Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Transferable

Here I am at the studio, on a very busy day during the height of tourist season, but after reading this morning a very moving entry in a blog called: Chloe, the Pony Who Wouldn't, I feel compelled to direct readers to this entry.

I'd also like to direct readers to an interview that appeared on the Nevzorov Haute Ecole website: Interview with Michael Bevilacqua by Cloé Lacroix and Kris McCormack

In this interview, Michael Bevilacqua sums up very clearly how an egalitarian partnership with a horse based on a friendship relationship is likely to be ill-appreciated by individuals who prefer to be with horses who are trained to accept a human as hierarchially dominant and submissive to our desires.

"The horses showed me a side of themselves that gradually changed my thinking more and more. It came to a point that I had to train the people, not the horses. Horses that I worked with at home would be so good with me. They would also be pretty good with the owner if I were present. If an owner showed up when I was not around, I would hear that they could sometimes not even halter the horse and would completely give up and leave in anger and frustration. What I realized after dropping one training tradition after another, was that my horses, or all the horses I trained, because no force and pain were involved, were not `broken`. It was a trust and a bond that we developed. This trust and bond, comprehension, and willingness were part of our unique relationship. That relationship was not transferable."--Michael Bevilacqua

There are those people who want to have friendly relations with horses, yet still want their horses to yield in all circumstances and respond in push-button manner to the directions of humans. Horses trained in this manner by and large will allow themselves to be used by any human.

And then there are those individuals who are interested in more than "friendly relations"--they want a two-way friendship with this fantastic being, the horse. Horses "trained" within this type of framework will not allow themselves to be passed around and used like a piece of sports equipment.

As Michael states, such a relationship is "not transferable".

You will read that June has found that nurturing a relationship with horses that allows for free expression from both the equine and the human establishes a much richer marriage between the species. However, during a visit from her friend, June learns that the type of relationship she has with her horses is "not transferable", nor is it understood or appreciated by those accustomed to horses that are trained to be subordinate.

The difference is that one approach is a "method" and the other is a "relationship"--a coming together between two beings who desire a friendship. Such friendships may not be understood or appreciated by traditional horse folk, but as June reminds us by quoting Imke Spilker, "Who inspects my work? Who supervises me? My horse."

June's blog entry does a fantastic job of processing the criticism of a knowledgeable horse friend--even understanding its reasoning, but in the end she knows for certain traditional training modalities no longer suit her and her horses, and why. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read what she has written. It's an honest and profound testament to how difficult this journey can be at times when we realize "A Delicate Balance is Disturbed".

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Precious Mischief

Zorita's 2010 filly is just over a week old and from day two has been a very spunky gal, reminding me very much of the cavorting Pinoteia engaged in as soon as she discovered what her out-of-womb foal body could do. Only, with this new filly, there is an element of the "devil-may-care" scamp in her. Any mother who has felt the frustration of trying to contain a toddler on a tear can sympathize with Zorita's frustration in this video:

Knowing that Susan Mathia (proprietor of a lovely bed & breakfast establishment called The Queen's Inn) enjoys the occasional video clip from Ravenseyrie, I emailed her a copy of the above sequence, to which she replied: "What a precious little mischief she is!"

Of course, between the activities of the new filly and the comments of Susan, I soon was deep into my Portuguese/English dictionary and researching words which might make potential names from online translation sites as well.

Precious by itself did not convey the imp quality to this emerging personality of the new filly, but "mischief" certainly did. There were many offerings, one of which came back with "maliciosa" meaning "playfully mischievous". "Perfect!" I thought. That evening, I sat near her, on a log that she was sampling with her tongue. "Hello, Maliciosa." No response. "Filly, would you like to have the name, Maliciosa?" Without altering her position, or ceasing to lick the log, she gave me a dubious sidelong look. "You do not care for the name, Maliciosa?" Zorita's new filly, walked away, without a backward glance in my direction. I would take that as a pretty distinct, "no", wouldn't you?

Some of the other suggestions provided by dictionaries which in one way or another defined impish/scampish behavior were: moleque, diabrura, pressa, and levada. The only one that had a direct connection with "mischief" was "levada" which is another adjective meaning "mischievous". I presented it to the new filly this morning and when I spoke it, she immediately pricked her ears and looked straight at me, almost with a look of, "Well, finally, you've found it!"

Here is a video clip of Tocara (my hasn't she grown lovely!) attempting to make friends with Levada. For her part, Levada is making it plain that she's not easily won over. A very similar scene (near the end of this blog entry) was presented to me when last year Silvestre was hoping to befriend Levada's full sister, Segura. How marvelous that even very new foals have such a sense of self!

