I have surprised myself a bit with the vehemence and prolific-ness of my posts on the proper build and breeding of Spanish Colonial Horse. And, when I look to my motivations, it puts me in mind of my friend Matt Wood’s question of how much of my horse knowledge comes from the horses themselves. The simple answer is that the motivations and the experiences come directly from the horses, and then I seek out confirmation and explanations in the rational verbal human realm.
In this case, I started having repeated dreams of a palomino Medicine Paint stallion coming towards me doing his snake prance. My own Medicine Paint stallion, Apache, was king of the snake prance. When the lead mare would let him know that it was time to round up the whole herd and take them to water or dinner or for their twice daily run, he would begin to trot semi-circles behind the group.
Gradually his neck would extend and his head would drop lower and lower until his chin was skimming the surface of the ground. He would throw each forefoot forward with an emphatic dust-raising stomp at each stride. Then he would twist his neck and tilt his head so he was eyeballing each front hoof as it came down, and not breathing in the dust cloud he raised.
The whole herd knew he meant business when he began to weave his head back and forth like a snake. They would begin to huddle together and move forward at each pass. When the lead mare was sure that he had everyone’s attention, she would set out toward whatever purpose she had in mind.
Apache would increase his speed to match hers, and pretty soon the whole tightly organized herd would be moving out at a brisk pace. Apache was capable of maintaining his snake prance at remarkably swift speeds and through radical changes of direction. I did not truly appreciate the strength, coordination and skill it took to pull those moves off until I watched him teaching the bachelor boys how to go about it.
I had a half dozen colts and geldings at the time that Apache took under his tutelage. Most of the afternoons they spent horse wrestling. He taught proper stallion behaviors like being able to maintain one’s balance on two hind legs while bashing shoulders, necks and heads for extended periods. But he also expected his protégés to be able to drop to a half-kneel while biting one another’s forelegs, then bounce immediately back up into full rear, jump into a full speed bolt then spin about to do it all again.
When it was time to practice the snake prance, Apache would start out at a slow measured trot. When all the boys were following suit, he would begin to add emphasis with his forefeet. He demonstrated extending his forelegs so he was smacking the ground sharply at each stride.
Once they all had the hoof-smack down, he would lower his neck and start the twist and head tilt bit. Most of the bachelor boys were feeling quite studly by then and followed right along. At least for a stride or two, after which they began to wobble and stumble and stagger about.
Soon the boys were meandering slowly along, determinedly grazing and pretending it really did not matter that they were so dizzy they could not walk straight moments before. Apache, of course, had to do a bit more strutting and showing off of his impressive stallion prowess before settling down to graze himself for few minutes. Then he was off to check in with his mares, groom the newest foals from head to tail and play proud papa to frisky colts and fillies so their mamas could get on with the serious business of eating enough to keep their milk flowing.
Apache’s snake prance in its many variations was his kinesthetic expression of his position of responsibility to his herd. So, when I dream of a palomino Medicine Paint stallion coming towards me doing his snake prance, I begin to wonder what responsibility he feels I should be attending to. But, horses do not talk to me in my dreams any more than they do in our mundane 3-d realm.
They communicate through movement, body posture and intent. In this case, my wondering what the horse wanted triggered a transformation. As he came close, he became a gold and pearlescent feathered serpent. The serpent wrapped itself around my shoulders, coiled itself around my right arm and slithered off onto a very finely crafted wooden writing desk that appeared in front of us.
Spiraling gold and mother-of-pearl helixes becoming ornate inlayed decorations on an archaic 16th century writing surface meant writing about DNA to me, and royal DNA at that. And the dreams started about the time I heard about the plight of the Placitas horses, where the Medicine Horse strain in the Spanish Mustang registries originated. About the time I posted on the biomechanics of the ideal Spanish Mustang, my dreams eased off into a very serene and pleased palomino Medicine Paint stallion placidly grazing with his herd of mares and foals in wide-open spaces.
I interpret this as my writing about the Spanish Colonial horse history and genome was the correct response. And just in case you think that this palomino Medicine Paint is my square colt, he might just be. Although I did find a photo on an Australian website whose the markings on my dream horse match, but he is a more usual red roan overo.
Whoever and where ever this Medicine Paint stallion is, he takes his responsibilities as seriously now as Apache did then. I would say that he wants his herd as well-represented, as well-understood and as well-bred as possible. I was the one he needed to connect with in the dream realms, as it appears that I am the only person able and willing to tell the stories I have shared over the last weeks about the Spanish Colonial horses here in New Mexico. Here’s hoping he finds a responsive human in the mundane realms soon, even if that is not me.