Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Few Questions Answered

After some token breakfast oats, its time to have a lick on the mineral block,
and nibble at the herbs growing nearby.




In response to my July 5th journal entry, Jennifer posed a question for me in the comments section: "I'm curious. I know this is premature however, I was wondering what your plans are when the colt or colts grow up."

Animado and his mother, Bella, share space at the mineral block.

I have been wanting to put write a response to this important query, but am finding so little computer time these days that I will "cheat" a bit by copying some things I had written (in response to a similar questions from another Jennifer in the Nevzorov Haute Ecole forum). In addition to wondering what my plans are for Altamiro's offspring, the other Jennifer was keen to learn what my thoughts are regarding the philosophical/moral implications of breeding horses in a world that seems to have an over-abundance of already unwanted horses who are mistreated, neglected and often sent to slaughter or euthanized. The first part of my response deals with the "moral" implications of what Kevin and I are doing in breeding Sorraia Mustangs and the second part will hopefully provide the answer to what the future holds for Altamiro's offspring.

To break up my lengthy reply, I am inserting some photos I took yesterday morning and will provide a short explanation under each.

Doll dines on Canada Thistle tops...which are prickly, but apparently tasty!
An abundance of Catnip flowers nearby.


As for the topic at hand, it is important for us to be self-reflective and to constantly review what motivates our behavior and actions, so I appreciate this opportunity Jennifer presents for me to share with readers my feelings regarding whether or not what Kevin and I are nurturing here at Ravenseyrie is acceptable set against the backdrop of so many unwanted and discarded horses across the globe.

Let us first set aside the precarious status of the Sorraia horse (less than 200 worldwide) which researchers consider a representative of one of the four ancestral horses from which all modern, manmade breeds trace back to. Our aim of assisting the loss of another primitive sub-species will not be considered as part of "justification" of our actions, even though, of course this is one important reason we have taken on the formation of our Sorraia Mustang Preserve.

When you live on a farm, especially if you have a quantity of acreage, it happens very frequently that you are approached by many people who for one reason or another petition you to take for them their cat, or dog or horse or goat...etc. Each petitioner has compelling reasons as to why he or she can no longer provide a suitable home for their animal friend. Over the years, Kevin and I have agreed to relieve a number of people of their "burden", because we did have room on our farm and in our hearts.

But we have changed our feelings on this to a large degree, and we no longer allow others to make us feel that their inability to do right by their animals is somehow our problem. There would be no end if we always felt we had to save everyone else's animals...we would not be able to keep up!

Ciente, our Kiger Mustang of Sorraia type, still waiting for the right moment to deliver her foal.

I, too, have read the stories of some folks out in the American west who, because of the prolonged drought, in desperation are turning their horses loose on the range to fend for themselves because they can no longer afford to feed them.

And there are numerous other reasons why people feel they must divest themselves of their horses. All things considered, if we are honest, in probably 98% of these cases horses are cast aside because their humans are not willing to make drastic changes in the priorities of their lifestyles.

To begin with far too many people acquire animals without full understanding of the long-term responsibilities...while others are fully aware of these responsibilities and are happy to carry on when it doesn't require any deep alteration of their lifestyle. But when the going gets rough, the "throw away" mindset prevails and often "pets" which they find unbearable to part with are nonetheless parted with. Funny, though, how they continue to subscribe to cable television, eat fast food and drive their cars far too much, among other things...

Most desperate divestments of once "loved" animals are not a problem of high feed prices, or lack of time or space, etc. Most animals are given away or destroyed because their human caretakers will not alter their lives to make things right for their animals. We should question such "love".

I understand how this happens...humans tend to feel so trapped by the circumstances of their life and imagine themselves rather helpless. Folks feel they must remain in a particular job that they don't even like because they need the paycheck. And they feel the job is required because children, cars, houses, clothing, playthings and food (often at the bottom of the list) must be acquired. We create our own reality...all the burdens we may have in our lives are the result of decisions we have made over the years. And we've made these decisions most of the time with clouded judgment or with no deep thought at all.

So, people feel trapped by their circumstances, but in reality they are not bound by their situation as much as they are imprisoned by their unexamined habitual behavior.

