Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ravenseyrie Sorraias in Austria

Belina (Sorraia Mustang) and Zorita Portuguese Sorraia x Sorraia Mustang), together with the purebred Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, produced the fillies, Tocara and Levada, who were exported to Vienna, Austria in the summer of 2012 from the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve, Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada

My life entwines intimately with "wild" horses and a remote, rugged, windswept world on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.  I could never have fabricated a dream so completely fulfilling and so ripe with non-traditional learning experiences.   Benevolent fate leads me through life with sweeping gestures - indicates which paths to take, or when to tumble through the untrod brush - so came I to this place (and space in timeless time) where exists a view into alternative realms.  Even after eight years passing, I continue to feel a childlike wonder in each new day and find my mind wide-open to receiving an education from elemental professors, like the slant of sun magically illuminating the dancing of clouds or the subtle shifting shadows of a herd of horses grazing below them.  Everything is rich with meaning and pregnant with potential, providing inspiration through sorrowful trials and joyous triumphs alike.

Sunrise at Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

Because Ravenseyrie is a "preserve" devoted to crossing a purebred Sorraia stallion with select mustang mares of Sorraia type, it has always been part of our conservation efforts to assist others interested in saving the highly inbred - nearly extinct Sorraia - by offering our offspring for sale (carefully documented and registered with the Sorraia Mustang Studbook in Germany)  to the appropriate people.  My sentimental soul neglected to peer into the future and see just how difficult parting with the Ravenseyrie youngsters would be!  Likewise, I was unprepared for the perceptual shift that would occur after coming to know these horses in the context of their own, natural world as opposed to the image I had of horses which had been shaped by centuries of equestrian traditions (some quite beautiful, in a certain sense) which extract equines from their natural world and compel them to be of service to the whims of mankind while housed in an artificial, human-centred environment.  Things I used to do with and to horses not only no longer hold interest for me, much of it now repulses me.

Coming from this new perspective, I have been cultivating concepts of freedom, mutuality, autonomy and a shared leadership in my relations with horses and have been rewarded with a deeper understanding and closeness to them than I ever had before.  However, when the time comes to ready young horses for their lives elsewhere, the ease of interactions I have with them in their wilderness-world runs into contradictions.  I no longer think of myself as a "trainer", yet when a young horse has been sold, I must introduce them to the halter, lead-line and numerous restrictions and directives that were unnecessary in their wild life, but seemingly essential to getting along with humans.  Is it possible to uphold those concepts of "freedom", "mutuality", "autonomy" and "shared leadership" even as I impose restrictions and make choices for the horses that they themselves would likely not make?

In 2011, when Animado, Encantara and Segura were purchased and needed to be prepared for export to the U.S., I did not write a journal entry about how they came to accept wearing halters and following on a lead-line.  This year, our two-year-old fillies, Tocara and Levada, were sold to Ms. Claudia Radbauer and destined to board a flight to Europe.  I thought this time I would keep a bit of a record of the "process" and share it here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie.  I have followed no training regime, nor implemented any particular technique, but rather tried to feel my way into these new sensations Tocara and Levada (and me) would be experiencing and to always make things interesting and pleasant for them, and fun!  My natural intuition was facilitated by the works of alternative trainers like Imke Spilker, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, Carolyn Resnick, Alexander Nevzorov and the husband/wife team of Magali Delgado and Frédéric Pignon.  First and foremost I kept the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj ever in mind:

"Your sincerity will guide you.  Devotion to the goal of freedom and perfection will make you abandon all theories and systems and live by wisdom, intelligence and active love.  Theories may be good as starting points, but must be abandoned, the sooner -- the better."

"Whatever name you give it:  will, or steady purpose, or one-pointedness of the mind, you come back to earnestness, sincerity, honesty.  When you are in dead earnest, you bend every incident, every second of your life to your purpose.  You do not waste time and energy on other things.  You are totally dedicated, call it will, or love, or plain honesty."

