Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Morning Medicinal

With the 2008 tourist season behind us, I am now on "off season" hours at my studio & gallery, which means I have both Sundays and Mondays off!

Two weeks back, I celebrated the beginning of my off season hours by hanging out with the dozing herd. I have been meaning to post a journal entry using these photos ever since, but the drama of Zorita's arrival and integration trumped all else.

At any rate, there have been readers who have inquired how the foals are doing, and these photos reveal a bit of how comfortable they are with the autumn weather. Even with some unseasonably warm weather we've been having, the flies and biting insects are rather irrelevant this time of the year, and the herd gets to enjoy long, languishing nap sessions as well as lengthy, undisturbed grazing time.

Spending time with the herd like this is quite medicinal and creates a marvelous feeling of connection and timelessness. What a pleasure to enjoy early autumn in this manner!

Interessado naps snugged up next to his beautiful mother, Ciente

Jerry and Dee enjoy their own napping space

Zeus hasn't succumbed to recumbency, and naps standing up, with Doll grazing nearby

Animado looks quite comfy

As does the adorable Fada

Fada seems a little surprised when I sit down next to her

But she soon realizes I'm just another being seeking a little sunny nap

Interessado has woken up, and probably is hoping for a snack

Ciente isn't getting the message, so Interessado becomes a bit more insistent

I'm hoping to catch some moments like these today as well, this time with Zorita hanging out among the group too. There are now eight primitive horses (all grulla colored) in our herd, along with two domestics and three draft mules. The landscape is looking all the more lovely for their presence here at Ravenseyrie.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thirteen For Breakfast!

Oh my!

What a change in just an afternoon!

Because I took extra time with Zorita yesterday morning, I didn't have enough of it left to ride my bike to work. Instead I had Kevin drop me off since he had errands in the village to take care of. Of course this meant that come quitting time, Kev had to come back down the bluff to fetch me. While we were bumping around in the Jeep heading back up to Ravenseyrie, Kevin relayed the events which had transpired while I was at work.

Now I must tell you, Kevin is not the type of fella to embellish a story with fanciful conjecture--which makes his tale all the more compelling and believable.

After lunch, Kevin took the pups and went down to the lake shore to visit with Zorita and bring her some apples.

(Speaking of apples...I must insert a photo here of the amazing apple tree in our yard. When the old house burned, this tree was virtually killed, but like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, there were shoots off the base of the charred trunk that had such a desire to survive they formed themselves into a new tree totally enveloping the burned trunk. No one seems to be able to tell us what kind of apple tree this is--but it is becoming rather renown for its splendid fruit--best for baking, which that Kevin sells at the Gore Bay Farmer's Market.)
Ravenseyrie Apples, beloved by equines and humans alike

Back to our story...

Kevin and the pups took the Short Road to the beach, and then worked their way through the forest edge over to the neighbor's property. Zorita met him halfway. After enjoying her apple treats and letting Kevin pull a few burrs from her forelock, Zorita followed Kevin back through the woods to the Short Road.

Taking their time, just enjoying the day together, Kevin walked slowly back up the bluff while Zorita paused here and there to graze upon the vegetation growing along the rocky road. With the pups sniffing out informative smells in and out of the woods on either side of the road, the group of walkers entered into the region of the bluff we have named, "The Grotto". The Grotto is an unusual clearing, almost like a meadow in a brief level area of the terraced section of the climb up the bluff. This place is a hub of sorts--it is the point where to the east you can take a trail to the neighbor's road leading down to their camp, you can go straight and use the Short Road to one section of our beach, or you can curve westward and follow the road that leads to the section of beach where our bunkie/boathouse is. The Grotto has immense rocks ("glacial erratics" they are termed by geologists) and lots of meadow grasses to graze. There is something especially spiritual in this area. Kevin took up a repose on one of these large glacial erratics and had a chat with Zorita while she was grazing this meadow.

Kevin relayed to Zorita how happy we are to have her living with us here at Ravenseyrie, and how relieved we are that she is finding comfortable, isolated places to gain an understanding of her surroundings. He also told her that eventually it would be best for her to join the herd and that we hoped it would be soon because we worried about her living down here all alone.

After some time had passed, Kevin felt it was time to finish the hike up the bluff and get some farm work accomplished. He said good-bye to Zorita and turned with the pups to walk up the next hill. Zorita came too. Once again they resumed a slow ascent, with Zorita casually grazing along the way. When they came to the final hill which would deposit them up on the table land, Kevin relays that Zorita's demeanor and posture completely altered. Gone was the casual amble--instead she strode by him with great intent. Her bearing was determined, confident and full of purpose. Kevin sped up his step to keep up with her. When they got to the top, with the prairie grasslands spread out before them, Kevin could see the herd grazing just the other side of his market garden field. Zorita saw them too.

What do you think happened next?

