The Fighting Stallions of Sand Wash Basin challenge painting #110
Beau and Nick Bachelor Stallions of Sand Wash Basin HMA.
"Nick and Beau"
5 by 7 inch watercolor
Today’s painting is of the beautiful gray stallion Beau and the young 2 year old butter cream palomino stallion named Nick. In this painting, that was inspired by the photography of Sally Wright when she visited the Sand Wash Basin in August 2010, The two stallions are play fighting. They are part of a larger band of brothers who very in ages.
There are so many myths that have been perpetrated for thousands of years regarding the behavior of horses, that to see horses reacting in the wild for the first time is both enlightening and surprising.
The first myth, brought about by these eons of equine domestication, is that you must keep all stallions separate or they will injure or kill themselves in fighting. Because after all these powerful creatures live to fight.
This myth is so prevalent in the civilized world that when unknowledgeable people, look upon a band of horses they really don’t understand what they are seeing. What appears for all intents and purposes to be a stallion with his brood mares, is often in fact a very complex family hierarchy that can involve not only one stallion, but several.
Here is the thing that surprised me: At some point after the young stallions are chased away by their band stallion, because they are herd animals and very gregarious, they do not live in isolation alone, they form a band of bachelors that can range in age from weanlings to very old stallions.These Bachelors form a band with a stallion hierarchy that has all the dynamics of a normal mixed sex band with the exception of breeding. Previously I had always been led to believe that these young and or rejected stallions simply lived a life of isolation waiting for their chance to steal a mare.
Sometimes, as we have seen, in the Sand Wash Basin, there are very often young mares who have not yet matured who come into the band and find protection, companionship and shall we dare say it, a form of High School for wild horses that prepares them for life.
In previous posts I have discussed the behavior of protecting and nurturing young mares and colts in regard to our favorite little underdog, Sparrow, who as a yearling from Eagle’s band, showed up one day with a bachelor band. They took in this little sister and protected her and made her the jewel of their band. This year she would be a 2 year old on the Sand Wash Basin. You can read more of her story here: http://mustangadaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/sparrow-of-sand-wash-basin-hma.html
The focus of this week is Fighting Stallions. The real truth is not that stallions live to fight, it is that they live to breed. And they use fighting as a last resort, only when necessary to accomplish the purpose of having access to mares or to defend their mares and other members of their herd from being taken. Do not be deceived, a stallion when he perceives a threat will with all this strength go after that threat. So getting between a stallion and any member of his band is indeed a dangerous thing. And is the first thing any wild horse observer must respect while visiting an HMA.
In the Bachelor bands in this high school for wild horses the young horses learn skills and test each other with posturing, wrestling matches, chasing games, and a lot of practice vocalization in clouds of dust. These games are the next step in building courage, technique and most importantly strength.
Mostly in a boys will be boys scenario, on occasion one may become a little over zealous and a serious fight will break out. But generally when that happens the young stallion is ready to challenge band stallions and will make is move to leave and build his own harem of mares. I have heard of young stallions beginning the challenge process as young as the age of 4 but most begin to strike out on their own between the ages of 8 and 10.
Currently one of the most respected and powerful stallions on the Sand Wash Basin is Corona who has been estimated to be around 20. He is a fearful power house with a dedicated band of mares that have been documented with him since before the 2005 gathers.His beautiful honey dunalino color weaves through many of the bands like a brilliant golden thread.
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