Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Perpendicular Approach -Stallion Interaction #2

The Weekly Post
Week of July 17, 2016
Series: Stallions Interactions #2-Perpendicular Approach
© Equus ferus- Wild Horse Photography 
© Karen McLain Studio

In last week's post on stallions, I discussed the behaviour of stallions. In this post in the continuing series The Interaction between Stallions we examine the “approach”. Generally stallions meet and size one another up before getting within striking distance. Of note, is when stallions approach one another, often one horse will pivot so that they are perpendicular to one another. This behaviour is similar to animals who puff themselves up to appear larger and more formidable to predators or other males.

Additionally, when two stallions approach one another, there is often a lot of posturing consisting of arched necks, raised tails, pawing the ground, squealing, and the action of their legs is high. The trot and canter become big, extended, and powerful. When they approach more closely, they turn to face one another and press nostrils close with necks arched- this may be accompanied by squealing or striking out with a foreleg. Sometimes they fight, and sometimes they go in different directions. In the photos presented in this album, we can clearly see the perpendicular stance of two stallions approaching one another.

The last photo is of Cowboy (paint) and Snowman (grey). Both of these stallions grew up in a bachelor band together. They have been 'sharing' the duties of a band stallion for Mayday (colt) and Heidi (mare). They know each other well especially with regards to fighting capabilities and frequently spar with one another. At the time of this photo, Cowboy was leading the small band, and Snowman was the 'satellite' or lieutenant stallion. However, Cowboy was usurped by Snowman within a month of this photograph. The father of the colt in this band, Mayday, is unknown because his mother Heidi gave birth to him while still in her natal band.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Today I took out and examined my equipment (happy dance)...

Camera: I bring a Canon 7D Mark ii and a back-up Canon Rebel T3ii. The lenses fit both. I usually have them professionally cleaned over the winter so they are ready for the spring, summer, and autumn photography trips.

Lenses: I use a 100-400mm image stabilised Canon lens most of the time. The Rebel has a 18-135 mm for panoramic vistas. I carry both in the field to make sure my lenses overlap. I also have a 18-55 mm but that won't cover the area from 55-100 mm so I bring the 18-135 mm. This way I have a full range of lens choice that overlap. A lot of camera stores sell refurbished used lenses and this is a great way to get a lens for a reduced price.  You must have a lens with a minimum distance of 300 mm because you cannot approach the horses closer than 100 feet in most management areas so a long lens is crucial.

Memory Cards: I buy new cards every year. The most important thing is the speed and the size. Get a size that you won't have to swap cards out frequently, but make sure to have extras. I find the highest speeds to be the best for mustang photography. For the SD Cards, go for 90-95mb/sec read/write and Class 3. Compact Flash Cards come in 120mb/s for the high speed setting. You want to be able to use the camera's rapid fire capability, so you'll want the card to match the speed of the camera. I also recommend many smaller sized cards versus one huge card. I usually carry 64MB, 32MB and few 16MB.

If something spectacular happens (and it often does), those photos may turn out to be some of your best work, take the card out of the camera and put it in a safe place when the action is over. The precious photos will be safe and you won't have to deal with a card failure (rare, but it happens). I kept my first photos of Picasso on a CF Card and carried all the way home after backing it up multiple times.  Another trick- I keep empty cards in my right pocket, and used cards in my left. They are numbered 1,2,3 etc and this way I instantly know what cards are used and which are empty.

Batteries: I carry four. Two are in the battery-grip for the camera all the time and so far, I haven't had to replace the double battery even after 12 hours of shooting. But I always carry four freshly charged batteries in the field. The back-up camera has a single battery and I carry a spare. We charge them using car charger adaptors or we also use a PowerVerter or Power Inverter which offers plugs and uses the car lighter for the power source. We charge batteries while we drive to save time.

Monopod/Tripod: There are wonderful to stabilise your camera. At places like the waterhole, there is a lot of action going on all the time. Karen usually has one leg of her tripod extended and she will drop the other two if it looks like we will be stationary for a while. I usually carry the tripod with all three legs extended.

External Hard Drives: I carry a 2TB hard drive and a ColorSpace UDMA2 and I upload every night. I don't even look at the photos until they are backed-up on two external hard drives and then, sparingly. Once I am home, they get backed up via the Cloud and the hard drive goes into the safe. Only then do I go through all the photos. The nice part about the ColorSpace is functions as a hard drive AND as a file viewer with a nice sized LCD screen.

Computer/ Laptop: I bring my Macbook into the field. It is very light and has a nice sized screen. I opted for the Macbook over the Macbook-Air because the Macbook run Photoshop- always useful to have to examine photos if necessary or after they are backed-up.

Binoculars: As an avid bird watcher, I have a good sturdy pair. You'll need them for the bands in the distance.  I have a simple pair of 8x42 Bushnell.