Kevin says without hesitation, Zorita trotted off, later breaking into a strong canter on a trajectory taking her directly to the herd which was rather spread out, grazing. Zorita ran right into this space and stopped just behind where Zeus and Mistral were grazing and she stood there, waiting.

A few moments went by before suddenly Mistral seemed to realize this wasn't one of the other grullas--this was the newcomer! He wheeled around and began to haze her and within seconds, he was joined by Zeus and Altamiro. The four of them raced to the "Turn-around Woods" off to the west. The rest of the herd watched from their various former grazing spots. Kevin could see Zorita, Zeus, Altamiro and Mistral running in and out of the woods. Eventually the excitement got the better of the rest of the herd and they too joined in the stampede.

Before the mad gallopers could come back his way, Kevin was able to get the pups on the other side of the fence and out of harm's way. The herd stayed running off to the west. Kevin pulled his watch out of his pocket and with some surprise realized it was time to come get he put the dogs in the house and left the scene.

"You left!" I hollered at him, on our ride home..."you should have stayed and watched to see what was going to happen out there!" "But I had to come get you..." he said. "I would have understood, I would have waited," I replied. "No, I knew you'd want to be here yourself". we rush the rest of the way home. I change into my farm clothes and we tramp off to the west where we can see a few herd members grazing.

And when we came on the scene...Zorita was grazing by Altamiro, in tight, like a lover.
Ciente, enjoying the protection and affection of Altamiro
But the herd is settled only moments at a time, enjoying brief periods of calm and wary grazing, until they are pressed into movement again. It is that dastardly Mistral! Oh, you cannot help but admire the old codger, in between feeling a bit peeved at his relentless hazing! However, Altamiro has made a deeper connection this time with Zorita, it seems...and he is indefatigable in his role as protector of the newcomer.

The herd made its way in this manner--quiet grazing interspersed with hazing gallops and mini-battles until they were up near the fencing by the yard. I had witnessed deft posturings by Altamiro, incredibly regal in appearnce, haute école maneuvers galore and a canter on the spot--which I wanted to see repeated so I could capture it on the camera, but unfortunately (largely due to the mules bumping me constantly!) I only got one battle scene recorded...and not in the more pleasing open spaces, instead by a pile of old siding left by the former owners of the property.

These types of scenes were played out all evening, and likely throughout the night hours as well.

In the morning, I had thirteen horses for breakfast!

Mistral was still keeping Altamiro and Zorita on the go, but everyone managed to settle for brief snatches at the pans containing whole oats, diatomaceous earth and dried molasses.
Zorita and Altamiro share a pan of oats (left) during the early misty morning at Ravenseyrie

The light was very dim, and there was much moisture hanging in the air, making it very difficult for a novice photographer to capture the true beauty of this special breakfast, but you can, even so, get the feel of the primitive Sorraia phenotype these horses possess.

And soon, the sun began to bathe the morning with gorgeous color:Zorita and Altamiro at the break of dawn

A little footage of Altamiro and Zorita milling about, and Animado giving himself a good rump itch on the fence:

Later, after coffee, the pups and I headed out for our routine hike and T'ai Chi practice, something we hadn't been able to do since Zorita's arrival. On our way back we came upon the herd. I paused to take photos, and Zorita decided to come up for a little chat, bringing her handsome beau with her.

And the last scene I observed in the distance before heading off to work this morning was this:
Phew! It was an usual integration, and Mistral is still going to harass Zorita for awhile yet...but she is now part of the herd, which she did on her own terms. And I'd better write on my calendar that she's been bred with a foal possible next August! Aren't we all breathing easier now?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Zorita, Island Hermit

In reading the title of this entry, you are already aware that Zorita's integration is yet incomplete.

I'm quite certain she knows where the herd is and they know where she is--but for reasons each are keeping to themselves, they remain in separate locations.

Last night I had a mini-meltdown.

The sense that I should DO something to right this "wrong" situation grabbed hold of me and whipped me with an onslaught of condemnation--not just for having a hand in totally disrupting the life of a little horse from Oregon, but branching wickedly outward, making me doubt the very essence of establishing our Sorraia Mustang Preserve as well! Dark voices chided me, "No one cares a whit about your bringing together a little band of primitive horses in an effort to provide genetic vigor to a nearly extinct subspecies of equines!" "No one is knocking at your door looking to acquire any of Altamiro's offspring to keep the project expanding!" "Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve is just creating more unwanted horses of which the world already is heavily populated with!" Curious strange, lonesome loathing thoughts...from where do such things come?

In an attempt to console me, Kevin told me what we are doing is worth the sheer beauty these horses add to the landscape, if nothing more. He reminded me I am not God...I have put some elements together, but it is not my place to micro-manage them, which is futile anyhow in this semi-wild environment.

What an emotional wreck I've been since Zorita's release into the big wide open!

After enough tears had been shed and once the choking sensation in my throat subsided, I regained my mental balance and contemplated the depth of intelligence inherent in the universe and gave myself over to it.

Rachel Carson said, "It is not half so important to know as to feel."

