Friday, April 30, 2010

Reliably Replicating Phenotype

I will preface this journal entry with an admission: I understand very little about equine genetics.

I do comprehend the difference between genotype (the inherited genetic information) and phenotype (the environmentally influenced observable results of how inherited genes express themselves morphologically, physiologically and behaviorally).

Genetically, the Sorraia and the Sorraia Mustang horses do not have an unadulterated lineage that can, definitively lay claim to them being a "pure breed", and, to my knowledge, no one involved with the preservation of the Sorraia horses has made such claims. These horses do not represent a "breed", though they are often referred to as such. Some researchers understand the Sorraia to reflect an ancestral "form" of primitive equine, most likely the Southern Iberian variant of the Tarpan (Equus ferus).

The Tarpan is thought to have dwelled in as diverse regions as France, Iberia and Russia and likely many others with phenotypical variations relating to the environments they existed within--thus we hear of the "Forest Tarpan" and the "Steppe Tarpan".

The last remaining Tarpan died in 1876.

Some descriptions tell of variants that had convex profiles, others had concave...some had upright manes, others had falling manes. Some were a bit shorter, others a bit taller--but they all were fine limbed with well articulated tapered heads and all were considered "mouse dun" in colour, with hues ranging from very light (almost white) to very dark (almost black) and as such they had prominent dorsal stripes and often stripes on their legs and shoulders and bi-coloured manes and tails.

My understanding is the Tarpan represented a genetic subspecies of wild equine and expressed variations in phenotype relating to which ever environment it adapted itself to and it was distinctly different than the wild Asiatic horse (Przewalski's Horse). In prehistoric cave paintings we find not only images remarkably similar to Przewalski's Horse, but also to the Tarpan in both its variant forms, one looking more like the Celtic pony and the other looking much more like the Sorraia. Incidentally, the medieval Iberians described striped wild horses of like characteristics that lived in their region and they called them Zebros.

Here at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve, our desire has been to assist in the preservation of the genetically bottlenecked Sorraia--the indigenous wild horse of southern Spain and Portugal--(dare I say the Iberian Tarpan?) by assembling a small group of North American mustang mares from various Iberian-influenced strains that each possess Sorraia characteristics and crossing them with a purebred Sorraia to enhance genetic variability.

Our foundation mares are:

--Ciente, a "purebred" Kiger Mustang
--Bella, a "purebred" Spanish Mustang
--Belina, part Spanish Mustang/part feral Appaloosa Mustang pony
--Zorita, part Sorraia/part Sulphur Mustang

Our Sorraia stallion, Altamiro and his harem of Sorraia Mustang mares are this year presenting us with their third "foal crop" which so far shows such remarkable uniformity among them and the first two years' offerings, one cannot help but conceive that the phenotype of the Iberian Tarpan is alive and well--testifying to the strength of the ancestral genetics that remain in present day horses and were just waiting for the right environment to consolidate the way this particular phenotypical expression manifests itself.

For me, this validates several assumptions regarding the Sorraia and the Sorraia type mustang...they must have a genetic link, more determinable than mtDNA and that the reliable reproducibility demonstrated here at Ravenseyrie suggests that pairing "like with like" regardless of "pedigree" is a valuable means of approaching preservation (at least for primitive horse forms) when environmental conditions are as close to a wild habitat as possible.

Throughout this journal entry, I've been treating you to photos of Belina and Altamiro's third filly!
She was born yesterday afternoon.

Mother and baby are in good form, and Altamiro looks after them with the firm diligence we've come to expect.

As soon as we discover what name this filly finds acceptable, I will post it to the blog.

I will end by saying I don't mind that I am scientifically illiterate--for me the visual manifestation of our preservation efforts speaks volumes and needs no peer-reviewed study to demonstrate that the the genetics of the prehistoric wild European horses have not been totally lost.

How fitting that an ancestral horse form that originally evolved in North America, went extinct here in its homeland, but survived in Europe and and is perilously close to disappearing there, has found consolidation so readily back in North America as demonstrated here at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve. I hope others will engage in this type of preservation to further consolidate and protect a form of horse that transcends time and space.

