Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If I Could Choose His Future


Interessado, our coming three year old stud colt by Altamiro (Sorraia) out of Ciente (Kiger Mustang) has recently caught the eye of several readers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie. Each interested party has written me specific questions in relation to this fine young stallion, which I have answered to the best of my ability.

Just the other day, a reader from Colorado posed a query that elicited deep contemplation from me during morning chores among the horses. The pristine, elemental sunrays were alchemically transmuting the frosted snow into faceted diamonds, this, coupled with the bitter high wind and the physical exertion of hauling a toboggan of hay to the northerly forested windbreak, was very inebriating and prompted me to compose a rather poetic answer.

The Family Band

Both the question and the answer are things that I consider of great importance not just for Interessado but for each of our "Iberian Tarpan" youngsters. Because of this (with her permission) I have decided to share Susan's question and my answer with the readership, to provide insight to those of you who are perhaps also dreaming of purchasing one of Altamiro's sons or daughters and might likewise be wondering what Kevin and I are looking for when considering a life for them away from Ravenseyrie.

The Question:
If you could choose his future, what would that look like?

The Answer:

I would choose a future where he continues to have opportunity to live, play and engage in an equine family life (whether a breeding group or a bachelor group of two or more) in a setting where there is a varied natural habitat which will continue to provide him the physical and mental development advantageous to his health and well being.

Silvestre, Animado and Interessado

I would choose that he remain a stallion with opportunity to sire offspring that carry on the preservation of the ancestral Iberian Tarpan/Sorraia type.

In addition to equine companionship, I would choose that any humans who interact with him understand the relevance of his primitive genetics and treat him as a noble being worthy of respect, admiration and kind regard.

I would choose that humans in his life nurture a balance between free expression and educated channeling of his abundant energies--that such energy be embraced and encouraged, not feared and subdued.


I would choose that whatever heightened human relationship he may accept be mutually fulfilling, leading both horse and human to a self-actualization that transcends what they might experience separate from each other. I would choose that they engage in a flowing partnership based on a shared leadership rather than hierarchical domination. I would choose an intuitive heart-connection for them, never one-sided, always reciprocal and abundant with love--the love between equals and friends. I would choose that his "no" be honored and his "yes" obtained always through understanding and willing cooperation. I would choose that poems be written about such a relationship as what is possible for this particular horse and whatever human he befriends!


I would choose that he be ridden only if he willingly accepts having a human astride. I would choose that there be no bit in his mouth or iron on his feet. I would choose there to be a constant vigilance on the part of the human passenger to monitor his mental and muscular capacity for engaging in ridden work or play and to never cause injury through lack of mindfulness.

I would choose that he never be valued for his presumed "usefulness" or cast aside as "unwanted". I would choose that his life be long, of the highest quality, with a timeless resonance and the full knowledge that he was appreciated as a splendid being by equines and humans alike.

Susan had this question as well:

Could you explain the procedures and cost associated with getting your horses to new owners in the U.S.?

Moving horses between Canada and the United States is not nearly as involved as overseas import/export requirements. All that is required is a negative Coggins test and passing health certificate, both of which are performed by a veterinarian and are not expensive. There is no quarantine imposed.

Transportation of horses, on the other hand, is very costly. To give you an example, when I imported Zorita from Oregon in 2008, the transport fee was $3,000, and would have been higher than that had I not shared a ride with another client. This is to be expected when hauling coast to coast. Presently, I think gas prices are the same or higher than they were then, however with the economy being in such a funk it is possible that professional haulers have come down in their prices to gather more clients. There will be sales tax charged at the border and if using a professional hauler, there will also be brokerage fees which vary from hauler to hauler.

Silvestre, Animado and Interessado

When looking for a quality hauler on both occasions that we imported horses from the American West, I found The Traveling Horse online directory very helpful. This directory allows you to connect with potential haulers, receive quotes on what it would cost to pick up a horse in Gore Bay, Ontario and deliver it to your destination. Through this network one can often find a hauler that is traveling coast to coast and has an open space on their rig.