Today, I take this in, breathing it fully...because I confess, I am not happy with this arrangement--this isolation Zorita has taken to.

And yet...

...something feels right about it.

This morning, something beyond my mental comprehension soothed my brain's concern and evened out the rapid beating of my troubled heart. This "something" was spending time with Zorita in the space she has chosen for herself.

Masanobu Fukuoka wrote: "Everyone seems to believe that human thought and emotions are the products of the human mind, but I think otherwise....When people see a green tree, they all think that green trees are beautiful. Trees leave a sense of peace. When the wind ripples the surface of the water, the spirit becomes restless. Go to the mountains, and a sense of the mountains arises. Travel to a lake, and one feels the spirit of the water. These emotions all arise from nature. Go somewhere where nature has been disturbed and I doubt that anything but disturbed emotions will arise."

Last night I had spent to much time where "nature has been disturbed". Instead of appreciating what a nice environment Zorita had selected for herself, I kept hearing the voice of all I'd learned from traditional horse-keeping--telling me I should bring Zorita up and place her back in the yard. She would have to have contact with the other horses again, over the fence. She would be under near constant supervision. We could assure ourselves she was eating sufficiently. We could even take one of the more passive herd members and put her in the yard with Zorita hoping a bond would form. Isn't this what any caring horse owner would do, rather than leave her to her own choice of isolation far and away from us all?

But why should we humans think we know better than Nature herself? What I "feel" overrides what I "think" in this instance--quite powerfully, especially from this morning's visit with Zorita...from which I offer you these photos and moving footage. See for yourself if perhaps she is exactly in the right place for her at this moment in time. I think she is, and though I haven't a clue how or when she will become part of Altamiro's herd...I feel it will happen and all by their own chosing at the right time.

About 6:45am, Zorita was found dozing in the forest to the east of our neighbor's lakeshore cabin--the same place I had found her the other morning. She saw me and came out to say "hello" immediately:

While Zorita was eating her little pile of apples, I gave her a light currying and combed her mane and tail. She is beginning to show signs of a winter coat, about the same length thus far as the others and she seemed pleased for the grooming attention as well, of course, for the apples!

When she finished her apples, I walked to the section of the beach on the other side of Bob and Shelagh's cabin where a spit of land at the edge of the lake is covered in green vegetation. I wanted to see what was for breakfast out here. Sweet clover, red clover, a variety of grasses in various stages of maturity as well as copious amounts of herbs and wildflowers abound in this vegetative section along the shore line of Lake Huron's famous North Channel.

Zorita follows me to the grazing area, and stops to sample some tall White Sweet Clover

Zorita then settles into a long, peaceful time of grazing, while the pups and I sit on the stones and enjoy the serene scene before us.
And Zorita from time to time pauses from grazing to watch us watching her

Thank you independent, splendidly primitive, Zorita, for sharing your private, peaceful place and making me feel that you are right where you should be.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Phantom Horse Finder

Kevin--The Phantom Horse Finder

It is throughly impish of me to have kept readers waiting...wondering how Zorita is faring after being turned out into the big wide open. Any angst and worry you might have been feeling was felt many times more by Kevin and myself.

When I returned from work on Saturday, the herd was grazing off to the west. There were twelve of them, Altamiro was there, but no thirteenth Zorita. Kevin told me he hadn't seen Zorita since the morning, and Altamiro had only recently joined the herd.

Of course, I quickly changed and went horse hunting, checking first the region Kevin had seen Altamiro coming back from. Zorita was nowhere in sight and not hanging out in various regions within the upper-land forests.

Unfortunately, I could only do this one search, as Kevin and I had a rare engagement in town that evening and didn't return until well after dark (and well past our usual bedtime). If Zorita had been delivered the prior week as expected, I would have been in better form, having closed my studio for several days and having no engagements on our calendar...but this is how fate played out, and we were left to hope Zorita was safe and doing well wherever she was keeping herself.

At dawn, I went out to give the herd breakfast--a herd of twelve.

No Zorita.

Straight away, the pups and I went hiking, and hiking, and hiking for hours. We checked out every bush, tree or alteration of light that mimicked the form of a Sorraia horse. No Zorita. All these phantom horses were playing tricks on desert mirages.

When I came back, I went a different way and Kevin joined the search, going back another way. Each of us turning up no sign of Zorita. Not a clue. And the herd, acting as if she wasn't here, had never existed. Do they know where she is? Do they care?

The devilish voices began, then...quite in earnest...condemning me for letting Zorita loose into wild unfamiliar territory, occupied by a hostile herd of horses--leaving her to cope with her strange new world while I went off to work. Why didn't I stay--forget about the studio customers and follow Zorita all day?...I would have known what transpired between her and Altamiro...I would have known where she had gone to. But now, not knowing a thing...I realized she could be bruised, cut, bleeding, broken-legged, tumbled down the bluff, etc. How inadequate a human I am! How feeble my tramping across the territory--the vast, multi-terrained territory--she could be laying down, dying a slow death and how would I ever find her?

