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
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."