We don't have to live this way, the way society has conditioned us to. We have choices!

People have so many other choices they could make to make it possible to keep their horses--but it would require a different way of thinking.

To provide their horses a better environment is a choice they choose not to make for themselves because deep down they don't want the horses enough to pare down other things in their life or totally uproot themselves and go to a better situation where providing properly for their horses is not a burden but a joy and a way of life.

There are amazing people out there who feel it is their calling to establish horse havens, sanctuaries and rescue centers. These folks take on the burdens of those people who believe there is no other option but to get rid of their horses. I support these people for the horses' sakes.

But I am no longer one of these people...Kevin and I have a different calling we need to remain focused upon. And we altered our life precisely so that we could do this and sustain it.

Another concern raised in the Nevzorov forum was what type of plan might Kevin and I have for our horses in the event of our deaths...

Ravenseyrie is fully paid for, and we have life insurances policies that according to our wills (which are in need of updating) make provisions for someone to carry on with what we have begun here. We are just in the early stages of this so there yet remains many details to think about and provide for. We are discussing setting up a formal, perpetual foundation, but this is so far a rough idea. In the end, even with a perpetual foundation, we have no guarantee of control over the fate of this place when our physical forms no longer walk upon it...but it is important to do the best we can and leave a legacy that includes a clear understanding of the philosophy we espouse for relations with the animals and plant life that is part of Ravenseyrie.

We will not be able to keep Altamiro's offspring on this site. At the time when the herd shows us that the youngsters need to move on, we will place them in alternate locations--whether that is with other breeders who are also trying to save the Sorraia, or (and this is my hope) they will go to a secondary refuge we hope to inspire other participants here on the island to establish. My first desire is to have the Wikwemikong First Nations Reserve (our Native American islanders) take on the establishment of a second preserve, which could be set up also as a tourist attraction benefiting the horses, the island natives and the island economy. We are not breeding to sell horses, this is not a profit venture by any means.

Late for breakfast, and on the run to get there first!

There are many meaningful and far reaching reasons for establishing and maintaining this venture. I cannot say if it is "justified" to do what we are doing, but I do feel it is already having a beneficial impact on the way a family herd of horses is perceived by humans in addition to preserving a genetic treasure that has been part of human life since cave dwelling times.

Our contributions here at Ravenseyrie are small, but could prove to be vital. We represent one piece of the puzzle. The overall genetic viability of the purebred Sorraia horses are experiencing a bottleneck and are down to just two maternal lines.

It is Hardy Oelke's contention that if enough awareness is given to consolidate those North American Mustangs which have distinct atavistic likenesses to the Sorraia, this might one day serve as a source of necessary genetic infusion to relieve the bottleneck. This is much more than gathering grulla and dun Spanish Mustangs--though color is a factor--there are distinct conformational characteristics that must conform also.

There are a handful of breeders out west in the United States that are attempting such a consolidaton (some are following a more pure standard than others), using Spanish mustang stallions and mares of Sorraia type.

Ravenseyrie has gone a step further with the importation of Altamiro. Here was have a purebred Sorraia paired with Spanish Mustangs of Sorraia type, providing a direct infusion.



The herd left me behind pretty quickly on their way to nibble some oats.
They don't require the supplement of oats, but I like to give them a little in the morning.
It's a treat they typically wait at the gate for,
but yesterday morning I had to go fetch them from the far north field.



Here is where Kevin and I part a bit with conventional endangered breeding practices. If we felt that the only variable in promoting viable genetics were to spread the genes as rapidly and as broadly as possible, it would make sense for us to make Altamiro available to other breeders either on a lease basis or employing artificial insemination. Or we could change mares or other means of manipulating who mates with who.

However, since we feel that there is more to the essence of horses than their genetic make up, our program is based also on assuring Altamiro and his small band of mares have the opportunity to live as a long-term family unit. The behavioral advantages this provides are not taken into account by most people involved in preservation projects. To us, however, it is one more way we can recreate the type of living conditions their ancestors had. The bonds horses form and the relaying of their emotions, in my opinion, are expressed biochemically and as such have an influence upon the transfer of information from generation to generation.