I had checked all regions except down the bluff and the lakeshore. After a brief break, off the pups and I went again for another hiking.

Zorita! Zorita! Where are YOU?!!

She wasn't down the bluff or at the beach. My dismal thoughts went a notch lower, the devilish voices twisted my head into painful, inescapable throbs of tension.

Zorita may have been any of the places I had checked, she just may have decided not to show herself. Or she could be incapacitated, unable to show herself.

Early evening comes on. Kevin has gone off for a search while I work on dinner. Sipping a wee dram of AlpenBitters #7, I feel just as pained in the head as ever, but a faint voice of reason can now be heard over the other negative voices.

Zorita is no yearling youngster--she is a sturdy six year old mare who may have come from a highly domesticated environment, but has the heritage of her primitive ancestors permeating her being. She was ready to go out, and we didn't lead her out, we opened the gate and let her make the choice. There is more than ample grazing to be found, lots of choices to find water, shelter in the many forests--Zorita has been turned out in the perfect natural environment for horses. If she feels the need to hide herself from the herd, there is no doubt she has all that she needs for not only surviving, but thriving.

If only we could see her--just to know the harsh hazing hadn't left her injured.

As I watch Kevin return from his hike, I try to read the expression his body carries with it...has he or has he not seen Zorita? His body is playing poker--and whatever his hike showed him, it is not exposed in his manner of walking. Finally he comes into the house, takes his hat off and proclaims: "I am the Phantom Horse Finder!"

Kevin found Zorita grazing along the road leading down the bluff to the lake. She walked right up to Kevin, enjoyed the two apples he'd been carrying, then she headed off to the lake. He followed her. She walked right by the bunkie/boathouse without even looking at it and took herself to the lake for a drink. When I had been down there just a few hours earlier...there had been no signs of her having been down there--but Kevin said the way she moved down there was as if she was already familiar with the territory. Had she picked up my trail earlier and followed it?

Kevin said Zorita was unscathed, except for a few crescent shaped patches of hair missing on her back and rump from getting bitten by one or more of the horses...nothing broke the skin and she was in fine form. Zorita followed Kevin back up the bluff, but she stopped when they reached the final hill that would take them up to the table land where the really good grazing is. Zorita obviously knew the herd was up there somewhere, and she didn't want to be where they were. She turned and slowly worked her way back down the bluff, grazing along the way. Kevin said she was as relaxed and pleased to be grazing down there as if she had been born on the island.

Instantly my headache heart lept up out of the hell the devilish voices had pushed it into and Beethoven's Ode To Joy filled my being. (We played the Ninth Symphony with dinner, should hear it, especially the choral part--it truly conveys our utter joy at knowing Zorita is doing excellently.

I wish Zorita had joined the herd...but I trust that she is doing what she feels is best.

All the other newcomers (Bella, Belina, Altamiro and Ciente) when first introduced to the herd, were likewise hazed by the the established herd members (mostly Mistral) but they each opted to hang out on the peripheral of the herd (although Altamiro's story reads a bit differently) and made frequent attempts to join them, until finally after a few days, Mistral would allow them in. Zorita responded completely different, and made the decision to go it alone for awhile. It will be intriguing to follow this choice of hers and see how long before she tries again to join the herd. I sure don't want her to be alone out there over the winter!

And now, as a reward to readers for being so diligent in working through all this rambling text, its time for some photos. Kevin didn't have the camera with him when he found Zorita yesterday, but I had it with me this morning.

My first hike, just after feeding the herd breakfast was unfruitful. I had gone down to the lake and found Zorita's hoof prints and manure, but no Zorita. On my second trip down, I followed the road on the neighbor's section of the property (remember the land to the east ties in with ours but is owned by Dr. Bob Hamilton and Dr.Shelagh McRae who are kind enough to let the horses graze and roam their section too). Just before rounding the slight curve that leads to the doctors cabin at the lakeshore, I heard twigs snapping off to the right.


Zorita, The Phantom Horse, blending in with the forest

When you look at these photos, you get a feeling of how easily the grulla coloring of these primitive type horses blend in with the environment. If Zorita hadn't snapped twigs...I would have walked right by her!

Zorita, watches my approach, unafraid, and perhaps smells apples coming her way

Zorita walked over to me when I got closer and soon was enjoying the apples I had brought for her.

I hung out with her for awhile, and after she'd finished her six apples, I watched her going over the ground with her muzzle, picking at tiny bits of vegetation and nibbling on roots that she scraped up through the dried plant matter. As I looked over this portion of the woods, I could tell by the many manure droppings and scuffed up areas that Zorita had been nibbling on twigs and roots all throughout this area. Had she spent the night here?
Zorita had eaten the roots of a young Spruce sapling that was pushed over

Kevin had planned to come down with Lil' Bull (his small tractor) to fetch a rock from the beach, and Zorita and I could hear him coming down the bluff. Once down the bluff part way, our road branches two different ways. One way (we call it "The Short Road") is straight and leads directly to the beach. The other road winds quite a ways over to the west before it opens up to the beach and it leads to the portion of our property where our row boat and bunkie/boathouse are located just inside the woods.

