Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Yearlings Explore New Options

Altamiro runs with Animado, Interessado and the venturesome yearling filly, Segura

I have been attempting for nearly a week to upload video clips to the article I've been working which shares about Altamiro's injury and his recovery process. Alas, the Blogger system is not cooperating and though it seems the videos load, when testing them, they do not play, rather an error message comes up. I finally put in a note on the Blogger help forum, along with several other bloggers who are having the same troubles. When it seems the glitch has been smoothed over and the system works properly again, I will complete that journal entry and post it as a follow up to the first Hygeia article.

For now, I'm sharing quite a few sequences of photos from various herd dynamics that have been occurring this autumn, most of which deal with Silvestre and Segura taking turns leaving the family band and mingling with Mistral's group and the excitement this generates for all of us.

For those not familiar with the set up of things here at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve on Manitoulin Island, perhaps a brief summary is in order.

The horses here at Ravenseyrie have the run of 360 acres which are fenced only on the outer parameter. Initially, when the primitive horses were still young, they formed just one herd, with our strong-minded Arabian gelding, Mistral, ruling as king. That early herd also contained our Thoroughbred gelding, Zeus, and the draft mules, Dee, Doll and Jerry. In the spring of 2009, when our purebred Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, was four years old and a father of four, he discovered his personal essence was strong enough to convince Mistral, Zeus and the mules to keep well away from his mares and foals prompting a distinct splitting into two separate herds, each claiming different territories on the landscape, with a flowing overlap in a central buffer zone. Also that year, as his 2008 offspring were approaching a year old, Altamiro expelled first Animado and then a month later, Interessado from the family band. These colts took up with Mistral's group and later that summer, the 2008 filly, Fada, left the family band by her own choice and also joined her brothers in Mistral's group.

In March of this year, Altamiro expelled his 2009 filly, Encantara, from the family band, but has not done the same with the other 2009 yearlings, Silvestre and Segura. Segura, Encantara and Animado were purchased by Mike and Sheri Olson of the Soul of Sorraia ranch in Oregon, who were planning to pick them up to take them across the continent this summer. We were counting on Segura joining up with Mistral's group in late spring so we could get these three youngsters ready for their exportation to the United States...however, this is not how things have transpired.

Instead, Altamiro has been surprisingly indulgent with Segura and Silvestre, allowing them each to leave the family on occasion to go mingle among Mistral's group, sometimes for short reprises of an hour or less, other times for an entire afternoon or an overnight experience. Most of the time, Silvestre and Segura return to the family band by their own choice, other times their father comes for them, cutting them out of Mistral's group and hazing them back to the family territory.

Kevin and I have learned that just because the horses carry on in a certain way one year, does not mean that they will follow the same pattern the next year. We are very appreciative that the Olson's are willing to postpone picking up Encantara, Segura and Animado until early spring of 2011, which allows Segura and Silvestre all winter to make their transition from the family band to Mistral's group. For whatever reason, the herd dynamics behind their natural "weaning" is taking a different expression than those of the four previously expelled youngsters.

As you work through the sequences of photos documenting some of these mingling episodes, please note how expressive the horses are in their bodies and how the presence of someone "new" brings out interesting behaviors. I'm sure, like me, you will be entranced by the beauty of these primitive Iberian horses and delighted by their manner of interacting and exploring new options.

Scenes from Segura mingling with Mistral's group:
Here Segura is sniffed and appraised by Interessado and Animado, with Fada looking on

Segura explores new territory with Fada and Encantara deciding whether they think this is acceptable or not

Segura continues exploring while the other youngsters watch her every move

I love this photo of these one and two year old youngsters together! From left to right: Segura, Interessado, Animado, Encantara (mostly blocked by Animado) and Fada
(Remember, you can click on any image and view it in a larger format)

Mistral finds an opportunity to show what he thinks about a potentially new herd member

A close up of Mistral's distinctive "stink eye" expression

Here Encantara and Segura get reacquainted...both are long yearlings, but Encantara was forced out of the family band by Altamiro in the early spring.

Fada and Segura exchange information about each other, with Interessado and Encantara nearby

Interessado attempts to keep Animado from getting closer to Segura

Scenes from Silvestre mingling with Mistral's group:

Here, once again, Mistral makes his opinion known...for his part, Silvestre is not too offended at the lack of a warm welcome from the old Arabian. Meanwhile, Animado and Interessado work at trying to get Silvestre's attention.

