On Either Side the River Lie

Elaine of Astolat was something of a tragic figure.  Stick with me here, because I swear this is going somewhere. Probably. Probably.

 

Elaine was this beautiful, young woman who made one critical mistake.  She fell hopelessly in love with Lancelot.  You can probably see where this is going.  Lancelot had devoted himself to the service of Queen Guinevere, and rejected Elaine’s advances and her love.  Elaine did not take this news too well, and died of a broken heart.  Now before you go feeling all sorry for this girl, as the story draws to a close we learn that Elaine was just vindictive enough to ask her father to put her dead body in a boat and float it down the river to Camelot just so Lancelot can see the results of his actions.

 

Unrequited love is a common theme in literature for a reason. Elaine’s story has passed on through the generations because we can all relate to her.  I know I’ve been there. More than once, in fact.  Now I would like to think that I have made better life choices than Elaine.  Rather than dying, I fully intend to be an independent single woman who eventually turns into a mildly eccentric hermit.  Some of us just aren’t meant for love.

 

Elaine of White Mountain had some unrequited love of her own to deal with.  Much like her namesake, it didn’t end so well.

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In 2011, Elaine was perfectly content with the band stallion Curly.  And who wouldn’t be?  Curly is attentive to his mares, kind to foals, and tough as nails with other stallions.

 

As so many of these horses’ stories go, the roundup later that year changed things.  Both Elaine and Curly were lucky enough to be released back into the wild.  However, when the BLM releases the horses that were captured, they do so in two large groups, stallions one day and mares the next.  This creates a lot of chaos as the horses try to right their society again.  Stallions fight viciously as they scramble to obtain mares again (often not the same mares they had before), and the mares get passed around like so many hot potatoes.

Rosa, Elaine, and the Bay Mare

Rosa, Elaine, and the Bay Mare

 

 

Curly with Elaine behind. Believe it or not, this beautiful girl was camera shy back in the day.

Curly with Elaine behind. Believe it or not, this beautiful girl was camera shy back in the day.

Elaine did not get back with Curly, but instead was taken by Marty.  Now Marty is a nice enough fellow but he has problems of his own.  Mares do not naturally take to Marty.  He is a little silly, a little immature, and that is not something that appeals to mature ladies especially after their lives were disrupted by a roundup.  Every mare that Marty obtained in 2012 left him within a month.

One of Marty's band. Neither mare stuck around very long.  Marty now has a solid band of his own, but it took several tries for him to find mares who clicked with him.

One of Marty’s band setups in 2012. Neither mare stuck around very long. Marty now has a solid band of his own, but it took several tries for him to find mares who clicked with him.

 

Once her foal, Verity, was strong enough to hold her own, Elaine went to Flax.  Flax is a wonderful stallion in his own right, beautiful and brave, but he is not without his own flaws.  Flax is an extremely paranoid stallion.  He is prone to fighting and likes to keep his mares on the move and far, far away from threats.

 

I do not know how Elaine and Flax parted ways, but I am confident that Flax did not give her up without a fight.  Not only is fighting in Flax’s nature, but he pretty beat up by the end of summer when Elaine went missing.

Elaine with Flax

Elaine with Flax

 

Flax being his usual hyper vigilant self

Flax being his usual hyper vigilant self

Flax chasing off Sky.  Within a fifteen minute time period that morning he went after Sky, Gladiator, and Dragon

Flax chasing off Sky. Within a fifteen minute time period that morning he went after Sky, Gladiator, and Dragon

 

Either way, Elaine ended up returning to Curly in 2013.  Great news, right?  I was jumping for joy to know that Elaine was back with the stallion she was so fond of before the roundup.  It was true love!

 

As the summer went on, it became apparent that things were not the same as before.  Well, sort of.  It was only apparent in hindsight because I was blinded by my feelings at the time, and refused to see any answer that wasn’t “ELAINE + CURLY 4EVA!!!!!!!!”

Curly

Curly

Rosa & Elaine

Rosa & Elaine

Left to Right: Verity, Elaine, Zara.  Though they weren't raised as foals together, Verity & Zara are half-sisters

Left to Right: Verity, Elaine, Zara. Though they weren’t raised as foals together, Verity & Zara are half-sisters

 

Elaine had what I thought she wanted.  Heck, Elaine had what she thought she wanted, but she still wasn’t happy.  She was distant with Curly, who spent most of his time doting on the other mare, Rosa and her foals.  Rosa and Elaine were friendly enough with each other, but they did not act like the best friends that they once were.  You could see how a year away combined with the loss of Curly’s lovely bay mare had torn things apart.  The formula was broken, the love was gone, and it wasn’t coming back.