I knew the rock Kevin wanted to retrieve would require he take "The Short Road", so I bade Zorita good bye and began weaving through the forest making my way over back to our property and "The Short Road". Wouldn't you just know that Zorita thought that was a good idea and decided to join me? What fun it is to weave through the woods with four dogs and a small horse!

Once we got over to "The Short Road", Kevin had turned off the tractor and was preparing to walk out to where the rock was and chart a path for himself. Zorita decided he needed her help doing this and I was able to capture it on the camera, both in photos and moving footage.
Zorita walks up to greet Kevin at the opening of "The Short Road" to the beach

Zorita decides to follow Kevin to go look at the rock he wants to bring up the bluff

Zorita samples a bit of wild mint growing among the rocks

To close, I've put together several sections of moving footage into one clip. What is most impressive is how well Zorita navigates her way over this very rough terrain.

Also noteworthy is her desire to be with us rather unfamiliar humans. This is testament to the kind feelings Zorita developed for humans while in Bonnie and David's care. Thank you Bonnie and David for treating Zorita so well! I hope you are enjoying how readily your domestic mare has taken to her wild life. Isn't she amazing?!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Zorita's Integration

Sovina's Zorita, Saturday Morning at Ravenseyrie

When I left for work yesterday morning, the herd was clustered around the gate area, with Zorita still on the yard side, nearly nose to nose with Altamiro. Everyone was dozing. Zorita picked up her head and looked at me. I told her that when I returned from work, Kevin and I would let her out with the others if she was really ready. Her response was to flip her head, shift her hips and resume a dozing pose on the opposite weight bearing leg.

I thought about Zorita, and the rest of the herd all the while I worked. Integration time is always stressful and the worry of injury has a way of making my stomach twist most unpleasantly. Bonnie had told me many times that Zorita was a definite "alpha" mare and fairly well capable of taking care of herself--in fact Bonnie rather worried about Zorita being too rough on the others! But, none of this eased my concern much.

As I rode my bike home, once I got to where Ravenseyrie's land begins, I scanned the fields but could not see the herd grazing anywhere out in the open. When I opened the gate and let myself into the yard, I couldn't see any sign of Zorita either. I wondered if she had managed to join the herd without my being on hand to view it all. But, as I pedaled up the drive I could see she was standing inside the shed, enjoying the shade it afforded. She saw me and came over. I got off my bike and stroked her neck. She went over to the gate to the fields and waited. I told her for sure it was time, but first I wanted to get into my farm clothes.

Shortly, Kevin and I walked together and opened up the gate for Zorita. She hesitated, just a moment, then walked on through. Zorita sniffed and snorted while walking by a stack of wood, then soon picked up an easy trot and headed to the west, opposite of where Kevin said he'd last seen the herd. Kevin felt certain Zorita knew which direction the herd had gone but she obviously decided to not go to where they were.

Where was she going? She picked up a light canter, pausing slightly when passing the electric fence that protects Kevin's market garden, and soon disappeared to the far southwest of the property. A few minutes later, she came back into view, skirting the edge of the west poplar woods and then charted her course to the north, entered the area we call the Scanty Field and angled to the northwest. We watched her until she was out of sight...

Was Zorita taking the opportunity to investigate the boundaries of her vast new habitat?

We waited, expecting her to come back into view. She did not. Was she following the trails along the bluff's edge and heading towards the east? If so, we would not be able to see her. Had she decided to follow one of the steep trails leading down the bluff? It is times like these when one realizes how impossible it is to keep track of horses who decide to go into hiding!

She never did come back into view, even as the herd eventually came back from grazing in the east sector and slowly made their way up to the house, hoping for Kevin to pass out some apples. Did they notice that Zorita was no longer in the yard? If they did, they didn't show it...nor did they seem to smell that she had passed through the gate and gone to the west. The herd enjoyed Kevin's apples and went back out to graze.

We scanned the area with binoculars...we saw no sign of Zorita anywhere in view. Was she watching from the shelter of the forest? Or was she still off exploring her new world on her own?

The sun set, darkness settled in and still no sign of Zorita. She simply vanished! Amazing choice on her part! This highly domesticated mare took no time in reverting to a bit of wild behavior. What a worrisome, humbling feeling this gave us. A warm evening was unfolding, no threat of storms..."one simply has to trust nature", we told ourselves--even though just a few days ago Zorita seemed to us to be so vulnerable, so slight and unprepared for the rugged world of Ravenseyrie.

At dawn, the herd was waiting for me to set out their breakfast oats. I thought I saw an equine form on the other side of Kevin's market garden. It got a bit lighter as daylight progressed and I could see the equine form was really a patch of tall wildflowers. No Zorita. We scanned the area with our binoculars...nothing.

