Mother and Son – mustangs on the beach


Its spring time again! Not only does this mean the sun is shining and life is returning to the barrier islands, but also the biting flies are starting to hatch and feed on our blood. Regarding the biology of wild horses on barrier islands, there are a few weeks out of the year that the horses will actually come out to the beach. If you think about it, there’s really very few reasons they would ever have to come out there. Its a virtual desert! There is no fresh water, no food, no shade, no protection, and there are trucks driving past all day long. Therefore certain extenuating environmental circumstances have to happen in order to drive these animals onto the beach front.

The number one reason that they make thier way out here, plain and simple, are the biting flies. A recent university study found that the stallions of these horses could have as many as 200 biting flies on them during the peak of fly season. Imagine now for a moment if YOU had 200 biting flies swarming and pestering you! This of course would dictate every single thought that went through your mind and would therefore obviously influence your behavioral patterns. Thus is why the horses come to the beach. When the wind is strong and the sand is blowing, the flies cannot hold themselves in the stiff breeze that blows unhindered across the beach front. Horses will come out in mass sometimes to find some sort of reprise from the torment of these biting flies.

One our our harems of horses this year has two new born foals. This is a great situation as most harems do not have foals this year and those that do, typically only have one. Realizing the winds would be howling out of the west, blowing sand across the beach and filling in the surf, I knew that this would be the day for horses and so I set out looking for this family. As luck would have it, this harem had indeed made it to the beach by afternoon.

Photographing foals can sometimes be difficult as the mother and the harem in general likes to keep them close. Thus finding idealic compositions can be a bit trying at times. When I cam across this group, I walked around to where the sun was over my shoulder and simply laid right down in the sand. I wanted to pick up the highlights of the foals new fur which always has a beautiful sheen – thus is why I shot with the sun at my back.

The reason I chose to lay down  for this shot was a matter of perspective. The mothers are quite large, and the foals quite small. I did not want the mare here to completely dominate the photograph and so I dropped to the ground in order to bring the foal into a much more dominant element in the composition. The mother still towers above her new born son, but the colt takes a much more prominant role in the composition. This allowed for the foal to come in as the main compositional element while also brining its own size relative to its mother into perspective as well.


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