Please write me if you are interested in establishing a preserve on a tract of suitable land. I can put you in touch with people who have excellent examples of Sorraia Mustangs and those who have purebred Sorraia horses. Email:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Senses Converging

In her Path of the Horse Blog , Stormy May shares many photos of the animate entities that inhabit her horses' environment and she recently posed a question: "I know this is the Path of the Horse but as I see it, this is all related even if we don't see horses in these pictures. Do others see it this way? I'm curious to know if others can see the relationship."

Long time readers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie already know what my answer to her question is, but to enhance the interconnectedness I feel between myself, the horses and our environment, I 'll first offer up a quote from David Abram's book, The Spell of the Sensuous after which I will ask readers to join me in re-experiencing an afternoon with Altamiro and his mares and foals.

"Yet our ears and our eyes are drawn together not only by animals, but by numerous other phenomena within the landscape. And, strangely, whenever these these two senses converge, we may suddenly feel ourselves in relation with another expressive power, another center of experience. Trees, for instance, can seem to speak to us when they are jostled by the wind. Different forms of foliage lend each tree a distinctive voice, and a person who has lived among them will easily distinguish the various dialects of pine trees from the speech of spruce needles or Douglas fir. Anyone who has walked through cornfields knows the uncanny experience of being scrutinized and spoken to by whispering stalks. Certain rock faces and boulders request from us a kind of auditory attentiveness, and so draw our ears into relation with our eyes as we gaze at them, with our hands as we touch them--for it is only through a mode of listening that we can begin to sense the interior voluminosity of the boulder, its particular density and depth. There is an expectancy to the ears, a kind of patient receptivity that they lend to other senses whenever we place ourselves in a mode of listening--whether to a stone, or a river, or an abandoned house."--David Abram

Please let both your eyes and your ears now be drawn together as you participate in this video clip from Ravenseyrie:

And now this one:

What I find captivating in these two clips is the way the overall "voice" of all that we sense changes as we move through the forested marshland, the pond and then the edge of the woods out into the open land. This "voice" will change again as the season progress. The wetlands will have far less water and more mud. The open lands will have knee high grasses that sing and dance with the wind passing over them and hum with a symphony of busy insects. In fact it is by these very changes that we come to know ourselves in relation to all else. The variety of expressions generated by the ever flowing elementals are to me like a drug that allows me to penetrate realms that are otherwise imperceptible to me.

I know more and more of you are feeling the exquisite transportive "trip" that senses converging takes one on, and how being with your horses in a "non-using" capacity is a surprising facilitator of these experiences. In this context, let's read another quote from The Spell of the Sensuous:

The traditional or tribal shaman, I came to discern, acts as an intermediary between the human community and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape to the human inhabitants, but from the human community back to the local earth. --David Abram

My tendency to engage in flights of fancy has me contemplating the concept of "horse as shaman", how about you?

Does it not often seem that our horses are our intermediaries to the "larger ecological field"? Perhaps not in the highly humanized environment of competition stables, but when we go into the natural environment of horses, how often do we find ourselves more balanced, grounded, unified, loving and feeling positive about life in general?

The medicine person's primary allegiance, then, is not to the human community, but to the earthly web of relations in which that community is embedded--it is from this that his or her powers to alleviate human illness derives--and this sets the local magician apart from other persons...
...The deeply mysterious powers and entities with whom the shaman enters into a rapport are ultimately the same forces--the same plants, animals, forests, and winds--that to literate, "civlized" Europeans are just so much scenery, the pleasant backdrop of our more pressing human concerns. --David Abram

It's apparent to me that many people who have horses in their lives are beginning to awaken to the fact that our physical and psychological human illnesses are directly tied to the injustices humans have wrought upon Nature.

How did we come to be stimulated to shift our awareness from human-centered selfishness to the greater non-human realm?

What kind of shamanic magic have horses begun to work upon humans?

When we are with our horses, in "non-using" ways, our senses open to the non-human field and through their very adept intermediary capacities, the horses who captivate our attention show us not just the beauty of the entities surrounding us but direct our awareness to the gnosis inherent within each entity, and like opening a book show us the bounty of knowledge such a primal connection can provide.

