Monday, June 29, 2009

Whims of a Wilderness Stallion

A study in contrasts: the lovely Polish Arabian concave profile of the aged gelding, Mistral and the aristocratic convex profile of the four year old Sorraia stallion, Altamiro.

Eva left a comment in my last journal entry that included:
"How are the domestics doing? Have they settled into their own little society with their own rituals? Is Mistral putting on weight and enjoying himself? How do you divide your time between these bands?"

This seems as good a segue as any to show off Altamiro a little and at the same time answer Eva's queries.

Altamiro continues to keep the domestics away from his harem band. While the draft mules, Dee, Doll and Jerry appear to have "floater's rights", Zeus and Mistral are not allowed in close at all. Dee and Doll do not enter the nucleus of the harem, but they are tolerated enough to graze off fifty feet or more, and Jerry is often closer than that and engaged in playful sparring by Altamiro and (even Animado and Interessado on rare occasions).
Doll, takes a break from grazing to keep an eye out for where the primitives are going...soon she followed at a respectful distance, as did her other mule mates.

Whether it is pheromones in the wind or a casual derisive gaze the domestics throw at Altamiro, he occasionally puts a chase on the geldings or as in the sequence of photos (below) shows, goes out and has a "discussion". What I find especially interesting about the series of photos I'm sharing today is how ardent and earnest Altamiro is in delivering his part of the conversation, and how "ho-hum" Mistral's response is to what Altamiro feels is so important to talk about.
In the end, Mistral's self-control kept him from being caught up in whatever drama this young Sorraia stallion was hoping to create and the "event" fizzled into each of them going about grazing the grasses and herbs while slowly working their way back to their respective herd mates.

Altamiro is a stallion who has a lot of energy and is often motivated by whims that I have yet to come to understand that have him going off and trying to create something exciting to do as an outlet for his energy. One comment from a reader was compelled to point out that she had heard from the Portuguese themselves that "a typical Sorraia will often be aggressive and stubborn" and this same reader commented that "I also wanted to add that I have met Sovina [the Sorraia stallion in Oregon] in person. He is just as stubborn and aggressive as the Portuguese say that the Sorraia is typical for." Watching Altamiro express himself and delight in the way his body feels when he shows off, I can well imagine that if one were to take a horse like this and put him in a dirt paddock all by himself, or cloister him in a stall, he would, having no natural outlet for his extraordinary energy and verve, indeed become "aggressive and stubborn". This commentator felt this reflected the Sorraia's lack of quality, but I find it to be an example of the primitive wild horse psyche that is not so easily given to doing things the way humans demand. One comes to such a noble creature with great humility and a desire to engage each other in a more egalitarian fashion, which provides immense reward, as I'll describe further down in today's journal entry.

But first, to answer more of Eva's queries.

Zeus and Mistral will often now take their grazing breaks under the windblown spruce tree up by the house. Sly boys...they know that the more they are by the house, the more likely it is that Kevin and Lynne will come out with apples, adoring praise for their exquisite good looks and itch sessions! The next two photos, show Zeus enjoying the good itching Kevin is giving him.
Now that there are fourteen equines living here, I'm finding it difficult to give everyone the attention that I'd like to - but if I am honest with myself, probably it doesn't matter all that much to the horses and mules. Theirs is a life of fascinatingly rich relationships among themselves with a never ending variety of routines that they carry out over the varied 360 acres they call home. I believe they enjoy whatever attention they receive from us humans, but I don't think they consider themselves lacking if they don't get an in-depth one on one with either Kevin or I. It's a bit humbling to realize how unnecessary we are to them, at least when their entire environment provides all their needs. (In wintertime, our presence in their lives is much more essential to them.)

I'd also like to share today some photos taken on Sunday, after a good rain shower. I had gone out to where the primitives were and was once again delighted by the nuances of the varieties of their grulla colouring, especially against the slightly foggy character of the atmosphere.

Sovina's Zorita, due to have her foal in late August--I sure love her colour!

Altamiro was standing about thirty feet off from his harem, dozing. His senses picked up the presence of dogs moving through the area and in this photo he is suddenly fully awake, appraising the passage of our dog, Tobacco off in the distance. His posture took my breath away, and even though I wasn't at the best angle to take a photo showing his wonderful conformation to best advantage, this image nevertheless conveys what a spectacular presence Altamiro possesses.

The magnificent Sorraia stallion, Altamiro!

After Altamiro had determined the canine passing by was Tobacco and not some roaming wolf, he settled back down into a posture that would soon bring him back to the state of dozing. I went over and stood on a rock that was about fifteen feet away and beckoned him to come over for itches. He regarded me with a bored expression, cocked a hip and closed his eyes. So, I went over to him and began to scratch all the spots that the biting insects had left welts as souvenirs of their blood-gathering visits. I could tell by the way he was responding that the boy was now hooked. So I went back over to the rock and motioned him to come, which he did and he lined himself up right in position for me to slide aboard. Altamiro is an "unbroke" semi-wild young stallion, and yet here he was offering me his back. I did not throw a leg over, but I definitely used the opportunity drape my upper body over his back and itch him on the opposite side. He was very steady, very mellow and very pleased to have this type of scratching taking place. I was euphoric, of course! And, I can well imagine there will one day be mounted itches in our future - and if he is willing, perhaps even some explorations into brief artistic riding...

Last year, I would not have imagined this type of closeness with Altamiro--he was going through a period of aloofness and sometimes when I would reach out to caress him, he would snort and run the other way. I felt like he'd forgotten how close we had grown when he was one and two years old. I felt he looked upon me with a certain sense of distrust. It grieved me for awhile, so I had to remind myself that Altamiro's role as a herd stallion would likely mean that he would not ever want me to ride him or even share an intimate friendship. I came to accept this and admired how he was developing into such a spectacular, vigilant and vigorous stallion--I realized it was enough to just glory in his presence. But this year, we have had many great connections, hooking into that synchronized "heart to heart" resonance that has become, for me, the only way I want to be with horses.

This photo shows the position Altamiro took up when he wanted me to give his buttocks and tail a thorough itching.

To have a young stallion living among his harem of mares out in the big wide open make the choice of his own volition to come and have a heart to heart interaction with me has got to be one of life's most magical experiences--far better than trying to befriend him by putting him in a separate dirt paddock so that he has no choice but to pay attention to me.

After this special one on one time with Altamiro, I went over to share some time with Fada. Soon, Altamiro got whiff of something about Ciente that caused him to passage elegantly over to where she was and engage her in some soft, murmuring dialogue. I couldn't get my camera out in time to capture his gorgeous dance in collection, but I did get a couple of photos of the intimate talk these two were having. Does he sense that she is to deliver her foal in the next couple of weeks? (The one photo shows Fada's ears as I was taking the photos with one hand and continuing to itch her with the other).

Altamiro and Ciente converse about something only they know the content of.


eva said...

Lynne, thank you for this gorgeous photo series. It is good to see Mistral in such great shape and form, and to see that Altamiro treats him with the respect that he deserves. Funny how they disengage by slowly grazing away from each other without anyone looking as if he ceded the territory.

Altamiro overlooking his kingdom is a breath-taking sight indeed. So cool you two found a way of reconnecting, but be careful with those "artistic" rides -:)

When i look at this horse paradise I am weeping one tear for each horse that was born, lived, and died without every having a chance to experience the life that was meant to be theirs.


Lynne Gerard said...

Eva wrote:
"So cool you two found a way of reconnecting, but be careful with those "artistic" rides -:)"

I hear you!
I seem to recall something from Carolyn Resnick's book where she talks about only engaging with the horse when he is in the best frame of mind to receive her, and you can bet that this is something I find paramount in my interactions with Altamiro. It would be fool-hardy to have draped myself over his back at most any other time--one must wait for the particularly receptive state of being.

Thank you for sharing your always penetrating thoughts.