We expect to bring in one or two more mares (I'm leaning towards just one more) but that is the limit.

Ciente, a bit behind the herd as they run to get their breakfast.
The heaviness of her abdomen makes her usual elegant bearing a bit awkward and slow.
When will this foal be born???

In my view, this 360 acre area is just right for fifteen head, give or take one or two...any more than that would stress the environment. Right now, with the two domestic horses and the three draft mules who also live on the preserve, we have eleven.

Manitoulin Island is actually a very large island (the largest freshwater island in the world), long and narrow with 1068 square miles and numerous inland lakes. What isn't water (and cottages) is agricultural or wilderness. The island itself could support many separate herds of Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs, but not without human assistance...I fear the winters would be too severe without extra forage supplied to them.

Given that a lot of the content of this journal entry was first posted in the Nevzorov Haute Ecole forum, I hope it was easy enough for new readers to follow, and that it provides some answers to some important questions.

As time allows, I am putting together part two of "How It All Began", and hope to have this published in the Journal of Ravenseyrie later this week.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How It Began/Part 1

Belina and Bella in the autumn of 2005, ages 18 months


My friend, Jean, from Quebec, emailed me shortly after the Journal of Ravenseyrie blog was up and running and provided me with some interesting feedback. One of the things he wrote was: "May I come up with a suggestion? I'd love to be told the story of how Kevin and you first came to this Sorraia Mustang Preserve project."

Of course I've been wanting to tell this story...it requires some recapitulation, and my apologies for any redundancy of information that has been provided elsewhere.

The first time I remember seeing a photo of a Sorraia horse was in Sylvia Loch's book THE ROYAL HORSE OF EUROPE. "Noble", "exotic" and "nicely formed" were the impressions the image left on my mind, but Lady Loch's description of this horse (writing they averaged 13h in height) caused me to readily forget about him and return to the story of the more finely bred Spanish horses who were so coveted by the aristocracy of the day.

This was a time in my life (mid-1990's) when I was deep into the study of the history of equitation, specifically the laudable lightness of the French school and the controversial methods of Francois Baucher (1796-1873)--whose work inspired me immensely--passed on to me through the writings and friendship of Jean-Claude Racinet. Being equally captivated by the Andalusian and Lusitano horses (kindred breeds who have excelled in the discipline of Haute Ecolé for centuries), it was only a matter of time when my studies would lead me back to their primitive ancestor, the Sorraia, this time in Arsenio Raposo Cordeiro's book titled, LUSITANO HORSE/Son of the Wind. Even then it was the photos in the chapter on the Sorraias that left their impression moreso than the accompanying text.

The third exposure to the Sorraia horse through my hippological studies is the one that consolidated the earlier tweekings of interest and truly got the seed of love for this type of horse sprouting.

On the day of the Winter Solstice 2004 Kevin presented me a copy of Paulo Gaviao Gonzaga's just released book titled, A HISTORY OF THE HORSE/The Iberian Horse From Ice Age to Antiquity. The review of ancestral horses in this book is one of the most concise accounts I have read thus far, and once again, I found myself especially attracted to the images of the Sorraia horses. A descriptive paragraph written by Ruy d'Andrade the Portuguese hippologist credited with saving these horses from extinction wormed into my brain and motivated me to learn all that I could about them.

Describing these primitive horses' appearance after a long, harsh winter, d'Andrade wrote: "But after the winter hardships, the months from April to June are easily enough to make them fat and, once more covered by flesh they change completely in appearance, especially the stallions, which in full flesh show a curved neck and, so much changed, they look close-coupled and full of life, moving with a lot of elegance and gracefulness, and become beautiful Andalusian horses that can rival Arabians, as they become fine and swift, full of movement and fire. At such moments they reveal the Iberian form of the highest class of animal, on a smaller scale."

With such a descriptive paragraph woven into my mind, I began to search for information about the Sorraia on the internet. It was here that I learned about the surprising resemblance certain wild mustangs in North America have to the Sorraia's of the Iberian Peninsula. My Goggle search provided me with the website of Caballos De Destino, the "online ranch" belonging to Sharron Sheikofsky and her partner Dave Reynolds.