Much of my energy now is to be a courier for the non-human entities of the cosmos, to receive what knowledge vibrates within a dewdrop, and a windgust, and unfurling of grasses, etc. and pass it on to those who yet remain disconnected from or unaware of the primal connection. I am an apprentice to these primitive horses and, traveling with them, seek to be also an intermediary between the wild and the cultivated human.

To finish my courier job today, I'm sharing a few photos taken during one of the many excursions I take with the horses where I place myself "in a mode of listening". I've included two images of Mistral, who is not a representative of primitive ancestral Sorraia horses, but he is wild at heart and easily reconnected with nature after his days as a competition dressage horse in our old life. Mistral was my very first equine shaman and the first to show me the power of "converging senses".

Mistral's notched ear and the rest of his wounds from fighting with Altamiro are healing marvelously well.


Belina, due to deliver her third foal, any day


Look at these amazing photos of Zorita navigating her way through an obstacle course of branches:

Fada and Animado graze in a sweet spot on one of the bluff's natural terraces

After we crossed the open land the family band went back toward the house where they each took a turn at the mineral block, and then decided it was nap time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Imke Spilker - Wild Horses

"The sight of them pulls us under their spell."--Imke Spilker

Having devoted the prior two journal entries to beauty's dark side and Altamiro's glorious wild horse expressionism, another article written by Imke Spilker has been presented to me at a perfect time for its first publication in English here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie.

This article was initially published in 1995 in a German environmental magazine called Umwelt Direkt, appearing in the segment Nature and Man. The title of the article is, Wild Horses and, like me, I think you will be amazed at how far ahead of her time Imke Spilker was, to be writing fifteen years ago about things we are just now coming to terms with.

The translation of Wild Horses is by Kristina McCormack. All the photos accompanying the text were taken by me, here at Ravenseyrie, with the exception of the black and white image of Imke Spilker and Reno which was captured by Hans-Peter Gerstner.

Many thanks to Imke Spilker and Kris McCormack for trusting the Journal of Ravenseyrie with the publication of another thought-provoking article.

Wild Horses
Imke Spilker

Earth has been subjected by mankind -- this idea characterizes now as ever our behavior toward the environment. But subjugation is not the only answer we can give to the living world around us.

Nature in Germany is tame. No bear lurks deep in the woods, every tree has its owner, and the wind-and-waterproof Goretex jacket resists every bit of bad weather. We have our Nature firmly in hand. We love her, enclose her, cultivate her. We help the turtles cross the street, live in a nature conscious way, and feel like her big brother.

They fly off into the distance on thundering hooves, confidently tossing their flowing manes, eyes flashing they rear and gambol, full of unbounded power and joy in living: high-spirited, playful, free horses. The sight of them pulls us under their spell. Horses, it is said, are noble, proud, symbols of freedom and power.

Human beings go into the mountains and desert, in ice and snow, into oceans and virgin forest seeking primordial wildness -- always remaining outside it, only observers. Because wildness is fright and yearning all in one. The magnificent, colossal unboundedness provokes horror when we feel completely at its mercy. Powerless, abandoned to a Nature that we no longer understand, that we no longer trust, panic seizes us and we feel alienated, strangers in a strange land.

Horses are tame harmless pets. Work animals sacrificing themselves in the service of mankind. Livestock. We love horses. They are familiar to us. Horses are strong and fast, far surpassing humans in their powers. Domestication has done little to change that. When they are left to themselves, they shift effortlessly back to a wild horse existence. Horses do not need us.
As long as the river stays in its bed, the garden is free of weeds, and our apartment is free of vermin, we feel at home in nature. Subjugated, she allows us harmony. We feel in unison with tamed nature. But as soon as Nature “leaves the reservation”, comes too close and becomes unpredictable, the uncontrolled-ness of it all disturbs us at the deepest level: we decimate, cultivate, train.... It is still fascinating for man to control, “break”, and bridle the horse -- that symbol of wildness. Dominated Nature, that carries him.

