Saturday, September 20, 2008

Zorita's Integration

Sovina's Zorita, Saturday Morning at Ravenseyrie

When I left for work yesterday morning, the herd was clustered around the gate area, with Zorita still on the yard side, nearly nose to nose with Altamiro. Everyone was dozing. Zorita picked up her head and looked at me. I told her that when I returned from work, Kevin and I would let her out with the others if she was really ready. Her response was to flip her head, shift her hips and resume a dozing pose on the opposite weight bearing leg.

I thought about Zorita, and the rest of the herd all the while I worked. Integration time is always stressful and the worry of injury has a way of making my stomach twist most unpleasantly. Bonnie had told me many times that Zorita was a definite "alpha" mare and fairly well capable of taking care of herself--in fact Bonnie rather worried about Zorita being too rough on the others! But, none of this eased my concern much.

As I rode my bike home, once I got to where Ravenseyrie's land begins, I scanned the fields but could not see the herd grazing anywhere out in the open. When I opened the gate and let myself into the yard, I couldn't see any sign of Zorita either. I wondered if she had managed to join the herd without my being on hand to view it all. But, as I pedaled up the drive I could see she was standing inside the shed, enjoying the shade it afforded. She saw me and came over. I got off my bike and stroked her neck. She went over to the gate to the fields and waited. I told her for sure it was time, but first I wanted to get into my farm clothes.

Shortly, Kevin and I walked together and opened up the gate for Zorita. She hesitated, just a moment, then walked on through. Zorita sniffed and snorted while walking by a stack of wood, then soon picked up an easy trot and headed to the west, opposite of where Kevin said he'd last seen the herd. Kevin felt certain Zorita knew which direction the herd had gone but she obviously decided to not go to where they were.

Where was she going? She picked up a light canter, pausing slightly when passing the electric fence that protects Kevin's market garden, and soon disappeared to the far southwest of the property. A few minutes later, she came back into view, skirting the edge of the west poplar woods and then charted her course to the north, entered the area we call the Scanty Field and angled to the northwest. We watched her until she was out of sight...

Was Zorita taking the opportunity to investigate the boundaries of her vast new habitat?

We waited, expecting her to come back into view. She did not. Was she following the trails along the bluff's edge and heading towards the east? If so, we would not be able to see her. Had she decided to follow one of the steep trails leading down the bluff? It is times like these when one realizes how impossible it is to keep track of horses who decide to go into hiding!

She never did come back into view, even as the herd eventually came back from grazing in the east sector and slowly made their way up to the house, hoping for Kevin to pass out some apples. Did they notice that Zorita was no longer in the yard? If they did, they didn't show it...nor did they seem to smell that she had passed through the gate and gone to the west. The herd enjoyed Kevin's apples and went back out to graze.

We scanned the area with binoculars...we saw no sign of Zorita anywhere in view. Was she watching from the shelter of the forest? Or was she still off exploring her new world on her own?

The sun set, darkness settled in and still no sign of Zorita. She simply vanished! Amazing choice on her part! This highly domesticated mare took no time in reverting to a bit of wild behavior. What a worrisome, humbling feeling this gave us. A warm evening was unfolding, no threat of storms..."one simply has to trust nature", we told ourselves--even though just a few days ago Zorita seemed to us to be so vulnerable, so slight and unprepared for the rugged world of Ravenseyrie.

At dawn, the herd was waiting for me to set out their breakfast oats. I thought I saw an equine form on the other side of Kevin's market garden. It got a bit lighter as daylight progressed and I could see the equine form was really a patch of tall wildflowers. No Zorita. We scanned the area with our binoculars...nothing.

She's a phantom horse now, we jested...nervously.

We had breakfast.

After coffee, the pups and I went for our typical morning hike. I went to the area we last saw Zorita heading. I hoped to see her--but I didn't expect goodness, she could be just about anywhere!

Along the way the pups and I went through the seasonal pond in the middle of the marshy area and then headed north. There! Along the northwest fence line!

