Harmonious Neighbors

A glimpse at some of our neighbors for the American Thanksgiving holiday.

They do, however, seem to compete for similar forage. No matter, the birds mostly go where the horses are unlikely to travel.

Free range horses are part of their natural community, mares and foals browse with wild turkeys
Free range horses are part of their natural community, mares and foals browse with wild turkeys.
Wild turkeys live among the horses in a free range environment
Wild turkeys live among the horses in a free range environment.
Wild turkeys live among the horses in a free range environment, this Tom is showing off
Show-off Tom turkey.

Cool Little Dude

free range horse photography of a mare checking on her napping colt
A good mother checks in on her napping colt.

Even though the colt is a few months old and capable of being quite independent, this good mare still keeps a close eye on him. The colt is one of only a few who have white markings this year. He’s a cool little dude.

Two of a Kind

free range horse photography of two half sibling colts
These two half siblings, born within hours of each other, spend most of their time adventuring together.

They look alike and share the same birthday. I often see these two browsing, grooming, and roughing each other up. I could not resist an image of their momentary interest in my appearance. Their side-by-side pose seems appropriate. This was taken several weeks ago, they have grown quite a bit since this image was taken.

The Good Uncle

It has been amusing to observe the quiet guardianship role a yearling colt has assigned himself to a late newcomer to That Herd.

Fortunately, the mother tolerates his attention and close proximity. The yearling seems like a gentle soul and causes no disruption or annoyance.

free range horse photography of a summer newborn and his faithful friend
A yearling colt has taken an interest in a late newcomer to That Herd.
free range horse photography of an August newborn and his protectors
An August newborn and his mother shadowed by the watchful yearling.
free range horse photography of an unlikely trio
A yearling has taken on the role of second protector to a newborn and he is like a doting uncle.

Dance Like No One is Watching

Well, look who’s fancy today!

He has craters, lumps, scars, a survivor story to tell, and a heart as big as the whole-wide-world. He can’t help it; he was born to be an inspiration. (And he is.)

free range horse photography of a survivor colt
Dance like no one is watching!

The Shortness of Time

free range horse photography of a filly romping with the mares and foals
A grown filly romping with the mares and foals. July 2022.
Carpe Diem – an exclamation used to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future.
Roman poet Horace used the full injunction, “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,”
which can be translated as “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one”,
recognizing the brevity of life and embracing the inevitability of death.

All Good Guys, Just What We Need

“No, we don’t need more sleep. It’s our souls that are tired, not our bodies.

We need nature. We need magic. We need adventure. We need freedom. We need truth. We need stillness.

We don’t need more sleep, we need to wake up and live.”

–Brooke Hampton

free range horse photography of a group of two-year-old horses in scenery
Gangly, mountain tested two-year-olds.

From a Colt’s Perspective

free range horse photography of a mare and colt living their best life
Life is good in wide open spaces.

Hello horse lovers! From a colt’s perspective, I have a good life which is as close as nature intended for horses. I was born under a spreading oak in the dawn of a new day. My mother is an expert at protection and safety and keeps a watchful eye on me. She is heavy with fresh milk and takes me to rest in the shade on warm days. There are plenty of herd-mates to keep me entertained and trained in the social ways of equines. Unless the herd is on the move, I can rest when I want to, and buck and play whenever my energy is up. I rarely see a fence and California wildlife lives and moves all around me. It is rarely too cold or too hot. I can browse on a variety of native grasses and flora. Water is provided for me or I can drink from a lake reservoir. I was born sturdy and am learning to be resourceful. Uneven and varied terrain is no problem for my travels, I am learning to be brave and sure-footed in every circumstance. There is a never ending parade of wonders for me to observe and investigate each night and day. My mind and body are in constant training and I bring joy to each and every human that is lucky enough to visit my life. I will live and learn with constant equine relatives and companions for all my years with That Herd.

Life is good in wide open spaces!

Hiding in Plain Sight

free range horse photography of a filly in an oat field
Curiosity peaked, this filly approaches stalk by oat stalk.

In an open meadow, with no place to hide, one does the best one can.

 

Fleet of Foot

free range horse photography of a mare and her new foal on a hillside
No hillside is too steep to make your escape when this is your mother  

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting the Day

free range horse photography of a mare and newborn foal after a hilltop climb

It is common for the foals, from their first day, to traverse all of the rolling countryside where That Herd roams, even steep ascents and descents.

This duo popped up out of a deep canyon to an early sunny horizon. The filly is greeting her second day with sturdy determination.

