Casper’s Band

Part of the fun of South Steens HMA is trying to figure out how the horses will react to people. Some like Cotton’s band try to make the idea that they were wary cool. As in, “Hey we aren’t scared of you, we just wanted to show off our jumping talent. Honest! We decided to leave the area before it was cool!” Then, there’s Casper’s band. Their reaction is more reminiscent of  Brave Sir Robin*.

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Casper snakes his band further from other horses.

The black mares noticed us first. Turning so they could see us better, and the bay mare followed their lead. The stallion was a little behind, but quickly caught up, mirroring their expressions. Expressions that were hard to take seriously as a magpie took turns landing on the backs of each of the mares.

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Like Domino, Casper did a little posturing. Unlike Domino, there were horses near-ish by.

Since there were other horses, we decided to take some ID photos, and gave them plenty of space. Even as we circled to approach the other horses, Casper’s band remained wary. They would take a few steps, pause, stare, and the cycle would repeat. Eventually, they decided they had enough and walked away.

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Casper groups his mares together.

I’m not sure how these horses get names, but Casper is a light palomino pinto. Perhaps he’s named for Casper the friendly ghost, but in our case he wasn’t as friendly. Again, the majority of what I’m learning comes from others, but I particularly enjoyed this anecdote.

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Casper’s band were all equally eager to checkout the people.

When he was first developing his band, there was a lot of competition. Rather than try to confront more dominant stallions, Casper focused on the mares. While the stallions were distracted, Casper snaked away some of the mares. Since they were bonded, sometimes more mares would join his band, sometimes they would go back to their original band.

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Casper puts himself in between his band and perceived threat.

Something must have worked, because he clearly has a band. Considering how he won his mares, I can see why he’d be warier. Seeing wary horses was a little refreshing. My ultimate goal is to have horses comfortable around me so they know that I’m not a threat. Ideally, I’d get shots of natural behavior, but when horses aren’t as used to people, it’s my job to know their body language and respect their boundaries. In herds where people can get portraits, and natural behavior, I think it is tempting to forget the horses are wild.

*Monty Python reference if you need to know what to google.

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