It was the evening of July 4, just yesterday, that I witnessed a new life come to the Pryor Mountains. And along with that new life came a guardian angel in the form of the oldest stallion on the mountain, Chino. Chino was born in 1992, the son of Hightail and Hercules and he arrived on this day, just in time.
I was busy taking photos of little Pegasus, who I saw shortly after her birth the previous week. When I looked up and saw my friend and assistant for this trip, Jeanne (who had gone to the truck), waving her hand at me to come over. I immediately walked over, and that is when she told me a foal was being born. No one there knew who it was, but when someone told me she had a blaze, I knew it was Jacinta. I hurried over towards where they pointed.
For those of you that have been on the range, it was in the “tiered” field to your right just as you enter the range from the Sage Creek Road. There were over 100 horses around near that, and the first thought had been:
1. how odd that she was foaling at 6 pm with so many horses around and
2. I hope nothing happens to the foal with so many horses around.
It was just 2 years ago that I witnessed a similar birth at my campsite with LaBrava and it did not end well. Please read my Nacer post if you want to learn more about that. Since then, I admit, I have tried to look at the horses with more of a “watching a National Geographic special” sort of state of mind, when it comes to these intense happenings on the range, but so far my love and emotions have won out and I can’t quite capture the “don’t feel the pain” emotion. I guess that is who I am, and I guess it is how I will always be, and I am not ashamed to say, I cry a lot on the range.
It wasn’t long after I arrived and spotted them, when “all hell broke loose”. I am not sure what set the horses off, but while Jacinta tried to encourage her filly to stand for the first time, 75-100 horses decided to race above them. I do apologize for the quality of these shots. The sun was setting and unfortunately in the wrong place for good photos.
And as if a giant hand swooped down to pick them up, the next thing I knew was the other members of Garay’s band (where Jacinta belong), disappeared in the mist along with them. This set Garay into a blind frenzy. He wanted his other band members (Kohl, Peite Colur and Meriweather), but also wanted to be there for Jacinta and Patriot.
His desire for his other band members won out and he gallop off towards where they had run. I wondered how he would sort them out of 100 horses and get them back. It seemed liked an impossible task, and I doubted he would be able to do it.
And it was then, that I looked at Jacinta and watched her standing alone, with a new-born foal. I found myself a bit angry that Garay had chosen to run away when she needed him the most.
Then, I looked to the left and saw Chino, trotting right towards them. I wasn’t sure this was a good thing, or if it would end well, but I barely had those thoughts when Jacinta took charge.
I held my breath as they danced dangerously close to the newborn foal. But it was then that I looked in the opposite direction and saw 4 bachelors, (yes one was Jackson, and yes, he had the filly Nirvana for 24 hours but then lost her) running directly towards them. I knew in my heart that this story would have a painful ending if a miracle did not happen.
And that is when little Patriot’s guardian angel appeared in the form of the oldest stallion on the range.
This old stallion has been through a lot in his life, the only stallion or horse for that matter that has ever lived on every part of the range. He is a legend just by being himself to this point in his long wild life, but what I witnessed next, placed him even higher in my heart and soul.
I am sure he did not think about what could happen to his old self, all he cared about was saving Jacinta and Patriot, and watched it unfold before my eyes.
He charged at London like a stallion 1/3 his age and he never backed down.
Jacinta also did her best to keep him away. I have had two children, and I can’t imagine getting up and doing kick boxing minutes after their birth. How do these horses do it? The will to survive and protect what is theirs clearly wins out whatever pain she was feeling after the birth of her daughter. And all the while that she was fighting London off, she was frantically trying to get her little one to stand for the first time.
Chino decided that he needed to be even more aggressive to fight off London, and he gave it his all.
I am normally a quiet observer on the range, and ask that my guests do the same, but I found myself crying out ” Please, don’t let this little one get hurt or die, please…”
Patriot was up now, and Jacinta was using her body to push her further away from the stallions.
Finally London decided he had met his match, and he trotted away. I wondered how Jacinta would react to Chino now. She had fought him off earlier, would she do it again? My answer was granted in just a few seconds, as I watched her gratefully accept what Chino had done for her and her new foal.
Chino stood guard while the bachelors continued to circle, but never had the courage to come closer have his with Chino’s incredible show of courage and strength.
But Chino’s guardian Angel role was short-lived, as Garay returned with the rest of his band. (How did he do that, gained his band members back among 100 horses?? That is story no human witnessed and can never be answered).
But with his return, Chino exited the scene as quickly has he had entered it. With tearful eyes, I watched this amazing stallion gracefully conceded and walk away without a fight. He had done the job he was asked to do and excepted it as if he did it everyday of his life. I wondered how many more times he had stepped up and done the same without a human to witness and write about it.
I found myself feeling sad for Chino, as he turned and looked over his shoulder towards Jacinta and her filly. But he did not stay there long, he turned and walked towards me, and I told him out loud how wonderful I thought he was.
He stopped and yawned, and continued on his way, because for Chino, it was just a day in the life of a legend stallion.