Truly wild horses! Przewalski’s horses

Ever wondered what a wild horse would look like? Or how it would behave? One descended from a complete line of wild, undomesticated horses? I’ve been fortunate enough see those in Woburn Safari Park (about 50 miles north of London, UK) and even more fortunate to be able to interview an animal keeper at Woburn Safari Park who knows them well.

The other horses or ponies you think of today as wild are actually descended from escaped or released domesticated horses. This includes the mustangs of America, the brumbies of Australia, the “wild” horses of Namibia and so on.  Free-roaming ponies such as those in the UK’s New Forest or on Dartmoor are all owned and protected in various ways. New Forest ponies for example are regularly rounded up, given a health check and even have their tails cut to indicate what where their owners are from.

Przewalski’s horses, though, are the last surviving subspecies of wild horse. They’re the real thing. The first person to write about them scientifically was a 19th century Russian explorer named – yes, you guessed it – Przewalski. These horses used to roam the steppe (treeless grasslands) along the Mongolian border with China. Gradually though because of hunting and the disappearance of their habitat with the spread of humans across the steppes their numbers dwindled. They became very nearly extinct. Still, some Przewalski’s horses were kept safe and bred in captivity – but not domesticated. Today there are about 1,500 of them, mostly in zoos though some have been re-introduced back into Mongolia and China.

Compared with the usual, domesticated, horse Przewalski’s horses have a shorter, more muscular body and they’re smaller (about 12 to 14 hands high). They have a pale belly and beige to reddish-brown coat. They have a striking dark mane that sticks up. Here’s a picture of the ones in Woburn.


Animal keeper Tom Robson’s job includes looking after Woburn’s Przewalski’s horses – when he’s not tending to the giraffes, rhinos and zebras. He told me they’ve got six Przewalski’s horses: two mares and four geldings. They are part of the international breeding programme to keep the breed alive. They stick together as a small herd, with one more dominant male.

The care of these horses is similar to that of rugged native UK breeds – in Woburn they’re kept on grass with a hard-standing area (which helps keep their hooves sound) with supplemental hay, chaff and pasture nuts provided when necessary and they have access to shelters. Like American mustangs, they’re very sensitive about their hooves. Like most herbivores, their main preoccupation is eating but Tom has seen them playing the occasional chasing game. A snippet from Woburn that tickled me is that the keepers give the horses’ hoof trimmings to the wolves – who just love to roll on them.

So, overall, Przewalski’s horses are similar in many ways to domestic and free-roaming horses but they certainly look a bit different. While I was in Woburn Safari Park, I heard a Dad confidently telling his small son that they were “donkeys with small ears”.  What do you think?

To read about wild horses in film, check out Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film

Fracking – how bad could it go? check out Thine Own Well


In the UK, fracking took a step further this week with two new applications. And I’ve just read a book that shows us a possible future for us – if it all goes badly….


Here’s my review:

Canada 2036

From Thine Own Well, a dystopian novel set in 2036, presents a fearfully realistic picture of what could be. The starting point for a number of worrying developments takes actual agreements and statutes in place in 2012, in particular the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which sets out how foreign conglomerates are not compelled to comply with national legislation. Unconstrained fracking has led to the contamination of the water table and the fracking companies have reacted ruthlessly and greedily, controlling the only drinking water. The poisoning of a young girl then sets the scene for conflicts between horrified civilians and thuggish fracking company personnel.

This book has a wide range characters on both sides of the conflicts and I confess I was a little confused at first, but they are all well-drawn and each has his/her own distinct characteristics. I particularly liked the rough and ready “outdoor” guy Landon and there are a number of feisty female protagonists. There’s plenty of tension in the main story of civilians versus corporate conglomerates but there’s a further dramatic tension as story moves between the various groups of civilians and their different approaches – peaceful resistance or meeting violence with violence. The story also shows the viewpoints of several distinctly drawn bad guys (male and female).

Necessarily there is a fair amount of exposition, to bring the reader up to date with developments from the present day to 2036 – but rest assured, there’s plenty of excitement and action, from sinister threats through violence to the chaos of an earthquake. Enjoy

For more, read on:


Noxious substances in the watershed brings a society to its knees; fracking by oil companies has taken its toll.

Canadian society has been altered, seemingly irrevocably; water resources have become scarce and individual freedoms cast off.

It is now 2036, only 24 years since the most devastating of a series of international accords, one simply known as The Agreement, set the precedent for many that followed – effectively causing the federal government to collapse into ruin and dependency on corporatist rule.

Unrestricted fracking and irresponsible mining practices have caused major watersheds and underground streams to become contaminated, the precious fluid – noxious.

The sole purpose of The Coalition, a regulatory body created by the world-wide conglomerates that took over the governing of the country is to ensure the profitability of its corporate members.

In Yukon, Canada’s far north, a baker’s dozen of unknown, everyday people and one dog are loosely thrown together in an effort to combat The Coalition and its impact on Canadian lives and the environment.

