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.

Jim Blossom

free range horse photography of a newborn filly and mare on hillside
The anticipation for the successful arrival of a 2022 newborn foal has ended. She is here.

Like a lucky omen, this filly has lifted our spirits and excitement for what is to come.

True to That Herd form, she has already crammed a lot of living into the few hours since her birth.

Graceful Success, Luck, and Barely Skimming By

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.

 

free range horse photography of a mare heavy in foal
A veteran mare, heavy in foal, strolls out of the morning mist and into a meadow. A truly beautiful sight.

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.

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.

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!

Spirits

“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

free range horse photography of hilltop grazers
A nostalgic image from six years ago of hilltop grazers.

Nostalgia Pose

free range horse photography of a striking filly
A stand-out filly strikes a pose.
free range horse photography of a favorite filly grown to six years
The after version of before and after poses with this filly/mare.

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.

Wild Turkeys in the ‘Hood

free range horse photography of a filly calmly observing a turkey parade as she grazes
A filly calmly observes her neighbors parade past.
free range horse photography of strutting wild turkeys with the horses
That Herd members live with lots of wildlife, including wild turkeys.
free range horse photography of wild turkeys being ignored by a passing mare
A passing mare ignores the spectacle of weird turkey behaviors.
free range horse photography of a filly keeping a keen eye on some animated turkey behavior
A filly and her mother keep a keen eye on some weird turkey behavior.

Vigilant

free range horse photography of a wary mare and newborn filly
It has been a tough day for this new mother. She has concerns about the security of her newborn with the addition of a stallion to the herd.

After many weeks eagerly observing all the mares that foaled before her, this wary mare had reasons to be on alert this day. Finally, her foal arrived but it was a long day for the duo. Unlike the mares that foaled before her, she had the complication of a stallion being added to the herd. The stallion was quite eager and busy asserting his authority with the group. He was a reasonable stallion, behavior wise, but he kept the mares tightly bunched which left this mare and foal no room for seclusion or distance. Also, they were moving quite a bit and I could see the weariness in the new foal. Even in calm periods when the foal figured out how to lie down, she was quickly roused by the constant alerts from mother each time other horses got too close. This kept the filly on her feet and moving in anxious hastiness. The mare did her best to keep them both on the outside of the bunch so she could ease away from the activity of the other horses so her foal wouldn’t get stepped on or separated from her. Everything turned out just fine however, and within a couple of days the new filly was rough and ready as any other foal in the herd.

free range horse photography of a wary mare and newborn filly strolling by
Circling on the outskirts of the bunch, a mare keeps her newborn filly away from reckless or curious herd-mates.

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.

Via Con Dios

“I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with good will,

lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.”

– Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

free range horse photography of a new horse soul
No worries, this new colt’s mother is just out of the frame. He’s perfectly at ease and already willing and able to explore.

 

free range horse photography of a super size newborn colt
His looks are deceiving; he looks mature but is only a few hours old.

Soldier Pose

 

free range horse photography of a new spring colt
Welcome the first colt of 2021 to That Herd.

I missed his first hours and days but I have met the first colt of the year. A beautiful painted bay, he’s about a week old and has blue marbling in one eye. He strikes quite the soldier pose here. I chose this image to share because it’s different than the usual cuteness overload of new foals. His intense scrutiny of me lends me to believe he will be quite keen but cautious in the days to come.

No worries, I have cute overload pics too.