It is common for the foals, from their first day, to traverse all of the rolling countryside where That Herd roams, even steep ascents and descents.
This duo popped up out of a deep canyon to an early sunny horizon. The filly is greeting her second day with sturdy determination.
After a morning of labor and birth, this mother needs to lie down and pass the placenta. Freed from her internal burden of several months and the bright morning sunshine, she is not easily roused. The foal, a filly, was energetic and bouncy right away and persistently and almost comically circled, nickered, and leaped about in an effort to unlock the mystery of her low mother.
Like a lucky omen, this filly has lifted our spirits and excitement for what is to come.
True to That Herd form, she has already crammed a lot of living into the few hours since her birth.
Every mother, no matter what species, no matter maiden or veteran, has the burden and gift of either extreme fierceness in the face of dreadful odds or crushing fragility.
I say it every year, and I’ll keep saying it, the miracle of bringing a new, healthy life forth is an enormous feat. Some mothers gracefully succeed and some do not.
May the blessing of safe journeys be a reality for each of us. May we be met with compassion if our journeys are tragic.
This gelding thinks his been gifted a band of mares for his very own.
Sadly, these beauties are heavy in foal and this is as close as he is allowed to get.
A mare who is no longer with us and her first foal. She gave us many memorable moments.
I’ve been putting some thought into aggression verses violence in wild animals. Looking at horses in particular, there is limited research available on violence in feral, free-range, and wild horse behavior. It’s either under reported or not observed often. Domestic horses–stallions in particular–have documented aggression and violence toward both horses and humans, but in this case I’m not referring to under socialized, confined, or mismanaged horses. I am interested in the difference in aggression and violence as separate behaviors in free range stallions with mares that don’t have to compete with other stallions to keep their mares or territories.
Aggression has been explained as a behavior motivated by the intent to cause harm to another who wishes to avoid harm.
Violence is a subtype of aggression, of a physical nature, with the intent to kill or injure another.
Interestingly, both aggression and violence are rarely motivated by anger. While anger can be managed and channeled, aggressive behavior can compound, meaning aggression and violent actions often increase the likelihood of more aggression in the future. Acting out with aggression and violence does not reduce aggressive impulses. There is no “honeymoon period” after a violent blow-up like with losing your temper and releasing that stress. Because of this, it is wise to assume that once aggressive and/or violent behaviors are observed, it could happen again repeatedly.
In David and Goliath scenarios, there is no hope for the weaker or smaller victim. They will be injured or killed.
Certainly a variety of factors can determine the degree of these behaviors. In feral horses, for example, I would point to hormones, frustration, seasonal stresses or sharing space with peers with aggressive tendencies. If one, or all, of any variety of these factors is removed, a shift in personality often can and does take place but one should expect repeat occurrences if some element changes again.
There is a foal portrait on the Home page of this blog. I call him the whiskers foal. Well, the big horse in this image is the whiskers foal all grow up. I love that I have known many of these horses their entire lives. I am their biggest fan. These two horses found me in a wooded area at dusk just poking around. Their herd mates arrived right behind them and we mingled and marveled at how quickly the night chill closed in.
We do love to watch the foals grow and blossom into maturity!
“When I see a horse grazing on the skyline it seems a spirit. I think of it as ascending to the sun.”
–N. Scott Manaday, Earth Keeper
Unseen by me for quite some time, I was happy to relive a familiar pose with this stand-out filly, now a mare of six years. She is and always has been independent and unflappable.
After many weeks eagerly observing all the mares that foaled before her, this wary mare had reasons to be on alert this day. Finally, her foal arrived but it was a long day for the duo. Unlike the mares that foaled before her, she had the complication of a stallion being added to the herd. The stallion was quite eager and busy asserting his authority with the group. He was a reasonable stallion, behavior wise, but he kept the mares tightly bunched which left this mare and foal no room for seclusion or distance. Also, they were moving quite a bit and I could see the weariness in the new foal. Even in calm periods when the foal figured out how to lie down, she was quickly roused by the constant alerts from mother each time other horses got too close. This kept the filly on her feet and moving in anxious hastiness. The mare did her best to keep them both on the outside of the bunch so she could ease away from the activity of the other horses so her foal wouldn’t get stepped on or separated from her. Everything turned out just fine however, and within a couple of days the new filly was rough and ready as any other foal in the herd.
Ah, the vitality of youth! The young foal easily lopes up this steep hill while her young mother digs in.
(Now that I’m posting this, I think I took an image of this same pair climbing shortly after the foal’s birth.)
In the daily wandering of the mares and foals they will access a wide variety of terrains in search of the best grazing.
I have climbed many hills and scaled many banks to follow or find the horses in their chosen environments.
Even the newest foals are equal to the task of keeping up and navigating tricky footings.
“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
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.