Every year, without fail, this grey mare befriends the oldest mares in the herd. There becomes one individual that she is with constantly. This year, it is this brown mare. In the past, she has outlived some of her friends. Because she is only a middle age mare, it is certain that she will outlive her other chosen few. This creates a sadness, but acceptance is always in our days, horse or human.
Eyes darkened with kindness, a herd stallion greets his herd mate, a gelding. Stallions will live together with civility among other stallions and geldings as long as no mares or fillies are present. This dark bay stallion, a personal favorite, has always charmed me with his thoughtful expressions.
This image reminds me of the old Looney Toons characters that sat on shoulders as good and bad conscience “angels”. One foal is quite mild and reasonable, while the other is always wild-eyed and suspicious, lurking over the shoulder of the other.
A full water trough, after sucking water out of a mud hole swarming with wasps, is a pleasure indeed. This filly played and played, soaking all her herd mates in the process.
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.
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 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.
Protagonists are always loners, almost by definition.
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.
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.
“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
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!
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.
(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.
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 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.
Roaming in a natural environment allows for rapid and constant skill building that sharpen confidence, stamina, problem solving, and survival reflexes. This new colt is probably a couple of days old and he is already comfortable exploring away from his mother.
He’s looks cute, but he’s a fighter. Shoving and biting, rearing and racing, the colts use their free time to practice techniques that may help them, in the future, win mares. Even the castrated colts engage with alarming intensity, securing social position or defending it.
Horses that have the freedom to roam in large territories have active social lives. Male horses, both young and old, spar with each other quite a bit. Size is not a deterrent; horses that are diminutive in size openly challenge herd mates that out-class them in weight and experience. These two blokes are rather evenly matched and only halfhearted in their effort.
This mare is a good mother. She has had many foals, and they all have benefited from their mother’s nurturing disposition. Even in this image, shortly after giving birth to a rather large filly, she looks bright and proud.