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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Wild Horses: Fighting

May 29th, 2010 · 14 Comments

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Nonviolence is central to my life. I haven’t even hit anyone since I was a kid, much less got into a fight, except when someone attacked me. And I don’t hit back.

So you might think that my interest in taking photographs of mustangs fighting is strange. I agree.

Still, little is more dramatic than a fight. And I knew from the time that I signed up for the photo safari in South Dakota that I just returned from that I wanted to photograph the iconic symbol of the wild mustangs — a fight between two stallions. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

I count my chance to take these dramatic photographs as a success, because these shots combine the only two things that photography does. As novelist Larry McMurtry wrote, “Photography has flourished for a century and a half with only two real subjects: Beauty and bad news.” The mustangs are beautiful, and any fight is bad news for at least one of the participants.

Until my third and final day to photograph the mustangs I saw only a couple of fights. And those didn’t give me the chance to make good pictures for one reason or another, mostly because the fights took place in the midst of the herd. Other horses were between the stallions and my camera. But on Wednesday afternoon, as the weather warmed up, fights broke out again and again, and some of them were away from the herd.

I think that each of the first three of the photographs below feature different horses:

Ready to Fight

Ready to Fight

Click on the picture above to enlarge

This battle-scarred veteran on the left goes at it once more:

At War -- for Dominance and a Mare

At War -- for Dominance and a Mare

Click on the picture above to enlarge

As dramatic as these shots are, they were but the opening act. The real action started just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday and was over exactly three seconds later. I had fortunately staked out a position in the middle of the herd, and to my knowledge none of the other seven members of the photo safari captured the action. By having set my camera to fire continuously, I was able to capture the action in this series of six shots:

The Fight Begins

The Fight Begins

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The Mustang at Left is Standing Straight Up

The Mustang at Left is Standing Straight Up

Click on the picture above to enlarge
He Loses His Balance

He Loses His Balance

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He Falls

He Falls

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The Bite

The Bite

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The Kick

The Kick

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My nonviolence ethics don’t get in the way of my appreciating the wild beauty of this fight. I didn’t precipitate it and could not have prevented it if I had tried. This fight was completely natural and unavoidable. Unlike some wars that humans fight.

Beautiful wild mustangs are what attracted me to South Dakota this week. I came, I saw.

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Posted in: Photography, South Dakota

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob Fenton // Jun 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Very good! I imagine I would have watched and missed these.

  • 2 CJ Miller // Jun 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I hate these pictures. I love horses..the beauty of them……. I do not understand why the animal world fights..humans are mean enough to each …..I wish the loving part of animals and humans would come out more…..the world would be a better place…….

  • 3 David Mendosa // Jun 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Dear CJ,

    I do understand what you feel about that fighting. Nonviolence is a way of life for me too, as I wrote in the text accompanying those photographs. I know, however, that fighting is natural in the animal world. I know too that this is something that we humans can overcome.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 4 Bob LaSala // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

    David,

    Your pictures of the Mustangs and other animals are beautiful composition and photojournalism. I did not realize South Dakota has numerous natural sanctuaries where these distinctly American members of the animal kingdom can live their lives naturally. Also, I really enjoyed the way you used light in the pictures of the Badlands and in the caves.

    Wouldn’t you agree that one’s photographs are always the best souvenirs and remembrances of a special trip?

  • 5 David Mendosa // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Dear Bob,

    I agree. As the park service says, “Take only memories and photographs.” And I say that photographs enhance those memories.

    Best regards,

    David

  • 6 Dr. Bruce Nock // Apr 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Hi David,
    Very nice photographs! I’m writing to ask permission to use “The Fight Begins” or “At War — for Dominance and a Mare” as a cover photo for an article I’m writing about wild horse research?
    Respectfully,
    Bruce

  • 7 David Mendosa // Apr 16, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Dear Bruce,

    I am glad that you like my photos. Yes, you are welcomed to use that shot without any cost as long as you credit me, link my website, and send me a copy of the publication.

    David

  • 8 Lizl Moolman // Jul 17, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Beautiful pics! I would like to comment to CJ Miller, as for in the wild I can handle the interaction and fighting between horses. But whats totally horrible is, is the fights between horses, caged in a arena with an mare that is on heat to initiated the fight. And then the winner to mate the mare, and then they bring in a another fresh stallion to fight the previous winner, and so it continues, with horses fight literally to death, and mares mated to death, or so much injured that they slaughter the animal and have a barbeque!!! Thats our wonderful human race. At least in the wild, the loser can escape from death and run away.

  • 9 Shaylon Marie Kampman // Sep 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    wow the acton in this is so beautiful and yet so indescribably tormentfull. i feal so whole looking at them i cant wait to take some pictures of some just like it.

  • 10 Brian Nagel // Feb 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    David … amazing pictures! I am currently publishing a book about growing up in Southern Saskatchewan in the 1950’s and 1960’s. several stories include horses. I would like to suggest to my Publisher, that we use your picture “At War” for the front or back cover of the book. Would that be okay with you?

  • 11 David Mendosa // Feb 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Dear Brian,

    I would be delighted and all that I would ask is (1) due credit and (2) an autographed copy of your book when published.

    Namaste,

    David

  • 12 Brian Nagel // Feb 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Thank you so much David.
    The book is currently with the book designer so when they get closer to the actual design, I will advise you accordingly.
    No matter, I will ensure that you have an autographed book.

    Brian

  • 13 David Mendosa // Feb 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Dear Brian,

    Don’t you need a higher resolution version of the photo you want to use? If so, please let me know the specs.

    Namaste,

    David

  • 14 Brian Nagel // Jul 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    David … We sent you a copy of the book. The picture, At War, is on the front cover and it looks wonderful. See the following website;
    http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=58414

    Thanks again for letting us use the photo.

    Brian

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