Bella (left) and Belina, two days after their arrival at Ravenseyrie

Sharron and Dave breed old world Spanish Mustangs in captivity on their ranch in South Dakota and have been selecting the Iberian form and grulla coloring as one part of their program for decades. Some of these selectively bred horses possess the distinctive phenotype of the Sorraia and Caballos De Destino happened to be offering a few of them for sale among their other attractive Spanish Mustang youngsters.

One yearling filly, Bella (out of Miracle SMR#3087 by Silver Shadow SMR#2780) looked like a possibly good Sorraia type and had a price which was extremely reasonable. Another yearling filly-not so promising Sorraia type--was priced incredibly low because she was not of pure Spanish mustang stock. Belina (her original name was Thumbelina) was out of the grade Appaloosa mustang pony BLM Dreamer and sired by Chato's Shadow SMR#1531. She was small, but a solid grulla with a sub-convex profile and we thought she would make a good friend for Bella to grow up with, so we made an offer for both of them. Sharron accepted our offer and was even kind enough to keep them at the ranch for several months until we made our move to Canada in May of 2005.

Importing Bella and Belina turned out to be an expensive, protracted and horrible experience. While en route from South Dakota across the country, the fillies were exposed to an upper respiratory infection (strangles) and had to be quarantined at the shippers layover facility in Michigan--not far from the very place we had just immigrated from! It wasn't until July when the fillies were allowed to finish their long journey. Belina and Bella were born on the open range, lived among their respective herds in a "captive wild" setting but as yearlings would be shooed into a clattering trailer, taken across the continent, contract a contagious infection and spend six weeks locked together in a dark box stall. Poor things! What a relief it must have been to step out of the trailer and take in their new home!

Shelagh, Lynne and Jerry making friends with Belina and Bella
Summer 2005


to be continued...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hay Arrives on a Gentle Summer Evening

We got a call from Bill Fogal last night. Bill is an island born cattle rancher--with probably more cows and land than he can manage--but manage them he does and yet still has the time and inclination to check in with us "vegan tree huggers" to see if we'll be needing hay for the herd. "How are you, Bill?", you might inquire, and the answer you'll get every time is, "Hmmfph! Still strugglin'," with a devilish twinkle in his eye. Excellent mixed grass hay, very fair price, and delivered...you bet we buy from Bill.

This will be our third year of winter forage delivered by robust Mr. Fogal. The first year we were here...we didn't know folks too well and they didn't know us, and as hay was scarce that season we unwittingly struck a bad deal with the hay bandit as I "affectionately" refer to this other fella. His hay was hugely over-priced and turned out to be more dust and mold than the usual sweet smell of rolled summer--which really irritated Kevin, who was always used to putting up his own spectacular hay back "in the old country".
One of the Manitoulin Island hayfields up the road from Ravenseyrie

These are 800lb round bales and you really have to trust your supplier because many times you cannot detect that the hay was inadequately cured and put up until you are well into peeling off the layers. Sometime in the future, we will make hay at Ravenseyrie, but for now we are sure thankful for the good efforts of Bill Fogal.

In anticipation of Bill coming with the long trailer, and Kevin needing some time to off load the bales with his tractor, I decided to take another walk with the pups out to see the herd.

It was an incredible evening...a fresh wind, cool low-slanting sunlight and no bugs. The horses were well over to the east and once I took care of providing the necessary greetings and itches, they settled back into grazing the tops of the mature grasses while I got out my camera.

You've seen photos of Animado playing his "Climb on Dad" game, now you can view a short session of moving footage:
video

This next short moving clip is from Animado's first introduction to my shawl. Grabbing the shawl off from my shoulders is one of Altamiro's favorite pranks, and I wasn't the least bit surprised that playful Animado reached for it in the same manner. He was so intrigued by the shawl that I let him have it all to himself and draped it over him. He wasn't quite sure what to make of this, as you can see:
video