Pinoteia and Tocara

Sheri Olson of Soul of Sorraia ranch does her own hauling with a large rig and may be willing to take a few other Ravenseyrie youngsters with her when she comes this spring for Animado, Encantara and Segura. If someone in the states is seriously contemplating buying one of our youngsters, you may connect with her through the link to her website to determine if something can be worked out which would be mutually beneficial.


The prices on Fada, Interessado and Silvestre will go up as each of them celebrate their birthday this year. Levada, Pinoteia and Tocara are also for sale, but will not be ready to leave Ravenseyrie until they are naturally expelled from the family band. I'll put pages up for them later this spring.

Silvestre and Fada

I believe that each of these horses has their own destiny. The considerations Kevin and I have for their future have an influence on their destinies but we cannot guarantee that which we would choose for them is how their future will actually unfold. For this I have to put my trust in the universe that those humans who may guide the lives of these horses once they leave Ravenseyrie will honor the futures we envision to the best of their abilities...but most of all respond to what the horses themselves demonstrate as being right for them.

Bella, Altamiro and Pinoteia

A Side Note:
For those of you who are interested in helping to preserve these type of ancestral horses but are not able to manage importing one of our youngsters. You may like to check out the Soul of Sorraia ranch as well as the Spanish Sage Ranch and also Caballos de Destino. Each of these breeders are participating in the consolidation of the Sorraia type among select mustang horses and have some very nice examples available. You may also like to email Hardy Oelke at: Hardy maintains the Sorraia Mustang Studbook, a data base (just a sampling of which can be seen online) of others who have mustang horses that possess varying degrees of Sorraia type and are able to contribute to preservation efforts. Some of these horses may be for sale as well. There are many ways to become involved in these preservation efforts that might be a little less involved and with appropriate horses that are closer to where you live.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Dreadful Dream

Note to readers: The content of this journal entry contains some disturbing descriptions. To keep us from dwelling on the dreadful element, I'm pasting in some of my favorite scenes (in no particular order), all of which depict elements here at Ravenseyrie, with the exception of the sculpture photos. All photos taken by me.

A few days ago, along the course of whatever research I was doing on the internet, I came upon a curious CNN poll that was testing the pulse of the American public regarding present day views on whether or not they would consider opening up their diets to the consumption of horse meat.

DaVinci's horse sculpture at the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan

This poll was prompted by a gathering of organizations and individuals with a vested interest in making it legal to once again slaughter horses and process them into food in the United States. The four day convention was called The Summit of the Horse, and as you might have guessed sparked quite a polarization of opinions regarding perceptions of horses and how humans relate to them.

Kevin, deep in contemplation while leaning against the da Vinci horse sculpture


At the time, I had my mind on finding an obscure reference to Equus ferus and so quickly moved on from what looked to be a very unpleasant media extravaganza. However, this was not to be the end of that particular chance encounter because during the night I ended up having a very dreadful dream...

In this dream,

I was down in the village and decided to find some type of hiking route up the side of the bluff to make my way home instead of using the open road. There were many paths and I became disoriented. Nevertheless, I continued to make my way upward using a path that felt the most direct. It soon lead me to the back yard of a large dwelling and the only way to continue was to walk through this strange building. I entered through the back door and found myself in what looked like a large restaurant kitchen, newly built and not quite completed. I kept trying to find my way through to a different room or a door that would take me back out to a path that would lead me home--but there seemed to be no way out.

Off to the side of this large restaurant kitchen I came upon a young woman working there. She told me that this building belonged to a very wealthy man in the U.S. who had businesses all over the world and would soon be opening this newly built restaurant on the island. She said I could only find my way back home by taking a trip on the wealthy man's boat.

