Picnic

free range horse photography of a yearling filly in a cactus garden
Greetings like this with such an open expression of interest and a complete lack of suspicion are my favorite.
free range horse photography of a yearling in a hillside cactus garden
Secure in her cactus garden, a yearling awaits my approach.

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.

The Beginning and the Now

free range horse photography of a newborn colt with splashy white markings
This newly born colt with splashy white markings is almost camouflaged in a backlit meadow.

 

free range horse photography of two three-year-olds loping past
The “camo-colt” about three years later loping past with a herd mate.

We do love to watch the foals grow and blossom into maturity!

Fifteen Minutes

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.

free range horse photography of a curious colt about two months old
About eight weeks old and look how this colt has grown.

 

free range horse photography portrait of a newborn colt with an interesting blaze face
Look at that big white forehead and Yin-Yang muzzle!

Day One of the journey.

free range horse photography of a brand new colt and his flashy mother
Newborns spend a lot of their first days touching their mother for security and comfort.

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.

All in a Days’ Travels

 

free range horse photography of a mare and foal easily climbing a steep hill
The mares and foals trudge up and down hills daily in search of the best feeding places.

Ah, the vitality of youth! The young foal easily lopes up this steep hill while her young mother digs in.

(Now that I’m posting this, I think I took an image of this same pair climbing shortly after the foal’s birth.)

free range horse photography of a mare and foal cutting across a steep hill
Sometimes the switchback method is the best for extended climbing.

In the daily wandering of the mares and foals they will access a wide variety of terrains in search of the best grazing.

I have climbed many hills and scaled many banks to follow or find the horses in their chosen environments.

Even the newest foals are equal to the task of keeping up and navigating tricky footings.

No Water. Not Romantic.

free range horse photography of some That Herd members in mountains at dusk
Dusk falls and the rest of the horses have been spotted; all is well.
free range horse photography of three tough mature horses
Still handsome but not cute; these brutes are not pets.

The American West is steeped in romantic imagery and nostalgia, horses being a big part of that. The lack of water in the American West, however, is not romantic in the least. The drought in the western states is no joke. Almost a decade without adequate rainfall and yearly watershed, with only a year or two of replenishment in the mix, has created a real danger to free range horses, livestock, and wildlife. With extreme roaming prohibited by fence lines, and viable sites for digging for a trickle of water or seep few and far between, large herds of horses present a formidable task in regard to supplying water. Much of their territory is inaccessible to equipment with the capacity to supply hundreds or thousands of gallons of water daily or even weekly. Connected to this dilemma is wildfire dangers and animal responses to such events. Let the hand wringing and problem solving begin.

These images were taken in late spring, which was dry earlier than usual again this year.

Peers in Curiosity

free range horse photography of a stallion
The intense gaze of a stallion free to come and go as he deems necessary.

When being assessed by a free creature you have choices to make about your response.

Though there is always a default to extreme caution, I try to allow for equal opportunity in the appraisal exchange between myself and the animal as peers in curiosity.

Seeing the World

free range horse photography of a splendid horse in late day light
A poetic moment in late light for a deserving horse.

“Magic isn’t somewhere else. It isn’t a series of distant rituals, ancient texts and expensive courses. Magic is turning to the world, and seeing it, … ”

–Alice Tarbuck, A Spell in the Wild: A Year (and Six Centuries) of Magic

Hit the Ground Running

free range horse photography of a newborn who hit the ground running
Rarely leaving the sphere of tree shadow this new filly went round and round.
free range horse photography of a newborn running around an oak tree
Here she comes again! Another lap around the tree.
free range horse photography of a newborn galloping around her mother
Lap number ten for this new filly who looked like a veteran.
free range horse photography of a newborn exploring the branches of an oak tree
This new filly seemed to enjoy the sensation of touching the tree branches.

This new filly, likely born this day, entertained me with her joie de vivre. Free of her confines of the last year, she ran around and around a large oak tree rarely leaving the confines of the shadow. There were numerous obstacles to trip her up but she navigated like a champ hopping over branches and ducking low hanging limbs with ease. It was a delightful display of the very essence of a horse. You go girl!

The Butterfly and the Freight Train

free range horse photography of a mare and new foal romping by
In fits of energy, this new filly gallops along, her bodyguard of a mother right in step.

 

free range horse photography of a new foal racing straight ahead
With her mother in hot pursuit, a new foal races straight in my direction.

Floating like a butterfly, this two-day old filly gallops full throttle to-and-fro while her mighty mother worries and charges along behind.

Tail Lights

free range horse photography of a spirited mother and her new foal
Two days old and I can finally see her face; it’s been nothing but their backends as they run away since the foal was born.

I admit my feelings are a little hurt. Last year this mare foaled right in front of me late one morning and I helped her out of an attempted kidnapping by another mare.

This year, she won’t let me near her. I cannot even ease myself close enough to tell what the sex of the foal is. I have way too many pictures of her running away with her foal. I don’t pursue for the foal’s sake; it is brand new after all.

I’m fifty percent sure it’s a filly.

View From the Old Oak

free range horse photography of a fancy colt with oak on hilltop
He’s pretty fancy. The old oak and hilltop view suit him. 

This image is of the the almost-four-year-old who appeared as a newborn in the preceding post.

He is a beauty, tough as nails, and has an interesting blue stripe in one eye to go with all that chrome. This image combines one of my trifecta ideals: Far away scenery, a massive interesting oak tree, and an amazing equine. The horses like to browse under the trees where the grass stays tender and grows taller due to the rich soil and shade. They will even step through, over, and onto the branches to reach the in-between places.

