I’m not sure when a hill becomes a mountain, so this location is either atop a high hill or a small mountain. I can say that it is a long climb to get up there, but if horses are there, it’s worth it for the view. Sometimes the horses wait for you to hike up to the top then run away, leaving you out of breath and out of luck. On this occasion the horses stayed and we spent some time together. This group is mostly two-year-olds and a couple older steeds.
These free range horses are often curious about my visits, but just as often, elusive. In this image, I can see a little of both in this horse’s face. On this day, visibility was low due to fog, and the temperature was cool after a long hot spell. This seemed to inspire mischievous behavior from That Herd members. After an extended get-away run, the herd, including this fellow, responded with curiosity when I appeared a second time.
I was surprised this meandering mare even noticed this passing tarantula. She briefly lipped the spider, and passed over it, probably narrowly avoiding a painful bite. Once cast aside, sheer luck spared the tarantula a smashing from her stepping hooves. After this hoof, then another, the spider negotiates a few other passing mares, is spared again and again, and goes about it’s charmed tarantula life.
Even in small doses, nature changes how we feel.
When was the last time you went outside and did something you remember?
Cut off from the rest of the herd, several mares and foals took a detour to avoid passing near me. One by one, as their bravery and comfort level supported, they streaked by me, in ones and twos, down a steep hill and across a brushy side hill. Interestingly, these same horses, young and old, will allow me to walk among them while they are quietly grazing and moving about minutes later.
Here’s a colt who is big on bravado. He leads when herd-mates hesitate. He has an endearing boldness for one so young. That being said, he is not reckless; he’s also the first one to spin and run away when things stop making sense. Here, he is caught in a moment of rapt curiosity about my presence.
The first day of life for a baby is a never-ending assault of sensory stimulus. The physiological and behavioral adaptations that come in rapid succession when presented with the (new) external environment must be exhausting. The expression on this face shows evidence of this reality for newborns. The added stresses of a free range environment only accelerate the need for a foal to interpret and master volumes of new abilities in a very short amount of time.
To tell a story from the heart of a horse, now that would be the best story ever told.
An odd assortment of That Herd members, different ages, colors, and dispositions come together during a mountainside trek.
I just love this filly. Just look at that expression, so soft and keen.
These September days drag by for human and horse alike. All of us, listlessly baking in oppressive heat and humidity, coated in dust, and finding no relief from the heat in the evening are tiring. To say there is a lack of water is a gross understatement at this point, quality feed is scarce, and the mares tire of mothering their demanding offspring. This filly has taken on her mother’s suspicious ways (I rarely see her with a welcoming eye), and has grown in independence daily. Even on this hot morning, she retains a spark of defiance and energy.
It had been many months since I’d laid eyes on ZigZag. I was happy to find him doing something athletic, validating the reason he received his name in the first place. He is a two-year old now. I found him on the morning he was born, only hours old, and he has given me many hours of viewing pleasure ever since.
Surprise encounters initiate this familiar “friend or foe?” horse face. I am a familiar visitor, so I rarely inspire a flight response. These horses are curious and because they are lightly managed, they can be approached. In this case, the horse left his wooded area and came to investigate, bringing nearby herd mates along with him.
“We need the tonic of wildness … At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us … We can never have enough of nature.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
As the sun set, something unseen and unheard triggered this large group of horses to move away from their quiet grazing on an open hillside. They filed up and into the woods, traveled single-file through brush and over a tree-lined hilltop, then disappeared into the coming night.
• an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli
• a natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking
At this point in the summer, anything green catches the attention of the horses. This small oak sapling is not in any real danger of being eaten by the horses, but it’s fresh green leaves are worth investigating.
I have observed this mare raising three foals, so far. She is a good mother. She is protective and seems to really enjoy the company of her foal(s). This particular colt is a few weeks old in this picture. Not long after this picture was taken, he survived what was certainly an attack by a mountain lion. He had slashes and puncture wounds, but somehow, he escaped. Though he was not a newborn foal, and had some size and speed, it is still remarkable that he evaded certain death. I have to wonder if his mother, who is always nearby, came to his aid and fought off the lion. She is a scrappy sort of horse, and it is easy to imagine her taking on a lion in defense of her baby. It’s not possible to know the circumstances of this colt’s survival but I’d bet his mother was involved.
Here is a horse with an imposing presence. He looks like a chestnut Clydesdale. He is large and thick and handsome. There is a kind but confused look in his eye much of the time. He is, however, more often than not, disheveled looking. He’s a bit rough, like a college kid with a hangover.
… and the award for the fuzziest foal ears goes to: