Dancing With Freedom Turkey’s Free-Range Horses

Unlike their domesticated counterparts, wild horses are ‘free’. Free of saddles, free of bridles. And seeing them fly across the green meadows in the foothills of Turkey’s misty mountains sends a chill down a person’s spine.

The animals to which humans feel the closest emotionally, horses are at the same time eminently noble beasts, loyal to their master to the point that they will even slow down the moment they sense he is about to fall to prevent his being injured. Free-range horses in contrast save their loyalty not for man but for each other, and to an awesome degree. Among their dominant characteristics is their passionate attachment to freedom. For that reason you will never see one in the same place twice, for they are continuously changing places. Because they are free of all ties, their habitats are not limited to stud farms but embrace the vast mountains and forests all around them. They take pleasure in galloping at will in any direction they please. Unlike their domestic counterparts, wild horses are ‘free’ - free of saddles, free of bridles - and watching they fly across the green meadows of Turkey’s misty mountains sends a chill down a person’s spine. Answering to no one, wild horses live free in the foothills of the smoky mountains as if they feel their freedom in their bones.

Free-range horses are shy and leave a distance between themselves and humans. You will never get closer to one than 50 meters, for example. For they take fright and flee en masse, leaving you looking on from behind. Nevertheless the dance of freedom of the free-range horses is a sight you will never tire of seeing. Their dance with the wind is like a celebration of new beginnings, signifying renewal and rebirth despite man’s dark destructive side. Horses and mountains become one another, the nobility of the horses somehow matching the majesty of the mountains. Perhaps they don’t hark from an aristocratic line like the English horse or the Arabian steed, but free-range horses have a chain of nobility all their own. In no small part because they make their home in the mountains, and awe-inspiring to the degree that freedom is their fate.

Free-range horses travel in herds of 10-12 animals. Each herd has a leader horse. As ‘free’ as they are, even free-range horses have certain responsibilities towards each other. For under winter’s harsh conditions in the wild they are forced to stick together and protect each other against the wolves that will try to attack them. Similarly, finding food in winter has become impossible for free-range horses. When the areas where they live are covered in snow, they make holes in the snow with their noses to reach the grasses below. Their water needs they try to meet from river beds and melting snows. While not as safe as the stud farms of their domesticated counterparts, standing under a tree provides shelter. Free-range horses try to stay as far as possible from people, living on whatever food they find in nature. In recent years, however, increasing environmental pollution and contamination of natural water sources with chemical wastes have complicated the life struggle waged by free-range horses. To support these wild animals, the department of forests is therefore trying to keep them alive by leaving fodder in forested areas during the winter months.