As dreams go, the next scene found me on the prow of a fast moving ship, with the blue, blue waters of Lake Huron and the familiar shape of Manitoulin Island quickly giving way to foreign waters that became murky and narrow. The ship slowed to a trawling speed and followed a winding trail of a brackish canal. Both sides of the shore line were filled with rubbish heaps and smoldering discarded rubber tires. Strewn throughout this foul mess were the carcasses of cattle and pigs. There were, here and there, some of these animals that were still alive, with broken limbs, tortured eyes and moans.
I knew instantly that this boat was taking me to one of the wealthy man's many businesses--this one being a slaughter house. A dispassionate voice said, "This is the overflow area, where those animals that are too far gone to walk the line to the kill floor are discarded."

This "overflow" area just went on and on as the boat continued its slow passage, bringing us nearer to some monstrous building looming ahead, blocking out the acrid sky.
Off to the left, movement and loud slurred voices caught my attention. I heard the screams of horses. The smoke from the tires cleared and I could see a dozen or more horses being herded by nondescript tattered and filth covered men. "They have some of the mustangs!" I cried. The men cackled strange laughter as they began to put bridles and saddles upon those horses who were too weak to fight them. The same dispassionate voice spoke to me again, "It is the job of these men to bring the horses to the kill floor to be slaughtered. It is a difficult job, day in and day out, so we do not deny them having a little bit of fun with the horses first." I knew the mentality behind this type of "fun" was of the same kind that soldiers in war engage in when they rape women and beat old men after overtaking a village.

The eyes of the horses were crazed in some, completely resigned in others.
A group of other men were manipulating a contraption that held a horse on it's side while they quickly and clumsily put all manner of high end horse clothing on it: state of the art shipping boots, an insulated horse blanket, a colour-coordinated halter and lead, etc. Once this outfitting was accomplished, the men pulled a lever that forced the contraption upright so that the horse was now standing. They opened the grilled front and one man began taking photos with a fancy camera. "These photos are for an ad agency hired by a horse clothing catalogue to demonstrate that even wild mustangs can wear their latest products" said the dispassionate voice. It wasn't until then that some small part of my lucid self emerged and said, "This is not real...this is a dream."

And then I woke up.

Double rainbow over the East Bluff

And couldn't get back to sleep...

Through the Cedars

Boneset ( Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Typically, I do not devote energy to the media attention given to the harmful things humans engage themselves in. But when visited by a dream as dreadful as this, I felt a bit of study and a few words on the matter were called for.

The significance with which horses are regarded in human perception varies depending on cultural shaping. The same can be said of how humans perceive themselves in relation to plants, insects, fish, fowl, other mammals, fungi, bacteria, etc.

Red-capped Scaber Stalk (Leccinum aurantiacum)

Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaraia var. formosa)

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Wherever in the world humans have dwelt we have created particular folkways and mores to explain the natural phenomenon of our environment and developed a variety of acceptable and unacceptable patterns of behavior, rife with superstitions, taboos, laws, penalties and the like.

Sandhill Crane

That which is perfectly acceptable in one culture may be totally repulsive to a different society. In such situations, it seems better to refrain from terms such as "good" and "evil", and rather try to identify what is edifying and nurturing versus what is expedient and deleterious--and this done in a holistic view of cosmic proportions.

One of Winter's many art forms

Has humans' slaughter and consumption of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish proved to be edifying and nurturing to our species, or has it been at times expedient but overall deleterious?

Shelagh and Winter Sun

I think virtually any one of us who comes upon a scene such as what was shown to me in my dream would feel repulsed. Why is this?

Why do so few of us "harvest" our own creatures for food, but instead rely upon slaughter houses and meat processing plants to do this for us?

Ciente converses with the neighbor's bovines

There is an element of killing a creature for one's dinner, especially on a mass scale, that most humans find disturbing. One way of dealing with the conflict of nurturing life all the while embracing the learned gastric enjoyment of eating the flesh of slaughtered creatures is to disassociate oneself from the creature and its reluctance to place itself willingly in our stock pots. Another way is to delude ourselves that these creatures by their own choice "give" (or sacrifice) themselves to us or have been "given" to us by divine right for our survival.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Have you ever heard of a Schmoo?

