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.

Little Nipper

free range horse photography of young horses provoking mock battle
The chestnut filly sneaks in a provocative leg bite to a herd-mate who is not amused.

There is a constant current of energy transferred from one individual to another with this band of young horses. Bumping, nipping, leaping, and sprints are evident nearly all the time. In this image, the grey is showing admirable tolerance toward the insolent filly. His choice is to sprint away or engage. She will keep pestering him until he makes a choice.

Boundless Energy

free range horse photography of two colts galloping over a hilltop
The boundless energy of these young horses requires that they run just about everywhere they go.

Spending time with the horses that are about four or five years old leaves me smirking in amusement over their endless cavorting.

They are constantly challenging and provoking each other in hopes of lively mock battles or jostling sprints.

Every Man’s Birthday

free range horse photography of a group of mares and fillies
After several days of rain a group of mares and fillies emerge from the woods to investigate my arrival.

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)

Not Just Another Pretty Face

free range horse photography of a handsome colt
Lots of white, a flaxen mane and tail, and an expressive face give this colt lots of eye appeal.

This image was taken about a year ago at age three. I have not seen this colt for many months but I look forward to seeing who he is becoming. Below is an image from his first hours of life. He is wet from a trip into the pond with only a few wobbly hours under his belt. If you go way back into previous posts (May, 2015), there are some stories about his first day. To get you started, if you click on the title of this post there is a link at the bottom of the page to a previous post about this foal titled What a Morning!.

 

wild horse photography of an intrepid newborn colt
Rapidly absorbing so many new sights and sensations, this newborn is well on his way to being a clever native born herd member.

Born Strong

 

free range horse photography of a strong young colt
A colt called Freckles.

Some are born strong and others are made strong. Either way, That Herd horses grow up capable. Seven years have passed since this image was taken but he’s still going strong.

Unsettled

free range horse photography of a young, hot-blooded mare
A hot-blooded young mare is disconcerted and insecure by her temporary loss of herd mates.

With a white-hot summer sky behind her, this head strong mare is showing a lot of emotion as she realizes the main herd has left her behind. Big and strong and dark with unique white markings, she stands out in a crowd. She had been distracting herself with water-play and most of the herd had trailed off to evening grazing sites in the meantime.

A Study in Soulful

 

free range horse photography of a June rainy day newborn
On a rare rainy day in June a newborn arrives fuzzy and extra cute.

 

free range horse photography of a young mare with expressive dark eyes
A standout since birth, this filly has beautiful deep, dark eyes.

From Day-One who could resist the dark, expressive eyes on this beautiful filly? Even now, a few years later, she retains the most beautiful soulful eyes. She’s a little older, a little wiser, but still brightly curious and gentle in disposition.

As Cool As They Pretend To Be

free range horse photography of a trio of summer bachelor horses
This trio found the one spot of shade to pause in during a white hot morning.

“Summer bachelors like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”

– Nora Ephron

 

Among Friends

free range horse photography of a handsome grey horse
Looking handsome, a favorite That Herd personality is growing up to be an eye-catching individual.

Horses form close relationships that become subgroups within a herd setting. While it may be anthropomorphic to say horses have friends, they definitely form bonds and make choices within the herd about spending time with favored herd mates. This colt, as a foal, was often entertaining in his interactions with other horses. His personality was inquisitive and social toward not only the other foals but also the adult mares and stallion. Certainly, individual dispositions play a role in this subgroup/friend dynamic. Also, it has been said that horses of a lighter color are often less accepted in herds. There are a couple of theories about why that could be true, but I don’t see that happening as a rule within That Herd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wiser Horse

free range horse photography of a big black horse
Living a life with lots of freedom that not many horses get to experience, this horse seems to be thriving.

We are what we repeatedly do.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution;

it represents the wiser choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny

– Aristotle

Good Times

free range horse photography of several geldings in green spring grass
It hardly seems likely that something would be more interesting than all that green grass.

Grazing times are good for that herd due to lots of February rain. Someone asked to see an updated image of the spotted colt. He was born tiny but is growing just fine. He is close to three years-old now.