The sun had already set for Curly & Elaine, even if they didn't realize it

The sun had already set for Curly & Elaine, even if they didn’t realize it

 

Sometime over the winter of 2013 or the spring of 2014, Elaine left Curly.  I found her with the bachelor stallion Reimann, Curly’s son at her side.  Reimann has always seemed young to me – he does not bear the scars of injury that many of the older stallions wear with pride, and I had never seen him show any interest in obtaining a mare.

Family # 4 for Elaine

Family # 4 for Elaine

 

Reimann

Reimann

Though he may be inexperienced, Reimann is kind and has been taking good care of his new family.  Elaine seems okay with this situation, or at least, more content than she ever was with Marty or Flax.  Her colt is full of energy and growing stronger by the day.

Elaine's 2014 Colt

Elaine’s 2014 Colt

 

It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though.  Reimann has been dogged relentlessly by Fuego all summer.  Fuego has encountered his own level of bad luck, but is a fierce rival none-the-less.  Reimann is relatively untested and may not have the strength to hold Fuego off forever.

Reimann looks like he's being pretty strict here

Reimann looks like he’s being pretty strict here

 

But Actually...

But Actually…

Reimann was putting himself between the foal and two bachelors to ensure the foal will stay safe

Reimann was putting himself between the foal and two bachelors to ensure the foal will stay safe

Fuego

Fuego

Rincewind wasn't a proper threat. He was just looking for friends, aka Rincewind... being Rincewind.

Rincewind wasn’t a proper threat. He was just looking for friends, aka Rincewind… being Rincewind.

This may not be Elaine’s happy ending. She may never get a happy ending at all.  As it is with humans, wild horse mares get no guarantees.  Elaine may spend years stuck in bands that she doesn’t like.  She may die young. Other foals may die.  If the BLM gets their way, Elaine may end up spayed, a procedure that has a good chance of killing her.  She may get rounded up and spend the rest of her life in a feedlot surrounded by horses from other herds.

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The concept of happily ever after is a myth.  I don’t care what species you are, this ain’t Disney.  A friendly talking rabbit is not going to lead you down the path to true love immediately followed by a life of stress-free bliss.  I would argue that it is far more accurate to view life as a series of events in a struggle for survival where good and bad intermingle so closely that it can be hard to tell the difference between the two sometimes.  Happiness or love aren’t goals that you pursue, but rather something that you grab in snatches and cling to.  It can be fleeting.  And if you find what you are looking for, it will give you pain.

 

No matter what happens, I highly doubt that our Elaine is going to die of a broken heart.  She’s a practical mare, and not one to give up that easily.  And who knows?  Maybe this will last for Elaine, and she has finally found where she wants to be.  Maybe true love will conquer all and I should quit being a bitter old spinster about the whole thing.   I just with Elaine every happiness, no matter where she may find it or what roads she must take to get there.

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6 thoughts on “On Either Side the River Lie

  1. Puller says:

    She undoubtedly became distant due to the roundup. It splintered the herd. Rosa was able to get back to Curly in good time…Elaine, not so lucky. Maybe she blamed Curly for the roundup, for not protecting her, for not finding her after she was released? Scientists would have a field day with that observation!! Handsome Flax was probably too controlling for a dominant mare, Marty too immature. Reimann may be what she remembered in Curly. 🙂

    Rincewind is gorgeous! He almost looks like he could be related to Picasso. Reimann is handsome. I hope Fuego doesn’t injure Reimann in those skirmishes…and Elaine finds happiness and security.

    • Rincewind is one of my favorites. He is a real character! Roundups definitely changes the dynamics of the herd. It has been three years since the last roundup in White Mountain and you can still feel the effects.

  2. Eva van Rijn says:

    Rachel, I’m your fan forever. Your posts are getting more and more fascinating, sad and beautiful. By the way I too contributed to Cloud – thanks to your writings. met you at Sandwash Basin now several years ago – you showed me around. now I go every year…Love, Eva

    • Thank you Eva! I remember going around Sandwash Basin with you back in 2012 and watching the wee little foal and then the horses at the water hole. It was so much fun! I am glad you get to keep going out there. Sandwash is such a lovely place and the horses are wonderufl out there.

  3. chris1055 says:

    A wonderful narrative, and through your posts, we learn of wild horse behavior. So mares, afterall, have something to say about who they go with — that’s very good to know. Those poor stallions spend their lives on guard. I’m hoping against all that somehow the White Mountain horses aren’t mangled by BLM and that the Red Desert will have beautiful wild horses running free. I write several times/week to people who do not read. Only law suits can stop the BLM, and the USFWS does what it wants to the remnant Sheldon herds. Very sad.

    • Thanks Chris! I liken the dynamics between mares and stallions to not being unlike how it works with humans – the boys act like macho protectors who spend most of their time strutting around trying to impress the females of their choice. The ladies, meanwhile, are rolling their eyes and letting the male think he has the power, when really they are the ones who are making all the decisions and calling the shots.

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