 

Impatient Circles

free range horse photography of a newborn filly impatiently circling her lying mother
Impatient circles from her newborn do not sway this mother from her much needed resting.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly encouraging her mother to stand
This foal is not so much encouraging mother to stand as performing an instinct that forces the need to press the face and find milk when newly born.

After a morning of labor and birth, this mother needs to lie down and pass the placenta. Freed from her internal burden of several months and the bright morning sunshine, she is not easily roused. The foal, a filly, was energetic and bouncy right away and persistently and almost comically circled, nickered, and leaped about in an effort to unlock the mystery of her low mother.

Periscope Moment

free range horse photography of the moment a newborn pops his head up to see the new world
The moment a newborn pops his head up to see the new world that he has arrived in.

I cannot seem to put into words how beautiful these little moments are. His journey has begun.

Rough Morning

free range horse photography of a newborn colt who was slow to sort the situation out
This little guy was just plain wiped out from his journey. This was a perkier moment.
free range horse photography of a mare and newborn scene
Whew. It was a bit of a push, forgive the pun, to deliver this foal.

He has arrived safe and sound, but whoa, was he ever pooped from his journey. A bit of a slow start, but he is doing fine.

Gift Horse

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.

free range horse photography of a mock stallion and band of pregnant mares
Standing watch from a distance because these mares are in no good mood.

In Admiration

wild horse photography of a mare and foal in a tree-lined clearing
A dark mare and new foal stroll through a tree-lined clearing.

A mare who is no longer with us and her first foal. She gave us many memorable moments.

Ecotherapy

free range horse photography of a newborn colt on a misty morning
Standing alone, this newborn colt is flexing his independence muscles after his eleven month confinement.

Sorry to disappoint you but this is an image of a newborn colt from last year. The first 2022 foal of That Herd has not arrived yet.

Shrouded in mist, the tall trees ghosted in the background, and wet from dew to our knees, both the foal and I considered each other. His mother was paying attention and was just out of frame but this new colt kept her on her toes. He was thrilled to explore and breathe deeply and tiptoe through the grass.

I challenge you to not feel better by simply viewing this image. Time spent outdoors experiencing natural settings, even in urban areas, has been proven to improve pleasant feelings, and reduce anger, stress, and depression. This particular outdoor experience was sweetened by the good-natured company of an audacious explorer.

 

Boyish Today

free range horse photography of a stallion at ease
Sometimes boyish, other times a brute.

I’ve been putting some thought into aggression verses violence in wild animals. Looking at horses in particular, there is limited research available on violence in feral, free-range, and wild horse behavior. It’s either under reported or not observed often. Domestic horses–stallions in particular–have documented aggression and violence toward both horses and humans, but in this case I’m not referring to under socialized, confined, or mismanaged horses. I am interested in the difference in aggression and violence as separate behaviors in free range stallions with mares that don’t have to compete with other stallions to keep their mares or territories.

Aggression has been explained as a behavior motivated by the intent to cause harm to another who wishes to avoid harm.

Violence is a subtype of aggression, of a physical nature, with the intent to kill or injure another.

Interestingly, both aggression and violence are rarely motivated by anger. While anger can be managed and channeled, aggressive behavior can compound, meaning aggression and violent actions often increase the likelihood of more aggression in the future. Acting out with aggression and violence does not reduce aggressive impulses. There is no “honeymoon period” after a violent blow-up like with losing your temper and releasing that stress. Because of this, it is wise to assume that once aggressive and/or violent behaviors are observed, it could happen again repeatedly.

In David and Goliath scenarios, there is no hope for the weaker or smaller victim. They will be injured or killed.

Certainly a variety of factors can determine the degree of these behaviors. In feral horses, for example, I would point to hormones, frustration, seasonal stresses or sharing space with peers with aggressive tendencies. If one, or all, of any variety of these factors is removed, a shift in personality often can and does take place but one should expect repeat occurrences if some element changes again.

 

 

 

 

 

Watching Me Like TV

There is a foal portrait on the Home page of this blog. I call him the whiskers foal. Well, the big horse in this image is the whiskers foal all grow up. I love that I have known many of these horses their entire lives. I am their biggest fan. These two horses found me in a wooded area at dusk just poking around. Their herd mates arrived right behind them and we mingled and marveled at how quickly the night chill closed in.

free range horse photography of two dark horse at dusk
Two dark horses in the woods at dusk, one skeptical and the other inviting.

Cantering Out of the Sky

free range horse photography of colts running on hillside
And just like that, here they came, over the top of the hill and toward the sunset in a headlong rush, manes and tails flying.

” … and suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic came cantering out of the sky, … ”

–Walter De La Mare