And so, as we proceeded to bring Levada and Tocara off the range and keep them in the holding pasture until the time came for them to be taken to the quarantine facility in southern Ontario, my "steady purpose", my "one-pointedness" was to continue to act from a place of love and earnestness and to not resort to traditional "systems" or "theories" while introducing these fillies to human-centred constraints.  I wanted all to rest upon our relationship and not on training formulas.  Most of the time I had complete trust that all would come together as it should...but sometimes during the first few weeks, I fell into a state of anxiety that I would not be able to get these fillies to accept halters & lead-line while upholding the concepts of "freedom", "mutuality", "autonomy" and "shared leadership".  Since I am no longer willing to use conventional training methods, if I found it impossible to get things accomplished in a more egalitarian manner, I thought I might have to turn myself away from further relations with the fillies and hire a trainer who would simply take charge and get the job done, free from the philosophical exegesis that leaves me now profoundly inept as an "equestrian".

Tocara and Levada enjoy a meal in the holding pasture which encircles the old cattle sorting corrals and run-in shed

On the east side of our house there remains two stout, conjoined cattle sorting corrals from the prior ranching that had taken place on this property.  We added to this a fenced pasture of roughly an acre and a run-in shed.  Though the "wild" horses do not need grain rations to maintain optimum health, for years now we have been giving a small portion of whole oats sprinkled with a handful of sunflower seeds in the morning because this stimulates the horses to regularly come from the four corners of their 360 acre range and provides the opportunity for us to feed the non-natal group in the holding pasture and turn them back out after their breakfast is finished.  It becomes relatively easy then to keep "captive" which ever youngsters have been sold and are in need of being readied for a life away from Ravenseyrie.

It was on April the 28th of this year when Tocara and Levada were not turned back out after finishing their breakfast.  For one week, they shared the holding pasture with Fada, Destimedo and Pinoteia keeping them company, to ease the transition.  On May the 5th, Fada, Destimedo and Pinoteia were turned back out on the range and I began to focus now only on Tocara and Levada.

Getting to know the fillies better meant spending as much time with them as possible, even sharing afternoon naps

Back in 2008, when the first foals were born here at Ravenseyrie, our herd was smaller and had yet to split into separate bands.  I was able to devote more one-on-one time with each of the equines and develop close relationships with the foals.  That first year was sublime, when I think about it - Altamiro had yet to assume his ruthless dictator status and mellow harmony was the norm, there seemed to be not a care in the world.  These days, the herd numbers fluctuate between 20-24 and  comprise two distinct bands/groups, limiting how much one-on-one time I can give to individuals.  Personal interactions with the young horses are also much more dictated by the overall herd dynamics, which now have a variety of tensions that I must take into consideration when working among them.  Also, some foals are ready to be friends with humans from day one, while others take weeks or months before giving themselves permission to interact with us.  The longest thus far to hold out against my alluring charms was Destimedo, who just this week, at 14 months of age, has finally decided to seek out my finger tips for the good itches they can give.

When she was a foal, Tocara and I became friends early on and I was able to engage her in the various little games I play with the young horses that prepare them for the time when a halter and lead line will need to be introduced.  From the very first, Levada was completely different - not just aloof and suspicious, but often petulant and violently attitude she displayed among her herd mates as well as with Kevin and me.  It wasn't until she was eight months old that she would allow me to touch her, and even then, I had to be careful because she would be wonderfully absorbed in the pleasant sensation of being itched one minute only to swiftly have a change of mood and would pin her ears while lunging to bite me.  She was a very insecure gal, and her hardwired response was that "the best defense was a good offense".  Sometimes Kevin and I wondered if Levada had a split personality, for so sweet she was and yet imperceptible things would suddenly put her in a rank, fighting mood.  Though both of us had been bit by this young filly, neither of us felt the right response was to react with violence ourselves, instead, we would either simply say "no", shoo her away, or ignore her aggression by walking away and cease interacting with her until her mood improved...and it always did.  Kevin and I were convinced if we used harsh reprimands in response to Levada's aggression, she would become even more convinced we were deserving of her attacks and perhaps develop into the type of horse that truly dislikes humans and becomes dangerous to be around.

