Wednesday, January 14, 2015
While in the throes of winter, when riding can be numbing and painful, I have turned greater attention to my studies at Michigan State University. While getting my Master, I am creating a husbandry care manual for the last remaining species of true wild horses, the Przewalski’s horse or Asian wild horse. This equine is a descendant of the domestic horse and remains untrainable. While many people think the mustangs out West are wild, they are actually domestic horses that went feral when they escaped from the Spanish conquistadors and the settlers out in the plains and mountains. There are only about 1500 Prezwalski’s horses left, mainly in zoos though a couple hundred have been reintroduced to part of their old home range, Mongolia. These animals used to roam all over Asia and Europe until they were reduced to only thirteen captive horses because of hunting in the 20th century. With careful breeding, their numbers are now above 1000, which is truly remarkable. There is no current guide on how to care for these wonderful horses in captivity. By creating a manual from existing data and observations, zoos will have a reference for these equines.
Winter has descended upon the farm with its frigid temperatures and wind-swept fields layered in powdery, white snow. The horses are snug in their heavy blankets and grow bored with lolling around. They irritate each other with cranky nipping and kicking, or me, by breaking fences and galloping around the property. Hidalgo, my spotted Spanish mustang, is by far the worst. If he is let out of his stall to exercise in the paddocks, within minutes he will barrage through the fence lines, running to the bird feeders to nibble on the seed. When I try to catch him, he will saucily toss his mane and charge across the fields. Only a bucket of sweet feed can entice him to leave his charades and return to his stall. After going inside to warm my frozen hands by the fire, I will do what most horse riders are doing in blustery, cold Michigan, dreaming of spring, with its emerald fields and sunny skies. I itch to return to my oiled, heavenly smelling, leather saddle so I can prepare for show season. But for now, it is only a dream.