Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As the Sky is Low or High

Sunset at Ravenseryie

     After all, anybody is as their land and air is.  Anybody is as the sky is low or high, the air heavy or clear and anybody is as there is wind or no wind there.  It is that which makes them and the arts they make and the work they do and the way they eat and the way they drink and the way they learn and everything.   
                                                        --Gertrude Stein

Today I meant to write a completely different entry for the Journal of Ravenseyrie - to reveal a significant change at hand here…but as I looked through the photos I have taken in the past six weeks, it seemed to me there were lovely moments that ought to be shared.  So, this entry must come first, and it will be mostly in pictures with brief descriptors, leaving whatever obvious gaps there are to be filled in by your imagination...

It has been a long, difficult winter.  The winter of 2012/13 was probably much closer to "olde tyme" winters than what Kevin and I have so far experienced since living here on Manitoulin Island.  As we approached spring and endured some of the coldest temperatures all winter, the lactating mares lost the majority of their fat reserves.  The ribs of these mares typically are obscured in good flesh, yet for a brief time they now catch light and shadow.  Zorita's ribs play a trick on the eye, making her seem to have more stripes than she usually does, but once the flush of spring grass emerges, these pseudo-stripes created by her lean condition and the peculiarities of the colour grulla will disappear and she will once again be smooth with fat.

 It is quite intriguing how much lighter Altamiro looks at this time of the year, and depending on the way the sun strikes his body, his usually dark grullo shade takes on many nuances of colour that delight the eyes:

Perhaps it will be the same for his 2012 colt (from Zorita) whose neck and shoulder stripes are nicely visible right now, even with the long winter coat so typical in the first winter of a foal's life:


 Here, Gosto (pronounced gows-too), Altamiro and Bella's 2012 colt appears to be resigned to the lingering elements of winter.  He was born in late March last year when there was no snow and the temperatures were much milder than this past March was:

Because we have limited space and ability to deal with the herd dynamics generated by the abundance of fantastic offspring Altamiro and the mares have created, last year we administered the PZP immunocontraceptive.  Via remote dart, each mare was inoculated with the primer in March and this we had to follow up with a booster a month later which would provide a year's worth of protection from pregnancy.  However, between the time that Gosto was born and the booster was able to be given Bella came into her foal heat and, of course, Altamiro was there to take advantage of her receptiveness to his amorous attention.  Ousado is the result of the amazing fecundity these "wild" horses continue to demonstrate:

Ousado (pronounced o-saah-due) means "bold", "brave", "daring" and "hardy" in Portuguese - which a newborn foal must be if delivered on March the fourth in Northern Ontario!

The birthing took place just before dawn in the sparse forest in the west sector:

I must have missed the big event by an hour or less, for he was not yet dry and had no clue where his own breakfast was to be found.  Ousado walked quite a distance through the deep snow to reach the other side of the thinly wooded area where we were feeding the family band breakfast hay.  Typically I bring hay directly to the new mother if she is apart from the group, but Bella was not inclined to wait for that and apparently knew Ousado could make the trek:

From the very first, Ousado is allowed to mingle with two of his full siblings...here with Altavida:

and here with Gosto:

 After those greetings, it was time for Ousado to find his own breakfast.  In this video clip notice how Bella gives him encouragement when he has bumped into the right place:

This photo is from later in the day, after Ousado was all dried, fluffed up and had a belly full of mom's milk...feeling quite splendid in that sun I should think!

  Quickly now, let's move through some lovely images of what type of "Spring" we have been having thus far!

Willow buds opening bring hope!

Trembling Aspen down the bluff provide drama amidst the evergreens

Repeated thawing and flash freezing left much of our landscape covered in treacherous, but stunningly beautiful ice

Kevin helps the domestic horse, Zeus, find his way after getting marooned on the ice

We had a lot of snow and a lot of Snow Buntings in the yard

Down at the Ravenseyrie beach, one feels transported to another world filled with subtle shades of blue

Ganja and I can hear the moaning of the lake beneath the ice...a fantastically haunting sound!
The fingers of the Zen Elm seem to touch lavender clouds

Viewed from a different angle, the Zen Elm leads the eye up to infinite realms where a spot of the moon dwells

The family band is on the move...an image one will no longer see here...

As usual, trees were browsed upon by the horses this winter...more than is typical - many of these young trees will not reach maturity as a result.

"Wild" horses like our Sorraias help keep the forest from taking over the open grasslands, making them well suited to grassland management projects

The majority of Manitoulin Island is forested - there is no worry that Ravenseyrie will be deforested by the browsing the Sorraias do on the trees - there will always be untouched, more mature trees for shelter among the deeper woodlands

Gosto's dorsal stripe is a pattern repeated in the trees - what a marvelous insulative coat!

Silvestre (Altamiro x Ciente) creates his own poetry on a "spring" evening at Ravenseyrie
To live at Ravenseyrie is to be part of a magical landscape.  Gertrude Stein's words are true...all these elements shape how I express my life and and have a huge influence on the horses.

Sometimes when the sun drops below the trees, it is as if the west has caught on fire

My next journal entry will share the changes underway here at Ravenseyrie as we restructure how best to serve the horses and the land and continue to protect the genetics of the Sorraia and Sorraia Mustangs.