Turning The Tables On Observation

This filly’s face is full of expression but not fear. Regarding me with an equal measure of suspicion and curiosity, this three-month-old cannot decide whether to run or investigate. My appearances have been frequent since her birth so I doubt I’m much of a surprise to her at this point in her life, but as the foals get older and bolder, they are compelled to closely scrutinize their surroundings, my appearances included. She did not run, but was unable to muster the courage to approach with enough confidence to touch me. It is unusual for a foal to be brave enough to investigate a human visitor to the point of touching. I should add, I mean the foal touching and sniffing me, not me touching the foal; that only happens on the rarest of occasions.

On a different note, this filly’s appearance has changed significantly many times in three months. She is/was the dun colored filly with the pale eyes and wavy coat of hair. Now, she has transitioned into a beautiful roan color with a deeper hue in her eyes. Her features remain more refined than her siblings, which is pleasant.

wild horse photography of an inquisitive three month old foal
At three months of age, this filly has changed in appearance significantly.

The Standoff

A previous blog post or two has mentioned this unusual event but I have not shared this image yet.

In the first hours after giving birth, a new mother (her first foal) is in a standoff with an old mare who is intent on stealing her newborn filly. The new mother was distracted with not feeling well in connection to passing the placenta and was lying down quite a bit. The old mare, who has not had a foal of her own in years, swooped in and took ownership of the newborn. The newborn was not equipped to understand the situation and began bonding with the old mare, who was standing and attentive, even attempting to nurse from the old mare. In this image, you can read what’s happening on each horses face. Apprehension from the disheveled black mare as she tries to unravel what’s happening; this is her first foal, so she has no experience with motherhood. Some distress and fatigue for the newborn and resolute defiance from the old paint mare. After much confusion and some human intervention everything was made right. All is well for the new mother and her foal, and the old mare has accepted that she failed (for the good of all) in her attempt.

wild horse photography of a standoff between two mares over a newborn foal
A standoff between a new mother and an old mare intent on stealing her newborn baby.


This time, with a timid mare, the stallion takes a gentle approach, coaxing her attention with quiet nuzzling. This behavior stands out in comparison to rowdy interactions that mares with stronger personalities instigate. This illustrates that stallions are not just breeding brutes, but herd leaders capable of complex social interactions based on the dispositions he is dealing with.

wild horse photography of a stallion coaxing a timid mare
The gentle approach from the stallion with a timid mare seems intuitive.

Without Provocation

Prompted by an energetic herd mate, a resting colt has a decision to make. Stay down, and be pestered, stepped on and mouthed, or get up and give the perpetrator a run for his money. The dark colt is fast but the light colt is big and strong. They are both the same age, by the way, only a few days apart. This may not be obvious because of the size difference.

wild horse photography of a frisky colt urging a resting herd mate
Colts that are resting need to warm up to the ideas of a frisky herd mate.

Terrestrial Navigation

At about 24 hours old, this newborn is active and inquisitive. Foals, at this stage, maintain a wide stance and exaggerated gait. The animated and purposeful footfalls of the newborn foals are one of their most endearing qualities. They just try so darn hard.

wild horse photography of a newborn foal walking
The exaggerated gait of a newborn foal, with wide and animated steps, is one of their most endearing characteristics.



A New World

For a newborn foal, the first few moments are monumental. They leave the protective world of placental breathing, nutrition and body temperature regulation. Thrust into their new environment, they must immediately switch over to life outside of the womb. This means major adaptations in circulation, for one. The lungs adapt to breaths of air and the circulatory system suddenly has to manage receiving oxygen and increased blood supply and releasing carbon dioxide into the blood stream. Previously, this was accommodated through the mare’s blood from the placenta, the lungs having received minimal blood supply during fetal growth. Also, body temperature regulation comes into play as does the sudden exposure to light, sound and touch. Extremes in temperature, wet or dry conditions, dirt, dust, foliage and all the nearby living things all demand attention and comprehension. The miracle of a successful birth continues into the first hours when the newborn awakens balance, muscle control and digestion. Attempts at standing, walking, (or in the case of wild foals, running) and nursing preoccupy the baby. It’s no wonder that newborn foals often travel, for security, in close, often touching proximity, to their mothers for the first several days. The foal’s physiological transition to independent life is one of my greatest contemplations during foaling season.

wild horse photography of a newborn leaning into his mother for confidence
The large size of this newborn foal does not exclude him from requiring the security of his mother; he leans in close while moving from place to place, relying on her for confidence.

Inseparable Trio

Considering that there was no affiliation or loyalty between these two mares before the older mare gave birth this year, it is a wonder that the young paint mare has attached herself the the older mare and foal. The paint mare loyally follows the other mare and has taken to caring for the foal with devotion.

wild horse photography of a young mare that follows a certain old mare and her foal
The paint mare has been attached to this mare and foal every since the foal’s birth.
wild horse photography of a young mare nuzzling another mare's foal
A young mare checking on a foal that is not her own.
wild horse photography of an inseparable trio of horses
A self-appointed surrogate mare stands near the favored foal while the mother grazes nearby.
wild horse photography of an young mare bonding with another mare's foal
This young paint mare has been attached to this foal since his birth; she follows him everywhere.

The above images shows the “God Mother” mare grooming her adopted foal while the actual mother grazes.

