Saturday, May 21, 2011

Equine SCARlet Letter

We arrived at our favorite off-road beach quite early, today. It was the hottest and most brilliant morning, thus far. We were greeted by an unusually large number of horses, apparently two bands, just yards in from where we access the sand. We were so surprised, since we consider it lucky to see a few wander down to the water much later, on most days. It was incredible to witness them in action, as two individual stallions took turns in keeping a third male away from their harems. 
The intruder didn't give up easily; perhaps a young and unwise colt? Poor guy. 
Finally, after a few kicks and blocks from Chestnut, he retreated.
 We watched for about half an hour, before proceeding down the beach to claim our own turf. 
About an hour after we settled in, the rejected loner came shuffling by us. I shot another photo, this one showing scars on his side and lower neck. This must not have been his first such scuffle.
I've named him SCARlet, in recognition of his tenacity, as proven by his war wounds.
Today's encounter led me to research the social structure of horses in the wild, link here. After a year of pregnancy, mares foal in the spring - also the time to mate, for others. A foal is ready to travel with the herd or band just a few hours after birth; thus the age-gender variety we're witnessing. By the way, there was yet another momma with her baby in this group, just slightly separated from the action. The Corolla herd is currently at 109, with 13 foals, not yet counted. They need to reach 6 months of age, before they are factored in... you know, survivin' the life. The hope is to increase the population further, so as to improve the gene pool of this endangered species. When we first came to the OBX, just a few years ago, there were only 65 mustangs roaming free. What a privilege it is to watch their numbers grow, once again.

"In wildness is the preservation of the world." Henry David Thoreau