Meeting the Day

free range horse photography of a mare and newborn foal after a hilltop climb

It is common for the foals, from their first day, to traverse all of the rolling countryside where That Herd roams, even steep ascents and descents.

This duo popped up out of a deep canyon to an early sunny horizon. The filly is greeting her second day with sturdy determination.

 

Impatient Circles

free range horse photography of a newborn filly impatiently circling her lying mother
Impatient circles from her newborn do not sway this mother from her much needed resting.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly encouraging her mother to stand
This foal is not so much encouraging mother to stand as performing an instinct that forces the need to press the face and find milk when newly born.

After a morning of labor and birth, this mother needs to lie down and pass the placenta. Freed from her internal burden of several months and the bright morning sunshine, she is not easily roused. The foal, a filly, was energetic and bouncy right away and persistently and almost comically circled, nickered, and leaped about in an effort to unlock the mystery of her low mother.

Periscope Moment

free range horse photography of the moment a newborn pops his head up to see the new world
The moment a newborn pops his head up to see the new world that he has arrived in.

I cannot seem to put into words how beautiful these little moments are. His journey has begun.

Graceful Success, Luck, and Barely Skimming By

Every mother, no matter what species, no matter maiden or veteran, has the burden and gift of either extreme fierceness in the face of dreadful odds or crushing fragility.

I say it every year, and I’ll keep saying it, the miracle of bringing a new, healthy life forth is an enormous feat. Some mothers gracefully succeed and some do not.

May the blessing of safe journeys be a reality for each of us. May we be met with compassion if our journeys are tragic.

 

free range horse photography of a mare heavy in foal
A veteran mare, heavy in foal, strolls out of the morning mist and into a meadow. A truly beautiful sight.

Gift Horse

This gelding thinks his been gifted a band of mares for his very own.

Sadly, these beauties are heavy in foal and this is as close as he is allowed to get.

free range horse photography of a mock stallion and band of pregnant mares
Standing watch from a distance because these mares are in no good mood.

Ecotherapy

free range horse photography of a newborn colt on a misty morning
Standing alone, this newborn colt is flexing his independence muscles after his eleven month confinement.

Sorry to disappoint you but this is an image of a newborn colt from last year. The first 2022 foal of That Herd has not arrived yet.

Shrouded in mist, the tall trees ghosted in the background, and wet from dew to our knees, both the foal and I considered each other. His mother was paying attention and was just out of frame but this new colt kept her on her toes. He was thrilled to explore and breathe deeply and tiptoe through the grass.

I challenge you to not feel better by simply viewing this image. Time spent outdoors experiencing natural settings, even in urban areas, has been proven to improve pleasant feelings, and reduce anger, stress, and depression. This particular outdoor experience was sweetened by the good-natured company of an audacious explorer.

 

Boyish Today

free range horse photography of a stallion at ease
Sometimes boyish, other times a brute.

I’ve been putting some thought into aggression verses violence in wild animals. Looking at horses in particular, there is limited research available on violence in feral, free-range, and wild horse behavior. It’s either under reported or not observed often. Domestic horses–stallions in particular–have documented aggression and violence toward both horses and humans, but in this case I’m not referring to under socialized, confined, or mismanaged horses. I am interested in the difference in aggression and violence as separate behaviors in free range stallions with mares that don’t have to compete with other stallions to keep their mares or territories.

Aggression has been explained as a behavior motivated by the intent to cause harm to another who wishes to avoid harm.

Violence is a subtype of aggression, of a physical nature, with the intent to kill or injure another.

Interestingly, both aggression and violence are rarely motivated by anger. While anger can be managed and channeled, aggressive behavior can compound, meaning aggression and violent actions often increase the likelihood of more aggression in the future. Acting out with aggression and violence does not reduce aggressive impulses. There is no “honeymoon period” after a violent blow-up like with losing your temper and releasing that stress. Because of this, it is wise to assume that once aggressive and/or violent behaviors are observed, it could happen again repeatedly.

