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.
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!
Floating like a butterfly, this two-day old filly gallops full throttle to-and-fro while her mighty mother worries and charges along behind.
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.
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.
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.
“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it. … ” –Denzel Washington
tribute | ˈtribyo͞ot | noun 1 an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.
For years now, I have been archiving the lives of this collection of free range horses. I cannot, with certainty, articulate why I choose the images I do to share. Sometimes I’m proud of capturing a certain expression or moments of behavior, sometimes it’s to honor my fondness for individuals, often it’s an random choice, and I will always share new foal pictures. At this point, I have such a collection of images I can simply “throw a dart at the board” and choose any random image from my files and recall a memory of when and where I interacted with those horses. For every single image I have shared across multiple social media sites, I probably have a thousand images I have not shared. I rarely share the same image across the different sites so check those out if you haven’t yet.
This image is from three years and two weeks ago, to be exact. These two horses were personal favorites of mine for different reasons. They had an amiable connection to each other, which was endearing. I wish they could have remained best mates forever, but circumstances lead to inevitable change for all of us. I enjoy the opportunity to capture beautiful moments of their time spent with That Herd.
The joy of recalled moments when finding forgotten photographs (of any subject) is one of life’s great connectors for all citizens of this world. Sharing captured moments is one of my missions with this photo archive and website. If you get joy from an image I have shared, that accomplishes a personal goal for me.
Several months into her life and this filly is brimming with independence.
She seems serious but curious–sincere even–if a horse can be sincere.
The comparison between her two-day-old self and her seven-month-old self is impressive. So much growth in a short amount of time.
Her distinguishing profile has grown right along with everything else. Although her irregular white face marking creates a pleasing optical illusion for her large bump, she will never escape extra attention for her side view.
I love her face, roman nose and all, she’s a charmer.
I can imagine these images may be rather pedestrian to some viewers, but these little moments of horse life interest me. The simple act of walking through a gentle water shed stream, or what was likely the first time (or nearly the first time) for this young foal to leap valiantly over-obediently following his mother-feel like a privilege to observe. The horses get used to me hanging around, and because I don’t attempt to alter their movements or motivation, I get to join in on their adventures.
This colt quickly earned the name of Rasputin when I observed his aggressive and cranky behavior towards the other foals from his first days. He looked like a teddy bear but his aloof, single-minded solidarity to his mother and his demanding ways made him seem a bit wicked. He has since been quite unremarkable in any of his interactions when I am near, so I feel confident in knowing he was unfairly judged by me and has redeemed himself. Someday he will have a new name that defines any first impressions to all that would hear it in a more positive way.
Early on a March morning I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Two mares had given birth a couple hours previous to my arrival. I love observing newborn foals and their million discoveries about life on the outside. During my quiet jubilation at my good luck, a third mare laid down and gave birth to a notably large colt without moving away from the herd for solitude, which is unusual. A perfect morning, cool and sunny and a little breezy allowed for a serene birth and initial 20 minutes of terrestrial time.
The first image shows the colt’s first successful standing moment. Because of his numerous attempts to rise and sort his long legs out to stand, some curious herd mates approached to investigate. The other mare in the sequence is a sweet mare who has been a doting mother in the past. This year, however, she would not be having a foal of her own. She becomes instantly taken by the vulnerable newborn and won’t accept the fact he is another’s baby. Grievously, the orientation of the wobbly foal was directly in between the ensuing aggressive assertions. He was tossed about and when the mares squared off and spun to kick each other with deadly hind hooves I had to intervene. Risking the safety and kidnapping of the newborn was not necessary since I could interrupt the situation. Motherhood instincts are strong and especially so in nature. I have discovered this type of stealing behavior is not rare in natural situations. In the wild, and/or when unmanaged, the outcome for the foal is fatal. Because these horses live in a free range, natural environment they have heightened senses of survival and their innate abilities are strong, but sometimes behaviors can still go wrong.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles, wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
… girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, the snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into springs, …
Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein/Richard Rodgers My Favorite Things
and moments like this with That Herd.
This is one of my favorite things.
Big strong foals and mares, young and older, with spark and verve.
A graceful champion does not put on airs, she does not demand special treatment or crave supremacy. He comports herself with the utmost dignity, has benevolence, and sophistication. She gives and gives expecting nothing in return. She is awesome without attention simply because she can be no other way. Born with natural talent and a strong purpose, she is a champion with and without the trophies, ribbons, prize money, press, and fame. She boldly faces whatever is presented to her. Here’s to (a) champion female(s)! You make us proud.