But horses are not wild! They are afraid of us and our incomprehensible world, they sense our conflicting emotions, they would like to trust us, and above all they do not make an attempt on our lives with their superior strength. Horses are not only NOT aggressive, they are actually addicted to harmony -- a characteristic that has made them extraordinarily useful in the history of human beings. Their working days are over. Today we have stronger, faster, more easily maintained machines. But, the fascination with horses is intact.
The fact that they are no longer needed as beasts of burden offers us a new opportunity, but instead of seizing it and learning a new art of partnership from horses, we instead still use them --- as leisure-time appliances. Horses are drilled, controlled, enslaved like (almost) no other animal. Every step is proscribed for them. The arsenal of methods for completely controlling and dominating an animal that once roamed free on the steppes is continually perfected. All too often this “creature of the wind” loses his health and his joy of living because of this.

It could be different. We could become familiar, intimate, with the horse as with a friend. We could give up control and bridling and entrust ourselves to a togetherness that bridges the separation between animal and man.

Horses can teach us harmony, unity between inner and outer. They can take away from us the fear that underlies our preference for separation and control. If we learn to open ourselves to them and perceive their subtle language, we will also come closer to our own true nature. For life -- and this applies to us, too -- is always somehow unpredictable. Thank goodness!

Photo: H-P Gerstner
Communication instead of control -- that changes even the horses. The conscious, proud art of movement engenders a new and healthy perception of self. Dance and play, horse and human -- elevated, exhilarated, joyful and free.

“And Allah took a handful of south wind, breathed into it and created the horse ... ‘I have given you the power to fly without wings and triumph without sword..’” --Bedouin tradition

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Altamiro and the Sandhill Cranes

Two Sandhill Cranes fly over the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve on Manitoulin Island

I'm a woman with a philosophical, meditative, reflective, gentle disposition. I have been trained to show restraint, be a witness, a watcher, to stand outside myself, to "feel" deeply--yet not be swept away by emotionality.

I'm steady, reliable, balanced, serenely grounded in "the now"...

...except when I am not!

Which sometimes is my reality, too.

Certain occurrences, sights, fragrances, sounds, textures can transport me and evoke a completely absorbed state of sensuality (which I do not mean in a sexual context). This, too, is part of "the now", but it is not experienced by me with esoteric detachment, rather the sensation is like an intoxicating wave, a fever, a particular madness, after which I return to that more stoic mien that is my preponderant manner of being.

Living here at Ravenseyrie, especially mingling with the primitive Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses provides me with the opportunity to explore both the spiritual and the carnal elements of myself and I must tell you that many times there seems no discernable duality during the peak experiences characterized by "a particular madness".

"Part of us still knows we need the Wild Redeemer."--Dale Pendell

During this early spring the catalyst to many an "intoxicating wave" is our Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, five years old and SO very ENERGIZED!!

In my last journal entry, I relayed that Altamiro often leaves his family band to go "lookin' for adventure", and I mentioned that he has begun to delight in chasing seagulls and ravens. We can add the Sandhill Crane to this list of aves singled out for entertainment purposes by this ardent ancestral stallion...and I have it on video!!!

A Sandhill Crane and Canada Goose in close proximity during the spring of 2009 at Ravenseryie

Altamiro was coming back from the east sector yesterday, early evening, after having put in some rambunctious interactivity with Mistral's group. I was making dinner and could see him coming back across the field, and he paused, looking like a chiseled statue of mythic proportions.

I could tell he still had energy to spare and was looking for the next activity to engage himself in. I wished for two things as I watched him...I wished that I had my camera on the tripod with the bigger lens attached, and I wished there was a flock of seagulls nearby by, because I just knew Altamiro would race toward them and send them scattering on the wind.

As I was wishing these things, off to the west a pair of Sandhill Cranes descended and landed just to the north of the Red Osier Dogwood region. Altamiro saw them too! I grabbed my camera (ordinary lens, no tripod) and quickly took up a position outside and pushed "record". Altamiro had to cover quite a distance and while trying to keep him in the view-finder I was unable to also get the cranes in the same frame, but you'll hear their distinctive voices, and around the 20 second mark of the video clip, up in the left upper corner of the frame you'll see they've taken off. Though I was unable to zoom in any closer, you still can get a sense of the thrill of watching this amazing stallion run across the landscape, bent on chasing up those birds! "Racin' with the wind..."

