Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sorraia Satori

A few days ago, I had been out among members of Altamiro's family band, enjoying their company on a fine autumn day. As for Altamiro, he decided to quietly cross the open prairie land to make mischief among Mistral's group grazing over to the far east. Those of us left behind soon gave little thought as to what shenanigans the Sorraia stallion might be up to.

The mares and foals took napping positions and I weaved my way through their sleeping bodies pulling burrs and detangling manes, loving that sensation of being "one of them". Occasionally I could hear equine squeals which prompted me to walk to a position where I could view what type of extra-curricular activities Altamiro had immersed himself in. No worries--my spying on them simply revealed Altamiro was engaged in the rough and tumble pleasure of amicably sparring with his two year old sons and the domestic geldings.

I noticed that Ciente and her yearling colt, Silvestre had decided to leave our group and graze quite away further to the north. It is so like this mare to just wander off and please herself (though as mentioned in my past journal entry, it often gets her into a bit of trouble) and I had a feeling that Altamiro would not be happy when he returned to see her so far away from where he had left her and the rest of the family group.

I'd like to share a photo sequence with you that I took as soon as I noticed Altamiro was making his way back to his own territory:
While galloping back Altamiro keeps his vision oriented on both where I am with the majority of his family, but also is well aware of how separate Ciente and Silvestre are from the rest of us.

At a certain point Altamiro makes the decision to focus completely in the direction of where Ciente and Silvestre are.

Altamiro soon dropped to a walk, and took up some light grazing, hoping to reflect an air of nonchalance, while casually moving closer to where Ciente and Silvestre were. (Ciente and Silvestre are grazing close together off the right of the Zen Elm tree and Altamiro is the solitary form more near the right side of the photo...a little hard to see without the zoom lens in use.)

Ciente knew this cool indifference her stallion was trying to project was false and she and Silvestre began to make a run back to the rest of the herd.

As soon as Altamiro saw Ciente make a run for it, he took up the chase and in no time at all was upon them.

In a deft move, Ciente and Silvestre briefly put on the brakes which caused Altamiro to lose his driving advantage.

As he worked to get back into driving position, Ciente backed up in his direction several strides and kicked out at him.

Ciente and Silvestre then turned toward Altamiro as if to say, "Why so rough, you tyrant?! We're going back home, no need to be such a mean guy."

"Still feeling grumpy? Okay, no problem, were heading back, Mr. Man."

With matched looks of haughty indignation, Ciente and Silvestre continue to run back to the family band.

Here, as Ciente passes by me, I cannot help but feel she has an expression of bemusement, one that stuck with me in a most curious way.

Whereas Altamiro's expression as he passes by me gives the impression that he is peeved, not so much that Ciente dared wander so far away from the herd, but that she was so in control of how that return run was carried out.

Back with the family band, Ciente shakes her lovely long tresses in satisfaction while Silvestre gets right back to grazing.

There was something vastly different about this chase...what was it?

In D.T. Suzuki's book, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism Suzuki wrote:

"The object of Zen discipline consists in acquiring a new viewpoint for looking into the essence of things...This acquiring of a new viewpoint in Zen is called satori...Satori may be defined as intuitive looking-into, in contradistinction to intellectual and logical understanding. Whatever the definition, satori means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistic mind."

Remembering the sensations from being there while photographing Altamiro chasing Silvestre and Ciente and replaying that bemused expression of hers in my mind it finally dawned upon me that perhaps it was possible that this mare (who is so in the habit of doing her own thing, even if she knows it will prompt a reprimand from her stallion) is displaying a preference for a little excitement? Maybe her wandering off is not so much the product of her daydreaming and being unaware of how her actions will provoke a reaction in Altamiro--perhaps it is deliberate! As soon as I chanced upon this line of thinking I felt that "ah-ha!" of satori. The intellect tells one that the mare runs from the stallion because he is driving her...but the heart reveals that the stallion runs after the mare because she draws him like a magnet into her own manner of play.

This chase scene turns out to have been a catalyst for satori, and has helped me acquire a different viewpoint. It seems quite possible that sometimes mares like to make a little mischief of their own at the stallion's expense, wouldn't you agree?


Kris McCormack said...

What you said about Ciente drawing Altamiro into her own form of play reminded of something that is written on Imke Spilker's website, namely that mares require more space to play than male horses. Mares characteristically playing running games (like that sudden stop). Of course, males play running games, too -- but not in exactly the same way. There's more rearing and nipping at each other in male play.

Anyway, clever of the beautiful Ciente to lure Altamiro into girl games. :-)

June said...

Hmm. Bridget picked today to discover a new game - running along by the fence, goading the dog to run along beside her on the other side!

June said...

Fantastic photos, by the way!!!

June said...

I love the collusion between Ciente and Silvestre.

Lynne Gerard said...

Kris thank you for relaying that Imke Spilker's website talks about the differences between how male horses play versus females. It was such a revelation to me to realize that Ciente had rather set that particular running game up from the very start! I think it was a bit of a surprise for Altamiro too!

I'll be more aware now of the gals making their own brand of mischief.

June, you picked the right word for the relationship Ciente presently has with Silvestre. He, too, is a mischief-maker just like his ma and pa and I think he really appreciated being in on this last game.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Annemiek said...

Dear Lynne,
Somehow it seems the mares exercise their will in a much more subtle way then we ( and their stallions) could ever imagine. I wonder if Altamiro realized she was pushing his buttons. In fact it does make perfect sense that mares would come up with such initiatives. Isn’t this a really funny way to create some excitement? I wonder now that you look at their behavior this way, if you’ll notice more actions like this, maybe the other mares have their little tricks too?

Máire said...

These are great photographs, Lynne. I love the way Cientre and Silvestre came to a stop, wrong-footing Altamiro. And, as you say, that expression on Ciente's face would leave you wondering, just what was going on?

How fortunate you are, to see all these wild horse interactions.

Lynne Gerard said...

Annemiek wrote:
"I wonder now that you look at their behavior this way, if you’ll notice more actions like this, maybe the other mares have their little tricks too?"

Probably my logical mind (corrupted and clouded by notions of what herd dynamics are reported to be like) has blinded me to many other such times when the mares "pushed Altamiro's buttons" for fun. I'm sure to notice these episodes now!

I have in the past observed how much FUN the youngsters have in leading each other off to a bit of a distance when they know their pa is gone and they wait for him to chase them back. They are like little kids who scream with glee, "Waaah!!! Here he comes better run, RUN!!", laughing all the way. And at those times Altamiro is not mean, but seems to play their game with the same enjoyment.

This is why I feel those clinical ethologies miss so much when they stereotype and label behavior in neat boxes.

Lynne Gerard said...

Maire wrote:
"How fortunate you are, to see all these wild horse interactions."

I feel very fortunate indeed, Maire. Being among these horses and receiving the education they so wonderfully provide makes me not feel the least bit guilty for being a university drop out!

June said...

This post of yours made me think - someone like Ciente or Silvestre, who has an alpha horse in a position of dominance or authority over them, still has a lot of options - they can make evil faces at the alpha, or kick at them, or subvert them, or laugh at them, or avoid them, or ignore them, to name a few. Whereas when a human uses the herd dynamic model to put himself in an alpha position over his horse, he allows his horse no such options.

Máire said...

Lynne, they are your university!

Lynne Gerard said...

June wrote:
"...Whereas when a human uses the herd dynamic model to put himself in an alpha position over his horse, he allows his horse no such options."

You are quite right, June. I don't think we have realized just how domineering and restrictive we humans are with horses...but we are learning and like Maire points out, the horses are our university!