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Horses in Love, continued ...

Karin is barely five ft high. I worried about her safety as she strode into the corral. She had called me just a few days before. "He's challenging me. I don't think I can leave him a stallion much longer." Yet despite her concerns, today she draped her arm over Tomorrow's neck and led him toward the gate. He didn't fight her. Evidently he approved of getting out of his pen .


"Looks like he's going to take awhile to figure things out."

Why were we trying to breed him so young? We feared he and his dam might be the last alive of a herd of Spanish mustangs that looked very much like the Sorraia ponies of Spain. They had come to New Mexico with its first Spanish settlers in Don Juan de Onate's 1598 expedition. That first year Navajo raiders freed over a thousand of Onate's horses and mules.

For almost four centuries these horses lived in Navajo country, mostly running free. Navajos don't often build fences. They simply whistle up their horses.

For centuries these horses shared the hardships of their human companions. They grew up fast in a land where blizzards, drought and killer buyers preyed on them. If they didn't reproduce by age two, they might fail to pass on their genes.

In recent years a drought, continuing poverty and soaring prices for horse meat had decimated the herds.

That was why I had wanted to preserve Tomorrow's genes. Trying to breed him that young was my only option.

Tomorrow at one year of age, beside his round pen. Photo courtesy Karin Begg.

A few feet away, water gurgled in a dirt ditch acequia. A neighbor was irrigating her apple orchard, heavy with blossoms. Inside the orchard fence, on a bank above the spreading waters, two small mares stood side by side. One was gray, the other a cream-spotted zebra dun. They swished their tails, observing the unfolding love story.

As Karin opened the gate, Tomorrow rushed from her enbrace to sidle up to Zebra. They nuzzled, flank to flank, rumbling sweet horse nothings. After a minute or two, Tomorrow seized Zebra's neck in his jaws, reared and straddled her withers (shoulders) with his front legs. He began poking two feet of erection against Zebra's ribs. She spread her hind legs, bracing under his buffeting.

Karin rubbed her chin. "Looks like he's going to take awhile to figure things out."

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© 2004 Carolyn M. Bertin. All rights reserved.