Once in a while there are herd-mates among the mares and foals and they don’t always appreciate their youthful attention. The schooling of the youngsters occurs with good nature, for the most part. This particular young mare is just grouchy most of the time. The foal’s open mouth chewing or teeth clacking is a sign of submission to a higher ranking herd member.
An older mare living her best life.
In a more polished moment she looks rather delicate, nonetheless, she can be a real wack job. Not only does she take after her independent mother but she had a rather rough beginning.
Delicate and tiny as a new fawn, she was stolen from her inexperienced mother by an old mare yearning to raise a foal again. Once the situation was righted, she got busy getting tough.
She may not be the biggest mare, but she is all business. You can’t sweet talk Katy Wack.
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.
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.
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 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.
In celebration of the journey of a mare with her foal.
Whether it is a mare with her first baby or her fifteenth, may their days be trouble-free.
I wondered what was inspiring the snorting and animation in this cherished mare. She’s always amusing me with her bright expressions and amiable manner. One this occasion, she had every right to be on alert. She had noticed a large snake; it was as big around as my arm and at least six feet long. I didn’t see it’s head but I saw the rest of it and the tail as it disappeared down a hole. I’m guessing a gopher snake.
Early on a March morning I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Two mares had given birth a couple hours previous to my arrival. I love observing newborn foals and their million discoveries about life on the outside. During my quiet jubilation at my good luck, a third mare laid down and gave birth to a notably large colt without moving away from the herd for solitude, which is unusual. A perfect morning, cool and sunny and a little breezy allowed for a serene birth and initial 20 minutes of terrestrial time.
The first image shows the colt’s first successful standing moment. Because of his numerous attempts to rise and sort his long legs out to stand, some curious herd mates approached to investigate. The other mare in the sequence is a sweet mare who has been a doting mother in the past. This year, however, she would not be having a foal of her own. She becomes instantly taken by the vulnerable newborn and won’t accept the fact he is another’s baby. Grievously, the orientation of the wobbly foal was directly in between the ensuing aggressive assertions. He was tossed about and when the mares squared off and spun to kick each other with deadly hind hooves I had to intervene. Risking the safety and kidnapping of the newborn was not necessary since I could interrupt the situation. Motherhood instincts are strong and especially so in nature. I have discovered this type of stealing behavior is not rare in natural situations. In the wild, and/or when unmanaged, the outcome for the foal is fatal. Because these horses live in a free range, natural environment they have heightened senses of survival and their innate abilities are strong, but sometimes behaviors can still go wrong.
A graceful champion does not put on airs, she does not demand special treatment or crave supremacy. He comports herself with the utmost dignity, has benevolence, and sophistication. She gives and gives expecting nothing in return. She is awesome without attention simply because she can be no other way. Born with natural talent and a strong purpose, she is a champion with and without the trophies, ribbons, prize money, press, and fame. She boldly faces whatever is presented to her. Here’s to (a) champion female(s)! You make us proud.
” … I am in a thousand winds that blow, I am the softly falling snow, I am the gentle showers of rain, I am the fields of ripening grain.
Of birds circling in flight, I am the starshine of the night.
I am the flowers that bloom, I am in a quiet room.
I am the birds that sing, I am in each lovely thing. … ”
–Mary Elizabeth Frye
I have many images of her. Her qualities as a horse stood out in memorable ways.
Even at an advanced age, this image from nine months ago shows her irresistible, ever-present spark.
The seeds of Milk Thistle have been used to support the growth of new liver cells and aid in the health of the liver, kidneys, and other digestive organs.
I have read conflicting information about the benefits and dangers to horses who eat thistle. Most horses love to eat the flower heads off late spring milk thistle plants. The thorns of the plant are most unforgiving but horses gingerly bite the heads off, chew, swallow and then eat every other mature thistle flower in sight as well. Their behavior leads me to believe they consider it somewhat of a delicacy, like a delicious cookie.
Birth is not only about making babies, but about making mothers as well. New mothers and old mothers contend with birthing risks; in older mares and mares who have had several foals, the risks are higher. Mothers sacrifice their own lives for the lives of their babies; this is a reality as old as time. This sacrifice may come in the form of protection from predators or perceived dangers, or it may come in the form of not surviving postpartum complications. Heroic sacrifice and tragic sacrifice leave admiration or heartbreak in it’s wake.
