Birth Day

free range horse photography of a devoted mother and her 2020 newborn
This mare was born to be a mother; her new filly is a few hours old in this image.

Last year she had a foal that looked just like her. This year, she has a foal that looks just like the sire. She couldn’t be any more proud.

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.

Occupation: Motherhood

free range horse photography of a wobbly newborn colt
When I first laid eyes on this newborn foal my first reaction was that he would make a perfect Hollywood movie horse, he has such a great coat color and flashy white markings.

 

free range horse photography of a mare bonding with her new colt
Exchanging nickers of love.

 

free range horse photography of a beautiful mare and her flashy new colt
A beautiful mare and flashy colt make an effortless family portrait.

 

free range horse photography of a proud mare and her new colt
She is the very picture of a proud mother.

Birth is not only about making babies, but about making mothers as well. New mothers and old mothers contend with birthing risks; in older mares and mares who have had several foals, the risks are higher. Mothers sacrifice their own lives for the lives of their babies; this is a reality as old as time. This sacrifice may come in the form of protection from predators or perceived dangers, or it may come in the form of not surviving postpartum complications. Heroic sacrifice and tragic sacrifice leave admiration or heartbreak in it’s wake.

Participating in creation makes every mare the author of a story full of potential. However. the tragedy of a lost mother cannot be measured, not by the baby, the bystander, nor the new care-giver.

After keeping careful watch and waiting with much anticipation for each mare’s new offspring, I remain ever reverent to the occupation that they must take on year after year.

Pride and Joy

free range horse photography of a wobbly newborn colt marching by with his proud mother
Wobbly marching, two words that don’t usually go together unless you’re this newborn foal.

 

free range horse photography of a new foal and his beautiful mother
Day number two is celebrated with tall oats for this new colt.

 

free range horse photography of a brand new colt and his slick mother
Looking more than ready for “life on the outside”, this newborn colt parades confidently with his strong mother.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn foal parading with mare through tall grass
Born into a virtual paradise mother and newborn foal stroll chest deep through tall oats.

Proud mares parade their newbie foals.

One colt, velvety and wobbly with a bent ear and the other a sleek model of born-ready foal. Welcome to your new world babies.

These colts are a month old now and the contrast between Day One and Day Thirty is a reminder of just how quickly they grow.

Making a Statement

free range horse photography of a newborn with a lot of head to grow into
She’s beautiful, really. A real stand-out.

Don’t be fooled by the toucan-esque appearance. Her face is her best feature.

Born on April 11th, she has grown into a sturdy, good natured foal in just a few weeks.

Current pics coming soon.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly with a strong facial feature
The prominent facial feature on this newborn is camouflaged by her white marking.

Truly a newborn, only hours old, she really stands out as a foal that will grow into a horse who makes a statement. She is quite sensible and endlessly loveable.

free range horse photography of a distinctive mare
A wonderful mare of distinction; she will be a solid mother.

Mother looks fresh as a daisy after having her first foal, only tousled a bit in the mane. Just look at that soft yet noble expression!

Challenges Met, Newborns Rule

free range horse photography of a brand new colt and his wary mother
A nice family portrait of a pretty neonate colt and his watchful mother.

 

free range horse photography of a mother and her neonate colt
A lovely spring morning welcomes a new colt who wins style points for his mature muscle tone and refined head.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn colt's face
A few hours into his first day he was bold and frisky, as if he were happy to finally be free of his maternal confinement.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn colt whose coloring is matching his mother
The similarity in coloration is evident in this first family portrait of a newborn colt and his mother.

 

free range horse photography of a flashy newborn filly
In a couple of days she will look quite different; she has a sturdy frame and interesting markings which will be beautiful.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly ready for a nap
She looks ready for a nap, the rigors of the first few hours are many.

These three foals were born within hours of each other on April 6th. I have written on previous posts for years about the many changes newborn foals experience in a small amount of time.

The challenges to their physical systems, perceptions, and environment are drastic. When three foals are born so close together, it’s impossible to not see some evidence of their dispositions displayed as well.

Three Matching Birthdays

free range horse photography of a mare and her new foal bonding
Not yet on his feet, this new colt meets his mother.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn colt on the move soon after birth
Shortly after birth, this newborn colt kept his mother busy with his bursts of athletic inspiration.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly absorbing her surroundings
An elusive subject to photograph, this newborn filly absorbs her new surroundings.