In David and Goliath scenarios, there is no hope for the weaker or smaller victim. They will be injured or killed.

Certainly a variety of factors can determine the degree of these behaviors. In feral horses, for example, I would point to hormones, frustration, seasonal stresses or sharing space with peers with aggressive tendencies. If one, or all, of any variety of these factors is removed, a shift in personality often can and does take place but one should expect repeat occurrences if some element changes again.

 

 

 

 

 

Cantering Out of the Sky

free range horse photography of colts running on hillside
And just like that, here they came, over the top of the hill and toward the sunset in a headlong rush, manes and tails flying.

” … and suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic came cantering out of the sky, … ”

–Walter De La Mare

 

Cactus Garden

free range horse photography of coming two-year-olds
More of the rowdy coming-two-year-olds between me and a cactus garden. 

I think they would rather run me over than the cactus if it came to that.

On Your Toes

When the young horses come in with open expressions of interest, you know you have to be on your toes. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that they are brimming with curiosity and energy. A break in the daily routine is a welcome opportunity for the colts to gain confidence and hone their ability to read a situation. When I am “the situation” they gather around using the group for bravery, and use all their senses to glean whether I’m friend or foe. It just takes one individual’s doubting moment and over-reaction to send the gang spinning away only to stop short then return from a few feet away, their intense curiosity intact. It’s in that moment of reeling away that care must be taken to avoid being trampled, bumped, or stepped on. These coming two-year olds are leading their pack of peers in to investigate. Close proximity is tolerated by most, but touching is not.

free range horse photography of a gang of curious colts
The first colts of the gang to arrive driven by their confidence and curiosity are good natured and intrepid.

With Her Explorer Hat On

free range horse photography of a fancy filly strolling
A fancy filly strolls through a sunny field with her purpose set on exploring squabbling birds.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and water exhilarating;

to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night;

to be elated by a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring–

these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”

–John Burroughs

Quite Capable

free range horse photography of a mare standing vigil over her newborn
The last sunlight of the day touches a mare standing vigil over her newborn filly.

Wild horses and domestic horses are genetically the same. Roaming freely, living in herd groups, and foraging for feed and water are all

actions natural to horses. The majority of stabled and confined horses would adapt to a free range environment if given the opportunity.

Even the new foals that horse owners often over-protect are quite capable of stamina and social interactions from the first hours of birth.

The first day for this filly was filled with roaming surrounded by herd mates, and varied terrain. She is quite content after a full day of life lessons, resting on a hillside with her mother standing guard.

Picnic

free range horse photography of a yearling filly in a cactus garden
Greetings like this with such an open expression of interest and a complete lack of suspicion are my favorite.
free range horse photography of a yearling in a hillside cactus garden
Secure in her cactus garden, a yearling awaits my approach.

For years now, I have shared important emotional bonds with That Herd members. Present at a large number of their births and early foal-life days, I have become invested in their continuing success and maturity journeys. Each visit brings joy, wonder, pride, and a renewed sense of stewardship, if only in the eyes-on/peace-of-mind kind of way. Each horse is an individual with their own unique qualities, most endearing and inspiring. Their life strategies and strong wills are a testament to equine instinct and resilience.

This filly reminds me of her mother in all the best ways. Foaled near an old wooden picnic table in the middle of no where, she and her mother lingered in the shade of the oak tree that sheltered the table. When her mother chose to move back toward the broodmare herd, her newborn filly casually paused to inspect the picnic table as they passed by. A small observation, but one of the life events that we share; she will always be called Picnic in my mind because of this.

Until Now

free range horse photography of a mare and old saddle horse grooming each other
End of the day greetings and grooming.

There is an older saddle horse that roams with the mares. I have never seen the mares accept him or interact with him unless it’s to chase him away, until now …

As if they have been friends forever, this mare approached and groomed with the gelding. Of course it’s possible that this behavior occurs when I am away, but I have only seen a lack of tolerance with all the mares in regard to closeness with the gelding. He’s a good guy so I was happy to see this.

