“Is there any instinct more deeply implanted in the heart of man than the pride of protection, a protection which is constantly exerted for a fragile and defenseless creature?” – Honere de Balzac
Looking back to this week last year, you can see that we had not had any rain yet into the month of January. Conditions were very dry and feed was scarce. Fortunately, this year we have had a few rain…
An old image that I never shared.
A lovely portrait of a beloved member of That Herd.
As the end of the year bears down on me, I am forced to reflect on the past twelve months. 2018 has been fraught with unexpected challenges, both in my personal life, and in my life with That Herd. I have, for many reasons, not spent the time I crave with the horses. There have been some losses, both in my personal life, and in That Herd, that have set me back, made it difficult to be creative. I have experienced a loss of vocabulary related to the horses that has frustrated me and kept me from sharing. My website has been hacked, shut down, recovered, internet inaccessible, images purged, and surpassed my ability to keep up with routine maintenance and improvements. I have many images to share but no words to narrate my feeling about the moments captured. Therefore, I must recommit myself to site maintenance and regular content uploads, for the good of a worthy archive of this community of free range horses who have a story to tell.
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.
First the thundering of the hooves, then the thumping of my heart. Here they come! Bands of galloping, bucking, leaping steeds, one after another until they all circle around. Wheeling and lunging to and fro, they are magnificent.
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.
Distinctive light face patches appeared on the youngest member of That Herd this week.
At this point in his hair coat transformation, he looks kind of like an African antelope, tricolored and long faced. The brown grass completes the African theme.
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine … ”
–Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
Summer passes into autumn but our new season simply blends into an extended summer, warm and dry. The spring and summer foals are growing into gangly youths ready to be independent of their mothers.
The very last rays of daylight behind a group of young horses fade as nightfall lands. The first days of fall have continued with hot, dry weather. The horses are scouring the hillsides and and mountain tops for forage before their long treks to the few remaining water sources.
Part of the daily routine for That Herd mares and foals includes the march to water down a dusty path. Also, a late foal is dwarfed by an older sibling in the queue.
The phrase “roll with the punches” is believed to originate with boxing. The term explains how boxers will often angle themselves and move in certain ways to lessen the impact of incoming blows. It has also become a phrase used figuratively to encourage positive resilience. I bring this up because this horse, known as Cricket, has a definite lean-in posture here, and the phrase matches his disposition nicely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.