A break during rainy April days brought three new members to That Herd. And I must say, three very individual behaviors for the first hours in the babies lives.

Paradise

free range horse photography of a flashy colt in stunning scenery
Nearly three weeks old and this colt has his first real glamour shot.

The best playground ever!

Spring Showers and the Light of Her Life

free range horse photography of a rainy morning surprise foal
Lots of rain did not dampen the spirits of this newborn and her careful mother.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn foal exploring under her mother
Her mother is large and tall so walking around and under became a repeated practice route.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn foal on a rainy morning
Several days of rain in early April greeted this pretty newborn filly.

From womb-world to water-world for this filly. An exciting discovery on a dreary spring morning made the rain unnoticeable.

It was wonderful to observe the quiet nurturing of this elegant mother with her first foal. She is calm and attentive and seems quite enamored.

The New Pupil

free range horse photography of a newborn foal with her roan mother
Being an intelligent mare, she has chosen a beautiful morning to have her foal.

 

free range horse photography of a newborn foal on a beautiful morning
Welcome little filly, I predict you will become an expert at fleeing, like your mother.

 

free range horse photography of a foal napping in sunshine
After all that work learning to stand she finds a standing nap to be easier.

This newborn filly really wants to lie down but after all that work to stand up for the first time she doesn’t want to risk it.

Also, she needs to be at the ready to follow her mother who has a lot of ideas about creating distance.

 

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.

Lucky Number Seven

free range horse photography of a newborn filly in the early morning light
First day for this newborn filly.

 

 

free range horse photography of a newborn filly hiding behind her mother
The first day for this filly; learning to walk is harder due to tight front leg tendons.

 

free range horse photography of a veteran mare and her new filly
The first-day-of-life family portrait was hindered by numerous dry weed stems.

Born March 27th, a beautiful chestnut filly, to a veteran mare. She has lots of feminine charm and grit as well. My heart went out to her as she learned to walk on front legs that were not quite ready for walking. In a couple of days she was fine, everything loosened up and she is motoring around just fine. In fact, she is one of the more energetic and daring foals so far.

Rejoining the Herd

free range horse photography of a new mother rejoining the herd with her newborn after giving birth
After some much needed privacy, this new mother strolls quietly back to her herd mates a few hours after giving birth.

 

free range horse photography of a new mother rejoining the herd after giving birth
Surveying the scene, a new mother cautiously rejoins her herd mates with her newborn foal.

Most mares find a quiet place away from the rest of the herd to give birth. Usually, the other horses are within sight distance, a normal expectation for a flight animal that depends on cues from herd mates for safety. Sometimes it takes days, or even weeks, for a mare to introduce her new foal to the rest of the horses. More often than not, a few hours of solitude to give the foal a chance to get steady on it’s feet and nurse are enough before the comfort of the group is required again. A wise stallion does not interfere with the distancing the mares seek to give birth and bond with their newborn.

Encouraging Nuzzles

free range horse photography of a newborn foal being welcomed by his mother
Within minutes of birth, already tired from repeatedly trying to stand, this newborn gets some encouraging nuzzles from his mother.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time and witnessed a morning birth. The mare simply laid down among her herd mates and had a baby.

With the placenta sack still covering half it’s body, this newborn began his attempts to get to his feet.

After about ten minutes of testing gravity with instinctive efforts to stand, he relented and caught his breath.

In this moment, the mother licked and nuzzled her new baby paying particular attention to his floppy ears.

Within thirty minutes of being born, he managed to get one leg under all four corners, so to speak. Swaying unsteadily with his front legs propped stiffly out in front he experienced balance for the first time. I was struck by how thick his legs were; they were like posts. I have rarely seen knees that big on a newborn. Uneven terrain, gusty wind, and mother’s attempts to impede curious herd mates complicated his locomotion but he persevered as a flight animal must. Witnessing birth in a natural setting is intense because the hazards seem countless and the little victories essential.

Late March Arrivals

 

free range horse photography of a spotted mare and her new colt
Beautiful weather brought a new member to That Herd; a sturdy colt.

This mare put a lot of effort into keeping a lot of distance between us. After some quiet waiting,

I got close enough to observe the foal’s  distinctive nose bump and a strip that runs off to one side.

It looks like white paint was dribbled on his forehead and the bump on his hose forced the stripe to run off to one side.

He was probably born the day before this image was taken.

