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.
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.
Every mother, no matter what species, no matter maiden or veteran, has the burden and gift of either extreme fierceness in the face of dreadful odds or crushing fragility.
I say it every year, and I’ll keep saying it, the miracle of bringing a new, healthy life forth is an enormous feat. Some mothers gracefully succeed and some do not.
May the blessing of safe journeys be a reality for each of us. May we be met with compassion if our journeys are tragic.
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.
A mare who is no longer with us and her first foal. She gave us many memorable moments.
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.
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.
” … and suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic came cantering out of the sky, … ”
–Walter De La Mare
I think they would rather run me over than the cactus if it came to that.
When the young horses come in with open expressions of interest, you know you have to be on your toes. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that they are brimming with curiosity and energy. A break in the daily routine is a welcome opportunity for the colts to gain confidence and hone their ability to read a situation. When I am “the situation” they gather around using the group for bravery, and use all their senses to glean whether I’m friend or foe. It just takes one individual’s doubting moment and over-reaction to send the gang spinning away only to stop short then return from a few feet away, their intense curiosity intact. It’s in that moment of reeling away that care must be taken to avoid being trampled, bumped, or stepped on. These coming two-year olds are leading their pack of peers in to investigate. Close proximity is tolerated by most, but touching is not.
“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night;
to be elated by a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring–
these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
Wild horses and domestic horses are genetically the same. Roaming freely, living in herd groups, and foraging for feed and water are all
actions natural to horses. The majority of stabled and confined horses would adapt to a free range environment if given the opportunity.
Even the new foals that horse owners often over-protect are quite capable of stamina and social interactions from the first hours of birth.
The first day for this filly was filled with roaming surrounded by herd mates, and varied terrain. She is quite content after a full day of life lessons, resting on a hillside with her mother standing guard.
“Getting dirty is the whole point. If you’re getting dirty, that means that you have traveled to where there is no pavement.
When you sojourn into such terrain, you greatly up your chances of experiencing some full-on wild nature.”
–Nick Offerman, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living
For years now, I have shared important emotional bonds with That Herd members. Present at a large number of their births and early foal-life days, I have become invested in their continuing success and maturity journeys. Each visit brings joy, wonder, pride, and a renewed sense of stewardship, if only in the eyes-on/peace-of-mind kind of way. Each horse is an individual with their own unique qualities, most endearing and inspiring. Their life strategies and strong wills are a testament to equine instinct and resilience.
This filly reminds me of her mother in all the best ways. Foaled near an old wooden picnic table in the middle of no where, she and her mother lingered in the shade of the oak tree that sheltered the table. When her mother chose to move back toward the broodmare herd, her newborn filly casually paused to inspect the picnic table as they passed by. A small observation, but one of the life events that we share; she will always be called Picnic in my mind because of this.
We do love to watch the foals grow and blossom into maturity!
“When I see a horse grazing on the skyline it seems a spirit. I think of it as ascending to the sun.”
–N. Scott Manaday, Earth Keeper
Unseen by me for quite some time, I was happy to relive a familiar pose with this stand-out filly, now a mare of six years. She is and always has been independent and unflappable.
There is an older saddle horse that roams with the mares. I have never seen the mares accept him or interact with him unless it’s to chase him away, until now …
As if they have been friends forever, this mare approached and groomed with the gelding. Of course it’s possible that this behavior occurs when I am away, but I have only seen a lack of tolerance with all the mares in regard to closeness with the gelding. He’s a good guy so I was happy to see this.
I owe this colt his introduction and fifteen minutes of fame. Born mid April he has a little over eight weeks “on the outside” at the time this picture was taken in late June.
Considering it takes about forty-four weeks of “life on the inside” he has lots of maturing and preparations for success ahead in the next several months to match his gestation time.
A million changes take place. Amazing.
Day One of the journey.
Well done, flashy mom!
The birds hang around the horses because as they browse and graze they stir up the insects in the grass. The opportunistic birds use the horses as a perch and a meal ticket.
I think these birds are a variety of Starling. Around here, some people call them Cowbirds.