Utah Great Basin Desert/Onaqui HMA: The Young Ones

A new arrival

Spending time with wild horses can be magical, serene, exciting, and nerve wracking. In a way, watching bands interact is like watching one of the best soap operas on the planet. There is love, heartbreak, intrigue, betrayal, happiness, sadness, joy, fun, peace and tragedy. Today I'm focusing on happier things.

The larger group of the Onaqui horses is a bit unusual in how closely all the bands stick together. I don't know why this is. Then there are other bands that are a little less "herd bound". Again, I have no explanation for their behavior either. But this June they had something in common: it was baby time!

The first morning I was out there a gray mare gave birth shortly before my arrival. When I got there the exhausted looking mare still had blood stains on her legs and a tiny baby laying in front of her. I and other photographers waited patiently for that little baby to raise its head, find its legs, and nurse. And the tiny one finally did. I would then get to see it come to the water hole for the first time. And I would see that marvelous grey mare defend that baby from "nosy neighbor" horses by giving might double barreled kicks warning them off. And for four days I got to see that little horse find its way in the big wide world within the confines of that big large herd of horses.

Each day I was out there a baby was born overnight. One was particularly special. Me and other photographers had taken note of a particularly pregnant buckskin mare one early evening as she literally waddled to water. I've never seen a horse waddle but apparently they can. She may have been starting to have contractions even then. And sure enough, the next morning there she was accompanied by a very robust looking baby. And most unusually, because horses will defend their babies and their families with all their hearts and keep anything, especially strange humans and predators, away from those babies, this mare "presented" the baby to us. She walked in a great circle around us, always at a safe distance from us, and then stopped dead, in just the right spot, so that we could take photos of her new baby. Even her stallion was okay with what she was doing and showed no distress or apprehension of this impromptu family parade. We just stood there observing and admiring each other until she felt we had suitably paid tribute to her accomplishment and away she led them.

Animals never cease to amaze me. And its these moments of connection that are what my photography is all about.

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Our first look at the buckskin mare's new baby (on the left). Her colt from a previous year is right behind them.

Coming to show off that baby.

Proud mama. It looks like I was close to the horses here but I was using a 200-500mm lens.

The gray mare with her new baby and a fellow band mare watching over the very new arrival.

Another new arrival. 

Same foal from the photo above already navigating its way through the water hole like a pro.

Standing with mom.

And now having a conversation with dad. Here the foal makes signs of submission by opening and closing its mouth. 

Another interesting family unit. I'm wondering if this foal is going to have half blue eyes as seen in at least one other horse in this herd. 

Born the same year, at different times, but still friends. 

There are two mares here with two young ones. Trotting into the water hole.  

Young ones playing around and practicing for later in life.