Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sorraia Foals at Quinta do Sol

A young wild living Sorraia filly on Manitoulin Island c.2010
In 2010, here on the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve, two fillies were born whose lives have proven to be filled with historic adventures in faraway lands.  

Click on each filly's name to read about their births from the Journal of Ravenseyrie archives.
Tocara (Altamiro x Belina)

Tocara and Belina

Levada (Altamiro x Sovina's Zorita)


Sired by the Portuguese Sorraia, Altamiro, (who himself came to Manitoulin Island as a yearling from a zoological park in Germany where he was born) the fillies, Tocara and Levada are fine examples of the beneficial outcross to North American Mustang mares who show the Sorraia phenotype.  Tocara and Levada were selected by Claudia Radbauer to become part of her efforts to preserve Sorraia type horses in Austria providing her with several healthy foals sired by the Portuguese Sorraia, Grelo.  Last year Tocara and Levada were sent to a new conservation project overseen by the Associação Transumâcia e Natureza in northeastern Portugal.  

After spending the majority of 2017 receiving the amorous attention of a Sorraia stallion, Bimbo, (donated to the preservation project by Herdade do Azinhal) and despite going through a frightening period of drought and threat of wildfires, Tocara and Levada have presented ATN with healthy new foals, both colts!  These are indeed fit and hardy equines and definitely adaptable to a variety of wilderness environments - from the bitter cold of Northern Canada to the arid hills of Portugal!  

While it appears the preserve at Quinta do Sol is receiving good rainfall to assist in regenerating the vegetation, the land presently available to these Sorraias remains limited.  Until more acreage can be acquired for this project, there may still be a need from time to time to supplement the forage with hay, should there come again a frightful drought.  Those able to assist in any way are urged to contact ATN: https://www.facebook.com/faiabrava/posts/10155083833528014 

And now for some lovely images from Quinta do Sol!  Tocara and Levada...I am blowing a kiss in the wind and instructing it to find you from here to there!  We miss you and are so proud of your achievements.  

And we are immeasurably thankful to Claudia Radbauer and ATN for the good work they are doing to carry on with the preservation of one of the precious wild equine types of the Iberian Peninsula.

Three new foals in one week at Quinta do Sol preserve
in northeastern Portugal
(photo: ATN)

Left: Tocara with her filly, Epona, and newborn colt
Right:  Levada with her newborn colt
(photo:  ATN)

Tocara with her two offspring
(photo: ATN

Levada with her colt and a Garrano x Sorraia mare with her colt
(photo: ATN)

Tocara (Altamiro x Belina)
formerly of Ravenseyrie, with her newborn colt
at Quinta do Sol preserve in Portugal
(photo: ATN)

Levada (Altamiro x Sovina's Zorita)
formerly of Ravenseyrie, with her newborn colt
at Quinta do Sol preserve in Portugal
(photo: ATN)

Tocara and colt
(photo: ATN)

Sorraias at Quinta do Sol
(photo: ATN)

More about Tocara and Levada's early life on Manitoulin Island can be experienced by clicking on these links to archived stories in the Journal of Ravenseyrie:

Tocara and Levada


"Who would we be without the horse?  What was our horse's ancestor and does he still exist? [...] What once was one of Man's most important companions has nowadays been reduced to a luxury item and a sports equipment.  And the ancestral populations?  Gone!  What do we know about them? Very little!  Otherwise, extant wild populations would not be cause for a constant dispute among scientists.

"If we want to keep our planet worth living on in its diversity and endless facets of life, we must try to preserve the genetic diversity of all living species.  In this context it is almost secondary if a population is 'wild' or 'feral'.  Wild horses are adapted to their habitat, in which some have lived for centuries.  Each adaptation represents a contribution to that big cocktail we call diversity of life."
--Dr. Thomas Jansen, from the foreword of Wildpferde Gestern und Heute by Hardy Oelke

Mares and foals at Ravenseyrie c. 2010

 Heritage Futures:  offers a good summary of the Associação Transumâcia e Natureza 

Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN) is a non profit environmental NGO, created in 2000, at Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, Guarda District, in the northeastern part of Portugal. The name comes from an international foundation (Transhumance and Nature Foundation), which was one of the founders. The name is a reference to the extinct activity of transhumance – an old tradition of shepherds, who brought the flocks of sheep a long way, in order to take advantage of pasture land at different altitudes and times of the year. Owning around 800 hectares of land at the Côa Valley, ATN is the manager of the Faia Brava Reserve, the first private protected area in Portugal, located inside the Côa Valley SPA (Natura 2000) and the Côa Archaeological Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). ATN owns and manages several other reserves in the Northeast of Portugal and is the Portuguese local partner of the Rewilding Europe initiative. Our researchers will work with Association of the Friends of Côa Park and Côa Museum (ACOA) to study the objectives of a large-scale rewilding project, with specific attention to the management of (abandoned) built heritage within the designated area.