She's a phantom horse now, we jested...nervously.

We had breakfast.

After coffee, the pups and I went for our typical morning hike. I went to the area we last saw Zorita heading. I hoped to see her--but I didn't expect goodness, she could be just about anywhere!

Along the way the pups and I went through the seasonal pond in the middle of the marshy area and then headed north. There! Along the northwest fence line!

Zorita! She was grazing by the fence--the neighbor's cows were on the other side--clearly Zorita was comforted by their presence. She sees us, picks up her head, puts her neck up in the clouds, gets as good a look as she can. I think the dogs might cause her to flee...I call out to her, "Hello Zorita...its just us, no worries." She drops back to grazing.

I do not go up to her, instead I walk in an arc around her and step slightly into the cedar woods and turn to take some photos. She is stunning, and seems so completely changed from just a little over a month ago when Bonnie sent this photo of one of the pony club gals posing with Zorita and her 2008 colt:
I tell her she is gorgeous and I am happy to see her. But I do not go up to here even then...I turn and begin walking north. She catches up to me. It is then I allow myself to stroke her, pull a burr from her forelock and itch her shoulders.

I resume walking. Zorita does too. Once I get to the bluff's edge, I sit on a rock and observe Zorita as she grazes. The pups root around the area and Zorita watches them while she grazes. After she moved off a bit, she got a little nervous and came trotting by me. I had the camera at the ready and took a bit of video footage:

Zorita soon settled back into grazing and the pups and I went back to walking along the bluff's edge. Zorita thought she'd like to join us and I filmed a little bit of it--which was tricky when we entered the cedar forest. The bluff falls steeply away on the left and the branches are low, requiring ducking under many times. You'll note how each time I stop, so does Zorita. This is an example of what Carolyn Resnick calls, Companion Walking, and it was delightful to do this with Zorita.

Once we got through this part of the forest and entered the clearing beyond, we could see the herd grazing just beyond a slight copse of Poplar trees. I thought maybe Zorita would maybe want to go back in hiding, so I altered my course. Companion walking ended then, to my surprise, as Zorita trotted out to the herd with determination. She stopped briefly, all poised and quivering with anticipation--and my stomach tightened as the herd took note of her. "Here we go!", I thought. Within minutes, the herd was in motion and the hazing began in earnest. Gulp!

Feeble human legs cannot keep up with galloping horses, so there is no point in trying. I took several segments of moving footage, then sat on a rock, listening to the thundering of hooves and the crashing of branches as the herd took their mad gallop into the forest. Back and forth, in and out, around and about until handfuls of the herd opted out of the game and stood not too far off from me to catch their breath. Soon, it was just Altamiro and Zorita, dashing by me:

Then the rest of the herd joined in again and all thirteen equines were quickly out of sight, once again weaving crazily through the forest at the edge of the bluff. It wasn't long before the only ones left playing the game were once again Altamiro and Zorita--and this time they went way off to the northwest sector and didn't return. Every so often I could hear a squeal. I wanted to go out there and see what was happening. But I knew I had to get back to the house or I'd be late for work.

I had to leave the scene...once again, trusting in the good of nature. And here I am at the studio, unable to work on art...instead am putting this journal entry together and watching the slow moving clock, anticipating the strike of four, when I can close up and go back up the bluff to see how the integration is going. Three bells! Only one more hour!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How It Began/Part IV

Another major acquisition has been made to complete our foundation herd for our Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve. A six year old mare from Oregon finished her long journey and arrived at Ravenseyrie yesterday afternoon.

A bit of history (as best as I can piece together from various sources) should be relayed here to help reader's understand the significance of Altamiro's latest harem member.

In 2000, a young woman, named Erin Grey, imported into the United States a purebred yearling Sorraia studcolt named Sovina. Sovina (the first Sorraia to land the continent since early colonization of the New World) was placed in Erin's hands by Hardy Oelke, who had high hopes that the young stallion would sire many offspring among mustangs of Sorraia type. At that time, Erin Grey seemed like the perfect candidate to facilitate the consolidation of the Sorraia type among select North American mustangs as she was thick into raising and showing mustangs from the Sulphur Springs wild horse herds in Utah. [I insert a correction here: Hardy relays to me that at the time when Sovina went to Erin's place, she was working with Kiger Mustangs, and only later on exchanged her interest in Kigers for Sulphur Springs mustangs.]

Somewhere along the way, however, Erin became disenchanted with the idea of there being a genetic connection between North American mustangs possessing Sorraia characteristics and the purebred Iberian Sorraia, so subsequently decided to refuse to breed Sovina to mustangs of any type.
Erin Grey and Sovina (photo found at the Portuguese Sorraia website)

Fortunately, prior to this decision, Sovina had sired three offspring out of mustang mares--two colts (now gelded) and one filly, named Sovina's Zorita.

Zorita was born in 2002, to Sulphur's Tia, a very good Sorraia type mare which had been captured from the Sulphur Springs wild mustang herd management area in Utah.
Sulphur's Tia (photo found at Hardy Oelke's website)

When Zorita was four years of age, she became part of the horses of Echo Glen Farm owned by Bonnie Rider-Martin and her husband David. Echo Glen Farms specializes in Sport Horses and decided to breed Zorita to Holsteiner and Hanoverian warmblood stallions in hopes of producing a smaller elite riding horse for pony club youths. Via the technology of artificial insemination, Zorita gave birth to first a filly in 2007 and a colt in 2008.
Zorita with her 2007 Holsteiner filly (photo: Bonnie Rider-Martin)

Sovina's Zorita with her 2008 Hanoverian colt, who passed his inspection to become an official German Riding Pony (photo: Bonnie Rider-Martin)

Bonnie had been in contact with Hardy Oelke who referred her to us in the event she might want to breed Zorita to a purebred Sorraia. I received my first email from Bonnie in 2007. Unfortunately, since our plans for Altamiro do not include shipping him off for outside breedings or obtaining sperm for artificial insemination there wasn't much chance of Altamiro siring any offspring for Zorita. I did tell Bonnie that should she ever decide she wanted to sell Zorita, Kevin and I would be interested, and she and I kept in touch.

After Zorita delivered her 2008 foal, Bonnie wrote to say they would, indeed, be willing to sell us this special mare. With the desire to see Zorita among her own kind, Bonnie and David generously came way down in their price so that we could afford to purchase Zorita and still have enough funds to get her shipped from their farm in Oregon all the way to northern Ontario (no small investment these days to ship horses across the continent!).

Because Bonnie was willing to bring Zorita to southern Oregon to meet with J C Equine Transport, we were able to obtain a berth on one of the coast to coast hauls these folks do quite regularly. Zorita's journey was broken up with a week's layover in Manitoba before she completed her trip to Manitoulin Island. She arrived in fine form, albeit a bit lighter in weight than when she left her home in Oregon, which has the effect of accentuating her Sorraia heritage as you can see in these two photos taken shortly after her arrival yesterday.

Sovina's Zorita standing just outside her temporary shelter in our yard at Ravenseyrie

Zorita, already looking like she belongs to the island wilderness
Himself, young Altamiro, looking very interested in Zorita

Our routine here when we bring a newcomer to the herd is to keep her in the yard so that she can meet the herd members with the safety of a fence between them. In another day or two, we will open the gate and let Zorita join the group in the big wide open.

This short video clip shows Zorita running just after the herd has come in from the forest and realized there is a new horse in the yard!

We do not have separate paddocks to facilitate her introductions, but our yard suffices in a pinch and offers the newcomer excellent views of the place so that she can begin to assess the wealth of freedom that will soon be hers...once she gets through the hazing period, that is!

This next video clip shows Mistral already letting Zorita know he is the Supreme Ruler and will not be letting her join the herd easily.

These horses are really amazing (the Sorraia and the Sorraia Mustangs)...each of them, when they first arrived here had to spend several days in our yard--weaving their way around various obstacles that are not normally part of a horse's environment. I have been amazed at how curious and unafraid they are, how mentally settled and composed they have been to new sights and sounds. Even the slightest life change for Mistral always set him into anxious fits, so the quiet, calm demeanors of these "primitive" horses I find very inspiring.

Zorita, it should be noted, unlike the others, has always lived the life of a domestic horse, so her gentleness is not unexpected. However, as you see from the next two photos, her quick bonding with me and desire to follow me most everywhere caught me quite off guard!
After a morning grooming session, I was heading back into the house...Zorita wanted to come too!
Zorita, what a fun little mare!

We are so very thankful to have Zorita join the Sorraia Mustang Preserve! We are closing Altamiro's herd now. Bella and Belina have a heritage of carefully selected Spanish bloodlines, Ciente offers the excellent phenotype of the Sorraia which resurfaces even among the captive bred Kiger Mustangs and with Zorita, we have a mare who not only carries antiquated Iberian blood from her Sulphur Mustang mother, but is half-purebred Sorraia to boot!

Many of you have been asking how Altamiro's foals are doing, and my next journal entry will answer that question.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How It Began/Part III

In April of 2007, I had been Googling for information on Kiger Mustangs and happened upon a website calling itself THE CANADIAN KIGER MUSTANG REGISTRY. Kigers, in Canada? Sure enough! It seems that a couple from Oshweken, Ontario had imported a handful of young Kiger Mustangs from Oregon, with the intent to breed them and establish the Kiger breed in Canada. There was a link to the page showing some of their first offspring, and my eyes really grew big with surprise when I saw these photos of a filly born in April of 2005:

This filly showed promising Sorraia characteristics and even though she had a big red "SOLD" banner across her sale ad, I contacted the website anyhow...being very interested in learning who had purchased her so that I might follow her as she matures.

