all this over the past year.”
In each band, there is a head stallion and a lead mare. In addition, there are other female horses, the mares and their offspring.
“At a certain age, the young males get kicked out of their bands and they join together,” Grover said. “There are quite a few bachelor bands out there running around and causing ruckus with the stallions.”
Grover has even found a yellow horse that got his ear bit off.
“They call him Van Gogh,” she said. “He is a beautiful palomino.”
Throughout the past year, Grover has followed the horses and their patterns.
“In the winter they pretty much disappear, no one is sure where they go,” she said. “Maybe they break up into individual bands? It is probably easier to find food if there are fewer mouths to feed.”
Grover has gained a reputation for finding the herds, but when it comes to guiding people, she keeps it low-key. People usually just message her to express interest in seeing the horses.
“I go, and they photograph and I explain what I have learned,” she said.
What lies ahead for Grover? This Sept. 10-12, Pomeranz is doing a workshop and she is planning on leading some of the groups. Grover calls Pomeranz her mentor for both learning about the horses and photography, but she also states that he has become a good friend.
In addition to learning about the animals and to photograph the herds, Grover feels she now has a duty to do even more on behalf of the horses.
“There is a reason I am here, where I am at right now and I believe it is to get something going to protect these horses,” she said.
Grover’s next goal is to establish an advocacy group that can help protect the wild horses.
“I am getting certified this summer to administer the birth control,” she said, “so that will help with the population. … I want to eliminate the helicopter round up. I am not looking forward to it. It is inhumane to be chased by a helicopter.”
Federal and state agencies are planning a wild horse roundup this fall, she said. They plan to remove 359 horses from the area and leave 112.
Perhaps Grover’s desire to help proactively manage the herds was born out of an experience she had with a deserted foal. She was out in the desert when her group came across the horse.
When she went back out the next day, he was with another band. But on the second day he wasn’t with them. As she drove around, she heard a faint ‘neigh.’ He was stuck in the mud.
She called the Bureau of Land Management and waited for the band of horses to return to get him. But they never came. That night the BLM called Grover and said she could take him home.
Her group loaded him up and Grover rode in the truck’s bed with the foal.
“He did die that night, but he did not die alone,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Later, Grover said, she and a group of women from California saw a mare prepare for birth. They watched the miracle of life unfold in the desert.
Grover said she recently won a photo contest with ABC4Utah with one of her two photo submissions. She is also learning Photoshop to fine-tune her photography so she can eventually sell prints.
Now that the horses have become such a big part of her life, Grover said, “it is sort of a crazy-good feeling knowing where I am, that I want to find these horses and do good for them.”
Grover said she often thinks about growing up, with her bedroom walls covered with wild horse pictures. She remembers how she and her dad would talk about going to see the wild herds. Now that he is gone, she said she feels like her father is helping her find the horses they once dreamt of seeing together.
“If I can’t find them, I have a feeling to turn down a road or something and then, bam, there they are,” she said. “To me, it is him showing me the horses I wanted to see as a little girl.”
Whether she is out in the desert alone, or leading a group on a guided tour, Grover is simply experiencing or helping others to see and feel an area she loves. She also shares what she has learned and shows others the beauty of both the desert and the wild herds.
“When my son-in-law talked about moving away, I said I will be here quite a while,” she said. “The horses will keep me here.”
Grover has found her home in Grantsville, where she is content after finding wild horses she dreamt about so many years ago as a child. Those horses now aren’t far away.
“It is like that was what I was missing,” she said. Finding the horses “feeds my soul.”
Grover’s photos of wild horses can be found on Instagram at username “bagrover” or on Facebook.