It is the stories that keep me coming back to these hills.
This small band, for instance, was the most magical encounter. These two yearlings were just babies when my daughter and I met them last summer. On a warm July evening, we were gifted with several hours among a large herd of mares and youngsters; some of them also were foals I had met the previous spring. It is amazing to see them grow, not just in size and stature, but in the relationships they form with other horses.
So when we came across these two this spring, I was especially excited. They were not shy, however, and one came quite brazenly up to me, for several minutes nuzzling the end of my lens cover. I’ve had times where young ones in particular have come so close that it feels as though you might touch one another, but I’ve never experienced a wild horse actually decide to interact that deliberately. Normally, I would much rather watch from afar, and allow them to decide whether to allow our presence, so as not to disrupt them. I will admit that after some time it became too intense and I had to leave the space. My friends watching pointed out that the energy of encounter was starting to quickly feel like this young male was, shall we say, overly enthusiastic.
However, this was not even the most moving part of finding this small crew living together. The stallion these young ones were accompanied by was instantly recognizable. I gasped audibly when I saw him, for it had been two years since I first sighted him, far higher on the mountain than they were now. He was the stallion who gave me the first story I wrote after one of my solitary trips, a piece I titled, ‘The Stallion With No Ears.’
He and I had trekked up a trunk road together, and climbed several hills. It was the peak of a hot summer day. I would never forget how he constantly turned back to watch me, as though he were inviting me to follow along, while I was confused by the fact that it seemed as though he was pinning his ears. It was only when he gave me permission to come close enough that I had realized it appeared both his ears were at least partially missing, damaged in either a vicious battle or by some deep freeze.
He was alone, and I had not seen him since.
Seeing him here, with his own family band now, brought me more happiness that I could have imagined. He was shy, and wanted no part of the interaction with us, so I gave him his space. He remains a mystery to me.
This kind of story, of resilience, and common bond, is what makes these horses such a special part of our landscape. It is exactly the kind of story that keeps me coming back to these hills.