Once the fillies were alone in the holding pasture, and their former herd mates had moved out of sight, Tocara began to pace the fence and call out to them, while Levada was basically more settled and content to nibble on the emerging grasses and supportive piles of hay.  For the first few days, the fillies were extremely moody when I would come out to socialize with them.  They accepted a little attention in the form of me scratching their itchy spots and engage in some grooming, but their focus was constantly straying as they felt the need to move away every few minutes.  I never tried to restrain them because I could tell it was important for them to feel like they could have some control over our interactions,.  Often I would play with the length of strap I have by looping it over their neck and around their noses in between grooming and giving itches. But until they felt they could accept my interactions without having to move away so frequently, I did not try to bring the halter into our time together.  Instead, I put their halters (which made jangling and tinkling noises) into their feed pans and let them move and handle the halter themselves while eating their grain rations.

Tocara, wearing a halter for the first time

On the fifth day, the fillies seemed much more relaxed and accustomed to the new routines of their days and nights in the holding pasture, and I felt they were ready for a more formal introduction of their halters.  Tocara accepted me putting her halter on and taking it off and enjoyed being rewarded with a good helping of compressed alfalfa cubes.  Levada liked the idea of me dispensing alfalfa cubes, but was not happy about me bringing the halter up to her head one bit--she would have none of this change of events and jumped away each time I would raise it.  But she was definitely interested in the alfalfa cookies and trying real hard to stay engaged - just didn't have the confidence that all would be well if she allowed her head to come into contact with that strange tinkling object I seemed to feel was important for her to get to know better..  She got cookies, for her willingness to return to me, even if she was not willing to stay and play halter games like Tocara had.

This began a period of self-doubt on my part because I just could not seem to make any progress with Levada.  Until she was willing to accept me putting the halter on and off, I did not want to introduce any sessions devoted to learning to have a lead line attached and following me while attached to this line.  I was afraid if Tocara had an adverse reaction, it would be seen by Levada as confirmation that whatever I was up to with that halter and lead line was definitely a "bad" thing.  I wanted Levada to feel as accepting of her halter as Tocara was before moving into lead line sessions.  So I just kept on trying, going out with the halters at all different times of the day and while Tocara and I were becoming quite fluid in putting the halter on and taking it off, Levada persisted in evading it each time I tried to bring it up to rest on her nose.  Sometimes these evasions were abrupt, almost violent...other times Levada would just eye me ruefully and walk away.  When I had first introduced Levada to my leather strap, she allowed me to put it around her neck, at the poll and over her nose, and I could put the headstall strap over her neck at the poll, but dang if the idea of something being drawn up over her muzzle sure was unsettling for her.  I was finally able to one time feed her a cookie and draw the halter up almost into place, but she decided to bolt away before I could do anything more.   I was as perplexed by that halter as Levada - because we really didn't need it for her and I to further our relationship.  Levada had come to enjoy grooming - no longer did she have those aggressive outbursts of pinned ears and bared teeth - and she allowed me to handle her legs and clean her udder, no part of her body was off limits, she welcomed all my touches.  She would follow the indications of my hand and move left or right or backward and stop and start.  I loved this trust!  But there would be no trip to Austria, until Levada was willing to accept these few conditions other people would need while she was in their care.

Of course I thought non-stop about what options I might have to try to get Levada "halter trained" and it was during one of the times when I was just hanging out with the fillies that an idea came to me to try a simple neck strap, like the kind I have seen Sorraias in Portugal wearing when turned out to pasture.  I knew Levada would have no issues with me outfitting her with just a neck strap, and I thought if I put a ring on it, we could begin lead line lessons without bothering with the halter.  Then, later on we would try the halter again.

I have a lot of supple leather reins that I no long use and an assortment of buckles and rings and so was able to custom make a neck strap, which, as I had anticipated, was accepted without hesitation by Levada.

Levada wearing her neck strap

"When I look at the horses faces I am amazed what a different expression and energy I feel and see in comparison to many of these riding/dressage/"sport horses" (how they call them here).  Mostly they look dull. Like a robot or a trained puppy. Well, of course....they are not wild. they are bred to be nice, "useful" training equipments and amusements for their owners.