Participating in creation makes every mare the author of a story full of potential. However. the tragedy of a lost mother cannot be measured, not by the baby, the bystander, nor the new care-giver.
After keeping careful watch and waiting with much anticipation for each mare’s new offspring, I remain ever reverent to the occupation that they must take on year after year.
Blessed Are the Broodmares
Blessed are the broodmares in the field,
Patiently carrying their heavy load
Without complaint waiting for the big day,
When they, without a sound, lay down in the straw
And then the most amazing thing happens,
The miracle of a brand new life.
Now the everlasting circle is complete,
The amazing wonder of a living thing.
The foundation stock of every breed,
How fast we all happen to forget,
Where all our champions came from.
How fast we are to discard the blessed ones.
When they get too old or unproductive,
The most tolerant members of every breed,
Raising their young without ever a mumble,
Loyal beyond everyone’s compare.
Till they go on to raise the next one,
When will we finally wake up and see
How enormously grateful we should be
For the blessed ones we so easily forget?
“Nature goes her own way, and all that to us seems an exception is really according to order.” –Geothe
After lots of rain I saw many horses napping in the sunshine. This sight, however, was a surprise. I’ve not seen mature horses lie down together so closely that they lean on each other. Even more surprising is that these two mares don’t necessarily hang out together. The brown mare is quite old and the paint is not. It may not be a perfect picture because of the stems but it is worthy of sharing simply for the unique moment it captures. Because they appear to be spooning the scientist in me wants to bring up anthropomorphizing, but I won’t; the sight was simply too cute to not share.
anthropomorphism | ˌanTHrəpəˈmôrfizəm | noun the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.
The most correct definition of ladies-in-waiting has nothing to do with being pregnant, but it suits this image. All of the mares in this image should have a foal within the next couple of months.
I have long debated with myself about sharing images of an incident that was traumatic.
It took me almost two years to be able to review the images that are shown in this post; I was deeply upset by what I witnessed.
I am accustomed to observing a wide range of wildlife and equine behaviors and interactions; nature is often surprising in good and bad ways.
Wildlife photographers are usually powerless to intervene and/or know they must not.
I won’t post images that are any more graphic than these, but I want to honor the courage of the mares that defended a newborn foal.
A couple years ago, on a routine scouting mission to check on mares close to foaling, I observed this small group for a while.
I suspected a mare was close to giving birth, unusual in the daytime, and I lingered to capture the scene. Usually, these hours are filled with
wonder and captivating observations, but the birth event was disturbed, then chaotic. The foal, still robed in the placental sac, was investigated by curious herd-mates, much to the mother’s disapproval.
Usually, a heavily pregnant mare wanders away from the herd in the night to quietly give birth and remains secluded from the herd for hours, or days, and sometimes weeks.
This time, however, that was not the case. When a young stallion burst upon the scene, his investigations of the foal became violent. He had no experience with the birth of a foal and was agitated by the
complexity of sensory cues and defensive behavior of the mares. Most of the mares fled the location when danger became evident, but three veteran mothers fought valiantly for the victimized foal.
Without giving more details, I’ll skip to the part where I felt I must intervene and pressured the stallion to move off, which was risky, but I could not simply watch and hope for a favorable outcome.
This was too intense and the foal was in grave danger of being savaged or trampled to death.
In the end, the mother, newborn foal, and other mares were separated safely. The mare and foal recovered from their trauma and are both thriving.
Normally, social and environmental issues are sorted out as a course of nature, but this time, for better or worse, intervention occurred.
… Nature can be cruel. Predators are everywhere … in the wild the female species can be far more ferocious than their male counterparts. Defending the nest is both our oldest and strongest instinct …
Every new year brings opportunity for each pregnant mare to fulfill her potential to create a sturdy and contributing life to That Herd. Once January arrives, expectation grows with each passing week, knowing that the mares carry a new life. In each pregnant mare, a waiting gift to be welcomed. Hopefully, next month will bring the first foal(s) to That Herd.
“New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.” –Charles Lamb (I just like the sentiment; welcome 2020)