Kelly Gibson, who manages the fledgling Canadian Kiger registry, wrote me back and to my delight, informed me that the filly was still up for sale. (It seems the buyer reluctantly pulled out, due to a change in jobs.) The price that was being asked for the filly while not outrageous, was nevertheless a little more than what Kevin and I could come up with at that time. While we intended to add two more mares to Altamiro's harem, we were not planning to do so until we'd saved up more finances for such a venture. But, when fate puts a Kiger Mustang of promising Sorraia type just a little over 8 hours drive from you, well...its something that must be pursued as best you can.

Hardy Oelke has written about the Kiger Mustang in several different articles, pointing out that among the wild herds overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management one finds quite a lot of Kiger horses which exhibit the primitive phenotype of the Iberian Sorraia. To find out more about Kiger Mustangs, please follow this link:

Kelly told me that Ciente, the filly who had captured our interest, was by Shelby, a grullo Kiger stallion:
and was out of Bit O' Honey, a dun colored Kiger mare:
Ciente, as a newborn, with her dam, Bit O' Honey

Kelly said that the filly is registered as Nieta de Sombre, but that they call her Ciente. (We decided to stick with Ciente, because in Portuguese it means "aware".) Both Ciente's sire and dam came from ranches in Oregon, where several folks are breeding Kiger mustangs in captivity. I'm somewhat familiar with these breeders (through online research) and noted that they are mostly trying to breed away from the Sorraia phenotype, preferring their Kiger horses to have a bit heavier-muscled, rounded body, with rather psuedo-Arabian styled heads. Much to the dismay of such breeders those intrepid primitive genetics are pervasive and quite often crop up despite the efforts of captive breeders to influence away from the convex profiles and longer, more angular bodies we recognize in the Sorraia horses. Ciente is a perfect example of the triumph of atavistic anomalies. The only thing that would have kept me from putting an offer on her would have been if her profile was dished (instead of straight or convex) or if she had any white markings. Both her parents have small amounts of white, but thankfully, Ciente was a perfectly solid grulla, with a sub-convex profile (a bit more than straight, but not as convex as Altamiro).

It took a bit of back and forth between us and the owners (Bill and Sophia Hill) to come together on price, something we almost weren't able to do because even though they were willing to take less than their asking price, we were still several hundred dollars short. Incredibly, though, during these deliberations one of my mid-sized original watercolor paintings sold at the studio, bringing in the amount we were short and making it possible for us to go ahead with the purchase of Ciente!

Once again, our friends John and Nancy offered to help us fetch a horse from southern Ontario. Kevin and John left midday, lodged in a hotel near their destination and arrived at the breeders farm he next morning. Ciente loaded nicely and soon they were headed north, arriving at Ravenseyrie in the early evening (on April 28th 2007). When we opened up the trailer and I got my first glimpse of Ciente, I was astonished at what a marvelous acquisition we had made for our Sorraia Mustang Preserve!

Ciente has prominent stripes on both front and back legs in addition to her lovely Sorraia type bone structure. She is so similar to Altamiro in appearance that both Kevin and I find it almost to good to be true!

After several days "stabled" in our yard, it was time to turn Ciente out with the others. There was, as is typical, quite a bit of hazing by Mistral and lots of excitement among the others. Several times I feared that those delicate looking limbs of Ciente's would break while mad-dashing over such rough, unfamiliar terrain.
Mistral, hazing Ciente, with Zeus joining in just for the fun of the run.

But soon, things quieted down and Altamiro was able to get closer to Ciente while Mistral stayed off to the side catching his breath.Ciente, (on left) with Altamiro (center) and Bella in between hazing runs.

It wasn't long before Ciente was accepted into the herd and her and Altamiro (both two year olds at the time) became good friends.
Altamiro (on left), Ciente (center) with Belina looking on.

Altamiro spent lots of time with Ciente when she first arrived and often the two of them would go off aways from the herd on little explorations together. Don't they look like two best friends?

One of my favoriate photos of Ciente, looking so lovely against the misty greenness of Ravenseyrie.

Another fun photo: Ciente and Bella napping in the Scant field

Such a friendly, inquisitive filly, this lovely Ciente!

How better to close this journal entry than to share with you a few of the photos Leslie Town took of Ciente when she was here to visit Altamiro. Leslie captured the exotic beauty and natural collection of the primitive Iberian horse while taking photos last October.
Here we have both Ciente and Altamiro. Can you tell which is the Sorraia and which is the Kiger Mustang of Sorraia type?

Oh, and for what its worth...I have seen a photo of this year's foal by Shelby and Bit O'Honey--he's a very cute colt--but doesn't look at all like a Sorraia. Such a curious thing, the way gene express themselves in offspring!

Very soon, I will have for you an entry titled, How It Began/Part IV...even as I type this, we are just days away from receiving at Ravenseyrie, one more mare which will complete Altamiro's harem. This mare is coming to us all the way from Oregon, and is presently on layover in Manitoba and due to arrive here this Wednesday.