Your horses look noble and royal. At least for my eyes. Really different. Wild, I guess. I'm trying to find the right words..... they don't look SUPPRESSED.  Maybe that's what I see.  They look self-confident and proud."  --Claudia Radbauer


In 2011, when I was getting Animado, Encantara and Segura accustomed to the human-contraptions of halter and lead line, it had been my habit to release the line if ever they forcibly pulled against it.  I tried to avoid any situations where they would feel the need to pull back against the line, and since they were most of the time happy to follow me on the line, there were only a few times when they pulled back, but their resistance melted away as soon as they realized that they were no longer attached to the line (which only had slipped through the halter ring and not attached by a buckle) and we were able to reconnect harmoniously.  In past times, I have used the halter and lead line to coercively restrain a horse, but I no longer want that to be part of my relations with horses - I don't have the mental or physical strength to impose myself upon horses in this way anymore.

If one is obliged to use a halter and lead line with horses, it is important the horses come to understand how to yield to the pressure, rather than fight it.  To accomplish this without the horse feeling I am putting the pressure on them, I decided to attach a short line to Tocara's halter and Levada's neck strap and let them be free to graze on their own, with the line being long enough to be stepped on when their heads are down grazing, but not so long as to frightfully snake about and entangle in their legs while roaming around the pasture..  When they find themselves accidentally stepping on the line and feel the pressure they will likely pull up strongly against it before they discover that by moving into the pressure they gain instant relief from it.  And this is precisely what happened, with both fillies being quite startled upon first feeling themselves restrained in that way, but in short order they learned how to either avoid stepping on the line altogether, or yield to it and remove their foot to obtain a release.  Levada seemed to be the quicker problem solver and was less intimidated by the strap than was Tocara, which was a interesting surprise.

We then began lead line lessons, which were rather instantaneous since these fillies already had been willingly following me when I asked them to at liberty.  Thanks to this, our official lead line lessons were carried out with the slack rarely coming out of the line.  Because both fillies were desiring to "play" with me, I found it easier for each of us to focus by moving whichever one was first into one of the cattle corrals, making it much easier to have some uninterrupted "one-on-one" space together.  When Levada got her second lead line "lesson" I presented her with the halter, which she now accepted without issue, another very interesting surprise!  But we both liked the feel of our connection better with the neck strap, so continued to do our little lead line games off the neck strap and I also made one for Tocara, too, who responded equally well to it.

(Photos below taken by Kevin Droski, showing your author and the Sorraia filly, Levada, during one of their lead-line learning sessions.)

Levada eats a cookie while receiving praise for finally agreeing to wear a halter


All well and good that these fillies would follow me on a line, but would they allow themselves to be lead by someone else?  I asked Kevin to come to the corral and have a go at asking the fillies to follow him on the lead line, and they both did as if they had been "halter broke" all along.  In the old days I would train horses to lead by using a wiggling or snapping of a whip to encourage movement if any balking would occur, all the easier if that type of training is done with two people.  I never gave that type of goading a thought with these horses, and I suppose things went so well because we invited the fillies to follow and made it interesting and pleasant for them to do so, as opposed to giving an order and using negative reinforcement to provoke compliance.  [Traditional training has been well accepted by many horses and can be done with the type of genuine sensitivity that helps build a horse's confidence and trust - so I do not here mean to criticize that type of is just not the way I prefer now to have a dialogue with horses.]

Kevin Droski with the Sorraia filly, Tocara

Next up was to set up a narrow space and invite the fillies to follow me into it, to stand a few minutes there and then backing slowly out, step-by-step.  They both did this perfectly from the very first.

The shed shelter available to them was initially avoided and regarded with grave suspicion by these "wild" young horses (who had never been in any manmade structure before).  I did not try to lead on a line either of these fillies inside, but instead invited them to follow me (and my cookies) at liberty.  As with the halter, Levada could not be convinced there was anything good about that shed and would only step near the entrance and no further.  Tocara came in incrementally, as each section of her body disappeared inside, she found it necessary to turn and run back out, until finally she stepped all the way in and got to put her head in a bucket of alfalfa cubes.  I felt it was extremely important that Tocara had the freedom to "cut and run" whenever the confined feeling of the shed unsettled her - it helped her feel in control and free to decide when and for how long each exploration of this new space should be.  I have found that things achieved at liberty with horses - arising from the freedom we provide them to make choices themselves based on what comfort level they have "in the moment" facilitates their acceptance and competence with new situations far better than what I could do if I were trying to accomplish the same thing while keeping them under my control with a halter and lead line.  While Tocara's entrance into the shed was in response to my invitation and my bucket of alfalfa cubes, Levada came to appreciate the shed totally on her own after she discovered that during the heat of the day - when the biting flies were at their worst - the cool shade of the shed also provided relief from the flies.  To her a "real-life situation" provided meaning and usefulness for going into the formerly frightening confines of the shed.  I moved my chair into the corner and the three of us spent hours hanging out together in that small shed, which I felt would translate well to not being afraid in the small quarters of a horse van, or a quarantine stall or the equine crate compartment of a large aircraft.

