Stallions can be curious creatures, sometimes almost romantic and sometimes brutish. In a moment of introduction, this stallion confirms the receptiveness of a mare.
When clicking on this individual post, a list of some other moments on this blog about mare and stallion interactions is easily accessed under the main image.
It has been five years since I first laid eyes on this ordinary bay colt. One of the last foals of the year, born with tight front leg tendons, this newborn colt caught my attention. He was not flashy or attention grabbing in the usual ways. It was the valiant effort he made to keep up with his mother, his expression one of earnest concentration, his resilience in navigating his bent knees over the challenging terrain and through the vegetation, that stood out. In a few days, his tendons were normal and he marched about with curiosity and good-natured acceptance of whatever presented itself to him. At five years old, he has the same thoughtful expression and pleasant disposition. He remains respectable in every way. He has remained a personal favorite of mine in the herd.
The behavior of a herd stallion changes often and with a moment’s notice. One minute, he may doze alone in the shade, the next moment he may thunder into the mares, head high, bellowing, marching about, with his tail sweeping from side to side. He may turn from quiet grazing to rambunctious patrols in an instant. Often, his expression may turn from gentle acceptance to fierce commander, as in this image.
I have a lot to say about horses eating thistles when surrounded by other (seemingly better) choices, I just don’t have a lot to say right now. In the mean time, here is a delightful, good-natured mare eating a thistle with plenty of other grasses underfoot.
Well, she’s huge, and I don’t mean the bay filly in the background (who I call Chunk), I mean the newly born filly. She is a day old in this image. Again, and still, I am forced to marvel at the fact that she was, just hours before, rolled up inside the mare. Inconceivable!
“Where the waters do agree, it is quite wonderful the relief they give.”
–Jane Austen, Emma
(Even for a horse)
An underdog in age and size, this new colt is all powerful when perched on this dirt mound. Hilariously, all of the foals spent time exploring the power of elevated position on a couple of mounds of dirt one morning. They strode confidently around the pinnacle of the mound, defending their position from curious herd mates.
Here is your daily dose of cuteness. I could provide an hourly dose of cuteness, if I only had more time to devote to this archive. I am delighted to report that there are many moments of foal cuteness and discovery to come.
This carefree romp is brought to you by the That Herd stallion. Life is good.
Bravely standing right in the middle of somewhat tense communication between a stallion and his mother, this colt correctly displays the submissive mouth gnashing behavior. Many foals are intimidated by the stallion and keep their distance out of respect, but this colt has had no problem with greeting and interacting when the stallion is in close proximity. Even in this moment, he stands squarely in the middle of negotiations.
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.
The herd stallion, looking quite fancy.
This is a lovely mare. She is large and independent. Her face is expressive and refined for her size. She has been lauded on this photo blog for her achievements in bringing some very large foals into this world. She is my most liked subject on Instagram and other media. This year she has a large colt with four stockings and a blaze; he is a beauty. The colt also sports some interesting blue spots in one eye. He is shy and serious, so far. Unfortunately, she is chewing in this image but I liked the light and tall oats.
I call this a That Herd trifecta. Scenery, and an alert mare with a newborn foal, the knee high grass is an added bonus.
The first hours and days of a foal’s life are my favorite to observe. They overcome a steep amount of obstacles, both physiological and cognitive in a very short space of time. Absolutely everything is new and negotiable.This particular little guy is only hours old in this picture and is already willing and able to bounce about and boldly explore between moments of wobbly uncertainty. I loved him immediately.
A mare enforces her personal safety boundary by moving away when I arrive. I respect their comfort zone with my visits. Most mares are less comfortable when they have a new foal, and sometimes they are aggressive about getting near. Usually, as the foals get older, the mares become more at ease with personal boundaries for themselves and their foals.
I have taken my time in introducing the That Herd stallion this year. He is a new individual to me, and I wanted to get a sense of what kind of horse he is. At this point, he seems very tolerant of my visits and displays a wide range of attitudes toward the mares. From aloof, to tolerant, to nurturing, to dismissive, he has shown many sides. Granted, I am only observing for very small pieces of time in the grand scheme of a 24 hour day. It is interesting to have observed so many different characteristics in these small moments though. It is evidence of how complex and individual horses are, especially when they have the freedom to interact and express their personalities among other horses.
Newborn foals appear in a wide variety of weights, and sizes, and proportions. This colt looks darn cute here, but he will need a little time to grow into his head and ears. Some of his first photos are downright hilarious due to his pointy angles, large-furry-bent ears and his generally likeable demeanor.
Many mares, new to motherhood, have never even seen a baby horse, so how do they understand their own birth experience and nurturing of their own foal? A strong mix of sensory, hormonal, olfactory, and visual cues combine to ensure new mothers are capable of caring for the birth of their first (and subsequent) offspring. Witnessing the birth and bonding of the mares and their foals is always awe inspiring. So many changes, in rapid succession, are required for the success and health of both the mother and the baby in a natural setting, that every success seems a miracle. But it’s not a miracle. It’s the magnificent efficiency of nature and body chemistry perfected over time. It occurs over and over in nature with all animals. Do horses love their foals? It is uncertain if animals are capable of the variants of love that humans experience. Certainly, they form strong attachments and are often very nurturing and attentive; a form of love, to be sure.
Even the experienced mothers of many previous foals seem on edge this spring. The mares have been wary and reticent to share their offspring so far this year. Patience is always required, but this year extra patience seems necessary. This is a new foal and though she looks a little disheveled and bent-leggy here, is quite pretty. The newborn foals get things sorted in a matter of only a day or two.