Here we catch up with Altamiro who has come to hang out with the boys as well. Silvestre and Interessado exchange nose-to-nose information while Altamiro and Animado snatch at grasses.

Silvestre and Animado play "nippy face" while Interessado and his father, Altamiro play their circling and chasing games.

During this sequence, we see Silvestre and Animado get to know each other in the way that boys do...checking out "the goods", culminating into Animado mounting Silvestre which the male horses seem to do as a dominance maneuver.

The show of dominance is short lived and once again the boys are back to playing the "nippy-face" game

Silvestre and Interessado:
Once again, we see in this sequence, a "checking the goods" and display of dominance

Silvestre with Interessado and Animado:

After having played with his older brothers for about half an hour, Silvestre decides to run back to the family band. Interessado followed him a short way and then came dashing back to where Mistral's group had resumed grazing.
Interessado and Animado:

The presence of Segura among Mistral's group generates a different type of excitement than when Silvestre is mingling with them. Unlike Silvestre, Segura has no interest in boy games, and her coyness prompts Animado and Interessado into ardent displays of male prowess!

These colts demonstrate the high degree of collection that comes so naturally to these Iberian horsesNote the amazing shortening from engaged haunches to lifted forehand. Compare the length of Interessado's back here with the photo we recently saw when he was galloping back to the group.

Here we get to appreciate the beautiful longitudinal flexion of Animado and the elegant lateral flexion of Interessado.

These photos make it seem as if Animado is the stronger force, however, Interessado actually was taking these bravado games much more seriously. When I can get video to upload, I will show a very interesting way the younger colt asserts himself.

Altamiro comes to get Segura:

One morning, the excitement was especially high as both Silvestre and Segura were mingling with Mistral's group at the same time! This caught the attention of Altamiro, who decided maybe he'd better come and fetch Segura.

After convincing Zeus and Mistral to move away from the young primitive horses, Altamiro sets about cutting Segura out and chasing her back to the family band.

Interessado tries to penetrate the family band, but is stopped by his own mother:

On one morning, Interessado decided he would wander over to see if he could convince Silvestre to come play some boy games, but he was soon confronted by his mother, Ciente. Silvestre and Interessado are full brothers, so this was an especially interesting episode for Ciente to cope with. Without hesitation, she made it clear that Interessado ought not to be near the family band, and in moments, Altamiro came to handle the situation himself, and eventually chases off the interloper.

A melee:

On the morning that both Silvestre and Segura were mingling with Mistral's group, there was quite a melee. Thankfully I was able to climb up on a rock so that I could continue to take photos and not get trampled by all those excited equine bodies. The energy all around me was fantastic and thrilling.

On one of the first days that Segura spent a little time mingling among Mistral's group, Interessado was so keen to demonstrate what a fine young lad he became transformed with such self-confidence that he managed to chase Mistral away! The only way this young colt was able to perform this feat was by catching Mistral off guard--in fact none of us were prepared for young unassuming Interessado to suddenly swell up with such swaggering courage. Days later, when Segura once again was mingling in Mistral's group, Mistral was "ready" and it was Interessado and Segura who were on the run...and Lynne without her camera to document how Mistral was once again in charge.

I did however get a few shots of
The surprise chase Interessado put on Mistral the first day:

After this first chase, Mistral had come back around with Zeus to test Interessado's resolve, and Interessado once again, managed to get Mistral to turn and run. Did Segura have any idea what an amazing feat this young colt had just accomplished?
Believe it or not, I have more photos I'd love to share...but fear that already this particular blog entry has wearied the attention of its readership, so I will save them for another time.

As mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I will get back to the topic of natural healing and share Altamiro's story as soon as the blogger video upload works once again for me. Also, readers can look forward to an entry sharing about the recent visit from Hardy Oelke. Hardy has kindly written up a short report of that trip and is sending me a CD of the photos he took while here. As soon as that arrives, I will put those in a journal entry, which I think you will find interesting.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how lovely the two-year-olds and the yearlings are and appreciate what a rare treat it is for us all to see these types of herd dynamics up close and personal.


June said...

It reads like a good novel!

Kris McCormack said...

Reading about these many exciting interactions reminds me yet again how fortunate the Ravenseyrie horses are. They live in large and diverse groups (compared to most domesticated horses), and they have a great deal of autonomy. How boring and how constricted by comparison are the lives of most human-kept horses...