This last moving clip occurred when the pups and I had bid the herd goodnight and were walking back to the house. There were some very loud metal banging noises going on while Bill was working at getting the big hay trailer turned around and this set the herd into a playful "stampede". Most of the herd loves these cross-country runs--especially Zeus (the ex-racehorse) who loves to come from behind and blow by the leaders. Mistral got in there after a bit too, but I had to pan the camera way, way, way back to the east before I located Jerry and Dee. These two mules rarely get caught up into these racing dramas, preferring to conserve their energies for other things.

video
I'm sure readers will note that another day has gone by where I haven't posted the journal entries I should be finishing up with--but I had such a pleasant evening last night, I wanted to share it right away.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Primitive Feeling

While we continue to wait for Ciente to decide she is ready to deliver her foal, and because I have yet to complete writing the story of how Kevin and I came to establish our Sorraia Mustang Preserve, I am taking a little time to day to share a quick entry showing you a bit more of the primitive beauty embodied by the Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses of Ravenseyrie.

This morning, I was watching little Fada as she walked several lengths away from the protection of her herd with the intention of getting closer to where our dog, Ganja, was rooting around in the long grass. I wondered just how close she would bring herself to Ganja and decided to take a little movie of things on my camera. In the end, Fada wisely stayed away from actually engaging Ganja in a game of chase and there were none of her typical gravity defying leaps and bounds (too bad, they are great fun to see!)...but what I did notice as I watched things quietly transpire was just how much Fada reminded me of some of the images of ancient horses depicted in some of the cave paintings. I was very moved by this peaceful little bit of moving footage and thought I would share it her in the Journal of Ravenseyrie.

video

It remains to be seen how much of the Sorraia phenotype is expressed in Fada as she matures. As mentioned before, Fada's dam, Belina is not an accurate example of Sorraia type, though she does possess some Sorraia characteristics. Belina was the result of the crossing of a registered Spanish Mustang stallion (Chato's Shadow SMR#153) with an Appaloosa mustang pony (BLM Dreamer) who came from one of the wild horse herd management ranges in the state of Washington. (I'll discuss a bit more about how Belina came to be with us when I finish up the other journal entry relaying our beginnings.) Even if Fada proves not to have enough distinctly Sorraia characteristics, even now she has such a primordial look to her coupled with a sweetness of spirit that we will have no trouble finding the perfect home for her when it comes time for her to leave Ravenseyrie. (Jennifer, I haven't forgotten your question regarding our plans for Altamiro's offspring, and will make an entry in the journal on that matter soon.)

Last week, during one of my evening walks to check on Ciente's condition, a Whitetail Deer was coming across the field and captured the attention of the herd. And, of course, I had to take a few photos and a movie clip. Within this movie clip you will hear and see a pause as I click to take a still photo...not something I'm going to make a habit of doing because it is so disruptive--but I wanted to see if it would work, as it is one of the features touted by the camera manufacturer.

As in the images of Fada...this movie clip captures an amazing primitive feeling--and whenever I watch it, as I zoom in on the group of grullas, I get a lump in my throat because I find these horses so incredibly beautiful, especially in the rugged setting here at Ravenseyrie.

video

I hope readers of this blog are able to view the movie clips. I apologize for how rudimentary they are...I still have so much to learn about this camera and all its handy features. I also hope to be able to learn to do some editing once I have the data uploaded to my computer...but for now, you must suffer through segments that are sometimes rough or sometimes rather boring--I think is worth it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Waiting Days

These waiting days, in anticipation of the last foal to arrive are filled with beauty and also a bit of trepidation. It seems my heart is in my throat too much, and I have begun worrying that Ciente's foal will be born too late and not be as robust as Fada and Animado are coming into the winter. I haven't seen the foal move in weeks...and I worry that something is wrong inside...and I worry there will be too many flies, or it will be too hot, etc...and Hardy chides me for faltering on my usual positivism. Both he and Kevin have much calmer minds right now than I--and I wonder just why it is that anticipating these beautiful births has me so agitated? Will it be like this for me every time there are foals expected???

