Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thirteen For Breakfast!

Oh my!

What a change in just an afternoon!

Because I took extra time with Zorita yesterday morning, I didn't have enough of it left to ride my bike to work. Instead I had Kevin drop me off since he had errands in the village to take care of. Of course this meant that come quitting time, Kev had to come back down the bluff to fetch me. While we were bumping around in the Jeep heading back up to Ravenseyrie, Kevin relayed the events which had transpired while I was at work.

Now I must tell you, Kevin is not the type of fella to embellish a story with fanciful conjecture--which makes his tale all the more compelling and believable.

After lunch, Kevin took the pups and went down to the lake shore to visit with Zorita and bring her some apples.

(Speaking of apples...I must insert a photo here of the amazing apple tree in our yard. When the old house burned, this tree was virtually killed, but like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, there were shoots off the base of the charred trunk that had such a desire to survive they formed themselves into a new tree totally enveloping the burned trunk. No one seems to be able to tell us what kind of apple tree this is--but it is becoming rather renown for its splendid fruit--best for baking, which that Kevin sells at the Gore Bay Farmer's Market.)
Ravenseyrie Apples, beloved by equines and humans alike

Back to our story...

Kevin and the pups took the Short Road to the beach, and then worked their way through the forest edge over to the neighbor's property. Zorita met him halfway. After enjoying her apple treats and letting Kevin pull a few burrs from her forelock, Zorita followed Kevin back through the woods to the Short Road.

Taking their time, just enjoying the day together, Kevin walked slowly back up the bluff while Zorita paused here and there to graze upon the vegetation growing along the rocky road. With the pups sniffing out informative smells in and out of the woods on either side of the road, the group of walkers entered into the region of the bluff we have named, "The Grotto". The Grotto is an unusual clearing, almost like a meadow in a brief level area of the terraced section of the climb up the bluff. This place is a hub of sorts--it is the point where to the east you can take a trail to the neighbor's road leading down to their camp, you can go straight and use the Short Road to one section of our beach, or you can curve westward and follow the road that leads to the section of beach where our bunkie/boathouse is. The Grotto has immense rocks ("glacial erratics" they are termed by geologists) and lots of meadow grasses to graze. There is something especially spiritual in this area. Kevin took up a repose on one of these large glacial erratics and had a chat with Zorita while she was grazing this meadow.

Kevin relayed to Zorita how happy we are to have her living with us here at Ravenseyrie, and how relieved we are that she is finding comfortable, isolated places to gain an understanding of her surroundings. He also told her that eventually it would be best for her to join the herd and that we hoped it would be soon because we worried about her living down here all alone.

After some time had passed, Kevin felt it was time to finish the hike up the bluff and get some farm work accomplished. He said good-bye to Zorita and turned with the pups to walk up the next hill. Zorita came too. Once again they resumed a slow ascent, with Zorita casually grazing along the way. When they came to the final hill which would deposit them up on the table land, Kevin relays that Zorita's demeanor and posture completely altered. Gone was the casual amble--instead she strode by him with great intent. Her bearing was determined, confident and full of purpose. Kevin sped up his step to keep up with her. When they got to the top, with the prairie grasslands spread out before them, Kevin could see the herd grazing just the other side of his market garden field. Zorita saw them too.

What do you think happened next?

Kevin says without hesitation, Zorita trotted off, later breaking into a strong canter on a trajectory taking her directly to the herd which was rather spread out, grazing. Zorita ran right into this space and stopped just behind where Zeus and Mistral were grazing and she stood there, waiting.

A few moments went by before suddenly Mistral seemed to realize this wasn't one of the other grullas--this was the newcomer! He wheeled around and began to haze her and within seconds, he was joined by Zeus and Altamiro. The four of them raced to the "Turn-around Woods" off to the west. The rest of the herd watched from their various former grazing spots. Kevin could see Zorita, Zeus, Altamiro and Mistral running in and out of the woods. Eventually the excitement got the better of the rest of the herd and they too joined in the stampede.

Before the mad gallopers could come back his way, Kevin was able to get the pups on the other side of the fence and out of harm's way. The herd stayed running off to the west. Kevin pulled his watch out of his pocket and with some surprise realized it was time to come get he put the dogs in the house and left the scene.

"You left!" I hollered at him, on our ride home..."you should have stayed and watched to see what was going to happen out there!" "But I had to come get you..." he said. "I would have understood, I would have waited," I replied. "No, I knew you'd want to be here yourself". we rush the rest of the way home. I change into my farm clothes and we tramp off to the west where we can see a few herd members grazing.