Some lovely examples of truly natural collection, Lynne. Thanks!

Lynne Gerard said...

June, I'm glad you enjoyed the flow of novel-like photos.

Kris wrote:
"How boring and how constricted by comparison are the lives of most human-kept horses..."

Don't you think this is changing, as more and more come to see their horses are actually more than auxiliary equipment or luxury pets? Even those horses that don't have the benefit of group dynamics in a herd on large acreage can have a fulfilling life if their humans make a point to really include them in their lives, rather than skip off to the stable for an hour's ride.

I believe as things begin to change, we humans will do more to assure our horses have fuller, richer lives.

I think of Imke Spilker's comment, "Through this close connection with a human being the horse experiences himself in a new way." And, "We human beings have the power to reach horses emotionally. Instead of interacting destructively, using our inheritance of dominance to break the horse's spirit, we can use our power in a new way for the benefit of our horses."

Whether or not horses live like those here at Ravenseyrie, or are in other more traditional stable settings, I'm confident that things will continue to improve so their lives are no longer constricted or boring.

Thank you June and Kris, for your comments, its nice of you to "visit".

Máire said...

Thank you for those great photos Lynne. They were fun to see. I am reminded of Carolyn Resnick's description in Naked Liberty of how she caught horses off guard as she climbed in the hierarchy of the herd, when I look at the photos of Interessado chasing off Mistral.

Like Kris, they do make me think of the lot of domesticated horses in comparison. But I am glad you quote Imke. Because, strangely, horses often seem to like us humans and think we have something to offer.

Annemiek said...

Dear Lynne,
Herd life is full of mysteries it seems. Isn’t it wonderful you can watch what transpires when the horses are free to live their own lives? Every day is a surprise and gives you something to think about. The photo’s are so precious with all the faces and expressions and personalities showing themselves.

What intrigues me is that some of the youngsters have left Altamiro’s group of their own choice (like Fada did), but at the same time Altamiro’s fetches some of the others (Segura and Silverstre) back when they “visit” Mistrals group. What is the difference? I would love to know why he acts the way he does. What if Segura and Silvestre would not want to return with him? I also wonder if Altamiro’s decision always depends on (or is related to) the arrival of new offspring, or would it be possible that he chases one or more out in the middle of the winter for example? Ooow so many questions and so much to learn from your little family band! Extremely fascinating!

eva said...

"Altamiro’s fetches some of the others (Segura and Silverstre) back when they “visit” Mistrals group. What is the difference? I would love to know why he acts the way he does. "

Maybe he understands that so long they are in his harem these youngsters ain't going anywhere....?

June said...

I read somewhere that mares have a preference for stallions that look like them/don't look like them - I can't remember which. If it's "don't look like them" then it's a way of preventing inbreeding. Is it possible that Altamiro is aware of some difference in the favored two's DNA which makes it less pressing to get them out of the family band?

Lynne Gerard said...

Maire wrote:
"strangely, horses often seem to like us humans and think we have something to offer."

I think most animals, if not threatened are curious about us humans, horses do seem especially attracted to what we might have to offer. And more and more are being offered better things from us than our past track record shows. This is heartening, isn't it?

Miek wrote:
"Ooow so many questions and so much to learn from your little family band! Extremely fascinating!"

Eva replied"
"Maybe he understands that so long they are in his harem these youngsters ain't going anywhere....?

June wrote:
"Is it possible that Altamiro is aware of some difference in the favored two's DNA which makes it less pressing to get them out of the family band?

Girls, when you get it all figured out, trust me...the horses will change their habits and prompt even more questions! I've learned that they are much more fluid in their habits than we humans give them credit for--yet we consistently try to put their actions in tidy boxes thinking we've got them completely understood. They are proving to be just as complicated and unpredictable as humans.

At this writing, Segura has been with Mistral's group for the past three days--I think she's committed to not returning to the family band now.

Next in line to leave the family "nest" is Silvestre--who is quite over due!

June also wrote:
"I read somewhere that mares have a preference for stallions that look like them/don't look like them - I can't remember which. If it's "don't look like them" then it's a way of preventing inbreeding." this case, with these types of horses, history has shown that they will not mate with others who don't look like they do (and I doubt they go on looks alone).

The two Molly mules we have both bat their eyes at Altamiro when they come in heat, but he won't "do the deed" with them. His testosterone is of a discerning type!