The image below shows the trio with the herd stallion. This is the first time I have observed this stallion interacting with a herd foal.

wild horse photography of a foal greeting the herd stallion
A young foal greets the herd stallion.

Lively Enjoyment, Except For …

Some foals had great fun during an unusual rainy day in June …

wild horse photography of two foals romping in the rain
Foals playfully romp in the June rain.
wild horse photography of a filly playing in the rain
Boinging about in friskiness, this filly cannot contain her joy during the June rain.
wild horse photography of a colt frolicking in the rain
This little guy is loving the late southern storm, warm and water from the sky; a youngster’s wish come true.

and some foals did not find any pleasure in the rain at all.

wild horse photography of a new foal in the rain
A very unusual June rain gives the newest member of That Herd a sorrowful look indeed.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is every day when you’re the mother of a rowdy colt. This old girl just wanted to lie down and rest in the shade on a humid day and her darling colt did this until she stood again.

wild horse photography of a colt annoying his mother
Typical, annoying colt behavior.

Newborn Checklist Item

Yup. The ears work.

wild horse photography of a newborn colt moving his eats
A newborn colt testing his ear movement.

Persistent, Non Violent Takeover

In an opportunistic moment of acquisition, this old mare stubbornly defies the new mother’s claim to her foal.

The pensive face on the new mother shows her confused concern with the situation.

wild horse photography of an old mare stealing a newborn foal
An old mare is working on taking possession of this newborn filly from an inexperienced new mother.

Grandma Turns Opportunist

A newborn foal rests under the protection of an old mare. The first-time mother of this foal was distracted by discomfort associated with the birth so the old mare (who has not had a foal of her own for years) swooped in and took charge.

wild horse photography of an old mare protecting another mare's newborn foal
A newborn foal rests under the protection of a “grandma” mare.

Quiet Negotiations

Interactions between mares and stallions are surprisingly varied. While some meetings are boisterous, squalling, dust-raising, kicking and pawing affairs, others are gentler, less obvious and barely noticeable. Often, the quieter mares merely glide in beside the stallion and present themselves without being pursued at all. Their communications and actions are subtle, demure even.

wild horse photography of a mare and stallion communicating
Gentle negotiations between a mare and herd stallion.

Why Walk When You Can Run

I often observe this mare running with her foal, for no apparent reason, other than the joy of it. You Go Girl!

wild horse photography of a mare and new foal running
Running for the joy of running; a mare and her new foal lope past me.

What a Morning!

A very new newborn colt tries to make sense out of a very busy morning. His first hours filled with following his mother into the pond, circling the meadow with the herd and being born all in about three hours. Whew.

wild horse photography of a mare and newborn foal
A very new newborn foal tries to make sense of a very busy morning.


The nursing reflex in a newborn is strong. They experiment for hours even after they have had several successes at finding mother’s milk.

wild horse photography of a newborn bonding with her mother
The nursing reflex in a newborn foal is strong.

Snooze Behavior

I can’t say I’ve ever seen this particular behavior before. This is not the first moments of typical climb-on-Mom wackiness; it is more like sudden-snooze behavior. There was no climbing or frisking about like you see in rowdy, older foals. The foal is still quite young here, so this is just funny.

wild horse photography of a new foal resting on the rump of mother
I’m just amused by this behavior. It is not the typical, climb-on-Mom behavior, more like sudden-snooze behavior.

Evidence of a Good Mother

This mare, bless her heart, waited patiently with her sleeping two-day-old foal while the rest of the herd drank and played at the pond on a warm spring day. All the others took their time in the water drinking and rolling in the mud. Eventually, they ambled back up toward the trees. It must have been hard to resign herself to wait while her foal slept. Once the foal finally rose, the mother didn’t even wait for the foal to nurse; she headed straight for the pond. This surprised (and delighted me) because the stallion had long since moved the others a distance away. This could be considered defiance of his perimeter. After all that waiting, she marched right in and took a good, long drink. The new foal did not hesitate one moment when striding through the sticky mud to join her. Together they drank and waded and pawed in the water. The stallion had long since gathered and moved the other mares and foals away. When he came back for some unruly returning mares the new mother looked concerned. Avoiding discipline from the stallion is an ongoing worry for the mares and foals. The stallion, however, only took the single mares and left them to finish their time in the water. With apparent relief, she lingered another few moments then dutifully rejoined the herd. A couple of days earlier, when her foal was newly born, the stallion had again kindly relaxed his demands on her staying with the others. He did not enforce his herd boundaries on her, rather, he left her alone to bond with her newborn.

wild horse photography of a mare and new foal wading in a pond
A mare with her two day old foal take advantage of pond access on an extra warm spring day.

You Go, Girl!

Just look at the buoyancy and light-hearted spirit in this very pregnant mare! With her eyes lit up and her positive disposition, she is a sight to behold.

wild horse photography of a very pregnant, very lively mare
Late in her pregnancy this mare still has a spring in her step and high spirits. Bravo!

A Million Distractions

Like any baby, this week old foal is willing to put anything it his mouth. Moving through a tall mustard seed patch, this week old colt seems entertained by the oddity of his surroundings after the more usual grassy hills.

wild horse photography of a new foal in tall mustard plants
A new foal in a forest of mustard plant stalks.