Join Landon, Nora, Galen and the others who, through no design of their own, have become the unknown hope for Canada’s future. Will they prevail in the small jurisdiction they reside in and set the bar for the rest of Canada?

Only time will tell.


Book Trailer:

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The author is Norm HamiltonNorm (1951- ) lived in Whitehorse, Yukon for 40 years. In December 2012 he retired and is currently on Vancouver Island with his wife, Anna, where he is meeting people and experiencing new adventures to write about. He trusts that retirement will afford him the time to delve further into his writing. This photographer, freelance writer, copy-editor, proofreader and novelist is currently enjoying Lake Cowichan, B.C.

Here he is:


Norm’s latest project is a novel titled, “From Thine Own Well,” a story about a dystopian Canadian society brought about by unrestricted gas fracking and irresponsible mining techniques. It all began with a FIPA agreement in 2012 that left the federal government open to lawsuits – that they lost. This book is available as a paperback on Amazon, and as an eBook on Amazon Smashwords, Kobo and other online retailers.

Norm has written one non-fiction book, “The Digital Eye.” It is a compilation of articles for people wanting to improve their photography skills or for those who want to learn digital photography. This book is available as a paperback on Amazon, and as an eBook on Amazon Smashwords, Kobo and other online retailers.

Book Page

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Want to read an excerpt:

Sample Text from Chapter 1

The vastness west of Whitehorse was bathed in a golden glow as the sun rose over McIntyre Mountain. No stirring of animals or ruffling of birds signalled the beginning of the day; there hadn’t been any for over 15 years.

Landon McGuire grunted as he rolled over on the makeshift bunk in his cabin at the south end of Coal Lake. He squinted against the blazing sunlight that flooded the single window beside the wooden slab door. The smell of the rough-sawn plank floor permeated the air and dust particles sparkled in the glowing rays that streamed through the chinks in the walls. The 45-gallon drum wood stove in the corner had seen better days as a pile of fine ashes dribbled on the floor beneath its door.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and pushed his six-foot frame to a sitting position. His head ached from the effort to drown his memories with home-distilled spruce gin. Gawd, he thought, my mouth tastes like sap. Breakfast was out of the question. After pulling his greying hair back and securing it into a pony-tail with an elastic band, he scoured the floor for his clothes.

His mind wandered back to the years he’d worked in mining exploration, spending weeks at a time in the wilderness staking claims. It had been a wonderful period in his life; time outdoors and Wenda waiting at home when he came back. He remembered the mines taking pains to ensure they caused as little interference to the environment as was humanly possible.

Then it had all changed. After The Agreement, the mining industry got careless in their approach to resource extraction. He became saddened and ashamed to be a part of it. His sadness had turned to despair when Wenda died. It was then that he had quit and moved to the cabin. He still questioned if the carelessness of the mines or oil and gas companies had contributed to her death. Since then, he’d sought solace as a recluse and had as little to do with other people as possible.

A scratching on the floor from beneath the mattress interrupted his thoughts and announced the awakening of his husky-shepherd cross dog, Bob. Landon interrupted his search to watch as Bob stretched, pointing one hind leg at a time behind him. Then, ears up and tail switching back and forth, he wiggled his white and black body over to Landon.

“What d’ya think, Bob? Should we head out to the horseshoe?” His question was met with a vigorously wagging tail. Landon was planning a hike to a hidden location where he could collect fresh water without having to purchase it from The Coalition.

His eyes took in the cabin—spartan, but always kept clean and tidy. Wenda had always insisted their home be spotless. A cracked mirror on the wash stand reflected a day’s growth of stubble on his leathered face that he decided could wait another day. He pulled on an old pair of blue jeans and shoved his socked feet into a pair of well-worn boots. The early August sun beat down on the cabin as he stuffed a warm fleece and waterproof jacket into a backpack in preparation for the drop in temperature during the hike into the mountains.

Things have sure changed, he thought as he strapped a 44-magnum around his waist and slid a pair of throwing knives into sleeves prepared for them on his bandoleer. He could remember when there was no need for weapons other than a rifle in case of bears. Now, with the water situation, it was desperate people that were of more concern. After slinging a .308 calibre Winchester over his right shoulder, he headed out the door with Bob following close behind.

As soon as they were in the open, Landon stopped to listen, peering in all directions, looking for any indication of others. Satisfied that no one was around, he grabbed the handle of the cart with the empty water vessels and struck off on the 14-kilometre trek to the crescent-shaped bowl west of his cabin near Coal Lake that had been formed by the Ibex volcano in some distant past.

Clean water was no longer readily available as it was in the days before The Agreement. Even the water near his cabin was suspect. They were headed for one of the few spots left where the water ran clean and pure.

Landon smiled, noticing the forest trail was showing signs of lack of use as the vegetation began to overgrow it. He always liked it when nature reclaimed its space. As they walked, Landon kept an eye on Bob, watching for any reactions to their surroundings. The dog could feel, instinctively, when someone, or something, was near.

For more go to:

From Thine Own Well at Amazon –

From Thine Own Well at Smashwords –

From Thine Own Well at Kobo  –