Mini Parade

free range horse photography of a strolling newborn colt and his mother
Like a mini parade, a new mother and very newborn filly stroll by like pros.

After what surely must have been a trying few hours for both mother and filly, they gift me with an image like this.

Emerging from the shelter of the trees, touched by the early morning sun, these two troopers quietly walk to a new resting place.

With their legs in perfect opposite synchronicity and  relaxed manner they made an endearing parade of motherhood and new life.

A solid little foal, she was surprisingly composed for only being a couple of hours old. I was struck by how big her knees were/are.

Pure Moxie

free range horse photography of an adorable new foal
This bold filly knows no fear in her first couple of days.

Mingling with the mature mares as if she were a seasoned member of the club, this filly is completely nonchalant.

No signs of confusion or anxiety appear as she strolls amongst her superiors.

This new filly showed appropriate signs of humility when met with nods of domination from the mares she wandered too near; she was respectful but never seemed to question her choices.

She is immediately likable for her complete refusal to be seen as less than.

moxie | ˈmäksē | (also moxy) noun North American informal: force of character, determination, or nerve

Fortitude

free range horse photography of a young black stallion in stormy landscape
Confrontational may be too strong of a general description for this young stallion, but sometimes he is.

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.

It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility.

All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently,

builds up our characters, purifies our hearts,

expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable,

more worthy … ”

– Orson F. Whitney

Stormy times for us all globally coincide with stormy days (weather-wise) for That Herd.

 

 

Blessed Beginning

free range horse photography of a mare and her new foal in a beautiful meadow
Whatever comes next, his first days were sweet.

” … The future was an infinite horizon over which the sun still glimmered its early morning promise.

Everything has a smell and every smell was fresh — the morning air, the sun on the bitumen, the evening rain.

There was just today and that felt like more than enough. … ”

– Richard Flanagan, First Person

(replace bitumen with earth)

Ladies-In-Waiting

free range horse photography of mares and oak trees
Near these oak trees is a favorite territory for mares who will foal this year.

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.

Baby!

free range horse photography of a newborn foal with deer
Only a day or two old and he’s already a master at loping around.

Everyone welcome the first new That Herd member of 2020; a chestnut colt!

Deer and other wildlife mingling near the horses is a common occurrence.

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.

Stepping Up To Defend Life

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.

 

free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.

… 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 …

–Emily Thorne

Memory Lane

wild horse photography portrait of two foals
These two colts had just been running laps around a group of oak trees on a hillside. Several times these two and several others slipped and fell in the dry leaves but jumped up and played on, undeterred. All the foals perform feats of great sure-footedness and stamina from day one. They really seemed to be having fun that morning.
wild horse photography of two colts
Matching colors on these half brothers.

 

wild horse photography of two colts face biting
The colts are in a constant state of provoking, testing, and tolerating each other. The also bond with each other and have a hierarchy of status among their herd-mates.

The blaze-faced chestnut colt was a favorite of all the other foals in 2014. You can see him being lavished with attention by a few of his fellow herd mates in this trio of images. I went back to 2014 to remind everyone that there is lots of interesting content about That Herd that goes back for several years. Also, I should mention that I have lost the use of my computer as it is undergoing a costly repair (again). My photographic productivity is at a standstill. Fresh content will be coming along soon. We have 2020 foals to look forward to!

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)

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Ever Watchful

free range horse photography of a mare guarding her new foal in a scenic setting
Ever watchful, a first-time mother keeps close tabs on her young foal.

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.

Some Days Are Bleak

free range horse photography of an elegant new foal
This filly is very sleek and elegant for one so young.

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.

 

 

Beauties

free range horse photography portrait of a mare and foal
These willing subjects make a beautiful mare and foal portrait.

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.

Bright Star, Bright Future

free range horse photography portrait of a new January foal
Her star marking is blinding me.

 

free range horse photography of a mare and January foal
A January foal keeps pace with her skittish mother.

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.