And when we came on the scene...Zorita was grazing by Altamiro, in tight, like a lover.
Ciente, enjoying the protection and affection of Altamiro
But the herd is settled only moments at a time, enjoying brief periods of calm and wary grazing, until they are pressed into movement again. It is that dastardly Mistral! Oh, you cannot help but admire the old codger, in between feeling a bit peeved at his relentless hazing! However, Altamiro has made a deeper connection this time with Zorita, it seems...and he is indefatigable in his role as protector of the newcomer.

The herd made its way in this manner--quiet grazing interspersed with hazing gallops and mini-battles until they were up near the fencing by the yard. I had witnessed deft posturings by Altamiro, incredibly regal in appearnce, haute école maneuvers galore and a canter on the spot--which I wanted to see repeated so I could capture it on the camera, but unfortunately (largely due to the mules bumping me constantly!) I only got one battle scene recorded...and not in the more pleasing open spaces, instead by a pile of old siding left by the former owners of the property.

These types of scenes were played out all evening, and likely throughout the night hours as well.

In the morning, I had thirteen horses for breakfast!

Mistral was still keeping Altamiro and Zorita on the go, but everyone managed to settle for brief snatches at the pans containing whole oats, diatomaceous earth and dried molasses.
Zorita and Altamiro share a pan of oats (left) during the early misty morning at Ravenseyrie

The light was very dim, and there was much moisture hanging in the air, making it very difficult for a novice photographer to capture the true beauty of this special breakfast, but you can, even so, get the feel of the primitive Sorraia phenotype these horses possess.

And soon, the sun began to bathe the morning with gorgeous color:Zorita and Altamiro at the break of dawn

A little footage of Altamiro and Zorita milling about, and Animado giving himself a good rump itch on the fence:

Later, after coffee, the pups and I headed out for our routine hike and T'ai Chi practice, something we hadn't been able to do since Zorita's arrival. On our way back we came upon the herd. I paused to take photos, and Zorita decided to come up for a little chat, bringing her handsome beau with her.

And the last scene I observed in the distance before heading off to work this morning was this:
Phew! It was an usual integration, and Mistral is still going to harass Zorita for awhile yet...but she is now part of the herd, which she did on her own terms. And I'd better write on my calendar that she's been bred with a foal possible next August! Aren't we all breathing easier now?


Annemiek said...

Dear Lynne,

Oh, you know how to build up the suspense. I mean I love the apple tree, but I was holding my breath again while reading the story of Zorita’s adventure. What a wonderful story, I hope any doubts you had (while worrying about Zorita’s integration) about breeding Sorraia’s, will have disappeared with this wonderful event. Your place is not only unique because of the Sorraia’s, and its beauty but also because of the amazing things that transpire we all get to witness through your blog. Remember Animado’s birth? There is so much to learn about horses, and so few places to observe horses like this in a “semi natural” environment. We can read about animal emotions all we want, but when I look at the first photo of Altamiro with Zorita it says it all!

Janet Grant said...

Hi Lynne,
I have been glued to your blog this week since Zorita's arrival. What a relief that she has integrated well and what a lovely mare she is.

I can understand your anxiety and uncertainty about your decision to bring more horses into the world with your Sorraia preserve, especially since they have been arriving much sooner than expected! (Altimiro is a very talented and clever boy.)

I also have mixed feelings about adding to Ontario's already very large horse population, but I do agree that the lovely Sorraia is worth preserving.

I believe your true destiny is to record the herd's life and interactions on your preserve and to tell these stories to the world. You are in a unique position - you are a very talented writer and a knowledge horse person with close relations to a semi-wild herd. In all the thousands of years humans have been interacting with horses, never before has there been this oportunity to record and share these experiences with like minded people across the Internet.

As I have said in past, I am fairly new to the horse world, and I don't like what I see. You are able to show the world that horses are highly intelligent, social beings that deserve much better treatment than they currently receive. That's just my opinion, but please keep writing - show the world what horses really are.

Leslie said...

Ditto my sister's remarks! What a wonderful continuing journey you are recording Lynne. I would love to see all your musings turned into a book someday. I'd be first in line to buy one! ;o)

eva said...

I am reading this story and feel transported. Transfixed.

Is this the same planet I inhabit?

And what a gargantuan task for two individuals: to save a species from extinction.