Zorita has come into her foal heat and this has Altamiro enforcing a wider "buffer zone" between the family band and Mistral's group. I took a short (but poor quality) video clip during a "conversation" Altamiro was having with Jerry, as the Sorraia stallion defended his territory. The conversation looked something like you see below (from a combination of still scenes extracted from the video and one photo):

The conversation was ardent, but brief and essentially non-violent.

Here are a few photos taken during one of Levada's mad dashes which she engages in for the sheer joy of being (and also maybe for the "precious little mischief" delight she receives in provoking her mother's ire as well.)

And lastly here are some photos of Tocara attempting to befriend Levada:

(That is Silvestre in the foreground)

(I apologize to those of you who have maybe subscribed to the Journal of Ravenseyrie and today received three versions of "A Precious Mischief"...I must have hit the wrong key while working on the text, not once--but twice, which accidentally caused the entry to be published before it was ready.)

And not to be left out of images of the 2010 fillies, here's a quick head shot of Pinoteia:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Each Time, a Miracle

As busy as things are just now at my Ravenseyrie Studio Art Gallery on the village waterfront, I still make time to visit with the horses, even if it cannot be the long hours of co-mingling which are my luxury during the off season. I am stronger in the morning, more clear headed and enlivened by the coolness of the dawn and so during the summer months, this is primarily the time when I get to connect with the horses. Typically, in the evenings, after a tiring day at work and the 45 minute commute home on my bicycle, I've little left to give, save making a meal for Kevin and myself, and I only hike out to see the horses if we cannot spot them grazing in the open through our field glasses.

It is important for us to know that before night falls all the horses are accounted for and that there are no apparent injuries that might require our attention. When we are expecting a foal to be born, our diligence in checking in with the horses is even more pronounced.

With Ciente (our Kiger Mustang mare of Sorraia phenotype) having decided to skip a year for foaling, and with both Bella and Belina having delivered their foals earlier in the spring, this left for us just Zorita to complete her gestation and bring forth a new entity to the landscape of Ravenseyrie.

My 2009 calendar notes that Zorita delivered her filly, Segura on August the 21st and that she was covered (and settled) by Altamiro during her foal heat which started on August 27th, with no further heat cycles being observed. That would have her ready to deliver eleven months later on or around July 27th in 2010.

When a mare is still nursing the prior year's foal and nears the time when one expects a new foal to be born, I find it impossible to detect any changes in her udder that assist in helping pinpoint how close she might be to delivering. The diagnostics I work with in such a case then are limited to her overall bearing and behaviour, the shape of her abdomen and the tone of her pelvic muscles.

Sovina's Zorita, half-purebred Sorraia/half-Sulphur Mustang

When Zorita's calendar date of delivery was a little over a week away both Kevin and I heightened our powers of observation, and when a few times Altamiro's family band did not come into view in the open during the evening's grazing either he or I would hike out to find them and assure that all was in good form.

On Friday, the evening of July 16th, after having mentioned to Kevin that I believed Zorita's pelvic muscles had looked slacker in the morning, even though I was extremely exhausted, I hiked out to find the family band when they didn't come out into the open to graze as usual.

While walking out, the magic of the landscape altered my perceptions in such a way that all the human chatter lingering in my head from the busy day at the studio completely dissolved and was replaced by the sound of the wind in the summer grasses and the occasional cawing of Ravens and clattering of Sandhill Cranes. Everything moved slower, with a dance-like quality. Though I began my hike expecting to find the family band peacefully grazing with no foal born yet, midway through crossing the Scanty Field, I knew that tonight was different--intuitively I knew that when I found the family band there would be one member more than before.

It was a spectacular sensation...this feeling of "knowing".

Let's let the photos now speak for things themselves:
Zorita and her 2010 filly, born during the afternoon of July the 16th

It doesn't matter how often foals are born here at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve, each time it feels like a miracle...each time I am moved on a very primordial level as I recognize how significant and important it is that we have brought together these wonderful mares with Altamiro and can follow their lives on this special landscape.

These next photos are from the following day:

I have received emails from my friend Eva and also from Ruy d'Andrade's great-granddaughter, Constança who have both expressed a desire to learn more about our special mustang mares. I am working on a journal entry devoted to Bella, Belina, Ciente and Zorita for some time in the future. As dynamic and inspiring it is to revel in the charisma of our purebred Sorraia stallion, Altamiro--it obvious the mares deserve equal accolades, so I will deliver on that very soon.

