The American West is steeped in romantic imagery and nostalgia, horses being a big part of that. The lack of water in the American West, however, is not romantic in the least. The drought in the western states is no joke. Almost a decade without adequate rainfall and yearly watershed, with only a year or two of replenishment in the mix, has created a real danger to free range horses, livestock, and wildlife. With extreme roaming prohibited by fence lines, and viable sites for digging for a trickle of water or seep few and far between, large herds of horses present a formidable task in regard to supplying water. Much of their territory is inaccessible to equipment with the capacity to supply hundreds or thousands of gallons of water daily or even weekly. Connected to this dilemma is wildfire dangers and animal responses to such events. Let the hand wringing and problem solving begin.
These images were taken in late spring, which was dry earlier than usual again this year.
“I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with good will,
lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.”
– Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
After regaining her strength several days post giving birth, a veteran mother looks proud and calm in her motherhood role.
After many years without conceiving, and now several foals – all colts – later, she has a new filly to raise. With a history of giving it her all when raising foals I imagine I see a look of mental endurance-gathering this second day with her new foal. She has been known to hide away for weeks keeping a new foal all to herself. She is devoted; refusing to even lie down and rest when her foals are with her. This year she “hid in plain sight” avoiding the other horses as much as possible for the first days of May. She allows motherhood to drain away all of her reserves, her devotion is so great.
In a few short weeks the foals grow at tremendous rates. In this environment, their courage, and analytical thinking make great strides as well as their physical development. Twenty-four hours a day they are exposed to a never ending sequence of decisions and behavior patterns that develop into sure-footed, quick thinking horses. They travel many miles each day and are constantly exposed to lessons in life. This colt is composed and alert, given to bouts of joyous romps. His mother is a gem.
In a pure moment of free-spirited pluckiness, this newborn filly toddled straight away from her mother-shield and investigated me without hesitation. This is such an unusual occurrence that I was taken aback, but delighted. I do love the new foals and to be noticed, and in this case greeted, by the newest arrival made me feel like I was doing something right. Don’t let the seemingly nonchalant mare fool you, she is as protective a mother as any in the herd. In this case she was no match for her foal’s enthusiasm to discover everything and anything within sight. In the following moments my lens was filled with mother’s inquiring and vigilant face and a few cautious snorts. Try as she might to coax and maneuver her filly to her off side, the filly returned to nuzzle me. It was truly a natural connection experience.
When being assessed by a free creature you have choices to make about your response.
Though there is always a default to extreme caution, I try to allow for equal opportunity in the appraisal exchange between myself and the animal as peers in curiosity.
“Magic isn’t somewhere else. It isn’t a series of distant rituals, ancient texts and expensive courses. Magic is turning to the world, and seeing it, … ”
–Alice Tarbuck, A Spell in the Wild: A Year (and Six Centuries) of Magic
This new filly, likely born this day, entertained me with her joie de vivre. Free of her confines of the last year, she ran around and around a large oak tree rarely leaving the confines of the shadow. There were numerous obstacles to trip her up but she navigated like a champ hopping over branches and ducking low hanging limbs with ease. It was a delightful display of the very essence of a horse. You go girl!
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.