I read up on Blogger troubleshooting, and after clearing my browser cache and "cookies" (whatever they are?) I find I am able to upload photos again. Here is the image of Ciente from last week that I'd been wanting to share:A very pregnant Ciente, grazing with Altamiro

This next image I like because it shows the many nuances of the grulla coloring:
Left to right: Fada, Animado, Bella and Ciente

On Tuesday, the herd had come up while I was working on dinner. I ran out with the camera and took a little movie of Bella, Altamiro, Ciente and Belina coming up to the fence to say hello. Altamiro is the chap in the middle, Bella is on the right of the frame and Ciente is on the left...Belina cannot quite get up as close as they are. One would be hard pressed to tell which is the purebred Sorraia, which is the Kiger mustang and which is the registered Spanish Mustang...they are all like peas in a pod, aren't they?

video

Yesterday, when the herd came up for morning oats (yes, whole oats now Jean!), Ciente's udder appeared much fuller. Later in the early evening, Kevin checked her for me while I was preparing dinner and he thought she looker fuller there as well. Then a peculiar thing began to happen...the other herd members became very curious about Ciente, each coming over to sniff her rear end. Bella didn't like whatever aroma was being exuded and began to ardently chase Ciente. Bella chased Ciente on and off for the rest of the evening until night fell. I didn't like this one bit, and neither did Altamiro, who often would intervene, but only for the chasing to start up again in a few minutes. It appeared that Bella didn't want Ciente to be with the herd. I feared for Ciente, thinking it wasn't good for her to be forced to run so much while in such a late stage of pregnancy. Kevin was typically more accepting, thinking they knew best and maybe this was something necessary. So we watched this until they quieted down after sunset. I thought by morning there would be a foal at Ciente's side--nope! Not yet...and when she came up for breakfast oats, her udder didn't look as full as it had yesterday...

These waiting days are weird and wonderful and worrisome...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ciente

Since a glitch within Blogger is temporarily not allowing me to upload photos, I am attempting a video upload instead.

In my last entry, I was wanting to show you how our young Kiger Mustang mare, Ciente, is looking at this point in her pregnancy. I happened to get a bit of moving footage of her on my camera a few evenings ago.

Let's see if this upload works, shall we?
video

I think this is going to work! I sure wish I had taken something a bit more interesting, but now I will plan to do both photos and videos for future journal entries.

Ciente is the most affectionate and gentle horse I have had opportunity to be friends with. Two weeks ago, she had me convinced she was going to deliver her foal right into my open arms.

I had begun to take a morning walk with the pups (my collective term of endearment for our four, mature dogs: Shelagh, Maeb, Tobacco and Ganja). We were headed the opposite direction from where the horses and mules were grazing with a plan to loop around and spend some time with them on our way back. I noticed Ciente had stopped grazing and was slowly walking towards where the pups and I were. I stopped and waited...she kept coming on a deliberate path to intersect with us, so I changed course and met her halfway. Ciente presented me with her head and neck, desiring rubs and itches, and I of course granted her wish. After several minutes of this, Ciente turned and pressed her rump into my hands--leaving no doubt in my mind which section of her body wanted attention now, and once again, I fulfilled her wish.

I massaged the lumbar-scaral region, hips, buttocks and tail for Ciente, all the while telling her how beautiful she is and what a fine mother she is going to be.

Those of you who have spent any time massaging and itching your horses when they are at complete liberty are aware of just how demonstrative they can be with their bodies when they have no walls or ropes restraining their movements--swaying, pressing back into your hands and contorting themselves to gain all the possible pleasurable sensations that can be had. My first experience like this was with Mistral many years ago...and it was one of my many epiphanies since beginning this long, marvelous journey of being with horses--in fact it was so transforming that never again did I tie Mistral or the others up for grooming or tacking up or any other sort of thing.

So, Ciente has trained me well, and I have gotten her so mellow that it seems to me her croup muscles had relaxed with the type of slackness textbooks say occurs just before delivery begins. Did her vulva also look slightly swollen and slackened? It sure seemed so to me. I stopped the massage and took another look at Ciente's udder...no swelling or "waxing up" occurring here (of course not one of these indicators was present when Bella surprised us with the birth of Animado in April!). I went up to Ciente's head and brushed her forelock aside, looking into her eyes, asking...are you telling me you are ready? Her answer was to close her eyes and slip her head over my shoulder, laying it there with great heaviness and a soft sigh. With tears of happiness, to be so close with her like this, I supported her heavy head and stroked her neck for a few minutes or a few hours...the time was unmeasurable as we both melted into the moment.