"The unique thing about the Sorraia horse is that it is not a breed, but a relic; a horse which largely embodies the indigenous South Iberian wild horse, and the prehistoric form-III horse."

"The fact is, that we can find individuals among today's mustangs which resemble the Sorraia to such a degree that one cannot tell them apart."

"If horses mate who all carry many of the genes of a certain form, and live in an environment ideal to the needs of this form, it is only a matter of time until individuals result which represent that form completely."

--Hardy Oelke

Altamiro (left) and Ciente

Zorita's new filly, with Ciente in the background

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dual Faceted

"In considering the 6,000 years of equestrian adaptation, it was noted earlier in this book that horsepower was dual faceted: progressive yet destructive."--Pita Kelekna from The Horse In Human History

Tourist season on Manitoulin Island is in full swing, filled with high spirits and a sense of adventure and discovery among the visitors who've come to experience the transportive qualities of this special place.

For those individuals who happen to venture into the Wharf building and discover the Ravenseyrie Studio and Art Gallery, the visual delights include a photo and written presentation of the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve tacked up in the ample foyer. As visitors take in this overview, many questions are brought to me, with one question being asked more frequently than all the others: Do you ride these horses?

"Astride the horse, man truly has become the creature of his own imagination - centaur, part god, part beast - capable of great intellectual feats but also capable of ruthless destruction."--Pita Kelekna

When the concept of our preserve was in seed form, I had every intention of including dressage training in the lives of these primitive horses, and perhaps one day, a bit of this will indeed occur. For now, my entire being is swept up in the world of these horses, with the full realization that they have a complete life--rich with familial bonds, environmental learning, exercise and playtime, rest and relaxation, an expansive array of plants to graze/browse for food and medicinal needs, oppression and relief from the natural fluctuations of our regions climate, and movement, always movement. Like waves on the shore and winds in the trees, these horses are ever-flowing with the moment. One becomes hard-pressed to extract an individual from this heady equine-centered realm and impose human-centered education upon them.

Contemplating the sobering words Pita Kelekna chose to close her academic volume of horse/human history and recognizing that seemingly from the very beginning of these relationships, humans have mostly subjugated horses for pursuits which accelerated the violent and dominator predilections of a few over the many, I've come to recognize that the life I share with Kevin at Ravenseyrie provides a unique opportunity to explore a different facet of being with horses--one that is centered upon their world and their way of being and not that of the human world.

One thing is certain, these primitive horses--who in reality need nothing from humans (except enough habitat to sustain them) even so desire a relationship with us. How fascinating a thing this is! What a gift!

My aunt connects with Ciente, during a recent visit to Ravenseyrie. Look at the softness of this "wild" mare and the utter fascination and delight on the face of my aunt (who is not a "horse person") as she touches what one can arguably say is a "living fossil".

Dedicating ourselves to come to an understanding of horses by being with them in ways that do not use them as beasts of burden or sport/pleasure tools may facilitate a beneficial evolution in human intelligence that leads us away from violence and domination and strengthens our capacity for understanding and cooperation--which may be exactly what we need to keep us from ultimate destruction.

"Should we not pause to rethink? In our unending quest for acceleration, perhaps we need to seek a different form of speed - cerebral rather than quadrupedal."--Pita Kelenka

Can you believe this is young Silvestre, Ciente's colt born last summer? Check out his sale page for more updated photos.

I should also add here that another query which I receive as frequently as "Do you ride these horses?" is: "Is your preserve open to the public?" I think a preserve like what we have here at Ravenseyrie would be an excellent attraction for people to see rare, primitive horses in a natural setting and learn more about how different horse/human relationships can be when not based on "using" these incredible beings. I'm going to work towards helping establish an interactive Sorraia Mustang preserve elsewhere on the island that will be managed by someone other than me...this is a future dream I hope to realize. For now, however, the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve is not open to the public.

My home is a very private place and it is where I go for solitude and restoration after giving myself to the public all day at the studio/gallery. I'm usually exhausted from the stimulation gained from mingling with people during the day and find it vital for my mental balance to be alone with the animals as much as I can in the mornings before I go to work and in the evenings when I come home. The best I can offer the public right now is they are welcome to make the lovely drive up the bluff perchance to see from the road the horses grazing in the open prairie, and stop by the studio to talk with me during my regular business hours. When I am at home, I am "off-duty". I truly appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard. When something public is available, I'll be sure to let the entire world know. Until then, you all have this interactive blog to follow closely the lives of the horses here at Ravenseyrie.