Are they wild? No, but they live as if they were wild. That Herd horses are free range horses. They are privately owned and lightly managed. The horses mainly exist with no assistance quite well. When there is a need, the rancher steps in to administer care or support.
Can you pet them? No, but they are often approachable. For the most part, consider them wildlife with all the considerations that goes with encountering a wild animal.
Do I cue them, use rewards or treats, or try to alter their behavior in any way to get the shot? No, but there have been occasions when I intervened when a newborn foal was in danger.
Do they roam freely? Yes! Their territories are fenced, but most of the spaces they live in are hundreds, or thousands of acres bordered by private ranches or federal lands.
Do the mares live with a stallion? Sometimes, but the stallion is not part of the herd year-round.
Do they spread wonder and joy to anyone who is fortunate enough to observe them? Yes, always.
This gelding thinks his been gifted a band of mares for his very own.
Sadly, these beauties are heavy in foal and this is as close as he is allowed to get.
Floating like a butterfly, this two-day old filly gallops full throttle to-and-fro while her mighty mother worries and charges along behind.
I admit my feelings are a little hurt. Last year this mare foaled right in front of me late one morning and I helped her out of an attempted kidnapping by another mare.
This year, she won’t let me near her. I cannot even ease myself close enough to tell what the sex of the foal is. I have way too many pictures of her running away with her foal. I don’t pursue for the foal’s sake; it is brand new after all.
I’m fifty percent sure it’s a filly.
Early on a March morning I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Two mares had given birth a couple hours previous to my arrival. I love observing newborn foals and their million discoveries about life on the outside. During my quiet jubilation at my good luck, a third mare laid down and gave birth to a notably large colt without moving away from the herd for solitude, which is unusual. A perfect morning, cool and sunny and a little breezy allowed for a serene birth and initial 20 minutes of terrestrial time.
The first image shows the colt’s first successful standing moment. Because of his numerous attempts to rise and sort his long legs out to stand, some curious herd mates approached to investigate. The other mare in the sequence is a sweet mare who has been a doting mother in the past. This year, however, she would not be having a foal of her own. She becomes instantly taken by the vulnerable newborn and won’t accept the fact he is another’s baby. Grievously, the orientation of the wobbly foal was directly in between the ensuing aggressive assertions. He was tossed about and when the mares squared off and spun to kick each other with deadly hind hooves I had to intervene. Risking the safety and kidnapping of the newborn was not necessary since I could interrupt the situation. Motherhood instincts are strong and especially so in nature. I have discovered this type of stealing behavior is not rare in natural situations. In the wild, and/or when unmanaged, the outcome for the foal is fatal. Because these horses live in a free range, natural environment they have heightened senses of survival and their innate abilities are strong, but sometimes behaviors can still go wrong.
Being a prey animal, a horse’s natural defense response is flight. However, there are occasions when standing their ground is a choice. Mares with more dominant natures will challenge any violation of their space comfort zone, especially if they have a young foal. New foals stick close to their mothers in the first days and weeks of their life. The protective instincts of the mares is greatly heightened at this time.
In the case of this mare, this is her lowest-threat-warning-face, based on that, I would not want to confront her dire threat response. The “dead eye” is an ominous indication of intent.
This is not the tallest mare of That Herd but she creates a realistic picture of how tall the grasses have become. The ear tips are the only evidence of her foal beside her.
Interestingly, the mare seems to be peering through the shield of a single stalk of mustard weed pretending she cannot be seen at all, which aptly matches her daily desire to be left alone.
This newborn filly really wants to lie down but after all that work to stand up for the first time she doesn’t want to risk it.
Also, she needs to be at the ready to follow her mother who has a lot of ideas about creating distance.
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.
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.
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.
With lightening speed, she rises up to administer a (mock) fatal jab. He never saw it coming.
(Another picture of the sassy filly shown defending the dirt pile a couple posts back.) In this image she is circling her mother with confusion and irritation over the attention given to another foal. Her beloved mother has stolen another mare’s newborn foal and everything got really weird after that. This event required intervention and I’m happy to report that the confused newborn was reunited with her mother and they were separated from the herd for a while to bond. All is well for all the horses and the brief disruption to the sassy filly’s esteem is corrected.
In defense of her dirt pile, this filly shows her “I mean business” side. Her quick temper has been displayed with old or young herd mates, and her tireless and doting mother for many weeks.,
Any one of the recent realities: excessive heat, intense thunderstorms, earthquakes, wild fires, and a near total solar eclipse could explain the wacky behavior of these young mares one morning. However, like a pack of twittering girls, these fillies are tuned into any excuse to giggle and skitter about for frivolous reasons. It should be noted though, this is still evidence of real herd behaviors that lead to success in the wild. Sticking together and fight or flight are essential tools. Even so many generations removed from authentic wild and feral ancestors, horses that are given the opportunity to live and problem solve in a wild environment tune into their instincts in a relatively short span of time. The information is still in their DNA.
This scrappy mare, small in stature and big on attitude, is always the first, or far worse, the last, to cause a disruption in any form of control over the That Herd lifestyle. It’s that last-minute-disruption-drama that gets her equal admiration for cleverness and frustrated curses from those she thwarts. Because of this history with her, I love this image. She is on high alert since the birth of her new colt, twitching and wheeling at every turn of feather or blade of grass, but her foal has the demeanor (so far) of casual indifference, even to her constant dramas.