Early morning overcast skies and the protection of a senior oak tree shelter the birth of a new life. The mother, notable for her distinctive profile and gentle wisdom, is generous with me; she allowed me access to early moments with her new foal, which is often not the case in natural environment births. I reveled in her generosity with ample time to observe. I don’t stay long however, even horses need the same solitude and privacy humans do in life-changing events.
The profile of this new filly is nearly refined compared to her mother and last year’s sibling. Her face marking reminds me of tadpoles, so in my mind she will be forever associated with common childhood adventures and happy innocent memories. I’m being overly poetic but that morning was a welcome return to a favorite type of encounter with nature and welcoming new beginnings.
In celebration of the journey of a mare with her foal.
Whether it is a mare with her first baby or her fifteenth, may their days be trouble-free.
Six days old and she is fighting fit.
Day one and all is well.
Floating like a butterfly, this two-day old filly gallops full throttle to-and-fro while her mighty mother worries and charges along behind.
The foal has added a good amount of mass in just two days. They present a charming matched set.
Each year it is a great privilege to see the result of eleven months, more or less, of baby making. Observing the entire
cycle or courting, mating, gestating and birth for a year or more allows me to feel quite connected to That Herd members.
It’s so exciting when the new foals finally arrive!
I admit my feelings are a little hurt. Last year this mare foaled right in front of me late one morning and I helped her out of an attempted kidnapping by another mare.
This year, she won’t let me near her. I cannot even ease myself close enough to tell what the sex of the foal is. I have way too many pictures of her running away with her foal. I don’t pursue for the foal’s sake; it is brand new after all.
I’m fifty percent sure it’s a filly.
I wondered what was inspiring the snorting and animation in this cherished mare. She’s always amusing me with her bright expressions and amiable manner. One this occasion, she had every right to be on alert. She had noticed a large snake; it was as big around as my arm and at least six feet long. I didn’t see it’s head but I saw the rest of it and the tail as it disappeared down a hole. I’m guessing a gopher snake.
When I arrived, mother was on a hilltop with the new foal sleeping on a slope. In an effort to put distance between me and her she roused the foal and marched away, navigated a dry creek crossing, and wandered away. All the while the foal stuck like glue and never hesitated over complex terrain. I am forever impressed at what these sturdy babies make look normal in their first day(s). I keep my distance from hot-blooded new mothers so I don’t cause undue anxiety.
What a pair! She managed what must have been a challenging birth. Look at the size of this little beastie.
I’m calling him Wheaties, for the cereal that famously highlighted strong champions on their box.
I would never name anyone Number Two (for obvious reasons), but in fact, this filly is the second foal born to That Herd in 2021. She is a delight and a welcome addition.
I appreciate a horse who takes the time to observe me in return and absorb all the new situations that come to them.
I missed his first hours and days but I have met the first colt of the year. A beautiful painted bay, he’s about a week old and has blue marbling in one eye. He strikes quite the soldier pose here. I chose this image to share because it’s different than the usual cuteness overload of new foals. His intense scrutiny of me lends me to believe he will be quite keen but cautious in the days to come.
No worries, I have cute overload pics too.
This image is of the the almost-four-year-old who appeared as a newborn in the preceding post.
He is a beauty, tough as nails, and has an interesting blue stripe in one eye to go with all that chrome. This image combines one of my trifecta ideals: Far away scenery, a massive interesting oak tree, and an amazing equine. The horses like to browse under the trees where the grass stays tender and grows taller due to the rich soil and shade. They will even step through, over, and onto the branches to reach the in-between places.
This is not the image I intended on sharing.
I chose a recent image of this colt, nearly four-years-old now, looking impressive on a hilltop. I thought I might also post an image of the colt early in his life as a comparison (because people like to see before and after imagery).
Seeing this image, in the moment I opened it, stopped me in my quest. Not because it was what I was looking for, but because it so beautifully illustrates a thousand of my favorite moments. I have logged a thousand early spring mornings with wet feet, breath ragged from a brisk pace, with electric energy fueled by mares so close to foaling, burdened by the weight of camera and lens, and before the ruthless foxtails have come to head. To then fall upon the discovery of a brand new life, such as this, in a glorious setting after days of nervous anticipation is a gift. Knowing a favorite mare is ready to give birth, to find them alive and well is a great moment of joy and pride (for the mare’s maternal success and fortitude). Seeing this image makes me ache to know my ability to duplicate this experience often this spring is not possible. I have a million captured moments such as this but it is in the entire experience within nature’s quiet brilliance that heals all that ails me.
The rare early hours of brand new life and nurturing are soon lost to the realities of the daily routines, lessons, and trials. How sweet those first hours are and what an honor it is to witness it.
When searching for a band of horses, rounding the bend and having this in your sight is a moment of pure happiness.
The others cannot be far. Maybe we could even see some other ear tips if we were a tad taller.
“Just because you are soft doesn’t mean you are not a force. Honey and wildfire are both the color gold.”
–Victoria Erickson, Edge of Wonder: Notes from the Wildness of Being
The soft expression in his eye proves he is golden inside.
Or in this case black can be elegant or villainous. He gets along, nice and amiable, but he can shut you down when he needs to.
Our society is familiar with the office water cooler as a place to hang out and talk about work while not working. The same types of water cooler moments occur with herds of horses. Community hang out spots are normal for horses living in large territories. Even though there is lots of space to roam, certain places become a common area for groups of horses living together to hang out. Often, low growing branches are essential at favorite resting spots. As if at a hitching post or leaning on the top fence rail to observe or converse, horses congregate and pacify themselves by rubbing, chewing, and resting on and near these low oak branches. This image shows one of those places for That Herd. It also shows only two members, but normally the whole bunch (just outside of this shot) clumps together to swat flies and take turns rubbing on the branches. The large grey colt will be two-years old in March and the bay filly will be two in June.
May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night,
may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being,
may you walk gently through the world and know it’s beauty all the days of your life. – Apache Blessing
Goodbye, 2020. May we never revisit the tough times you heaped upon us.
A few representatives of That Herd taken 2012. Eight years has come and gone in a heartbeat.
These horses are fully mature and in the prime of their lives now.
I love the oak tree in the background; sadly, it has since crumbled under the stresses of drought.
Photographs are a window into the past, be it one minute or one century. So many memories
flood back with just these two images.