Sable Island Expedition – April 18, 2010

 

April, 2010

Today was another rainy day of flat light and extreme winds. Content to stay in for a while and sort out images, I worked at the kitchen table, checking out the window constantly for a break in the weather. My legs were like rubber from yesterday’s unaccustomed pedaling and while I felt somewhat guilty for staying inside, I had to recharge physically to be effective in the field. My friend, Ali, took off to brave the elements. It was not until mid-afternoon Ali arrived back to report that ‘there were just no horses out there”. But the sky was beginning to change so I decided to go for a short walk up the north ridge, travelling light and trying out my new waist waders and overboots which had been recently purchased for my summer Alaska trip. I took only my newly converted colour infrared camera, knowing that the lighting conditions were not likely to produce stellar images. As I crested the north dunes, my usual first vantage point, I discovered Beachcomber and part of his band tucked between dunes, not 10 minutes from the station. He was resting with a bay mare and a pair of two year olds that clearly bore the genetic stamp of his chestnut colour and white blaze. The horses that live near the station are very accustomed to people so they took little notice of me as I clambered around them, mostly on my knees trying for different angles to make a creative shot. The sun poked out for a few minutes and I did my best to make the most of it. Convinced that I had covered every angle, I started to walk away. As soon as I was out of the ‘zone’ Beachcomber squealed, reared and leaped on top of the bay mare’s back. It was not a mating attempt but a clear display of ownership. Shocked by the sudden flurry of activity I jumped clear of the action and then spun around to get the shot. After congratulating myself at my composure, the thought occurred to me that I had been too complacent and had crossed the line of safety. I had mistaken the stallion’s disinterest in me as trust, when in fact he had barely tolerated my presence. I pride myself in being an astute judge of horse body language and this was a prime example that wild horses react differently than domestic ones. Lesson learned.

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