Observable Evidence

A tender moment between a foal and it’s mother. The expression on the foal’s face is filled with fondness. Moments like these make it harder to not attach human attributes to animals. The perceptions about animal emotions and motivations have long been a topic of conversation; science, art history, mythology, religion, literature and film all have anthropomorphism entwined into their histories. I have long been cautioned to avoid assumptions that animals share any of the same social and emotional capacities of humans and I’m okay with that. Observable evidence is the term used with animal behavior. I have to admit, though, that sometimes the observable evidence looks very human.

This foal spent several moments touching and nuzzling it’s mother’s face, whiskers, eyes and neck. The foal appeared to be simply exploring and connecting with it’s mom. The mare seemed to enjoy the attention and reciprocated delicately.

wild horse photography of a foal nuzzling it's mother

A foal reaches out in a tender moment with it’s mother.

 

Good Mother, Two Versions

Mares give a quick nip to the hamstring of roughly nursing foals to remind them to be gentle. However, as shown in the second image, mares are more often gentle and attentive with their babies. This is the same mare and foal, in case that’s not obvious.

wild horse photography of a mare disciplining her rough foal

A quick nip to the hamstring reminds this foal to be gentle when nursing. A good mother is also one who disciplines her foal for rough or disrespectful behavior.

wild horse photography of a mare and nursing foal

A good mother gently nuzzling her nursing foal.

Night Was Arranging Herself Around Us

” … the redness had seeped from the day and night was arranging herself around us. Cooling things down, staining and dyeing the evening purple and blue black.”

— Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

wild horse photography of a mare under a dramatic sky

One mare strides past as dusk settles in; a dramatic sky suspended overhead.

Kids Not Running

Kids not running is just not going to happen.

wild horse photography of weanlings and yearlings running in the rain

Weanlings and yearlings rarely walk from place to place, especially if it’s raining.

Adaptability

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.”

–Max McKeown

This old mare manages quite well in her environment with the limitation of having only one eye. She has raised several foals and maintained a great attitude; she is an integral member of her herd.

wild horse photography of a one eyed mare and her foal

This old mare has adapted to a free-roaming lifestyle with only one eye with great success.

Live Streaming

Live streaming of That Herd–the real life version–not the internet type.

wild horse photography of a band of horses streaming up a golden hillside

I cannot think of anyone who ever got bored with watching horses.

The Broken Oak

The first light of morning is just hitting the hill behind a few young horses investigating a broken oak tree. They are curious, not unlike any child. The broken oak tree evokes a sense of poignancy at the fall of such a mighty tree but also a sense of acceptance; such events are nature’s duty.

wild horse photography of horses in a landscape with a broken oak tree

Some of the younger horses gather around a broken oak.

Best Mates

Social grooming is an important part of a horse’s healthy herd life. It is a way to give comfort and show affection to other herd members. This type of dorsal, neck and wither grooming is said to reduce the heart rate of the recipients, among other benefits.

This behavior is known as reciprocal allogrooming. It occurs in many animal species.

These two colts spend a lot of time together. They have a special companionship.

wild horse photography of two foals grooming each other

Sometimes horses form closer bonds with certain herd members. I wouldn’t say opposites attract in this case, more like similar dispositions attract.

Gait Adaptation?

For quite some time I have wondered if the off and on pacing gait these horses travel with means anything. Pacing is when both legs land and rise on the same side, working as a lateral pair, as opposed to the more regular diagonal lifting and landing of the legs. Some information I have discovered offers a hypothesis; they say it is a sign of greater fitness when horses that are not naturally gaited breeds travel this way, even if only in a brief or random frequency. Oldtimers say a “running walk” is the sign of a sturdier horse and is essential for efficient mileage. I don’t know. Two beat, three beat and four beat patterns all occur naturally in horses depending on speed but horses with freedom over uneven terrain exhibit an unusual mixture of them all.

wild horse photography of a large two-year-old colt walking in a meadow

Ambling across a high meadow, this large two-year-old colt intermittently switches to a pacing gait.

Bonding

The close bond between this mare and colt never waned as the colt grew older. They were inseparable.

wild horse photography of a newborn colt

This early summer colt was born only a few hours ago.

The Agreement

This good mother remains serene if I keep my distance when she has a new foal. I respect her boundaries and she ignores me, it works for both of us.

wild horse photography of a mare and newborn foal

A mare and her newborn foal quietly go about their business.

It’s a Beautiful Life

Fresh spring grass proves to be more enticing than just about anything else they could be doing.

wild horse photography of three grazing horses with scenery

I can’t really blame them for being more interested in the grass than in me. It looks delicious.

My Kind of Morning Eye Opener

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”  – William Wordsworth

wild horse photography of a young paint foal

This kind of scene is my favorite reward for early morning forays out to find That Herd in the late spring. Fog burning off to blue sky, content mares, growing foals; all happy, healthy and doing their thing.

Glitch

There are so many things to like about this image. For one, the foal’s expression after many up and down maneuvers, proud but a little exerted. Second, the little black bird near the mare’s head which are often seen on the horse’s backs. Also, the mud on the mare’s back legs that show evidence of a spring or seep drinking hole. The light colored manure pile indicting recent rain is a subtle clue. Finally, the clever shielding of the foal between the mare and the thick brush and the healthy glow of the mare’s flesh and coat; all are signs of successful horse lives. On another note, I don’t name all the foals but I call this one Glitch.

wild horse photography of a mare shielding her lying foal

Safely nestled between mother and thick brush this new foal practices his standing, jumping up, then lying down, a few times.

Glorious Purpose

This stallion meets each moment with intelligence and interest.

wild horse photography of a big bay stallion

Filled with glorious purpose, this stallion strides toward his band of mares.

Friendly Face Bite

Both horse have pleasant, if not impish expressions, they are just horsing around.

wild horse photography of two horses engaged in friendly face biting

Two herd mates engaged in friendly face biting.

Spring in Her Step

Early morning put a spring in their step.

wild horse photography of a beautiful mare moving through the brush

Early morning browsing is interrupted by the appearance of some separated horses. A greeting party ensued.

Keeping a Wary Eye

This mare appears unconvinced that my presence is nothing to be alarmed about even though she has watched me observe her many times.

wild horse photography of a wary mare

The face of one who is cautious but not afraid. This mare is more wary than many of her herd-mates.

Privileges of Youth

frolic |ˈfrälik|
verb
(of an animal or person) play and move about cheerfully, excitedly, or energetically

wild horse photography of colts frolicking

Play is the highest form of research.

Elegance

There is a poise and composure to this horse that is just beautiful.

wild horse photography portrait of a horse's beautifully expressive face

You can see something definable yet undefinable in this horse’s face. An expression of gentle wisdom perhaps or serene resilience. Or, it’s something else. I just know that it is a beautiful face on an untroubled soul.