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.

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.

They Just Run

free range horse photography of young colts and fillies running toward the camera
A mix of young colts and fillies run with no destination. They are not running away from anything to to any place in particular. They just run in small groups darting and turning, sprinting and slowing, almost like a school of fish in the sea.

Nature’s Water Cooler

free range horse photography of coming two-year olds hanging out at a tree branch
Chill time for a couple of coming two-year olds as they hang out at a favorite gathering place for their herd mates.

Our society is familiar with the office water cooler as a place to hang out and talk about work while not working. The same types of water cooler moments occur with herds of horses. Community hang out spots are normal for horses living in large territories. Even though there is lots of space to roam, certain places become a common area for groups of horses living together to hang out. Often, low growing branches are essential at favorite resting spots. As if at a hitching post or leaning on the top fence rail to observe or converse, horses congregate and pacify themselves by rubbing, chewing, and resting on and near these low oak branches. This image shows one of those places for That Herd. It also shows only two members, but normally the whole bunch (just outside of this shot) clumps together to swat flies and take turns rubbing on the branches. The large grey colt will be two-years old in March and the bay filly will be two in June.

Dainty is Over-Rated

free range horse photography of a weanling filly with scenery
Not that this filly has a bad side, but this is her better side.

free range horse photography of a distinctive two-day old filly

Several months into her life and this filly is brimming with independence.

She seems serious but curious–sincere even–if a horse can be sincere.

The comparison between her two-day-old self and her seven-month-old self is impressive. So much growth in a short amount of time.

Her distinguishing profile has grown right along with everything else. Although her irregular white face marking creates a pleasing optical illusion for her large bump, she will never escape extra attention for her side view.

I love her face, roman nose and all, she’s a charmer.

 

Zena, Daughter of Zeus

free range horse photography portrait of a weanling filly
The white eye feelers and white whiskers on one side are a unique look.

 

Zeus was the king of the ancient Greek gods, and the god of the sky, weather, law and order, destiny and fate.

This filly does not have a name, but I call her Zena because she may be the last daughter of a great stallion. Also, Zena means “born of Zeus, welcoming; hospitable; friendly, but with the severe burn of lightening. So far she matches that description. Long may she reign.

 

 

Lil Whippersnappers

free range horse photography of newly weaned foals on a hilltop
A few of the youngest That Herd weanlings find excitement at a higher elevation.
whip·per·snap·per
/ˈ(h)wipərˌsnapər/
noun
1. a young and inexperienced person weanling considered to be presumptuous or overconfident.

Enough of Everything

free range horse photography of a fuzzy filly in spring grass
A fuzzy coat and a green meadow are reminders of spring.

Time well spent leads to a life well lived.

Bravado and Caution

free range horse photography of three fillies looking innocent by a failing oak tree
Three fillies looking innocent by a failing oak tree.

Older foals never cease to entertain me with their mix of bravado and caution. These foals are old enough now to be fully independent; their explorations of me are constant and surprisingly intense.

 

Winning the Day

free range horse photography of two frisky weanlings
That Herd weanlings kick up their heels after a heavy rain.

That face you make when second place wins the day.

Protection

free range horse photography of a foal in tall stalks
For some foals, curiosity is best managed with a barrier, no matter how thin.

“Is there any instinct more deeply implanted in the heart of man than the pride of protection, a protection which is constantly exerted for a fragile and defenseless creature?” – Honere de Balzac

Good Conscience, Bad Conscience

This image reminds me of the old Looney Toons characters that sat on shoulders as good and bad conscience “angels”. One foal is quite mild and reasonable, while the other is always wild-eyed and suspicious, lurking over the shoulder of the other.

free range horse photography of two older foals
The 2018 foals have become quite independent.

Autumnal Sunshine

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine … ”

–Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

Summer passes into autumn but our new season simply blends into an extended summer, warm and dry. The spring and summer foals are growing into gangly youths ready to be independent of their mothers.

free range horse photography of a flashy colt
October light illuminates a growing colt.

Water Baby

A full water trough, after sucking water out of a mud hole swarming with wasps, is a pleasure indeed. This filly played and played, soaking all her herd mates in the process.

free range horse photography of a filly playing in water
A full water trough is a great boredom buster.

 

Good Judgement

“Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”

– Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

free range horse photography of wandering young colts
Young horses learn daily, guided by instinct and common sense. They learn from their mistakes and thrive when good judgement prevails.

Kill The Dragon

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

–G.K. Chesterton

Following months of personal and national ups and downs, I/we can find comfort in the everlasting reality that all will be well. This yearling colt is running with several older horses in remote countryside. The lessons he is learning every day will fortify his life in the most productive ways.

wild horse photography of a yearling colt in scenery
Tagging along with the older horses, this yearling colt runs in some rugged country.

 

 

 

 

Happy Winter

Happy Winter. Left to their own devices, horses manage cold weather quite well. Just because That Herd has long summer weather seasons doesn’t mean they don’t experience periods of freezing weather and uncomfortable winter conditions. This is a filly I like decked out in her winter coat.

wild horse photography of a winter filly
Bear-like in her winter coat, this filly is unfazed by the cold that has begun.

Hiding in Plain Sight

This group of yearlings keep their curiosity about people under tight control. After some searching under a blanket of low clouds and still air, suspicious pointy shapes (ear tips) in the distance turned out to be nine elusive yearlings.

wild horse photography of wary yearlings
A rough band of yearlings keeps their distance.

The World Before Me

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” –Walt Whitman

wild horse photography of a band of horses on a hilltop
A band of young horses, from yearlings to a few years old, amble out from under the shelter of a hilltop oak tree.