How confident can we be in assessing whether a horse is happy? Happiness may be discerned as a positive state of mental wellness and having a good life. With horses, happiness appears observable connected to their willingness to play, facial expressions, and having amiable relationships with other horses. Access to feed and water, shelter, and room to roam, must certainly also be factors in equine happiness. To me, this horse just looks happy.
He looks like a poster boy for happiness.
Normally, all the foals are born by the end of June, but this year a late birth has brought new life to That Herd. Within several hours of his birth he faced many confusing situations. Some of the challenges he faced were hard to watch. Dealing with heat, and dust, and very dry surroundings, was already a lot, but he also became the easy mark for horse flies. Because of his lack of life experience, the absence of a long tail, and thick skin, he endured several bites. The grown horses in the group were also tormented by the blood-sucking flies and retreated to the branches of on old oak tree to scrape off the flies that they couldn’t knock off. While under the tree, the newborn foal toddled into the hollow trunk of the dying tree. For many minutes I observed as his initial investigation turned into a real dilemma for him. Unable to navigate his way out of the tree trunk, his mother became concerned and circled the tree over and over, encouraging her colt to come to her. When the other horses eventually wandered away, the mother became frantic. Seeing as she is a first-time mother, I also became concerned that she may pursue the other horses and leave the foal in confusion. I intervened and pulled him out of the tree. All’s well, that ends well. A positive ending overshadows any problems that precede it.
A horse fly finds an easy mark and wakes up a sleeping newborn foal.
Without a long tail or life experience, this newborn become the target of a horse fly.
A horse fly finds every possible indefensible spot on this newborn foal.
A newborn foal finds himself in a dilemma when he toddles into a hollow tree.
A late season birth brings new life to That Herd.
Raw, uncut, no-ego, take-it-as-it-comes face of a newborn. These moments, when absolutely everything is a lesson in living, are precious. Nothing inspires thoughts of positivity and hope like a brand new life. Good luck, little guy.
A late newborn presents an irresistible face.
This horse looks like a draft horse in a pulling competition when he’s simply walking around. He was adorable as a foal, horribly awkward as a yearling, simply unattractive for a couple of years, and continues to grow larger each year. He doesn’t stand out in an ugly way any more, he just stands out in a big (size) way. Scroll down to see how cute he was five years ago.
Strong and sturdy looking five year-old.
A new foal investigates a thistle plant. Thistles are not to be messed with; they are quite sharp. That being said, I often see the horses happily eating the flowers off of them; you can see this plant’s flowers are bitten off. Also, it may be hard to see but this foal has a drip of milk hanging from his bottom lip, which is adorable.
This horse is taking advantage of a riverbed with small pockets of shade and a little water. In the dead of summer, he has found some green grass and willow shoots and among the rocks and tinder-dry hillsides. This is one of only a couple of natural sources of moisture, and it’s just a couple of muddy puddles.This region has been experiencing some of the driest conditions in decades. Several years of drought, with a single year of near normal rainfall, followed by another year of very little rainfall, has left this country lacking for water in an extreme way. The ground is so dry and hard at this point, most rainfall during the winter simply runs off. Whatever vegetation that grows is lacking in normal nutrients and wildfires have raged much too close every year for several years. The horses have had to become quite resourceful and adapt to the lack of water and diminished grazing. For several years, natural running water has only existed in this region for brief periods, and only in the late winter months. Because the horses are able to travel great distances, unlike many smaller wildlife neighbors, they have been resilient to the lack of water hardship. They travel, they dig, they use livestock troughs. Finally, now, water must be hauled to allow the horses access to enough water.
This clever horse has found some little bites of green vegetation amongst all the bone-dry hills.
This stallion is forced to stay light on his feet around this big mare. One minute she naps nose to nose with him, and in the next moment, she sets him back on his heels over control of the air space over a mud hole. Granted, water is scarce, but this was a crabby moment, not a desperate thirst moment.
A skirmish breaks out over control of a mud hole between a mare and stallion.
Like a pleasant oasis, this tree lined lane gives some relief from the constant heat and dryness of summer. It’s nice to see some green around the horses for a change.
Lots of curious horses appear and pause to investigate.
Protagonists are always loners, almost by definition.
A lone wolf in the group, this horse is aloof and wise.
Well blog fans, it’s been over a month that I have lived without access to my image files. Even I could not have predicted it would take this long to repair and upgrade my system so I didn’t mention the reason I have not been posting lately. This is an image I took this spring of several mares and fillies browsing in a beautiful location.
Mares and fillies browse in an oak filled pasture.
There have been only seven foals born this year. This is a charming moment spent with Number Six. I like the ease with which this new colt accepts whatever he encounters. His disposition shows both a softness and an edge, which makes a fine horse.
A colorful colt at about ten days old.
These horses are fortunate to have vast acres to roam and explore. I cannot express enough times how this allows the horses to become the very best version of themselves. They are constantly challenged mentally and physically which makes them strong and able thinkers. The foal is annoyed in this moment because his mother will not stand still for him to nurse.
This mare and foal have room to roam.
Receptive body language and soft expressions greet this young stallion when several mares are willing at the same time. Interestingly, on this occasion, he bred none of the mares. The estrus cycle in mares ripens into perfect timing for optimal conception, so often, the stallion waits when his service is spread thin, so to speak.
A young stallion has choices when several mares are receptive at the same time.
“Soak in what’s real and what’s real in unhurried. The ground. The air. The exhale. The planted seed. The shift. The season.” – Victoria Erickson
The quintessential foal pose; legs bent to ease an impossible distance from nose to ground.
A very strong newborn who attempted to stand, even when still robed in placenta mere minutes from birth, made balance look fairly easy when he stood up. He didn’t try and fail over and over, he simply stood. He teetered briefly, then wobbled around his mother. What a champ! What a scene to fill a horse lovers heart!
A very large, and very newly born colt, makes his first attempt at standing.
Foals are born with their disposition already developed. This week-old foal makes is clear he will not be intimidated. Several mares and foals were moving about under the shade of a large tree, and any horse that tried to push through this guy’s space got a side-eye-wrinkle-face with the standard head bob and pinned ear warning. This behavior is both a marvel of instinct and giggle-worthy at the shear absurdness of it.
A new foal stands up for himself with a strong attitude and a sour face.
(Thank you Go Daddy Support for helping me bring my site back to life).
Her mother has kept her secluded for over a week, so: wary mare equals wary foal. The filly’s getaway is so quick you can see the foxtails flying through the air around her.
Mother has kept this new foal secluded for several days so she is jumpy about my approach.
Even though That Herd horses are accustomed to my appearances, sometimes they don’t want anything to do with me. I don’t take it personally when mares keep their distance with a newborn foal. I can respect the enormous responsibility they face. In a free range environment, one cannot be too careful. In this case, her distance makes for quite a wonderful scene. It’s a filly, by the way.
A mare keeps her distance with her one-day-old filly.
Without the usual heavy forelock covering his face, you can see the charming white eyelashes on this beast. He looks handsome and content.
A young That Herd stallion strikes a pose.
Shrouded in mist, our feet wet with dewy grass, we couldn’t be happier.
Misty mornings and wet grass quietly start the day.
A new colt, first seen at about a week old, is doted on by his mother. She is not keen on my getting close, and moves away often. The colt amused me by making a mad face at all the horses, foals or mares, who ventured too close to him. He looks innocent enough in this image though.
A new colt gets special attention from his mother.