The wild Pottaka horses are distinctive characters in the large wildlife reserve of Anciles, Valle del Bisonte. The sun shines everyday now, and the temperature rises.

For a wild animal it is important to stay healthy. Not only internally but also on the outside of the body. The fur is groomed and cleaned several times a day, either by another member of the group or by taking a dust-bath in the dirt. But once in a while it gets too hot and dirty, and other measures must be taken. This time a trip to the “waterpark” was needed.

As the snow slowly melts from the mountain peaks, the water will appear in larger amounts throughout the natural streams running through Anciles. The Pottaka horses will not only drink from the streams, they will take a bath as well.

As the horses move from the dry land towards the water, their hooves are sinking deep in the mud, creating small temporary ponds. Then, while standing in the water, a series of kicks will clean the hoofs but also splash water up under the belly as well as the sides of the animal. Eventually the animal lies down and rolls around in what is now a mixture of water and mud.

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What was just a necessary bath for the horse now seems to be more than that. In the middle of the stream, a larger pond has been established. A gradient is created between the wet and dry, resulting in a more dynamic environment.

And speaking of dynamics: as part of the horses’ movements, branches and larger rocks are thrown into the stream, leading to more turbulence as the water now has to move over a smaller cross section. The fauna of the stream benefits from the extra amount of oxygen “stirred” into the water.

The “spa” is only big enough for one horse at a time, and this would soon lead to a fight. Two males took a 10 minute sprint in the near area. They ran as fast as they were wet and shiny. Kicking, standing on two legs boxing, pushing each others heads. Each time a kick or a punch would come from one horse, the other would dodge. They had done it many times before.

Compared to our day in the spa, the horses do this as part of their wild life. This is just another step on the stairway to survival. Other species of animals, plants and fungi will thrive in the footprint of these large herbivores. And believe it or not, this was only the story of a bath.

Jens Thorving Andersen

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Jens Thorving Andersen
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Jens Thorving Andersen

Grazing Impact Researcher at True Nature Foundation

Committed naturalist with a passion for everything living. Student of Nature & Environment, former biology, Aarhus Erhvervsakademi.

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