How Sweet It Is

free range horse photography of a golden morning, big bay mare and newborn colt
A glittering spring morning, air abuzz with insects and the promise of a warm day, presents a new prince to That Herd.

This is not the image I intended on sharing.

I chose a recent image of this colt, nearly four-years-old now, looking impressive on a hilltop. I thought I might also post an image of the colt early in his life as a comparison (because people like to see before and after imagery).

Seeing this image, in the moment I opened it, stopped me in my quest. Not because it was what I was looking for, but because it so beautifully illustrates a thousand of my favorite moments. I have logged a thousand early spring mornings with wet feet, breath ragged from a brisk pace, with electric energy fueled by mares so close to foaling, burdened by the weight of camera and lens, and before the ruthless foxtails have come to head.  To then fall upon the discovery of a brand new life, such as this, in a glorious setting after days of nervous anticipation is a gift. Knowing a favorite mare is ready to give birth, to find them alive and well is a great moment of joy and pride (for the mare’s maternal success and fortitude). Seeing this image makes me ache to know my ability to duplicate this experience often this spring is not possible. I have a million captured moments such as this but it is in the entire experience within nature’s quiet brilliance that heals all that ails me.

The rare early hours of brand new life and nurturing are soon lost to the realities of the daily routines, lessons, and trials. How sweet those first hours are and what an honor it is to witness it.

 

They Just Run

free range horse photography of young colts and fillies running toward the camera
A mix of young colts and fillies run with no destination. They are not running away from anything to to any place in particular. They just run in small groups darting and turning, sprinting and slowing, almost like a school of fish in the sea.

Rounding the Bend

free range horse photography of two colts on a hilltop
Horses on a hilltop will never cease to be a thrill for even the weariest hearts.

When searching for a band of horses, rounding the bend and having this in your sight is a moment of pure happiness.

The others cannot be far. Maybe we could even see some other ear tips if we were a tad taller.

Hard Can Be Soft

“Just because you are soft doesn’t mean you are not a force. Honey and wildfire are both the color gold.”

–Victoria Erickson, Edge of Wonder: Notes from the Wildness of Being

 

The soft expression in his eye proves he is golden inside.

free range horse photography portrait of a favorite black horse
Don’t let this soft eye hypnotize you: he can be a real bad-mo-fo.

Or in this case black can be elegant or villainous. He gets along, nice and amiable, but he can shut you down when he needs to.

 

A New Energy

May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night,

may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being,

may you walk gently through the world and know it’s beauty all the days of your life. – Apache Blessing

free range horse photography of two big horses browsing
Christmas day arrived with the terrain still dry; no rainfall since last spring means no new grasses.

Goodbye, 2020. May we never revisit the tough times you heaped upon us.

Feeling Nostalgic

A few representatives of That Herd taken 2012. Eight years has come and gone in a heartbeat.

These horses are fully mature and in the prime of their lives now.

I love the oak tree in the background; sadly, it has since crumbled under the stresses of drought.

Photographs are a window into the past, be it one minute or one century. So many memories

flood back with just these two images.

free range horse photography of early members of That Herd with old oak tree
Incoming youngsters long-trot past a favorite oak tree landmark.
free range horse photography of a group of young horses on a hilltop
This squad includes some early That Herd members on a chilly February morning.

My Tribute

 

“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it. … ” –Denzel Washington

free range horse photography of a special colt at shoreline
A favorite colt on the shoreline at dusk; could his face be more inviting?

This colt.

tribute | ˈtribyo͞ot | noun 1 an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.

 

 

Dartboard

free range horse photography of two young colts in scenery
Horses nurture relationships with herd mates, like these two young colts. Whatever the attraction, they often stuck close to each other.

For years now, I have been archiving the lives of this collection of free range horses. I cannot, with certainty, articulate why I choose the images I do to share. Sometimes I’m proud of capturing a certain expression or moments of behavior, sometimes it’s to honor my fondness for individuals, often it’s an random choice, and I will always share new foal pictures. At this point, I have such a collection of images I can simply “throw a dart at the board” and choose any random image from my files and recall a memory of when and where I interacted with those horses. For every single image I have shared across multiple social media sites, I probably have a thousand images I have not shared. I rarely share the same image across the different sites so check those out if you haven’t yet.

This image is from three years and two weeks ago, to be exact. These two horses were personal favorites of mine for different reasons. They had an amiable connection to each other, which was endearing. I wish they could have remained best mates forever, but circumstances lead to inevitable change for all of us. I enjoy the opportunity to capture beautiful moments of their time spent with That Herd.

The joy of recalled moments when finding forgotten photographs (of any subject) is one of life’s great connectors for all citizens of this world. Sharing captured moments is one of my missions with this photo archive and website. If you get joy from an image I have shared, that accomplishes a personal goal for me.

Dainty is Over-Rated

free range horse photography of a weanling filly with scenery
Not that this filly has a bad side, but this is her better side.

free range horse photography of a distinctive two-day old filly

Several months into her life and this filly is brimming with independence.

She seems serious but curious–sincere even–if a horse can be sincere.

The comparison between her two-day-old self and her seven-month-old self is impressive. So much growth in a short amount of time.

Her distinguishing profile has grown right along with everything else. Although her irregular white face marking creates a pleasing optical illusion for her large bump, she will never escape extra attention for her side view.

I love her face, roman nose and all, she’s a charmer.