Tocara looks out from the shed
Tocara and Levada hang out together in the shed

After thirty days had passed since Tocara and Levada had been brought in off the range and socialized into some of the ways of humans, I felt they were ready for the next phase of their great adventure, and notified Jüergan Hoffman at Pegasus Transport, the international equine shipping company located, in Germany.  It took another month for coordinating schedules and flights, etc. to fall into proper place (affairs here in Canada were capably handled by Carolyn MacGillivray from Sea Air International.)  On June 30th, Bill from Perry Transport came to fetch the fillies and deliver them to AE Breeding Farm in Mt. Albert, Ontario, who are an approved quarantine facility.  Here Tocara and Levada would be monitored for the required 30 days, while being subjected to the necessary tests and immunizations needed to complete their international health certificate and assure they are safe for export.

Kevin and I were highly impressed that the driver from Perry Transport understood what type of horses Tocara and Levada are and that this would be their first experience with loading into a transport van and was willing to take extra time to gain their confidence and willing participation.  With persistent invitations to step onto the ramp and climb into the shady, cool, food-filled van and a taste of oats for each try, Tocara soon followed me into her traveling coach and stood quietly with me while Bill asked Levada to step on the ramp and join us in the spacious compartment of the van.  Levada, as we might have expected, was highly suspicious and took more time to convince, but finally decided the rewards of oats that Bill was providing and the overall calmness of Tocara already inside meant all was safe and she quietly walked up the ramp and into the large box stall Bill had configured within the van so the fillies could travel loose together.

Tocara samples the water Bill put out for her
Levada was calm, but questioning this new sensation of being in a horse van

And then, they were rolling down the road, away from Ravenseyrie...along with my heart...

I had sent everyone involved in getting these fillies safely to Austria a typed overview of what type of life these gals had been used to here and provided information about what I had noted about their personalities and what type of food they had been accustomed to after being brought in off the range.  I also noted that I was almost completely convinced that Levada was pregnant and not just fat from her more sedentary, confined lifestyle as a captive horse.  My main concern was that whatever human handling they would be encountering would be of the highest sensitivity, empathy and understanding so as not to destroy the trust and lovely way Tocara and Levada had become in their relations with not only Kevin and me, but others who had stopped by Ravenseyrie to visit with them.

Later that evening, I sent a query regarding how the fillies traveled and if they were settled in at the quarantine facility.  I received a brief reply the following day from Judie at AE Breeding that simply relayed that they had settled in fine.   Throughout the month Tocara and Levada were in the care of the staff at the quarantine facility, I periodically emailed inquires as to how the fillies were adjusting to such a dramatic change in their lives and put in a request for photos and input to use in this article for the Journal of Ravenseyrie, but unfortunately, I never received any further response from anyone at AE Breeding. 

Tocara and Levada, two Sorraia fillies, looking worried and dejected as they wait out the 30 day quarantine period before being exported to Vienna.  (photo supplied by Carolyn MacGillivray)

It was my intention to be able to provide greater insight into the process of shipping horses overseas, especially young horses who had only recently been brought in from a wilderness setting into captivity, so I was very interested in feedback on how the fillies handled their visits from the veterinarian while in quarantine, how easy or difficult it was to load them on a van to take them to the airport, and likewise for loading them into their flight container and would have loved photos of them being moved in their container on the conveyor to be rolled into the belly of the aircraft!  To do that, I would have had to leave the island and gone south to document these things myself--all the people involved were busy doing their jobs and likely did not have time to share their impressions with me, let alone take periodic photos, so I was happy for what small insights I was able to receive.  If it were not for Carolyn MacGillivray from SeaAir, who sent me short replies to most of my queries and was able to get the attending veterinarian to take a few photos during one visit, I would have felt completely severed from the Tocara and Levada.  Carolyn let me know the fillies were doing fine while in quarantine and loaded well on the day they left.     

