This is what happens when you try to photograph foals in the pasture. They’d rather visit you than pose. Sans assistant, you get pictures of noses, ears, foreheads; the haunches of a shy one as it scoots behind the mare; a selfie with one of the snugglers if you’re lucky. (We call in the professionals for advertisement-grade baby photos.)
Even the shy ones are curious. It feels like an accomplishment when they let you get close, or they reach out and nuzzle your hand. (You have to crouch down to their level and let them come to you.) The bold ones barge over and lean on you, asking for a shoulder-scratch. Or try to climb onto your lap, like sweet baby Maddie, who got up from her nap to play with me:
If Tom and Mandy can’t find me at lunchtime, they know where to look.
This one’s nickname is Donna (registered name: Spend The Nite). Even in her pre-grooming pasture life, she had the silkiest-ever coat:
Once the foals are weaned, they get into herd behavior even more. The yearling fillies bunch around you and push each other. They chew your clothes, breathe on your ears, slobber your hair. Fabulous!
My Stanford poetry teacher, Gaby Calvocoressi, visited the ranch when she was living nearby, at the university in Denton. We spent an hour with the yearling fillies. Gaby’s like me: she didn’t want to leave. She said it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of her life. (Check out Gaby’s brilliant books, Apocalyptic Swing and The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart—forceful and compassionate poems about longing and tragedy; jazz, boxing, small-town America, and that famous lost heroine.)
Reining horses start their training at age two. Warmbloods develop more slowly. In Hamburg, where my young jumpers live, the horses stay in the field until they’re three. We I visited during the World Equestrian Games. These herds include yearlings, two-year-olds, and three-year-olds out of my speed-demon jumper mare, Labelle:
He’s shy enough not to push you around, but he wanted to visit—and stuck around even when the others took off: