Gait Adaptation?

For quite some time I have wondered if the off and on pacing gait these horses travel with means anything. Pacing is when both legs land and rise on the same side, working as a lateral pair, as opposed to the more regular diagonal lifting and landing of the legs. Some information I have discovered offers a hypothesis; they say it is a sign of greater fitness when horses that are not naturally gaited breeds travel this way, even if only in a brief or random frequency. Oldtimers say a “running walk” is the sign of a sturdier horse and is essential for efficient mileage. I don’t know. Two beat, three beat and four beat patterns all occur naturally in horses depending on speed but horses with freedom over uneven terrain exhibit an unusual mixture of them all.

wild horse photography of a large two-year-old colt walking in a meadow
Ambling across a high meadow, this large two-year-old colt intermittently switches to a pacing gait.

Bonding

The close bond between this mare and colt never waned as the colt grew older. They were inseparable.

wild horse photography of a newborn colt
This early summer colt was born only a few hours ago.

The Agreement

This good mother remains serene if I keep my distance when she has a new foal. I respect her boundaries and she ignores me, it works for both of us.

wild horse photography of a mare and newborn foal
A mare and her newborn foal quietly go about their business.

It’s a Beautiful Life

Fresh spring grass proves to be more enticing than just about anything else they could be doing.

wild horse photography of three grazing horses with scenery
I can’t really blame them for being more interested in the grass than in me. It looks delicious.

My Kind of Morning Eye Opener

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”  – William Wordsworth

wild horse photography of a young paint foal
This kind of scene is my favorite reward for early morning forays out to find That Herd in the late spring. Fog burning off to blue sky, content mares, growing foals; all happy, healthy and doing their thing.

Glitch

There are so many things to like about this image. For one, the foal’s expression after many up and down maneuvers, proud but a little exerted. Second, the little black bird near the mare’s head which are often seen on the horse’s backs. Also, the mud on the mare’s back legs that show evidence of a spring or seep drinking hole. The light colored manure pile indicting recent rain is a subtle clue. Finally, the clever shielding of the foal between the mare and the thick brush and the healthy glow of the mare’s flesh and coat; all are signs of successful horse lives. On another note, I don’t name all the foals but I call this one Glitch.

wild horse photography of a mare shielding her lying foal
Safely nestled between mother and thick brush this new foal practices his standing, jumping up, then lying down, a few times.

Glorious Purpose

This stallion meets each moment with intelligence and interest.

wild horse photography of a big bay stallion
Filled with glorious purpose, this stallion strides toward his band of mares.

Friendly Face Bite

Both horse have pleasant, if not impish expressions, they are just horsing around.

wild horse photography of two horses engaged in friendly face biting
Two herd mates engaged in friendly face biting.

Spring in Her Step

Early morning put a spring in their step.

wild horse photography of a beautiful mare moving through the brush
Early morning browsing is interrupted by the appearance of some separated horses. A greeting party ensued.

Keeping a Wary Eye

This mare appears unconvinced that my presence is nothing to be alarmed about even though she has watched me observe her many times.

wild horse photography of a wary mare
The face of one who is cautious but not afraid. This mare is more wary than many of her herd-mates.

Privileges of Youth

frolic |ˈfrälik|
verb
(of an animal or person) play and move about cheerfully, excitedly, or energetically

wild horse photography of colts frolicking
Play is the highest form of research.

Elegance

There is a poise and composure to this horse that is just beautiful.

wild horse photography portrait of a horse's beautifully expressive face
You can see something definable yet undefinable in this horse’s face. An expression of gentle wisdom perhaps or serene resilience. Or, it’s something else. I just know that it is a beautiful face on an untroubled soul.

Just a Horse

No big deal. Just a horse picture, you say? Well, I say you have not looked close enough. I see a horse who is at ease but alert, well fed but not fat, hair coat thick but not rough. His hooves hard and round but never shod or trimmed, he holds reserves of stamina even after traveling with purpose all day, knows where and where not to put his feet, he knows when to run and when to walk, when to drink and when to pass by. He is clever, he is healthy, he is adaptable in social groups, he is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Okay, I went too far on the last one but, really, a horse with the freedom to do what horses do best is a wonder to behold. He survives successfully, actually thrives, without management, diet supplements or fabricated shelter. Behold, observers (!) a horse, just being a horse!

wild horse photography of a strong horse standing in contrast to his layered terrain
A winter day visit with high clouds made for a nice shot of a strong pale colored horse standing in contrast by the layers of his daily terrain.

Protective

It’s not personal. Acceptable space boundaries change when a newborn foal arrives.

wild horse photography of a mare protective over her newborn
It’s not personal. The mares mainly live in harmony but when a newborn arrives personal space rules are strictly enforced.

Herding or Driving Behavior

The stallion is feeling a greater sense of urgency in this image exhibited by the exaggerated low driving posture.

wild horse photography of a stallion demonstrating herding behavior
In this image the stallion is exhibiting herding or driving behavior. The posture is one of lowered head, stretched neck, ears pinned and sometimes a snake-like back and forth head movement. There is more intensity here demonstrated by the exaggerated low posture and fast gait; the stallion was feeling some sense of urgency to redirect the mares.

Introduction

About to be introduced to the rest of the herd for the first time, this mare reassures her new foal.

wild horse photography of a mare approaching with her newborn
Early in the morning, the fog just lifting, a mare cautiously rejoins the others after the birth of her foal earlier that morning. The foal’s ear was still a little lopsided from time spent pressed in the womb, which was endearing. I like this picture because the foal is making a scrunchy face as the mare constantly reassures him as they approach. The foal was intrepid and the one I later dubbed Zig Zag.

Floating on a Sea of Oats

It’s not every year that the oats grow so abundantly, but it’s glorious when it happens.

wild horse photography of a mare and young foal in an oat field
When the oats are in abundance, it is common to find the mares and foals grazing there each morning.

 

Before and Later

The infamous “whisker foal” at a couple of days old and about 18 months later. He has matured out of his mop of whiskers.

wild horse photography comparing a foal and yearling picture of the same horse
These images show the “whisker foal” at a few days old and about 18 months later.

 

 

Bright New Day

Peace.

wild horse photography of mares and foals under oak trees in the early morning
A group of mares and foals take a break from grazing in the early morning hours.