"Whether as zoological gems, genetic resources, important ecological factors, objects for ethological studies, or as pure inspiration - wild horses are always and everywhere of great value.  What many would not give today to be able to lay eyes on Tarpans in the steppe of southern Russia!
     "We may not fully understand what treasure we still have in our surviving primitive horses.  Their protection should be a matter of course."  
--Hardy Oelke from Wild Horses Then and Now

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Make Prayers to the Wild Ones

Raven overseeing the
Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve

Make prayers to the Raven.
Raven that is,
Raven that was,
Raven that always will be.
Make prayers to the Raven.
Raven, bring us luck.
                                                                 from the Koyukon world view

I think often of the above words and find myself extending the prayer to the Sorraia horses and also including all the wild entities.  All the Wild Ones, they bring us luck...they are the promise of a viable future, I think - not electronic devices and space voyages.

Young Sorraia fillies on the Ravenseyrie beach
Summer 2011
Manitoulin Island

In my place in time it seems the world has gone wonky from a sort of collective schizophrenia among its human occupants.  Apocalyptic fevered nightmares outnumber utopian dreams - if one were to take the point of view of mass media as truth.

Does the Raven see that as truth?

Mythic Ravens at Ravenseyrie
East Bluff, Gore Bay
Manitoulin Island

Absolutely not!

Do the horses see the deluded workings of mankind as truth?  No, not any more than I do...but their lives are much more highly manipulated by humans than those of ravens and autonomy in appropriate habitats for most of them remains elusive and fragile.

Sorraias in the Vale de Zebro, Portugal
(Sadly, that Sorraia preserve no longer exists)
Though the Vale de Zebro Sorraia Refuge was dismantled a few years ago, some of the mares that lived there now live in northeastern Portugal, along with Tocara and Levada (two mares born here on Manitoulin Island at Ravenseyrie) as part of a Rewilding Europe initiative coordinated and overseen by Associação Transumância e Natureza.  The devastating drought and wildfire conditions that Portugal suffered in 2017 made unexpected extra hardships for the fledgling preservation project and hay had to be trucked in to augment the lack of forage.  But the Sorraias are resilient equines and spring rains are sure to generate ample grazing once again.  Things should go well for this new initiative if the more normal climate conditions for that region of Portugal return as the project is designed on a self- sustainable concept.

There was a recent news report on these horses, you can view the video and transcript here:

Rewilding Portugal:  Group reintroduces wild horses in Portugal

There has been great success for restoring wild nature to regions in key places in the world and it remains a fervent hope of mine that equines like the Sorraia soon can live in vast habitats where they are completely free of human manipulation and are allowed to manage their own affairs with only Nature as their guide.

Make Prayers to the Wild Ones!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Whole Body Thinking

Destemido and Sedutor

There is something about where I live that makes me feel less than human.
There is something about where I live that makes me not mind that feeling.
There is something about where I live that makes feeling less than human seem like more.

What I know about being "human" has been culture-shaped by the circumstances of my birth
And the "human superiority" world view of the people I have been raised among.
Where I live has taught me that what I know about being human has limited me as an experiential being.

Here in the wilderness, among the horses and the wind and the throbbing gnosis of the landscape,
What humans think of what it means to be human is of little interest.
So I set it aside, quite easily...


Fascination comes from sensing no separation between that which sees through my eyes
And that which sees through the eyes of Altamiro,
And that which sees through air breathed in and breathed out,
And that which sees through the sensations of cold air up warm nostrils.


Where I live one realizes thought comes with the entire body -
Whole body thinking.
Whole body thinking makes the brain subordinate.
Whole body taking in and giving out information,
Whole body making determinations of what action - or inaction is appropriate in the moment.

Where I live there is never a sense of boredom!
Where I live there is endless creativity,
Even (especially!) among the wandering grasses.

What a delight to be part of such poetry!

Fading and Ousado

"Other animals, in a constant and mostly unmediated relation with their sensory surroundings, think with the whole of their bodies.  A nuanced creativity is necessary to orient and forage in a world of ever-changing forces.  Equipped with proclivities and patterned behaviours genetically inherited from its ancestors, each wild creature must nonetheless adapt such propensities to the elemental particulars of the place and moment where it finds itself--from an unexpected absence of water in the usual watering hole, to a sudden abundance of its favourite food.  No matter how precise are the instructions tucked into its chromosomes, they can hardly have encoded, in advance, the exact topology of the present moment.  And hence a modicum of creative engagement in its immediate circumstance is simply unavoidable for any organism that moves (whether an elephant or an amoeba)."  --David Abram from BECOMING ANIMAL/An Earthly Cosmology