I always have a mental checklist in my head when going to White Mountain. Documenting a herd of horses is not any more difficult than going places that I do not actively document, but it does put a slightly different slant on how I spend my days in the herd. In other herds my list consists of:
- Find horses
- Try not to get myself killed
My checklist for White Mountain this past weekend looked a little more like this:
- Find Fibonacci & see what stallion she ended up with
- Check in on Gladiator
- See if Kerosene survived the winter (spoiler alert: she totally did and looks fabulous)
- Explore new 2 tracks in the North
- Try not to get myself killed
Saturday morning dawned cloudy and gray, but filled with promise. As my friend and I drove along getting a feel for where the horses may be, a fuzzy black shape appeared right off the road in front of us. Check off the first on my list! Fibonacci is the only black horse who stays so far South, so it had to be her. But the band Fibonacci had joined was obscured by the hill.
After a simply agonizing and suspenseful wait of… oh, fifteen seconds or so, I had my answer.
That’s right folks. Our boy Gladiator has got himself a band! There may have been some screaming upon discovery of this, but can you blame me? I thought Gladiator was going to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor. After the 2011 roundup, Gladiator never put any kind of effort towards winning a mare. He would fight with band stallions when said band stallions were conveniently in the area, but even then it always felt more like he wanted the fight rather than the mares.
I’m still not sure what Gladiator’s feelings are on the subject of mares. After all, he didn’t win another stallion’s mares so much as open a kindergarten.
Consider his new family, and my possible theories on how this could have shook down:
Fibonacci was in the process of leaving her family band last winter. It seems a safe bet that Gladiator wooed her away from her other suitors. Or maybe she joined the group later and after seeing the other youngin’s all together she figured it looked like a fun party.
This is the fourth band that Belle has been spotted with since 2012. She was last in Flax’s band with her dam Aurora. While this suited Aurora, I have always gotten the impression that Belle was less than thrilled to be back with her mother again. Flax is a paranoid band stallion and constantly fighting and moving his band away from anything he sees as a threat. Gladiator could have found an opportunity and taken it, or Belle could have gotten annoyed and branched out on her own again.
She’s sort of stuck going wherever mom goes.
Ditto. It’s fairly unusual for yearlings to not follow their dam during band changes, though it certainly can happen.
Verity’s dam, Elaine, was also with a new stallion. Verity may have been seperated from her dam in the chaos of the transition or…
August is very close with his older half-sister, Verity. It could be that he tagged along with her during the split in Curly’s band. Or… he could have been kicked out of Curly’s band and Verity followed him. Either way, Gladiator accepted him as part of a package deal.
Formerly in Condor’s band. Clearly he was kicked out of his family band, but I have no idea how or why Gladiator ended up taking him in.
So yeah, girls and boys. I am always fascinated by stallions who will take in a colt that is not their own. Gladiator not only took on one, but two, each from different bands. Gladiator was friendly with both colts and treated them no differently than he did the fillies.
Anyway, watching this mishmash group hobble around the range is the greatest thing ever. I’m not exaggerating. First of all, as far as I can tell, they have an informal buddy system. No one wanders off without another member of the band wandering with them. That still isn’t exactly a great thing, since Gladiator spends half his time fetching whichever random duo decided to traipse off at any particularl moment. He manages. But believe me, there is a lot of wandering off going on. Gladiator is basically herding cats.
What he really needs is a solid lead mare to keep it together. Unfortunately, the closest thing that Gladiator has to a lead mare is Fibonacci, and she’s two. She watched her mother lead, but this is her first time trying to put it into practice.
In spite of the challenges that come with having such a young band, they do seem to be getting on fairly well. Everyone is healthy and for the most part, seem content with this arrangement.
Gladiator did have a moment where he got really disappointed that no one wanted to pick a fight with him. Maybe he needed a break from all the babysitting? All I know is he spent a considerable amount of time staring at nearby stallions looking really hopeful.
There was one small hitch over the weekend. On Monday morning, Belle’s filly laid down for some well earned rest. It had been a rough couple days for the little one. Rain poured down every afternoon, and with her curly coat, she came out of these showers particularly damp and miserable. There is little time to rest when you are the smallest member of such a rowdy bunch, so when an opportunity for a good long presented itself, she took it.
While the filly lay sacked out in the sage, Gladiator took an interest in her mom. In the ensuing dance of rejection, Gladiator and Belle both moved away from the oblivious filly. Neither realized it for some time.
Orion took notice right away.
Orion was the stallion of the only southern band to evade the 2011 roundup. His band lost three members over the winter, mostly his own offspring, but he still remains a powerful stallion in the South. After briefly sniffing the filly, Orion stood over her while she slept. This might be a kind stallion playing babysitter for a lone foal. Or he may have been waiting for Belle to come collect her daughter, giving him an opening to steal Belle away. Clever boy!
Whatever his intentions, it did trigger the most slow-motion/high emotion drama around. After a long while spent grazing and kicking Gladiator, Belle finally realized that she was missing something. Belle called to her foal, asking the filly to return. The foal ignored her. And kept ignoring her. I don’t see how it could have slept through all the commotion her mom was making, but then, the filly was pretty tuckered out.
Gladiator seemed fairly unconcerned and kept grazing. But he did slowly inch his way in the general direction of the filly. And I do mean slowly. I have seen snails move faster. Belle, meanwhile, kept hollering and looking on with concern while the disobedient little filly kept napping.
After about ten minutes, Fibonacci, who had been grazing up the hill, seemed to get tired of the racket. She moved back to Belle and Gladiator and looked prepared to go get the filly herself. Fibonacci stopped shy of that, but her presence did seem to give Gladiator the kick in the pants he needed to get moving. While Orion warned off a three year old colt from another band, Gladiator moved in.
Once he was beside the foal, the danger was over. He sniffed the foal, but let it sleep for a little longer. After a few minutes, he nudged her up and reunited the wayward filly with her mama. Thinking that Belle would be impressed with his “daring rescue”, Gladiator tried to woo her into a reward of his own.
It went about as well as one would expect.
As we left to go pack up the tent and head for home, the band was all together and grazing peacefully. But can it last? Will Gladiator be able to keep his big band of misfits together without the maturity and stability that only an older mare can bring? Is this a temporary arrangement or the beginning of something wonderful?
Who cares? Knowing the future would take all the fun out of the present. All that matters for now is that Gladiator has a band!!!!