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.

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