When we returned to the everyday plane of reality, the rest of the herd had disappeared, the dogs had given up on our walk and gone back to the house and it was just Ciente and me in the middle of the grasslands. I motioned for Ciente to follow me and I began walking in the direction I last saw the horses. Ciente followed, not because we were conjoined by a halter and lead rope, but because we had that most sublime connection of all--heart to heart. Carolyn Resnick (see her website in my links column) identifies this type of tack free connection as the "magnetic heart connection" and considers it the best basis for any further training. I not only agree, but no longer have a desire to work with tack at all any more--this type of connection, this means of understanding each other--is what I want to cultivate as the norm, making tack obsolete.

Soon we came up to a narrow copse of Cedar trees separating the large grassy plain from another strip of meadow near the bluff's edge. Through the trees I could see the swishing of tails and I knew the herd was just beyond these trees. Stepping aside, I motioned for Ciente to walk on by me and join the others. She picked up her ears, gave a whinny and softly trotted around the copse of trees to rejoin her herd.

Can a human sigh, smile and tear-up all at the same time? Surely its possible, because this is how it felt after sharing such a marvelous time with this lovely, young mare.

Ciente is a very fine example of the Sorraia phenotype and we are looking forward to seeing what her and Altamiro have created together.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Growth of Foals

Its getting busy here on the island with summer cottagers and tourists from all over the world swelling up the population and time for "making hay" at the studio. Being extra busy and some difficulties with the Blogger uploads has put me behind in entries for Journal of Ravenseyrie.

I'm working on a special entry stimulated by a request made by a friend of mine to relay how Kevin and I came to be involved in helping preserve the Sorraia horses. It may be another week before that is ready, so for now I thought I'd share a few updated photos of the foals.

So far, Ciente's foal isn't ready to make its appearance outside the womb. I've been trying to upload pictures of her for you to see how big she's become, but for the past two days I cannot get photos uploaded to Blogger, despite trying at different times of the day. I'm thankful for the handful that did make it here and am happy for this service Google provides for us all at no charge. Hopefully this latest glitch will be smoothed out very soon.

Until then, let's see how Animado and Fada are doing. These photos were taken on Tuesday of this week. Animado was two months 19 days old and Fada was all of 38 days old during this photo session.



Animado is losing much of his foal coat, and showing himself to be a bit lighter grullo color than his parents. He's got terrific stripes on his front legs and a smattering on the rear legs as well. His shoulder markings are just like his sire's--a brief slash on either side. I'm amazed at how much longer his head has become and how leggy he in just these few short months. He really is becoming a fine example of the Sorraia phenotype.For her part, Fada is hanging on to her baby hair, making it difficult to see in photos her markings yet, but they are quite nice and very apparent in the right light, especially her extravagant shoulder-barring, which is nearly identical to her dam Belina.
Though small, Fada has always been leggy, and her head is elongating just as Animado's has and showing more tendency toward convexity every day. She is still shy, but comes up for itches now, often leaving Belina's side to do so. Belina is allowing brief, highly monitored playtime between Fada and Animado, never lasting long enough for me to get my camera and take photos--yet.


One of the most enjoyable things to see with the growth of these half-Sorraia/half-Sorraia Mustang foals is how they are so confident in their places within the herd and how much the other herd members appear to enjoy having youngsters milling among them. Animado's dam, Bella has had complete confidence in her little colt's place in the herd and allows him an incredible amount of freedom--something she did early on. Belina is still quite protective of wee Fada, which is a good thing as she is still so tiny. What a sight to see them all galloping over the rugged terrain already sure-footed and able to stay up with the older horses!
I don't think it will be too much longer (though I'm trying to give up making predictions!) and there will be a third foal joining these landscape romps. Ciente will deliver her filly or colt when she's good and ready and I will be feeling so relieved when she does...only then will I feel like we can break out one of the nicer bottles of wine in celebration of Altamiro and his mares' contribution to keeping the genes of the Sorraia horse from disappearing.