Zorita! She was grazing by the fence--the neighbor's cows were on the other side--clearly Zorita was comforted by their presence. She sees us, picks up her head, puts her neck up in the clouds, gets as good a look as she can. I think the dogs might cause her to flee...I call out to her, "Hello Zorita...its just us, no worries." She drops back to grazing.

I do not go up to her, instead I walk in an arc around her and step slightly into the cedar woods and turn to take some photos. She is stunning, and seems so completely changed from just a little over a month ago when Bonnie sent this photo of one of the pony club gals posing with Zorita and her 2008 colt:
I tell her she is gorgeous and I am happy to see her. But I do not go up to here even then...I turn and begin walking north. She catches up to me. It is then I allow myself to stroke her, pull a burr from her forelock and itch her shoulders.

I resume walking. Zorita does too. Once I get to the bluff's edge, I sit on a rock and observe Zorita as she grazes. The pups root around the area and Zorita watches them while she grazes. After she moved off a bit, she got a little nervous and came trotting by me. I had the camera at the ready and took a bit of video footage:

Zorita soon settled back into grazing and the pups and I went back to walking along the bluff's edge. Zorita thought she'd like to join us and I filmed a little bit of it--which was tricky when we entered the cedar forest. The bluff falls steeply away on the left and the branches are low, requiring ducking under many times. You'll note how each time I stop, so does Zorita. This is an example of what Carolyn Resnick calls, Companion Walking, and it was delightful to do this with Zorita.

Once we got through this part of the forest and entered the clearing beyond, we could see the herd grazing just beyond a slight copse of Poplar trees. I thought maybe Zorita would maybe want to go back in hiding, so I altered my course. Companion walking ended then, to my surprise, as Zorita trotted out to the herd with determination. She stopped briefly, all poised and quivering with anticipation--and my stomach tightened as the herd took note of her. "Here we go!", I thought. Within minutes, the herd was in motion and the hazing began in earnest. Gulp!

Feeble human legs cannot keep up with galloping horses, so there is no point in trying. I took several segments of moving footage, then sat on a rock, listening to the thundering of hooves and the crashing of branches as the herd took their mad gallop into the forest. Back and forth, in and out, around and about until handfuls of the herd opted out of the game and stood not too far off from me to catch their breath. Soon, it was just Altamiro and Zorita, dashing by me:

Then the rest of the herd joined in again and all thirteen equines were quickly out of sight, once again weaving crazily through the forest at the edge of the bluff. It wasn't long before the only ones left playing the game were once again Altamiro and Zorita--and this time they went way off to the northwest sector and didn't return. Every so often I could hear a squeal. I wanted to go out there and see what was happening. But I knew I had to get back to the house or I'd be late for work.

I had to leave the scene...once again, trusting in the good of nature. And here I am at the studio, unable to work on art...instead am putting this journal entry together and watching the slow moving clock, anticipating the strike of four, when I can close up and go back up the bluff to see how the integration is going. Three bells! Only one more hour!


Annemiek said...

Dear Lynne,

Just a quick note: I cannot believe those two pictures are both Zorita! What a transformation! I have to go now, but I will be back as soon as I can. I cannot wait to hear how they are doing.

eva said...

Yes, the difference in her appearance is stunning. It looks as if her "inner mustang" has been in hiding for all those years, covered under fat pads. She must have been drunk with emotions when suddenly there were no more barriers between her and the wide open space.

It will e interesting to see if she preserves her attachment to humans or will go "native".

Can't wait to hear how the story unfolds.
Lynne, i think you deserve another week of vacation, don't you think?

Leslie said...

Oh Lynne this is like a soap opera unfolding!! I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens and hoping with all my heart that Zorita is ok!! Btw...she is STUNNING!!!!! I'll be there with camera tomorrow by noon ;o)(first I have to wipe the drool from my camera...)

Erin said...

Heh, so much like her dam, who too was very alpha that no horse in the pasture was safe from her. Even Zoe's half sister Amie (out of a different sire, a Sulphur/Kiger cross) was the same, beat up an imported Warmblood yearling in FL at her new home that her owner had to sell Amie, cant afford her beating up the Warmbloods.