All Dressed Up

An older mare living her best life.

Like flowers in her hair, this mare has an oak corsage
Like flowers in her hair, this mare has an oak corsage.

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.

A Better Horse

Without the noise and control of a domestic lifestyle, horses manage to get along just fine. This first-time mother had an early fall foal. Born practically on the vernal equinox, she is months behind her young herd mates, but that won’t matter. The fall and winter months here do not have harsh weather and these are free range–not wild–horses so they are not without help when it is needed. Like many birthing mothers in a natural environment, this mare secluded herself for a period of time then rejoined the increased safety of the herd. This image was taken nearing the end of their first day together. The filly is a duplicate copy of her mother, which is endearing. Directly before this captured moment, a group of wild turkeys and a black-tail buck appeared into the same frame as the mare and foal, they were all mere feet from each other. It reminded me that the horses live in direct closeness with a wide range of wildlife and natural rhythms, which contributes to a natural horse, a better horse.

free range horse photography of a first-time mother and her newborn in scenery
A first-time mother and her newborn literally walking off into the sunset.

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!

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!