 

Safe Distance

free range horse photography of a springtime mare and newborn foal
A new foal to dote over.

This mare is new to That Herd and so far accepting of my visits. She was, however, adamant that I would not get near her new foal.

I didn’t try hard but she did run away a lot which is why the foal looks tired. I took this image from quite far away.

I like to share images from the first days of the foals’ lives if I’m fortunate enough to get some because it highlights how quickly they change and grow.

This is the filly I call Dot from a post several days ago where she is shown with her constant companion Wheaties.

This was mid April and the meager spring grass had started to turn to brown. The succession from spring green to crispy brown grass was rapid this year.

Warning Face

free range horse photography of a mare warning others to stay away from her new colt
Warning off any potential greeters of her new foal.

This mare has had a foal every year for many years. This is her first bay colored foal. Day one for this colt started foggy and wet in the first week of May. He was quite bold and active and kept his mother busy rounding him up and keeping him away from harm and too much distance.

free range horse photography of a newborn's fresh face
Much to his mother’s alarm this newborn was daring and running around doing his own thing.

Mission accomplished, no mother within several feet.

Vigilant

free range horse photography of a wary mare and newborn filly
It has been a tough day for this new mother. She has concerns about the security of her newborn with the addition of a stallion to the herd.

After many weeks eagerly observing all the mares that foaled before her, this wary mare had reasons to be on alert this day. Finally, her foal arrived but it was a long day for the duo. Unlike the mares that foaled before her, she had the complication of a stallion being added to the herd. The stallion was quite eager and busy asserting his authority with the group. He was a reasonable stallion, behavior wise, but he kept the mares tightly bunched which left this mare and foal no room for seclusion or distance. Also, they were moving quite a bit and I could see the weariness in the new foal. Even in calm periods when the foal figured out how to lie down, she was quickly roused by the constant alerts from mother each time other horses got too close. This kept the filly on her feet and moving in anxious hastiness. The mare did her best to keep them both on the outside of the bunch so she could ease away from the activity of the other horses so her foal wouldn’t get stepped on or separated from her. Everything turned out just fine however, and within a couple of days the new filly was rough and ready as any other foal in the herd.

free range horse photography of a wary mare and newborn filly strolling by
Circling on the outskirts of the bunch, a mare keeps her newborn filly away from reckless or curious herd-mates.

Much the Same

free range horse photography of two young matching foals
Herd mate foals that look-alike and are buddies as well.

I secretly call them Wheaties and Dot.

Wheaties is a colt and Dot is a filly by the same stud.

Born within days of each other from mares that stick together, they spend a lot of their days together playing, grooming and roaming.

All in a Days’ Travels

 

free range horse photography of a mare and foal easily climbing a steep hill
The mares and foals trudge up and down hills daily in search of the best feeding places.

Ah, the vitality of youth! The young foal easily lopes up this steep hill while her young mother digs in.

(Now that I’m posting this, I think I took an image of this same pair climbing shortly after the foal’s birth.)

free range horse photography of a mare and foal cutting across a steep hill
Sometimes the switchback method is the best for extended climbing.

In the daily wandering of the mares and foals they will access a wide variety of terrains in search of the best grazing.

I have climbed many hills and scaled many banks to follow or find the horses in their chosen environments.

Even the newest foals are equal to the task of keeping up and navigating tricky footings.

A Treasure

corker | ˈkôrkər | noun 1 an excellent or astonishing person (horse) or thing

free range horse photography of a new filly, only a day old
Only one day old and she shows all the signs of becoming a real corker.

 

free range horse photography of a new filly and her serene mother
Compared to a lot of other horses this mare is down-right serene.

I would bet you know a person who is completely cooperative and pleasant to be around.

The kind of person who you know will always be a team player and do the right thing.

Someone who never complains and always tries to be part of the solution.

A friendly face even when they’re not feeling their best. Well, that’s this mare as well. Meet Ruby.

She’s an amazing, resilient treasure of a horse and this is her ’21 filly at one day old.