Stallion action

29 05 2010

The following series of pictures are of stallions – Steeldust and Mouse – fighting. Editor’s note: I seldom take such pictures let alone post them because such events are fairly rare – though not during this particular time of year (mares foaling, then coming into heat to be rebred). But so many people seem to have this Hollywood idea that stallions fight all day long that I do my best not to play to that particular misconception. But as with most of what I try to convey, there’s more to this kind of behavior than simply trying to steal a mare. Steeldust was NOT going after Mahogany; he was protecting his band, which has the rather odd makeup of another stallion (likely at least 4?),  two mares, a foal and an almost-2-year-old stallion who is clearly maturing sexually – and Steeldust seems to now be playing the lieutenant role to the other, younger stallion (Butch), who, I’m more convinced than ever, is his son (the resemblance is showing itself more and more). Luckily, Alpha is now out of heat, so all the attention was on Mahogany.

My other aim is to simply show the strength, power and agility of these horses. This all happened in a matter of seconds while I was sitting slightly uphill with Kestrel and sleeping Winona and guardian Comanche, and I didn’t “see” what you’ll see right away until I looked at the pictures on the computer.

Steeldust postures between Mahogany, Sundance and Mouse – in front of him – and his small band – behind.

Clearly a message to stay back. Notice his ears. At left: Sundance in front and Mouse behind him. Mahogany is out of the frame, but SunD’s attention is mostly on her, while Mouse is clearly now focused on Steeldust – perhaps a challenge he can conquer? (As he’s not having much luck getting between SunD and Mahogany.)

Look at Steeldust’s hind hooves – completely off the ground.

My impression of the incident was of Steeldust rearing very high and Mouse also rearing and then bulling into him like a freight train. The momentum must have been tremendous.

Sundance kicking at them … Didn’t connect.

Look again at Steeldust!

As hard as Mouse must have hit him, I’m surprised Steeldust didn’t go down.

The elder won … for now … Notice his ears now.

Neither seemed any worse for wear, but I’m sure there were at least bruises left behind.



12 responses

29 05 2010

Man! That Steeldust is quite athletic not to have been knocked to the ground. Especially after his feet were so clearly airborne. Yup, their agility never ceases to amaze. Great photo sequence TJ. 🙂

29 05 2010
Tom B

WOW! Kick-ass pictures!!! Great job, TJ!

29 05 2010
Tami Lewis

Your insight and photography captured a moment that few will ever see. It is breath taking when you understand the dynamics of this herd. Thank you TJ.

29 05 2010

I was astounded when I saw the pictures on the computer. These horses just never cease to amaze me … in ways I can never fully anticipate!

30 05 2010

Amazing photos…thank you for sharing!

30 05 2010
Lynn Bauer

Wow!! Right time, right place, right two-legger!! GREAT JOB! We have to say, though, that SD looks awfully “beat up” – what happened to Mouse and Comanche – thought they’d “have his back, so to speak?” Never seemed to us like he had to do much defending…

31 05 2010

Fantastic photos TJ!! What a thrill that must have been to watch

1 06 2010
Victory Cowgirl

Heart-pounding. Steeldust is quite the muscled man, isn’t he? He is clearly athletic, strong, powerful, muscled. Hopefully, the other boys won’t give Steel any more trouble!

2 06 2010

Steeldust does show his battle scars … and I’m not sure why he looks so much more scarred than the other boys. I’ve wondered the same thing. Mouse and Comanche – like all the stallions – are opportunistic; if “having his back” meant they stood a greater chance of getting a mare, they were in – and it worked for Comanche – as it has worked for other stallions. This was a case of “too close for comfort,” and now it is Steeldust who has Butch’s back – because Alpha has chosen to stay close to Luna, who has been “chosen” by Butch. Neither was really the “aggressor” in this case – they were just close to each other. Did you notice SD’s ears? Erect at first – a “friendly” warning to stay back. But after the clash, they were pinned … no longer so friendly: a definite hard warning that Steeldust was not “playing around” and was not going to give any ground on defending his own. He never did have to do much defending – because he was in Butch’s place with lieutenants who did that for him while he protected the core. But years turn, baby stallions grow into mature stallions who want/need mares. There have always (last couple of years, anyway) been several stallions involved with this band. Things always change. 🙂 Lots of young stallions now – in the 4- to, say, 8-year-old range? And they all want a piece of the limited mare pie. The BLM’s gender skewing has some effect on this, but there are always bachelors, even in large herds. I think we have a very small “laboratory” in which to witness its effects. I’d bet Steeldust is at least on the upper side of 12 or so, maybe older.

As long as there are boys and girls on the same playground, there will always be “trouble.” 😉

2 06 2010

From the perspective of someone who has never seen real mustangs in the wild, it’s good to know that they don’t just run around fighting all day. A lot of videos and photos showcase those moments (including the PBS documentary about Cloud), and it’s easy to believe that is what you will be seeing if you go visit them out west. I have been following the feral ponies of Grayson Highlands and even though their population is managed differently (via an annual foal auction, etc) there are still a number of stallions around and I have yet to see a real fight amongst any of them. In fact, most of the year the bands seem mostly “disbanded” and the mares and stallions all mingle, save for the spring when the mares come into heat.

4 06 2010

I had never heard of Grayson Highlands – I froze just watching your video! They’re sure hardy little things! Our stallions are very possessive of their bands throughout the year, but most of the time, they’re well spread out, and interaction between bands is uncommon. At this time of the year, good forage is in certain places and still fairly limited, and water is the ultimate limiting factor so they’re closer together with more interaction. Most of the time, they can be seen grazing and napping, swatting bugs, grazing, napping in the sunshine, napping under trees, swatting bugs, grazing … All very calm and “normal”! 🙂

4 06 2010

Grayson Highlands State Park is in Southwestern VA – the ponies aren’t really wild (they were introduced in the 1970s), but they live a feral lifestyle now 🙂 They are the closest thing I have to wild horses out here and are really fun to watch! I was in the process of moving my blog and just had the one video in place but hopefully everything else is up now! 🙂 I am having so much fun documenting and observing them month to month. I do think we have a problem in that there seem to be a much higher percentage of males removed than females during the annual roundup and since there is so little competition among stallions they don’t always demonstrate natural behavior (something I hope documentation will help bring attention to). But enough about my ponies! I love your blog and how chock full of information it is! It is really helping me to learn more about the natural behavior of truly wild horses and how it relates to domesticated horses, (and my feral ponies as well! 🙂

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