  • Snake bite kit, yes there are snakes out on the range. So far, no one has been bitten, just watch where you put your feet at all times. The Prairie Rattlesnake is generally docile but even the shyest snake will bite if it is stepped on. Some people wear snake-gaiters and I carry a pair.
  • Sunscreen- tons of the stuff
  • Cooling evaporative towel (Frog Tog)
  • Lens cleaning kits
  • Storm covers- some of the best photos are just before a storm but protect your camera at all times.
  • Food/water/cellphone with car charger
*Always let some know where you are, how long you plan to be there and when you expect to return.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

At the Waterhole : Post for 7 July 2016

Equus ferus- Wild Horse Photography ™
Published by Meredith Hudes-Lowder · 1 hr · 
At the Waterhole
Sand Wash Basin, Colorado 2015
Photography by Karen McLain Studio 
The Waterhole

This is the place to see and to be seen in the mustang world.  Bands come into the waterhole at a dead run, or at a leisurely sedate pace. It is the chance to show off, particularly for the bachelors (studs) who derive great pleasure in chasing each other around and engaging in sparring. It is a chance for band stallions to demonstrate the fitness of their bands. The bands drink in order of dominance; the more dominant drink first while the subordinate bands, bachelors, and lone horses drink last.

There is a lot going on in this photo. In the foreground we have Cowboy (chestnut paint), May Day (dun), and his dam Heidi (pale dunskin). In the background we have Corona and his band (refer to the image below where Heather Robson provided the identification).  Cowboy and Corona eye one another- one stallion to another. It is a glance of appraisal and of acknowledgement but not one of confrontation. The necks remain relaxed and the ears are directed towards one another. Cowboy has healthy action in his trot but it is not excessive.

When stallions intend to spar, the necks are arched and their gait is high, extended, and powerful. They do not play, there is deadly intent in their strikes and blows. Often, the stallions approach with arched necks and simply exchange breath by breathing through mutual nostrils. They may squeal and strike-out, but these often end peacefully; each stallion walking away without any fighting. However, sometimes they fight. Injuries are common and while not usually life threatening, can be debilitating especially if a leg is inured and with more extreme injuries, they face the loss of their band.

Corona runs a very tight ship. He is aggressive, and does not allow any member to successfully challenge his authority. His son Indiana Jones “Indy” is five years old (2011 foal - dark liver chestnut, star, lower very thin blaze and snip) has been stirring up trouble and trying to copulate with the mares in the band and fighting his father. There is a similar situation on Pryor Mountain where Bolder’s older son Echo is also remaining within the band unit and trying to reproduce with a mare in the band as well. Bolder has pushed Echo to the periphery of the band. 

Some scientist theorise that the stallions tolerate their older sons because they act as sentinels 
and lessen the burden of watching for rivals/or predators. Some band stallions even tolerate 
mating between their sons and mares in the band. Generally, band stallions drive out the 
2-4 year old mares and studs before inbreeding can occur. These groups of bachelors with 
an occasional filly are found scattered throughout the management areas although lone
fillies/mares without a stallion are usually incorporated into other bands.

Wayne L. Linklater, Elissa Z. Cameron, Tests for cooperative behaviour between stallions, 
Animal Behaviour, Volume 60, Issue 6, December 2000, Pages 731-743.

Monday, July 4, 2016


We are three weeks out from the Mustang Walkabout 2016. We have six Horse Management Areas in five states planned. Cedar Mountain, Cold Creek, McCullough, Onaqui, Pryor Mountain, and Sand Wash Basin. We have two weeks of travel ahead  (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Nevada) and the Annual Sand Wash Basin Photography Workshop on Wednesday July 27, 2016.


(FINAL CHECK-IN Tuesday July 26, 2016- we will know where the horses are and be able to guide you the most efficiently)

What to bring: *Blue is very important to have

Camera: A DSLR is preferred but anything that can take a photo is welcome.
Memory cards- at least three or more- smaller GB's but bring plenty of cards/space

Sun screen: SPF of 50+
Cooler: With ice, fill up in Maybell, Colorado
Snacks: Jerky is great, lots of sodium and protein, nuts, fruit, chips, cheese 

Water/Liquid: Bring at least a gallon of your preferred beverage.
Please PRINT out this map so we can meet in the morning - we will meet on one of the main roads initially.
Map of Sand Wash: Ask at the general store in Maybell, they are very helpful (get the most detailed map- it's the hunting map)
Baby wipes: Useful for cleaning various body parts
Ziplock bag: See Baby wipes above- PACK IN, PACK OUT at Sand Wash
Frogg togg/Cooling evaporative towel
Cell phone/Car charger
Place to zip your carkeys or a deep pocket
Telephoto lens, snuggling up to the mustangs is frowned upon
Cable Release
Spare battery for camera
Car charger for battery
Sense of humour

* ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS let someone know where you are. Someone who is not sitting next to you in the car 
* TEXTING usually works (not all the time, drive to higher ground)

Please let us know if you plan to attend NO LATER THAN SUNDAY EVENING JULY 24th - we will provide cell phone numbers to contact us at that time.

To print, right click and select print
Change the color to black and white and print

Why we do what we do.... Ben's Chase

The air is beginning to cool after 95°F (35°C); dusk is settling over the Basin. Karen and I saw horses heading to the waterhole just...