As exemplified by Tecumseh in my last post, paternal care is often just as important as maternal care in mustangs. While it is true there is more maternal investment in the offspring (after all, the dam is the one carrying the foal, going through labour, nursing the foal etc.), a good stallion certainly has his fair share of responsibility in caring for offspring. Interestinglu, quite often stallions find themselves raising the offspring of other males. While animals like lions are notorious for killing unrelated young, stallions will raise unrelated foals born into their bands, and also frequently raise young that are brought along by a new mare. While there are of course exceptions to the rule, particularly if the foal is very young, in general stallions make pretty good step-fathers.
This short post, however, is about Hamlet, who is the actual biological sire of Penn. Poor Penn had very freshly been weaned by a rather large (and grumpy!) pregnant Audubon. While the filly was certainly old enough to be weaned, it didn’t stop her from missing her mother’s milk! Since Mum kept rejecting her, she sought out other options….I think the following photos speak volumes for what a patient Dad Hamlet is!
Niobrara was the next target, but at least she was the correct sex to produce milk, even though she has never lactated (as a mare who has yet to foal). Niobrara was also very patient with the confused yearling.
Sometimes people will ask me what I do all day on the mountain, and question whether I ever get bored with “just watching horses.” And the honest answer is “No.” As many visitors to the mountain can tell you, just sitting and watching the horses interact in their normal life is fascinating, and often supremely peaceful.
Of course, life isn’t always quiet on the range. When Sandy and I reached the top on our first trip last year, we set up camp under the watchful eyes of Jackson, Mandan, and Nodin. I was itching to get pictures of these guys observing me building a tent, but, alas, tent construction and photography don’t exactly go hand in hand!
Once camp was set up, we headed towards Penn’s Cabin, which isn’t somewhere I had spent much time at previously. Here we found the bands of Morning Star, Horizon, Garay, Galaxy, Gringo,Tecumseh, and Blue Moon. I was delighted to finally “meet” Orielle and Innocentes as they had been in the Dry Head when I was on the range in 2015.
The peace was first disturbed by Tecumseh when Grijala showed up with Graciana and new band member, Oceana. Oceana was born in the fall, and many of us were surprised to hear that she had joined Grijala’s band at only 1.5 years old. This was especially surprising as her sire (Tecumseh), dam, uncle, and “aunt” all doted on her; Oceana was the apple of the four adult horses’ eyes. On this day, while Grijala was distracted, Tecumseh made his move to retrieve his daughter and snaked her back to her mother, Galadriel. Almost as though it was planned, Galadriel moved off with Gringo and Beulah, Oceana behind her and Tecumseh bringing up the rear. Oceana gave a little of her typical sass, but otherwise agreeably rejoined her former family.
Tecumseh’s plan worked fairly well, until Grijala noticed his latest lady had gone missing. He charged after them and Gringo and Beulah decided they were bailing on Operation: Retrieve Oceana. While Tecumseh was fairly defiant at first, he eventually decided not to risk fighting a much younger stallion over his wayward daughter. Grijala collected Oceana and drove her back to Graciana, his only other mare. While Oceana kicked out at her beau a few times, she went back more or less willingly and peacefully to her new band.
The newly established peace didn’t last long as Bolder and his family drama (aka Killian and Lobo) showed up. Bolder was constantly running between sons, scolding Killian for hounding Sapo, and stamping on Lobo’s plans to court Celt (though Celt was doing a fairly good job of that herself!) But what really drew my attention was chaos among the bachelors.
A lone coyote dun stallion had appeared and in near-disbelief Sandy identified him as Johan, a stallion rarely seen, let alone on the mountain top. While I missed the initial action, Dawn Ness described how Johan had separated young foal Quintana (whom I refer to as Quartz) from her dam, Feldspar, in a recent Facebook post. Daddy Mescalero went charging after Johan to retrieve his daughter and was able to return her safely to Feldspar.
Meanwhile, many of the other stallions in the area, including the bachelors, banded together to chase Johan clear out of the area. This was incredibly fascinating to watch, as a bunch of stallions and colts joined forces to drive out another male that had presented a threat to a young foal, even though none of these boys were part of her band. This was a fantastic example of the horses working together as an overall herd to protect one of their own. While they do live in distinctly separate bands, ultimately it is still one herd. I saw a couple more examples of this altruistic behaviour during my trips last summer.
It was hard not to feel at least a little sorry for Johan. I do not think he had any intentions of harming Quartz, but perhaps had hoped to lure Feldspar away from her band so he could claim her and her daughter for himself.
P.S. Sorry for the poor photo quality-lighting was bad and most of these were taken at quite a distance!