Before I start with the fun stuff I need to make a quick announcement: tomorrow I am heading up to the Pryors (yay!) for the first leg of my epic summer vacation (double yay!). So if you have been champing at the bit to purchase of my photographs, then you clearly have excellent taste. Kidding. What I mean to say is that the next 10 days would not be the best time to place an order. I don’t really care for how the website does the purchasing anyway, so I plan to try to get some photos up and selling on Etsy once I get back.
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog:
There are several wild horses who I label as my “favorite” horses. The problem is that tends to go against the meaning of the word favorite. Which is why I have an absolute favorite wild horse – Gladiator. He’s kind of like Cloud, only cooler. (Should I duck to avoid death glares and airborne projectiles after typing that?)
Gladiator is a bay roan stallion up in White Mountain. I don’t know when I saw him for the first time, but last year was the first time I really took notice of him. It was a lovely morning in the first week of June and quite a few bands had congregated in a lovely little meadow.
Gladiator was dogging Fuego, determined to win one or more of Fuego’s four mares. I had heard them squeeling all morning. By the time I reached them, Gladiator was covered in open wounds. The wounds to his head were the most notable. His left cheek was torn open and still dripping blood; I imagine it would have gotten stitched if he was a domestic. His right ear was also bloody and drooping. It’s never healed. That didn’t stop him. His blood was smeared across Fuego’s nose, but Gladiator kept following and fighting, following and fighting. Here was one determined little guy.
The drama! The passion! The cheesy waters this post is already veering into! It is pretty exciting, though, and an important part of a horse herd’s dynamics.
It wasn’t really the fighting that attracted me to Gladiator, though I did admire his determination. I’ve always written it off that it was because Gladiator was the first wild horse I’d encountered who completely and utterly ignored me, as if I was just another bit of sage grass. I followed him at his shoulder for hours while he barely gave me a second glance, and it gave me a chance to really see his world from his perspective.
Since then, it’s all about Gladiator. When I go to White Mountain, I go with the goal to find Gladiator first and then move on to other areas of the HMA. He isn’t the most attractive horse up at White Mountain. In fact, it can be infuriating to try to get a decent picture of him sometimes. His head is abnormally big for his body, larger than his neck for that matter. And while the rest of his body is absolutely lovely and correctly portioned, he tends to stand in what I can only describe as the horse equivalent of slouching.
Lucky for me I am a) patient and b) have a slouchy White Mountain horse with a huge head and no neck at home to practice with (love you Bandit). Guess he’s stuck with me!
When I found Gladiator on this last trip, I took some photos then sat down and cried. They were big messy, snot-filled tears at that. Gladiator’s respones to my emotion diarrhea? He took a nap. Everything felt right in that moment – just spending time sitting with him.
Gladiator was alone. I take that as a good sign that he is bulking up for a bid to win a mare. He won a mare towards the end of last summer – a lovely little lady I called Portia with her yearling and newborn colts. I saw them rounded up. Gladiator was not with them, so I suspect he was not able to keep them long.
Back to the present: I found him again later in the evening in one of his favorite spots. Eventually his path ended up crossing with three bachelors. One of them was Fuego. As I mentioned in my last blog, Fuego is lame and has clearly taken several beatings in his attempt to have a band again.
Gladiator seemed to avoid the bachelors, walking ahead of them at all times. It seemed very out of character.
Oh. There he is!
The tables have definitely turned. There is no question that Gladiator is the more dominant stallion now, thanks to Fuego’s injuries. It would seem that there is still some bad blood between the two stallions as well. Gladiator visited and played with Eight and Riemann while completely ignoring Fuego.
Eventually Gladiator lost interest and left the other bachelors to their grazing. All I know is that I feel blessed everytime I can spend time with Gladiator. It will be interesting to see how his story plays out.
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