Chillin’

free range horse photography of a colt using his mother as a backrest
Look who’s at ease using his mother as a backrest.

A brief recess from my ongoing parade of newborns allows me to show you this laid back little dude.

He looks quite comfortable leaning on his mother’s front legs, as if propped up on pillows. Mom doesn’t seem to mind; she stood like a statue until he popped up.

The colt is quite a brute these days, size wise. This was in early April, and the green grass was abundant.

(‘Chill’ is a North American informal adjective for easy going or very relaxed for all you international viewers).

Transient Journey

free range horse photography of a new mother and her newborn foal in a field of yellow
A new mother tends to her newborn filly.

A sea of yellow creates a magical setting for the bonding between a first-time mother and her new baby.

There is a beginning and an end to every journey. Sometimes the beginning and ending are not joyful and the journey is all too brief.

Nature forces us to accept good and tragic outcomes, and that lesson was revisited with this dear foal.

Little Jackrabbit of a Foal

free range horse photography of an older mare and her pint sized newborn foal
A steady older mare welcomes a cute little-jackrabbit-foal.

 

free range horse photography of a portrait of proud mother and tiny new foal
Portrait of a proud mother and tiny new foal.

 

free range horse photography of an older foal greeting a newborn foal
An older colt greets a newborn foal highlighting the difference four weeks can make in size.

The color of the grass gives away how behind I am in keeping up with new birth announcements. Now, in the first week of June the grasses are golden and dry. The last days of April brought a couple new foals, this wee filly was one of them. Born to a solid older mare, her small size is nature’s kindness to a veteran mother. Not to worry, the new foal has grown quickly and is as solid as any of her older siblings and definitely holds her own like a champ. The third image shows an older herd mate greeting her kindly while her skeptical mother stands guard over the colt’s manners.

All Star Mare Mother

free range horse photography of a large newborn with his tired mom
The mother appears disheveled and for good reason, she has huge foals and this newborn was no exception.

 

free range horse photography of a large newborn with his tired mom
This is not a photo perspective trick, this newborn (only a couple hours old) is huge.

 

free range horse photography of a large newborn colt
He was born with an astonishing amount of maturity; handsome devil, isn’t he?

All I can do is bow down each year in astonishment to this mare. She is an average sized mare herself, but she successfully gives birth the the largest foals in the whole herd every year. She has an enormous capacity for carrying and birthing very mature babies. Although mother looks rumpled and tired, she bounced back in no time. Feeling sorry for herself is not in her genes. She and the new foal are fine; he was born on the last day in March. There is nothing plain about this colt, no white markings needed; his appeal is inherent. He is regal and casual at the same time.

Ordinary-ness

free range horse photography of a horse in late day light
A fitting portrait of a tranquil soul in a magical setting.

“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” — G.K. Chesterton

While this horse may be considered “a valley compared to a peak”, there is worth in a demeanor of steady good=natured energy, especially within a group such as a herd or rowdies. His very ordinary-ness is infectious and relatable. Being big and strong and pretty aren’t ordinary, but when you’re those things and amiable as well, you risk being second string.

From his earliest days, this horse has at most, made me laugh out loud, and at least, brought a wry smile to my face as I observe his interactions with his herd mates and the discoveries in his natural environment. Well done, lad. Keep it up.

Some Days Are Bleak

free range horse photography of an elegant new foal
This filly is very sleek and elegant for one so young.

You cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to face.

What if the things that end–the things that break your heart–ultimately lead to a better version of you? Tragedy brings resilience.

In the years that I have been observing That Herd there have been some losses. Birth and new life is a miracle when everything goes well, a heartbreaking tragedy when complications arise. Also, living a free range life in a wild environment has many unknowns and pitfalls. Sometimes accidents occur, sometimes predation, sometimes medical anomalies. I try to honor the existence of each new life with a blog post, or many, but when lives are lost it can become harder to share their experience and memory. Sad loss stories do not make readers feel good and the purpose of this blog is hopefully more upbeat. I take these losses rather hard, not just the foals but any loss from the That Herd family brings a change to the herd experience.

I usually post information and images about That Herd as a current chronological archive, but this is not one of those posts. Yes, this filly is gone but her short life was documented.

 

 

Unsettled

free range horse photography of a young, hot-blooded mare
A hot-blooded young mare is disconcerted and insecure by her temporary loss of herd mates.

With a white-hot summer sky behind her, this head strong mare is showing a lot of emotion as she realizes the main herd has left her behind. Big and strong and dark with unique white markings, she stands out in a crowd. She had been distracting herself with water-play and most of the herd had trailed off to evening grazing sites in the meantime.

Among Friends

free range horse photography of a handsome grey horse
Looking handsome, a favorite That Herd personality is growing up to be an eye-catching individual.

Horses form close relationships that become subgroups within a herd setting. While it may be anthropomorphic to say horses have friends, they definitely form bonds and make choices within the herd about spending time with favored herd mates. This colt, as a foal, was often entertaining in his interactions with other horses. His personality was inquisitive and social toward not only the other foals but also the adult mares and stallion. Certainly, individual dispositions play a role in this subgroup/friend dynamic. Also, it has been said that horses of a lighter color are often less accepted in herds. There are a couple of theories about why that could be true, but I don’t see that happening as a rule within That Herd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildness

free range horse photography of a group of mares running across a grassy hillside
Room to roam inspires a gleeful gallop for a group of mares and foals.

Wildness is not defined by the absence of certain activities, but rather by the presence of certain unique and invaluable characteristics.

Optimum Nap Zone

free range horse photography of a filly dozing under her mother's tail
Dozing under the protection of a gently swishing tail.

Womb to World

free range horse photography of a newborn colt drinking in a blue pond
Water must feel like home to the newborn foal only hours out of the womb.

The growth of a foal is exponential immediately after birth. Not only their body tissues and functions, but their brains transition at an impressive, and necessary rate. These horses are quite comfortable with standing or running water sources. Even this colt, only in his first day of life, seems right at home in the water. Observing horses in water is always mesmerizing. Maybe this is because water is not a usual environment for horses and this makes them appear almost magical in that setting.

Inseparable

free range horse photography of two foals who are always together
Where the filly goes, the colt follows, a devoted pair even though there are several weeks difference in their ages.
free range horse photography of two inseparable foals
Companions dozing together.

This is how you find these two foals, always together. The grey fell in love with this dark filly the first day they met. He has shadowed her ever since. Rarely leaving her side, he is a model of devotion. The mother of the filly tolerates his affections entirely.

When Everything is Perfect

free range horse photography of a stallion striding through a golden field
The herd stallion moving through the tall oats and grass without purpose.

“Every summer there are a number of nights, not many, but a number, when everything is perfect. The light, the warmth, the smells, the mist, the birdsong-the moths. Who can sleep?

–Fredrick Siagberg The Fly Trap, A Book About Summer, Islands and the Freedom of Limits

Home Is Where The Herd Is

free range horse photography of a filly browsing in an oat field late in the day
The last light of a summer afternoon illuminates a browsing filly.

An independent filly lazily follows the scattered herd through an oat field in the late afternoon. Her mother is not in sight but no matter, her family is the whole herd and she feels at ease with all her herd-mates.

Long Dusks of Summer

free range horse photography of a mare and foal glowing in the last light of a summer day
The long dusk of summer supports any number or quality pastimes.

If it could be like this always: abundance, independence, golden hues, leisure, temperate, and peaceful!

Powdered Gold

free range horse photography of mares backlit in late day oat field
Backlit by the day’s last light, these mares look like a poster for summertime.

” … summer afternoon; to me those have always been the most beautiful words in the English language.”

–Henry James

Buckskin

free range horse photography of a buckskin colt
A buckskin colored colt less than a month old sizes me up.

Color genetics with horses is not without complexity. A new buckskin in the herd this year inspired me to revisit what I know about color genetics. Without getting into the science of it all and in the simplest terms, black and red are the two basic equine color pigments. A horse’s ability to reproduce theses pigments is an inherited trait, with red being recessive to black. Each pigment can be modified by other genes, including dilution genes. Buckskin color is black-based and a dilute version of the color bay, another black-based coat color. White markings are, simply stated, a matter of chance.

Royal Scepter

free range horse photography of a colt with unusual face marking
Walking right into the light and right into my space, a colt displays his unusual face marking.

The marking on this colt’s face reminds me of a family crest or a royal scepter, a figure of royal authority. This seems fitting since he is handsome enough to be a prince.

Vigorous Display

free range horse photography of an attentive stallion
A mature stallion, one moment quietly grazing, and the next a vigorous display.

There’s nothing like a “mare moment” to energize an otherwise laid-back stallion. In this free range setting, the stallion interacts continuously with his mares. This horse often tends to the mares in a companionable partnership. Sometimes he completely ignores them, at other times he’s commanding, and sometimes mover to aggression. A veteran stallion, he is often gentle and detached. He has a somewhat permissive relationship with the mares as far as their movements as a group are concerned. Interestingly, when the moment calls for it, he has their complete attentions and obedience.

Yay! Another New Foal!

free range horse photography of a large newborn foal with a long face
Long of leg and face, this newborn, only several hours old has a lot to grow into in the next few months.

Just looking at this image you cannot tell how tall the foal is. The mare is substantial in size and height. This is her first foal, and he is quite large for a newborn. He is all legs and (I mean this in a good way), all face. I have no doubt that he will grow into his parts and be a beautiful colt. I think he’s striking and he has an air of intelligence, like his mother.