Comic strip artist, Al Capp did an even better job of solving the dilemma of wanting to eat creatures that must first be captured and killed against their will. In his cartoon serial Li'l Abner, Capp created creatures that lived on air and seemed to exist only to sacrifice themselves for the needs and desires of humans--which they did so with absolute delight, shape-shifting themselves into whatever type of food humans wanted to consume (joyfully jumping into the pot or fry pan itself) and making their body useful for a variety of other human necessities. You'll notice (if you followed the link) that there is even an image of a human riding a Schmoo with the caption, "Yowee!!--It goes anyplace!"

The grasses, "sine quo non"...

Curiously, there are scientists who are working on creating a different version of a Schmoo by growing meat in their laboratories.

And I thought I had woken up from a dreadful dream...

There is a complicated and chaotic imbalance on planet earth just now, this much is obvious. But all that I study tells me that it is the nature of nature to use chaos to creatively restore a new equilibrium.


I refrain from marking the notion of slaughtering horses or any creature for food and economic gain as a "bad" thing, rather it is a "learned" thing that is accepted by some and rejected by others. However, I do find myself rather in agreement with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein:

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Kevin's Garlic
I don't know of any culture anywhere in the world that has a visceral repulsion for consuming plants as food, do you?

Kevin, Angus, Apples and Peppermint

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winter Holidays at Ravenseyrie

The Sorraia stallion, Altamiro

Long, long ago, during those years that I fumbled my misfit way through high school, I worked in a womens accessories shop in a mall. You wouldn't have recognized me then. I wore form fitting skirts, nude-toe hose and very high-heeled, strappy sandals and stood on my feet with perfectly styled girlie-hair and dangling earrings for six to eight hour shifts. It was tiring, even for a young body.

During the frenzy of holiday shopping, there were days when I would work back to back shifts, especially on weekends, while trying also to fit in various functions and gatherings among family I was expected to attend. I credit this commercialized hysterically stressful time in my life with creating a sort of repugnant sensation that arises in me when the Christmas ditties begin playing and festive lights start flashing (these days beginning in November!) I'm not a Scrooge--I don't begrudge anyone their traditions--I just felt it was important to my sanity to get off that ship.

"Waterfalls and sunsets give you energy, power, and increased capacity. Crowded airports and traffic jams put your whole system on alert, drain your life force, and leave you exhausted."--Roger Jahnke, O.M.D. (The Healing Promise of Qi)

Living now in the "highlands" of the area once referred to as "Scotland" on Manitoulin Island, it is very easy to enjoy the holidays in a completely non-traditional manner. Kevin selects for us a nice Bordeaux and along with our usual gourmet vegan fare we toast the Winter Solstice. Christmas Day and New Year's Day may or may not have meals that are accompanied by the better wine. This year we were frugal and kept with the "cheaper" boxed, dark red table wine. Kev's doing a great job making Ravenseyrie Stout with his home-grown hops, maybe next year we will do what we keep saying we are going to do--make our own wine, too.


For the first time since having opened my gallery in the village I decided to close not only for Christmas and New Year's Day, but also for the week in between, like so many other island businesses do. I have not taken a vacation at all during the four years I've been operating the studio/ felt like I'd earned the time off, so at Kevin's urging, I went back to town and put up an edited "closed for the holidays sign that included all the long, luxurious days in between.

As you might guess, this means I've been spending a lot more time with the horses than I typically get to do during the winter months when the daylight hours are so fleeting and precious.

Tocara and Levada

I took a lot of photos during my holiday break and of course I have uploaded more than a few to share here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie.