On August 11th, the fillies were flown from Toronto to Amsterdam.  I was anxious for word and the next day received brief emails from both Jüergan and Carolyn relaying that Tocara and Levada were in good form, had handled the trip well and were resting for a day or two before being vanned to Vienna.  On August the 13th, Tocara and Levada were delivered to their final destination.

[The following photos graciously supplied by Claudia Radbauer]

Looking soooo much happier!  Levada and Tocara enjoy a salt lick at their new home in Vienna, Austria

Claudia acquired a former riding stable, which she has been renovating into a more open environment and has also purchased a neighboring piece of property where she will be able to provide more space and pasture for her Sorraia preservation venture.  Claudia had already imported a Pryor Mountain Mustang mare of Sorraia type and now has Tocara (half-purebred Sorraia, half Sorraia Mustang) and Levada (three-quarters purebred Sorraia and one-quarter Sorraia Mustang) to help build her foundation stock.

Levada and Tocara, getting to know their new home


Annie, the Sorraia Mustang mare (Pryor Mountain strain) and Tocara get to know each other

And not only these three females...because on September the 4th, Levada gave birth to a perfect solid grulla filly!  The sire is Interessado (Altamrio x Ciente) and while the pregnancy was unplanned and occurred sooner than what any of us would desire for a young filly - there is no denying what a bonus and an asset this foal will be for Claudia's efforts to save the Sorraia.

Levada and her filly (by Interessado) "Levada is a very good mother!"

This filly answers to the name "Alegria" which means "joy" in Portuguese - a very fitting name, well chosen by Claudia

Alegria and Levada enjoy a spot of sun in their temporary turnout area.  In time they, along with Tocara and Annie will have a larger pasture to romp and play in

"its unbelievable how cute alegria is.... she will come to the fence whenever i visit them. its a pleasure to watch your/my horses and the baby and to know they are mine."

I asked Claudia if she would be willing to answer some questions for use in this journal entry and she enthusiastically agreed:    

Q.  What made you decide you wanted to take up the cause of preserving the Sorraia horses?

A:  For many, many years I have been donating money to various organizations which protect animals, nature and our world. When I purchased a farm in 2010, I could finally help to preserve endangered farm animals myself.

I loved horses since I was a little girl, so I was searching for a horse breed that would make real sense to be bred (not like some so called „endangered Austrian horse breeds“, who are transported to slaughterhouses in Italy every fall!).  After studying different breeds, I found a picture of a sorraia horse in a book. The second I read the text next to the photo, I knew I finally found the right horse for my project. Especially since I have a great love for Portugal, to find the Sorraia horse seemed like destiny to me.

Q:  You imported a Pryor Mountain mustang mare of Sorraia type from the U.S. and two half Sorraia/half Sorraia mustang fillies from Canada.  Were you unable to acquire any of the purebred Sorraia mares in Europe?  (They are only rarely parted with by breeders there.)

A:  Yes, sadly so far I could not get a Sorraia mare from Europe.

Of course, after I made up my mind about helping to preserve Sorraias, I searched the internet and read all the articles and websites I could find. Soon I discovered your wonderful blog and learned about mustangs of Sorraia type. Even though I have no prior experience and knowledge in horse breeding it somehow seemed logical and smart to me, to „refresh“ the blood of the very inbred Sorraias with mustang blood of Sorraia type.

I got in touch with breeders from germany who were all very helpful and of course I also contacted Hardy Oelke, THE Sorraia expert, who supported my plan and generously answered all my questions. Because of him I was able to get my mustang mare Annie.

I do believe it was a very important and substantial action for the preservation of the Sorraia horse to bring these 3 horses all the way from America and Canada to Europe, even though not all the Sorraia breeders might share my opinion.

Q:  It has been over a month since the Ravenseyrie fillies have come to live with you in Vienna.  What are your impressions of them, i.e. in what way have they met your expectations or fallen short of what your expected, or maybe exceeded what you expected?

A:  They are just wonderful, both of them. I expected „wild horses“, I was even a little bit scared before they walked out of the truck. But they are nothing but sweet and gentle, curious about everything and everybody. Its hard to even walk away from the fence to get some work done, because they want me to scratch them and stay next to them all day long.

Even after the strenous trip they had to endure, they behaved like they have been growing up with me here in Austria. People even asked me if i was sure, they were „wild horses“ and they were growing up on your big ranch. 

Its really unbelievable how quickly and how well they adapted to their new home. And believe me, everything here is very different from your place!!!   It amazes me how drawn they are to people. It is your achievement that the 2 girls have such a good and pure-minded character.  What an honour to own these 2 noble, beautiful horses.

Q:  What type of Sorraia stallion are you hoping to breed to one day - will you be buying a stud or perhaps leasing one from either Germany or Portugal?

A:  In the next couple of years, I would prefer to lease a perfect looking pure bred Sorraia stallion from Germany (or Portugal). A Sorraia type Lusitano could be interesting, too.  I haven't explored all the possible stallions yet nor have I talked to other breeders so far. Hopefully my plan will work out.

Q:  What is your short term goal for your preserve?

A:  I want to build up a herd of Sorraia mustang mares before I start selling them, thats why I would like to lease a stallion first. (Hopefully it won't be too difficult to sell the colts over here.)
Since I have no idea how many people there are in Europe who want to take part in the  preservation of the Sorraia mustang, how many horses I will be able to sell, how many fillies will be born, how many colts and so on, I will just have to wait and see what brings the future.....

Q:  What are your long term goals?

A:  First of all I wish the Sorraias would survive and not become extinct. It would be very fulfilling for me to contribute to that.  Maybe some of my offsprings could be the foundation mares for somebody elses preservation program or for a second herd on another property I might own one day. Maybe even in Portugal. Who knows.....???
How amazing would it be, if some of my horses could go back to live in their real motherland of Portugal one day in the future!!!!

Q:  Have you any thoughts/suggestions you'd like to share with others who may be interested in the preservation of the Sorraia type horse?

A:  Sorraia mustangs and mustangs are such amazing, wonderful, pure horses. Its a pleasure to have them around me, to watch them and to spend time with them. They are very special. I would never buy a regular domestic horse anymore. It would be a shame and a big loss if one day Sorraias would be extinct. 

Kevin and I are incredibly thankful that Claudia has decided to dedicate part of her life to the preservation of the Sorraia and has the foresight to incorporate some Sorraia Mustangs into her foundation...something I feel is vital for the conservation efforts worldwide.  We are also appreciative of all those who helped Claudia bring Tocara and Levada to Austria.  It must have been pretty shocking for these formerly "wild" fillies to be thrust into so many novel and unnatural situations among strangers--that they came through it all in such good form with their lovely personalities and trust still intact speaks for the sensitivity they were given by the many different people who handled them along the way.  I am SO grateful for that!

Below is a video clip I took during the time Tocara and Levada were in the holding pasture learning new things before leaving Ravenseyrie.  The night was fresh and Tocara was feeling spunky and put on a nice playful show for my camera: 

When I see the bright expressions on the faces of Tocara and Levada, I don't lament that they no longer have the same type of freedom of space there in Vienna that they had here.  I know that Claudia Radbauer understands the importance of sharing leadership with these fillies and giving them a say in things as much as is possible.  She is working hard to provide them as much space as she can in a very limited environment and they are adjusting well to it.  It reminds me of something Imke Spilker wrote in her book, Empowered Horses:

"Free space can  mean many things to my horse:  giant pastures, the arena, letting the horse lead, loose reins, tacking up at liberty, a person who backs away--but also one who doesn't!  Whether or not something actually is free space as just defined depends on the special relationship between this person and this horse.  What is always decisive is how free the horse feels."

I have no doubt that Claudia has already tuned into how these horses feel and is devoted to not just their physical well being, but their mental happiness, too.  I am looking forward to following the lives of Tocara, Levada and Alegria and their contributions to the conservation of the Sorraia horses in Europe.