To help you see them better, I've extracted a still scene from the video clip, of poor quality, but I really wanted you to see that those smart cranes left the ground before thundering hooves got too close. See them, near the top, on the left?

Two pieces of music have been fighting for attention in my mind since Altamiro has begun to so energetically take on the entire world. What other stallion can inspire a mild-mannered woman to hear both Steppenwolf and Beethoven at the same time?

Mars Bonfire wrote a song that obviously Altamiro has somehow listened to. Below, are the lyrics to Born to be Wild. As you read them, I'm betting like me, you can see how Altamiro expresses all that these words convey. And if you're not familiar with this incredible Steppenwolf song, I've pasted in a performance by them so you can hear what I hear when I see Altamiro strutting his stuff here at Ravenseyrie.

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

But! As I mentioned, Ludwig von Beethoven's music also comes to mind when I view Altamiro's combustibility. One example would be the "presto agitado" third movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata. I've selected a performance by Murray Perahia for you to hear:

As you can tell by the sensual elements of this journal entry, I am unable to show restraint while watching Altamiro express his joie de vivre and have given up trying. Sometimes the river is fast moving, and I'm swept away...but I do not think it detracts from spiritual aspiration...I think it enhances it, don't you?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beauty's Dark Side

Altamiro, grazing with his family, while keeping an eye on a pair of Sandhill Cranes at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve on Manitoulin Island

Three beats to the ground, one airborne and silent--perchance to fly...
All beauty and magic--until reaching down and forward, with his teeth he grasps the foal's hock, never breaking stride, one fluid movement, an angry toss and the filly has somersaulted, landed in a jumbled heap and is immediately back up, running to catch up with the warm side of her dam, several strides ahead.

I run full at HIM, screaming, "ALTAMIRO!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!" He pauses, and I stop, shaking my fists, wailing like a banshee, hating all that is HIM...completely at a loss to comprehend how he could have behaved so brutishly. Because Bella said "no" to his sexual overtures, Altamiro acted out in frustration by tossing seven day old Pinoteia.

"She could have landed on a rock!!!"
, I upbraided him.

He looked me full in the eyes, understood my disappointment in HIM...but yet compelled by a wave of hormonal angst, he tossed his handsome head, shaking off my rebuke, and ran his harem off into the far forest north.


He is larger than life for me, and even as I am repulsed by some of his rock star, bad boy attitudinal outbursts, I find myself enamored by his incredible charisma.

Was it this way even before we met?

I surely projected A LOT of hopes and dreams upon him even before we met.

And when we finally did meet, I loved him as a mother loves a child, my hopes and dreams of a noble herd sire mostly were forgotten, looking at this skinny, out-of-place, remnant of a lost age. A wild horse with ties to ancient times? He seemed much more like a child, wrenched from his zoological park home, pushed onto a plane, flown over the ocean and deposited into a wilderness his prehistoric genes seemed to have long forgotten.

I enveloped him with empathy, and worry. He was so small, under-developed even "dull" witted. How could he possibly "seed" the restoration of ancestral horses???
The yearling Sorraia stud colt, Altamiro, in 2006, living in our yard temporarily because of the troubles we had getting him accepted into the herd.

Everyone here (those with equine heritage) seemed to loath him. Most wanted nothing to do with him. One refused to allow him group participation at all. One wanted to kill him.

And he looked at them, rather dopey-eyed, and extended the hoof of friendship--despite being repeatedly rebuffed.
Altamiro trying to make friends with Bella in 2006. (Note the healing wound on his neck, a "welcome" gift from Jerry, the draft mule, during an earlier attempt at integration.)

Adjustments had to be made. Mesquite, a small bay mule (who was bent on destroying the Sorraia) had to be relocated to a new home.