We'll begin with Christmas Day. "Family" for Kevin and me includes more than human beings, and we are fortunate to have such a large non-human family to share the holidays with. (We are also thankful to being able to connect with human family via the computer.)

"They are not my pets or my employees, they are my companions." --Kevin Richardson (Part of the Pride)

Tocara before and after:


Dee, the lovely draft mule, is browsing on branches of Red Osier Dogwood.

Pinoteia paws through the snow to graze on the grass underneath.

Pinoteia gets her rump itched and I get a great photo.

Pinoteia's mane is in a truly wild state of growth. Amazingly chaotic...

...and surprisingly artful all at the same time.

Herself, the youngest of the group, Levada

Altamiro has been quite relaxed this winter and even has allowed the youngsters in his family band to co-mingle from time to time with those in Mistral's group. (But never, NO NEVER the mares.) At times it has almost looked like one large group, though one familiar with the subtleties of herd dynamics would note the unseen boundaries were still in force for the mares.

On Christmas day, after several hours of this type of co-mingling, Altamiro stood for a time contemplating how to break the news to everyone that the "party is over". I kid you not! I stood near him while he thoughtfully looked over the scene and then went into quick action, running over to where Tocara was grazing with Animado and Interessado and swiftly cut her out with just a toss of his head, then rough-housed a bit with the boys. The mares, already aware that it was time to head back to their northerly grazing area were off and running and soon Altamiro left the scene to join back up with them. Hope you can follow along below:

"I believe that there was an ancient knowledge that was lost that we are slowly rediscovering again on our own. It seems to be a shadow of a memory within us. It seems to be a growing yearning for a more harmonious existence within the world." --Michael Bevilacqua (Beyond the Dream Horse)

Mistral and Zeus, our two domestic horses are always glad to see Altamiro leaving the vicinity. These older geldings would rather not get on the wrong side of the young stud.

After Christmas, the island experienced a bona fide "January thaw". On December 29th, I took the pups down for a walk to see how things looked on the Ravenseyrie beach. I thought you might like to see too:

It typically isn't until January when Lake Huron freezes over, and then sometimes the ice holds the water hostage until April.

By New Year's Day most of our snow was gone and we had rain, rain and more rain. This allows us to see that underneath all that terrific winter hair, the horses still have very elegant forms.

Looking very much like a Pleistocene horse form, we see here the feisty filly, Levada

Levada's older sister, Segura...looking good, too!

"It is the unconditional respect for the inner and outer dignity of all beings, the recognition of a secret path in the existence of all creatures and the faith that these paths may intersect. Not following an order that appears absolutely stringent and logical to us humans, but following an order that teaches insight and wisdom." --Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling (It is Not I Who Seek the Horse, The Horse Seeks Me)

Tocara eating Red Osier Dogwood

Encantara, Fada and Interessado


Encantara enjoying a roll

Encantara, and further down, Encantara and Fada:

Look at these mossy jewels! Can an emerald ring look as lovely as this?

The sun broke through the clouds as a cold front pushed into the region shortly before evening settled in. This March like weather experienced on January 1st, 2011 will be vastly different on January the 2nd.

I told you so!

Remember the canal you saw Encantara and Fada's what it looks like today:

Very carefully, in single file, Mistral's group crosses the ice. The Ravenseyrie horses learn to negotiate all manner of terrain, even ice, safely.

The change in the weather is taken in stride by all of us, but none more than Maeb, a.k.a. "All Weather Maeb". A bit of snow and blow simply means that a game of RedBall! is all the more exciting!

"Health, well-being, and long life can only be achieved by remaining centered with one's spirit, guarding against squandering one's Qi, using breath and movement to maintain the free flow of Qi and blood, aligning with the natural forces of the seasons, and cultivating the tranquil heart and mind." --The Yellow Emperor's Classic Book of Medicine, Han Dynasty, 200 B.C.E.--220 C.E.

It's a new year! Create for yourself a year of beauty and good health!

Happy Holidays everyone!