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!.
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.
All of the mares, are hyper-vigilant with their new foals, this is certainly true for the first several weeks. Horses, being a flight response animal, are ever watchful for reasons to flee. Even suspect sounds or the slightest movements in the distance warrant consideration for moving away to a safer distance. I constantly find myself scanning the horizon and surrounding brush to identify what has caught the attention of the horses. As the foals grow in strength, size, and independence, the mothers are still available at a moments notice. This same behavior is true of confined, domestic mares with foals because motherhood is a strong, universal experience. However, in a free range environment, nature dictates the serenity of the days and nights, often in very unexpected ways.
You cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to face.
What if the things that end–the things that break your heart–ultimately lead to a better version of you? Tragedy brings resilience.
In the years that I have been observing That Herd there have been some losses. Birth and new life is a miracle when everything goes well, a heartbreaking tragedy when complications arise. Also, living a free range life in a wild environment has many unknowns and pitfalls. Sometimes accidents occur, sometimes predation, sometimes medical anomalies. I try to honor the existence of each new life with a blog post, or many, but when lives are lost it can become harder to share their experience and memory. Sad loss stories do not make readers feel good and the purpose of this blog is hopefully more upbeat. I take these losses rather hard, not just the foals but any loss from the That Herd family brings a change to the herd experience.
I usually post information and images about That Herd as a current chronological archive, but this is not one of those posts. Yes, this filly is gone but her short life was documented.
When they just stand there and pose like this, it’s a photographer’s gift. Born during a stubborn rainstorm, this filly spent the first week of her life drenched. She and her mother are basking in the warm sun on this day, the rainy weather long gone. By this time of the year, I grow weary of the incredible dryness and have to remind myself there was once green grass.
New foals in all their freshness bring thoughts of potential. Possibilities are endless when all of your talents are not yet formed. May all her strengths be mighty in mind and body.
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.
When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’.
They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
Every day the foals are assigned lessons in life skills. Some make the assignments bend to their unique disposition and I think they are “happier” for it.
She could have simply walked around the scattering of branches but she chose the slow route: sniffing, and touching, and nimbly stepping her way through instead.
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.
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.
“Summer bachelors like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”
– Nora Ephron
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.
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
Wildness is not defined by the absence of certain activities, but rather by the presence of certain unique and invaluable characteristics.
The growth of a foal is exponential immediately after birth. Not only their body tissues and functions, but their brains transition at an impressive, and necessary rate. These horses are quite comfortable with standing or running water sources. Even this colt, only in his first day of life, seems right at home in the water. Observing horses in water is always mesmerizing. Maybe this is because water is not a usual environment for horses and this makes them appear almost magical in that setting.
This is how you find these two foals, always together. The grey fell in love with this dark filly the first day they met. He has shadowed her ever since. Rarely leaving her side, he is a model of devotion. The mother of the filly tolerates his affections entirely.
“Every summer there are a number of nights, not many, but a number, when everything is perfect. The light, the warmth, the smells, the mist, the birdsong-the moths. Who can sleep?
–Fredrick Siagberg The Fly Trap, A Book About Summer, Islands and the Freedom of Limits
An independent filly lazily follows the scattered herd through an oat field in the late afternoon. Her mother is not in sight but no matter, her family is the whole herd and she feels at ease with all her herd-mates.
If it could be like this always: abundance, independence, golden hues, leisure, temperate, and peaceful!