Mesquite, a diminutive--but determined-- mule, chasing down Altamiro in 2006.

Mistral (the gelding who would be King) maintained a strict circumference which the alien stud colt must not breech.

Summer gave way to late autumn before one could say that he had actually integrated into the herd and made Ravenseyrie his home. What did the rest of the equines at Ravenseyrie see that I could not? There was no threat in this almost homely, forlorn creature...was there?

...and I wondered, how in the world would such a dim-eyed colt become a herd sire?

Presently, I'm reading David Shenk's book on epigenetics titled, The Genius in All of Us, which provides a wonderful window into how influential the way we live our lives is upon our genetic make-up and even the genetic expression of the next generation. Genes hold within them the promise of potential, but they are not, on their own, the stuff of greatness. The interaction of environmental influences, cultural shaping and each individual's choices to the variables presented throughout life all have a role in how genes express themselves.

In an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, Shenk relays:

The implications of this dynamic interaction are enormous; it explodes all of our old notions of "innate" qualities and genetic destiny. The new way to understand genes is that they are a vital actor in a developmental process. "In each case," explains Cambridge University biologist Patrick Bateson in "Cycles of Contingency." "The individual animal starts its life with the capacity to develop in a number of distinctly different ways. Like a jukebox, the individual has the potential to play a number of different developmental tunes... The particular developmental tune it does play is selected by [the environment] in which the individual is growing up."

This very thing, "dynamic interaction" is what Altamiro responded to from the minute he stepped off the trailer and began to mingle with all that is Ravenseyrie.

In the whole wide world there are +/- 200 Sorraia horses remaining in existence. Of these there even a smaller number of breeding stallions, some of whom are now subjected to modern breeding practices which house the stallions separately from the mares and foals, keep them in limited, unnatural environments, incorporate artificial insemination, etc. I can well imagine that if Altamiro had been exposed to a less inspiring environment than Ravenseyrie, kept from actually living with mares and trained to allow humans to collect his semen via a dummy mount, he would not be the equine version of film star, Antonio Banderas, but would likely have grown even duller in body and mind than he was when he first arrived here as a yearling.

All well and good that this five year old Sorraia stallion has grown into an ardent and impassioned, larger than life Iberian hearthrob--one must realize that he is not all "sweetness and light"--the particular beauty that is Altamiro has a dark side...

Antonio Banderas in the film Desperado
Image credit: Rick Torres

As relayed in the opening scene of today's journal entry, Altamiro does not always channel his amazing energy into edifying actions. Though upon inspection, wee Pinoteia had not a scratch on her after having been picked up and slung aside by her father, in truth, she could have landed on one of the many rocks that make up our landscape, becoming broken bodied or even killed by such rash action undertaken by Altamiro. Let's just say that I've never been impressed by rock stars that take to smashing their guitars.
Altamiro, during the summer of 2009

At this time in his life, Altamiro must feel spectacular. After a rough start here, he now lays claim to rulership of all of Ravenesyrie, even lately taking delight in charging into flocks of seagulls and ravens for the dual pleasure of feeling his body respond in top form and being in the middle of birds taking flight en mass. (You can bet I'm hoping to get this on camera one day!) Imagine him rearing up and pawing at birds in flight, with mischievous delight.

Mischievous aptly describes Altamiro, for he is not wholly satisfied with being the paramour to four young mares and father to their exquisite, he gets a bit bored with the family life and often leaves them to go marauding, looking for action elsewhere.
Antonio Banderas in the film Desperado
Photo credit, unknown

Typically Altamiro's quest for physical and mental stimulation outside that which he receives as a "family man" lead him over to the other sector of the range where Mistral and his group roam. Here there are mules to harass, his banished sons and the domestic geldings to play rough and tumble games with, and his expelled daughters to haze once again.

This first video clip shows Altamiro harassing the draft mule, Dee:

This next clip shows Altamio picking out his coming two year old son, Interessado, for a bit of roughing up:

Most of the time no harm comes from these escapades (not counting, of course, the surface bites that most everyone other than Altamiro himself wears from these encounters).

