” … and suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic came cantering out of the sky, … ”
–Walter De La Mare
I think they would rather run me over than the cactus if it came to that.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mission accomplished, no mother within several feet.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
corker | ˈkôrkər | noun 1 an excellent or astonishing person (horse) or thing
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.
The American West is steeped in romantic imagery and nostalgia, horses being a big part of that. The lack of water in the American West, however, is not romantic in the least. The drought in the western states is no joke. Almost a decade without adequate rainfall and yearly watershed, with only a year or two of replenishment in the mix, has created a real danger to free range horses, livestock, and wildlife. With extreme roaming prohibited by fence lines, and viable sites for digging for a trickle of water or seep few and far between, large herds of horses present a formidable task in regard to supplying water. Much of their territory is inaccessible to equipment with the capacity to supply hundreds or thousands of gallons of water daily or even weekly. Connected to this dilemma is wildfire dangers and animal responses to such events. Let the hand wringing and problem solving begin.
These images were taken in late spring, which was dry earlier than usual again this year.
After regaining her strength several days post giving birth, a veteran mother looks proud and calm in her motherhood role.
After many years without conceiving, and now several foals – all colts – later, she has a new filly to raise. With a history of giving it her all when raising foals I imagine I see a look of mental endurance-gathering this second day with her new foal. She has been known to hide away for weeks keeping a new foal all to herself. She is devoted; refusing to even lie down and rest when her foals are with her. This year she “hid in plain sight” avoiding the other horses as much as possible for the first days of May. She allows motherhood to drain away all of her reserves, her devotion is so great.
In a pure moment of free-spirited pluckiness, this newborn filly toddled straight away from her mother-shield and investigated me without hesitation. This is such an unusual occurrence that I was taken aback, but delighted. I do love the new foals and to be noticed, and in this case greeted, by the newest arrival made me feel like I was doing something right. Don’t let the seemingly nonchalant mare fool you, she is as protective a mother as any in the herd. In this case she was no match for her foal’s enthusiasm to discover everything and anything within sight. In the following moments my lens was filled with mother’s inquiring and vigilant face and a few cautious snorts. Try as she might to coax and maneuver her filly to her off side, the filly returned to nuzzle me. It was truly a natural connection experience.
When being assessed by a free creature you have choices to make about your response.
Though there is always a default to extreme caution, I try to allow for equal opportunity in the appraisal exchange between myself and the animal as peers in curiosity.
“Magic isn’t somewhere else. It isn’t a series of distant rituals, ancient texts and expensive courses. Magic is turning to the world, and seeing it, … ”
–Alice Tarbuck, A Spell in the Wild: A Year (and Six Centuries) of Magic
This new filly, likely born this day, entertained me with her joie de vivre. Free of her confines of the last year, she ran around and around a large oak tree rarely leaving the confines of the shadow. There were numerous obstacles to trip her up but she navigated like a champ hopping over branches and ducking low hanging limbs with ease. It was a delightful display of the very essence of a horse. You go girl!
Early morning overcast skies and the protection of a senior oak tree shelter the birth of a new life. The mother, notable for her distinctive profile and gentle wisdom, is generous with me; she allowed me access to early moments with her new foal, which is often not the case in natural environment births. I reveled in her generosity with ample time to observe. I don’t stay long however, even horses need the same solitude and privacy humans do in life-changing events.
The profile of this new filly is nearly refined compared to her mother and last year’s sibling. Her face marking reminds me of tadpoles, so in my mind she will be forever associated with common childhood adventures and happy innocent memories. I’m being overly poetic but that morning was a welcome return to a favorite type of encounter with nature and welcoming new beginnings.