 

 

free range horse photography of a fuzzy newborn colt and mother
A mare and very newborn colt bask in springtime warmth.

Evidence of a very recent birth showed the newborn was barely dry when the early morning sun arrived.

The brown colt is quite fuzzy and has unusual eye color; he seemed rather confident in his ability to navigate with his new land legs.

The mare had no problem with showing off her new foal to me which was a welcome difference from the other mare.

I love it when the mares and babies strike a pose. While I was enjoying watching this new guy, a mare laid down to give birth nearby. What an event-filled morning!

Mini Parade

free range horse photography of a strolling newborn colt and his mother
Like a mini parade, a new mother and very newborn filly stroll by like pros.

After what surely must have been a trying few hours for both mother and filly, they gift me with an image like this.

Emerging from the shelter of the trees, touched by the early morning sun, these two troopers quietly walk to a new resting place.

With their legs in perfect opposite synchronicity and  relaxed manner they made an endearing parade of motherhood and new life.

A solid little foal, she was surprisingly composed for only being a couple of hours old. I was struck by how big her knees were/are.

Pure Moxie

free range horse photography of an adorable new foal
This bold filly knows no fear in her first couple of days.

Mingling with the mature mares as if she were a seasoned member of the club, this filly is completely nonchalant.

No signs of confusion or anxiety appear as she strolls amongst her superiors.

This new filly showed appropriate signs of humility when met with nods of domination from the mares she wandered too near; she was respectful but never seemed to question her choices.

She is immediately likable for her complete refusal to be seen as less than.

moxie | ˈmäksē | (also moxy) noun North American informal: force of character, determination, or nerve

Blessed Beginning

free range horse photography of a mare and her new foal in a beautiful meadow
Whatever comes next, his first days were sweet.

” … The future was an infinite horizon over which the sun still glimmered its early morning promise.

Everything has a smell and every smell was fresh — the morning air, the sun on the bitumen, the evening rain.

There was just today and that felt like more than enough. … ”

– Richard Flanagan, First Person

(replace bitumen with earth)

Baby!

free range horse photography of a newborn foal with deer
Only a day or two old and he’s already a master at loping around.

Everyone welcome the first new That Herd member of 2020; a chestnut colt!

Deer and other wildlife mingling near the horses is a common occurrence.

Stepping Up To Defend Life

I have long debated with myself about sharing images of an incident that was traumatic.

It took me almost two years to be able to review the images that are shown in this post; I was deeply upset by what I witnessed.

I am accustomed to observing a wide range of wildlife and equine behaviors and interactions; nature is often surprising in good and bad ways.

Wildlife photographers are usually powerless to intervene and/or know they must not.

I won’t post images that are any more graphic than these, but I want to honor the courage of the mares that defended a newborn foal.

A couple years ago, on a routine scouting mission to check on mares close to foaling, I observed this small group for a while.

I suspected a mare was close to giving birth, unusual in the daytime, and I lingered to capture the scene. Usually, these hours are filled with

wonder and captivating observations, but the birth event was disturbed, then chaotic. The foal, still robed in the placental sac, was investigated by curious herd-mates, much to the mother’s disapproval.

Usually, a heavily pregnant mare wanders away from the herd in the night to quietly give birth and remains secluded from the herd for hours, or days, and sometimes weeks.

This time, however, that was not the case. When a young stallion burst upon the scene, his investigations of the foal became violent. He had no experience with the birth of a foal and was agitated by the

complexity of sensory cues and defensive behavior of the mares. Most of the mares fled the location when danger became evident, but three veteran mothers fought valiantly for the victimized foal.

Without giving more details, I’ll skip to the part where I felt I must intervene and pressured the stallion to move off, which was risky, but I could not simply watch and hope for a favorable outcome.

This was too intense and the foal was in grave danger of being savaged or trampled to death.

In the end, the mother, newborn foal, and other mares were separated safely. The mare and foal recovered from their trauma and are both thriving.

Normally, social and environmental issues are sorted out as a course of nature, but this time, for better or worse, intervention occurred.

 

free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.
free range horse photography of three mares fighting to defend a newborn foal
One of a series of images where three mares relentlessly protect a newborn foal from an aggressive young stallion.

… Nature can be cruel. Predators are everywhere … in the wild the female species can be far more ferocious than their male counterparts. Defending the nest is both our oldest and strongest instinct …

–Emily Thorne