Several weeks ago, however, Mistral (the former ruler of the land) though 28 years old and a domestic bred Arabian gelding decided not to walk away from Altamiro when he came by to flex his muscles and arrogantly remind Mistral that Ravenseyrie was now his. If Kevin had not been on hand to break it up, who knows how far things would have gone? A fight to the death? Kevin felt that Mistral was not going to back down or concede this time and their duel would have escalated until Mistral suffered a mortal wound. After referee Kevin had sent both fighters to their respective corners, Mistral actually tried to go after Altamiro again, until Kevin once more intervened and convinced Mistral to give it up. I used nearly an entire jar of calendula salve doctoring up the hundreds of bite marks strong-headed Mistral walked away with. Altamiro was unscathed, as usual. The two have a new truce in effect and have gone back to a respectful and peaceful relations.
Altamiro, sharing some "family man" time, here dining with both Segura and Silvestre

While contemplating how to best compose this journal entry, I first found myself likening Altamiro to a brilliant rock star coming into top form--who is he most like: Elvis Presley? , Mick Jagger?, Axl Rose?.

But after further reflection, scenes from the many films Antonio Banderas has starred in began to replay in my mind and I realized that this actor's smouldering, dark, yet passionate and "fair" minded characters best resonated with the type of character Altamiro presently is. A fitting reflection, actually, considering they both have a heritage from the Iberian Peninsula.

Can you see the resemblance between Altamiro and Antonio Banderas in character as Zorro?

Altamiro in a soft moment with one of his leading ladies, the Kiger Mustang mare, Ciente

While it has been delightfully fun to select a celebrity who personifies Altamiro, I recognize that at this point in time, it was obvious I could not select a more esoteric-minded figure, though I may have wished for one. Yet there is something passionately noble as well as transcendentally spiritual about this horse...and not just he, but each of these "primitives" here at Ravenseyire, as if the best of Ghandi himself--that self-same capacity to inspire better things in humans--exists in these primordial equine entities. Somehow I can readily imagine that Altamiro (of his own accord, but with a little prompting from Kevin and me) will turn the most violent tendencies of his expressionism into actions which provoke the best in himself and others.

David Shenk again, this time from his book, The Genius in All of Us:
Could our individual actions be affecting evolutin in all sorts of unseen ways?
"People used to think that once your epigenetic code was laid down in early development, that was it for life," says McGill University epigenetics pioneer Moshe Szyf. "But life is changing all the time, and the epigenetic code that controls your DNA is turning out to be the mechanism through which we change along with it. Epigenetics tells us that the little things in life can have an effect of great magnitude."
Everything we know about epigenetics so far fits perfectly with the dynamic systems model of human ability [and all living things--lg.]. Genes do not dictate what we are to become, but instead are actors in a dynamic process. Genetic expression is modulated by outside forces. "Inheritance" comes in many different forms: we inherit stable genes, but also alterable epigenes; we inherit languages, ideas, attitudes, but can also change them. We inherit an ecosystem, but can also change it.
Everything shapes us and everything is shaped by us. The genius in all of is is built-in ability to improve ourselves and our world.

The difficulty lies with me. Nature is Beauty...yet she has a dark-side, at least as a human, it seems to me there is darkness and violence that I do not always know how to reconcile. But, like Shambhala Training, I believe in the essence of basic goodness, and when I see Altamiro acting out violently, on the one hand I recognize that I may not understand what motivates such behavior...perhaps it arises from instinct and hormonal urges, some of which are meant to be survivalist in intent and other which are imbalanced...I try not to judge, but I do sometimes intervene. When I feel such things arise from an imbalance, I have no difficulty in shaking my fists in reproach and intervening with a prompt to him that he should behave differently. Then, heart to heart, I try to reflect the higher calling of beingness...and who is to say it will not have an interactive impact upon his further development?

I'd like to leave you now with a YouTube video clip from the big screen film, Four Rooms, wherein Antonio Banderas comically demonstrates (in a supremely enjoyable example of over-acting) the conflict of being a father who sometimes wishes to escape parenting for a bit of wild fun...reminding me so very much of Altamiro himself: