Ordinary is not a label that fits this colt. He was born with an extra velvety hair coat, a distinctive long face, pale eyes, and a tiny white ear tip with long white hairs.
He is one day old in this image, that was about four months ago. His mother is mostly a loner, she takes to the company of one chosen horse for as long as possible. This year she spends her time with the palomino mare so her colt and this one spend a lot of time together. They are half brothers connected by the same sire and full brothers connected by companionship.
In direct contrast to today’s wildfire and extreme-heat ravaged California, this memory is connected to a glorious California morning in mid April. Mild in temperature and robed in glittering dewy refreshment, the morning was so beautiful and the native grasses so lush, I didn’t discover this new foal for some time. This spring (when removed from the pandemic devastation) was sweet. Sweet for casual observers and a sweet time to be born without fences. Cheers to this colt’s day of birth, a divine day indeed. If days could have halos, this one surely would have.
In an amusing trick of nature, this colt’s white face marking drips down his face seemingly detoured by the large (noble) bump on his face.
When you can’t climb the mountain; go around it!
His coat is dotted with foxtails from napping in the grass. Among the herd he seems like a solid citizen, not too dramatic and not too laid-back.
I had my work cut out for me on the morning this foal was born. Mother followed the herd on a round trip of a couple of miles, over hillsides and through the woods, all in about an hour. There were a couple of opportunities to document some great vistas with a new foal, which does not happen often. The new colt was a trooper, never faltering and never lying down. While I can’t know exactly when he was born, it had been less than 24 hours since I’d seen Mom and she still had baby on board. So, I guess he was not more than several hours old when he accomplished this hike with his herd mates.
The mare off by herself was an indication that she might be hiding a surprise. The tall mustard stalks made it challenging to get a peek at this new kid without getting too close. He was lying quietly in a thick patch of flowering mustard, his mother standing guard above him. Eventually, he stood up and I took a couple quick pics before the mare moved away. Somehow the colt had a puffy eye but he was none the worse for wear otherwise. He was quite a large newborn, so entering this world may have been a bit bruising for all involved. I kept my distance throughout the morning as the mare was needing lots of space to feel comfortable.
With her usual “keep your distance” glare after giving birth, I get the stink-eye from mom. I must admit she was more generous with her distance requirement this year. Usually, she is on the move to disappear as soon as she sees me approaching after she has foaled and she tests the limits of my telephoto zoom lens.
With a determination visible by the set of his jaw, this little guy dutifully maintains close contact with his mother in the first hours of his life.
Many times newly born foals maintain close contact with their mothers, as if they were still connected by a cord. This colt, born May 19, was no exception. He had a very busy morning and seemed a bit flustered with all the complexities of “life on the outside”. Mom was his anchor in these trying hours.
A brief recess from my ongoing parade of newborns allows me to show you this laid back little dude.
He looks quite comfortable leaning on his mother’s front legs, as if propped up on pillows. Mom doesn’t seem to mind; she stood like a statue until he popped up.
The colt is quite a brute these days, size wise. This was in early April, and the green grass was abundant.
(‘Chill’ is a North American informal adjective for easy going or very relaxed for all you international viewers).
The color of the grass gives away how behind I am in keeping up with new birth announcements. Now, in the first week of June the grasses are golden and dry. The last days of April brought a couple new foals, this wee filly was one of them. Born to a solid older mare, her small size is nature’s kindness to a veteran mother. Not to worry, the new foal has grown quickly and is as solid as any of her older siblings and definitely holds her own like a champ. The third image shows an older herd mate greeting her kindly while her skeptical mother stands guard over the colt’s manners.
Birth is not only about making babies, but about making mothers as well. New mothers and old mothers contend with birthing risks; in older mares and mares who have had several foals, the risks are higher. Mothers sacrifice their own lives for the lives of their babies; this is a reality as old as time. This sacrifice may come in the form of protection from predators or perceived dangers, or it may come in the form of not surviving postpartum complications. Heroic sacrifice and tragic sacrifice leave admiration or heartbreak in it’s wake.
Participating in creation makes every mare the author of a story full of potential. However. the tragedy of a lost mother cannot be measured, not by the baby, the bystander, nor the new care-giver.
After keeping careful watch and waiting with much anticipation for each mare’s new offspring, I remain ever reverent to the occupation that they must take on year after year.
These three foals were born within hours of each other on April 6th. I have written on previous posts for years about the many changes newborn foals experience in a small amount of time.
The challenges to their physical systems, perceptions, and environment are drastic. When three foals are born so close together, it’s impossible to not see some evidence of their dispositions displayed as well.
A break during rainy April days brought three new members to That Herd. And I must say, three very individual behaviors for the first hours in the babies lives.
The best playground ever!
All I can do is bow down each year in astonishment to this mare. She is an average sized mare herself, but she successfully gives birth the the largest foals in the whole herd every year. She has an enormous capacity for carrying and birthing very mature babies. Although mother looks rumpled and tired, she bounced back in no time. Feeling sorry for herself is not in her genes. She and the new foal are fine; he was born on the last day in March. There is nothing plain about this colt, no white markings needed; his appeal is inherent. He is regal and casual at the same time.
This mare put a lot of effort into keeping a lot of distance between us. After some quiet waiting,
I got close enough to observe the foal’s distinctive nose bump and a strip that runs off to one side.
It looks like white paint was dribbled on his forehead and the bump on his hose forced the stripe to run off to one side.
He was probably born the day before this image was taken.
Evidence of a very recent birth showed the newborn was barely dry when the early morning sun arrived.
The brown colt is quite fuzzy and has unusual eye color; he seemed rather confident in his ability to navigate with his new land legs.
The mare had no problem with showing off her new foal to me which was a welcome difference from the other mare.
I love it when the mares and babies strike a pose. While I was enjoying watching this new guy, a mare laid down to give birth nearby. What an event-filled morning!
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.
“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.
” … 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)
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.
“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.
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!.