Monday, January 25, 2010

Touching Faraway Places / Ravenseyrie and the Hungarian Connection

An equine skull which I found down the steep section of the bluff here at Ravenseyrie. I was told that there hadn't been horses on this property since the 1930's. Alford Fogal believes it might be the skull of the last horse his father had, who's name was "Old Babe". It's amazing that I chanced upon it--and full of interesting portent...

This brief journal entry shares with readers the epilogue which I wrote yesterday for a book a Hungarian researcher is putting together using material from the Journal of Ravenseyrie.

András Madocsai, author of Napkelet Lovai [trans. Horses From the Orient] (scheduled for publication this spring) approached me last September with an interest in writing a book about the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve. András has a special interest in ancestral horses, specifically with the Hungarian Hucul horse, and has followed the Journal of Ravenseyrie for some time. András appreciates the type of preservation effort Kevin and I have established here on Manitoulin Island and extols the value of bringing together the Portuguese Sorraia and select North American mustangs of Sorraia type in a wilderness habitat.

Below is an article written by András, recently published in the January issue of LOVAS NEMZET. If you click on each image, you can see an enlarged version. (Astute readers will notice two of the photos are from Ravenseyrie.)

Feeling that many of the Journal of Ravenseyire blog entries lend themselves to chapters of a story that his Hungarian countrymen would enjoy reading, András approached me on writing a joint book. Unfortunately, I did not think I would be able to devote the time to such a project but suggested if he could weave a flowing thread from the material already presented in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, I would give my blessing to his translating my words into Hungarian (no small task!) and incorporating my photos into book form.

András has been hard at work and completed the translations, layout and title for the manuscript. The title András has proposed is, RAVENSEYRIE: New Home of Ancient Horses / An Untouched Microcosm in the Dawn of the Apocalypse. All that remained was for me to write an epilogue, which I finally got around to doing and thought I would share here in this journal entry as a means of letting readers know about this transcontinental project.

When I first realized that András had chosen the word "apocalypse"as part of the title for this book, I felt repulsed by it. Just to read that word, "apocalypse" conjures up thoughts of cataclysmic endings, destruction, death and hopelessness. Not wanting such thoughts to be part of any book about Ravenseyrie, I considered asking András to please craft a different title. Instead, I waited several days, and thought deeply on this title and the implications it necessarily generates...Having paused for this contemplation, I finally concluded that András was right to form this title and attach it to the story of the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve.

The world is indeed experiencing destructive changes with the potential for cataclysmic endings. And, once again the noble equine is being marginalized, abused and in many cases nearly annihilated (as is the present situation with the North American Mustang at the hand of the United States government.)

Over the long history of horse/human relationships, the most primitive of horses, the "ancestral" stock was first revered during the dawn of domestication and later despised, as humans sought to improve upon what nature had spent eons perfecting, only to find, time and again that the primeval genetics of native wild horses contain an intelligence, strength and vigor which resists complete dilution and atavistically remains in many rustic horse types even today. How fortunate for us!

With the loss of biodiversity growing day by day, we are, indeed, apocalyptically vulnerable, but not without a capacity to right wrongs...the situation is not hopeless, it is hopeful! And the primeval horses can serve as one means of giving something back to the environment.

It is vitally important that we gather up these remaining ancestral horses, reunite them with their natural habitats and support them in ways that help them once again flourish. Already we have excellent role models to follow like those in the Netherlands, England and Latvia where conservationists have created nature preserves incorporating wild herds of Konik horses as part of "re-wilding" efforts designed to maintain open grassland habitats which support a complex tapestry of biodiversity at risk of being overtaken by encroaching forest.

The story András has pieced together from my online blog, The Journal of Ravenseyrie is indeed a microcosm of what wonders can be achieved even on a smaller scale. With more nations becoming involved, alongside individuals like Kevin and me here in Canada and Hardy Oelke in Germany, the preservation of ancestral horses is not just beneficial for the human spirit, but essential for the health of our good Mother Earth. We are engaged in this preservation effort not only for ourselves but for all of creation.

I hope you have enjoyed the beauty of Ravenseyrie as translated and edited into book form so sensitively by András Madocsai. May you experience vicariously what I do in living this wilderness life with the horses and come to realize, as I did, the goodness and intelligence in all of Nature and how vital it is for us to preserve and nurture this wonderful realm within which our very existence depends.
--Lynne Gerard
Manitoulin Island, 24Jan10

When the book is published, I will be sure to let readers know. There may be some of you out there who can read Hungarian and desire a copy. Until then I wish András Madocsai continued good research and reporting on the value of preserving ancient lineages of horses. Thank you, András, for your interest in Ravenseyrie.

In closing, I am sharing several photos taken by my friend Annemiek when she visited two of the nature reserves in the Netherlands where wild, free-roaming herds of Konik horses play an essential role in maintaining the open landscape. We'll read more about these horses when I complete my journal entry on the Tarpan. Thank you Annemiek, for these terrific photos!

A large herd of Konik horses at the Oostvaarderplassen nature preserve
(Photos: A. Stuart)

Konik horses on a nature preserve near Arnhem in the Netherlands
(Photos: A. Stuart)


June said...

What a lovely project! The photos of the Konik horses remind me of the seal dun Highland ponies of my youth in Scotland - a canny breed if ever there was!

Lynne Gerard said...

June wrote, "The photos of the Konik horses remind me of the seal dun Highland ponies of my youth in Scotland".

The journey my studies are taking me on is showing me that the "Tarpan" likely had many variations, with the Highland ponies being one example and the Sorraias another example. These primeval horse types adapted to their environment in ways that altered them morphologically, their primitive colouring, behavior and capacity for surviving in the harshest conditions show the unifying thread between variants.

kentaur8 said...