I admit, on this friday night, I can barely wrap my head around this IDEA. I would feel a lot more comfortable if I saw that arch sitting there, right next to the Ravenseyrie preserve, ready for takeoff.

Will you take me, please, me and my mate of 15 years, and my castrated horse, and two castrated cats?

Oh, what have we done...

Lynne Gerard said...

Well, I had written a long comment discussing the things you ladies have mentioned here...but the electronic ether seems to have sent my reply to the underworld instead.

I'm out of time, but will try to recreate things a bit later today.

I sure appreciate your comments, Annemiek, Janet, Leslie and Eva.

Lynne Gerard said...

Annemiek wrote: "We can read about animal emotions all we want, but when I look at the first photo of Altamiro with Zorita it says it all!"

It is so queer to me that humans could ever hold the opinion that other beings do not possess emotions. What kind of strange, aberrant mindset initially imagined this was so? To come to believe that humans are the only emotive life forms (along with a superior intelligence) may have allowed for people to overlook any guilt or responsibility for the use and plunder of the environment
and its is not so different from how humans once viewed slaves--and like slavery such thinking will soon be abolished.

As Annemiek noted, the photos of Zorita display something quite obvious-- and to me it expresses an emotion that goes beyond mere sexual gratification. When I see the tender pressing of their bodies, shoulder to shoulder and their soft expressions I am overjoyed to feel that Zorita has received a measure of mental healing after the major upset we cause in her world.

As my friend, Jean, noted in an email, Zorita's desire to make a space apart from our herd (when initially released into it) likely had many reasons--part of which surely included the emotional upheaval of being sold yet again and this after experiencing the births and weanings of two foals.

The life Zorita had with Bonnie at Echo Glen in Oregon was quite being where she grew up (Bonnie acquired her at age 2) and experienced lots of good equine and human companionship in addition to motherhood. Suddenly, she is swept up into a strange journey across the continent. Its no wonder she needed some time alone to process all that had happened thus far in her life.

When she was ready...she knew exactly the best way to insert herself in the herd. I admire her and am so happy that she decided this would be a good herd to become part of after all.

Janet wrote: "
I believe your true destiny is to record the herd's life and interactions on your preserve and to tell these stories to the world."

There appears to be an evolution afoot in the way humans perceive animals...especially horses, so the time for this journal is no coincidence. But I am not alone--there is a fellow in California who has a similar situation he is documenting with camels. And a wonderful woman in New Zealand has acquired 30 + head of feral horses that roam that region and has begun to share her story and observations as well. In the near future, I plan to put a journal entry introducing the blogs of some of the other folks who are chronicling their relationships with animals that dispels old modes of thinking.

Leslie wrote: "I would love to see all your musings turned into a book someday.'

Leslie, I know the book would be all the richer if it also contained some of your beautiful photographs.

Eva wrote: "
And what a gargantuan task for two individuals: to save a species from extinction."

Let's not imagine that we are doing this alone. We have the legacy of Ruy d'Andrade that continues to be honored by his sons and grandsons in Portugal--without which there would be no purebred Sorraia left anywhere in the world. There is also the nucleus of purebred Sorraia horses in German (obtained from d'Andrade). While the support for the Sorraia isn't embraced large scale as has been that of the Polish Konik in Europe, it nevertheless continues to hang just enough to keep from losing it all.

What Kevin and I are doing is one small piece of the puzzle--one that I feel will one day be appreciated more fully should the already bottlenecked genetics of the purebred Sorraia suffer further loss of diversity. (they are down to just two maternal lines!)

Altamiro's offspring represent an amazing resurgence of genetic vigor. The modern purebred Sorraia genetics crossed with the surviving old world genetics of their ancient predecessors as represented in select mustangs of Sorraia type is (in my opinion) an excellent safety net to keep these ancestral strains viable and accessible.

It would help for sure if more people were working towards something similar. And here is where I put out hope that one day soon Erin Grey will make Sovina a herd sire among carefully picked mares of Sorraia type. He deserves this legacy too! And she is right there in Oregon were so many of the Sorraia mustangs continue to emerge in the wild!

Eva wrote: "
Will you take me, please, me and my mate of 15 years, and my castrated horse, and two castrated cats?"

Eva I consider you an integral element of the wave of insight that is emerging in humans facilitating a change in how we perceive our relations with animals. And there you are in California were so many wonderful breakthroughs in conscious occur...the arch you spoke of in your reply is just behind closed eyelids.