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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Watching Me Like TV

There is a foal portrait on the Home page of this blog. I call him the whiskers foal. Well, the big horse in this image is the whiskers foal all grow up. I love that I have known many of these horses their entire lives. I am their biggest fan. These two horses found me in a wooded area at dusk just poking around. Their herd mates arrived right behind them and we mingled and marveled at how quickly the night chill closed in.

free range horse photography of two dark horse at dusk
Two dark horses in the woods at dusk, one skeptical and the other inviting.

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.

Such Terrain

free range horse photography of a group of curious three-year-olds
Five intrepid three-year-olds make a handsome image.

“Getting dirty is the whole point. If you’re getting dirty, that means that you have traveled to where there is no pavement.

When you sojourn into such terrain, you greatly up your chances of experiencing some full-on wild nature.”

–Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living

The Beginning and the Now

free range horse photography of a newborn colt with splashy white markings
This newly born colt with splashy white markings is almost camouflaged in a backlit meadow.

 

free range horse photography of two three-year-olds loping past
The “camo-colt” about three years later loping past with a herd mate.

We do love to watch the foals grow and blossom into maturity!

Spirits

“When I see a horse grazing on the skyline it seems a spirit. I think of it as ascending to the sun.”

–N. Scott Manaday, Earth Keeper

free range horse photography of hilltop grazers
A nostalgic image from six years ago of hilltop grazers.

Nostalgia Pose

free range horse photography of a striking filly
A stand-out filly strikes a pose.
free range horse photography of a favorite filly grown to six years
The after version of before and after poses with this filly/mare.

Unseen by me for quite some time, I was happy to relive a familiar pose with this stand-out filly, now a mare of six years. She is and always has been independent and unflappable.

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.

 

No Water. Not Romantic.

free range horse photography of some That Herd members in mountains at dusk
Dusk falls and the rest of the horses have been spotted; all is well.
free range horse photography of three tough mature horses
Still handsome but not cute; these brutes are not pets.

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.

Seeing the World

free range horse photography of a splendid horse in late day light
A poetic moment in late light for a deserving horse.

“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

View From the Old Oak

free range horse photography of a fancy colt with oak on hilltop
He’s pretty fancy. The old oak and hilltop view suit him. 

This image is of the the almost-four-year-old who appeared as a newborn in the preceding post.

He is a beauty, tough as nails, and has an interesting blue stripe in one eye to go with all that chrome. This image combines one of my trifecta ideals: Far away scenery, a massive interesting oak tree, and an amazing equine. The horses like to browse under the trees where the grass stays tender and grows taller due to the rich soil and shade. They will even step through, over, and onto the branches to reach the in-between places.

Rounding the Bend

free range horse photography of two colts on a hilltop
Horses on a hilltop will never cease to be a thrill for even the weariest hearts.

When searching for a band of horses, rounding the bend and having this in your sight is a moment of pure happiness.

The others cannot be far. Maybe we could even see some other ear tips if we were a tad taller.

Hard Can Be Soft

“Just because you are soft doesn’t mean you are not a force. Honey and wildfire are both the color gold.”

–Victoria Erickson, Edge of Wonder: Notes from the Wildness of Being

 

The soft expression in his eye proves he is golden inside.

free range horse photography portrait of a favorite black horse
Don’t let this soft eye hypnotize you: he can be a real bad-mo-fo.

Or in this case black can be elegant or villainous. He gets along, nice and amiable, but he can shut you down when he needs to.

 

A New Energy

May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night,

may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being,

may you walk gently through the world and know it’s beauty all the days of your life. – Apache Blessing

free range horse photography of two big horses browsing
Christmas day arrived with the terrain still dry; no rainfall since last spring means no new grasses.

Goodbye, 2020. May we never revisit the tough times you heaped upon us.

Feeling Nostalgic

A few representatives of That Herd taken 2012. Eight years has come and gone in a heartbeat.

These horses are fully mature and in the prime of their lives now.

I love the oak tree in the background; sadly, it has since crumbled under the stresses of drought.

Photographs are a window into the past, be it one minute or one century. So many memories

flood back with just these two images.

free range horse photography of early members of That Herd with old oak tree
Incoming youngsters long-trot past a favorite oak tree landmark.
free range horse photography of a group of young horses on a hilltop
This squad includes some early That Herd members on a chilly February morning.

Dartboard

free range horse photography of two young colts in scenery
Horses nurture relationships with herd mates, like these two young colts. Whatever the attraction, they often stuck close to each other.

For years now, I have been archiving the lives of this collection of free range horses. I cannot, with certainty, articulate why I choose the images I do to share. Sometimes I’m proud of capturing a certain expression or moments of behavior, sometimes it’s to honor my fondness for individuals, often it’s an random choice, and I will always share new foal pictures. At this point, I have such a collection of images I can simply “throw a dart at the board” and choose any random image from my files and recall a memory of when and where I interacted with those horses. For every single image I have shared across multiple social media sites, I probably have a thousand images I have not shared. I rarely share the same image across the different sites so check those out if you haven’t yet.

This image is from three years and two weeks ago, to be exact. These two horses were personal favorites of mine for different reasons. They had an amiable connection to each other, which was endearing. I wish they could have remained best mates forever, but circumstances lead to inevitable change for all of us. I enjoy the opportunity to capture beautiful moments of their time spent with That Herd.

The joy of recalled moments when finding forgotten photographs (of any subject) is one of life’s great connectors for all citizens of this world. Sharing captured moments is one of my missions with this photo archive and website. If you get joy from an image I have shared, that accomplishes a personal goal for me.

Ordinary-ness

free range horse photography of a horse in late day light
A fitting portrait of a tranquil soul in a magical setting.

“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” — G.K. Chesterton

While this horse may be considered “a valley compared to a peak”, there is worth in a demeanor of steady good=natured energy, especially within a group such as a herd or rowdies. His very ordinary-ness is infectious and relatable. Being big and strong and pretty aren’t ordinary, but when you’re those things and amiable as well, you risk being second string.

From his earliest days, this horse has at most, made me laugh out loud, and at least, brought a wry smile to my face as I observe his interactions with his herd mates and the discoveries in his natural environment. Well done, lad. Keep it up.