Keeping Nature in Balance

Horses grazing birds
Photographer Karla LaRive, Cana Foundation's newest team member, shares the story of one of her iconic photos.

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Image by Karla R. LaRive.

Grulla mustang mare. Photo Karla LaRive.
Starlings rest on a wild Grulla mustang mare

A few days after Easter 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself wandering through the old tourist trails of the Wild Horse Sanctuary of South Dakota when I stumbled across a grazing area for the wild mustangs. 

In the photo, a Grulla mustang mare still with her winter coat on, is quietly looking back at my camera. As she observes me watching her, five Starlings were perched on her back, warming themselves in the early morning sunlight. Like all duns, she exhibits a grey coat, dark mane and tail, clear primitive markings with a distinctive dorsal stripe.

Starlings travel in flocks of 50 or more birds, they are often found in the low-lying prairie meadows along riparian corridors and ranch lands here in the Northern Plains. Starlings are an invasive species originally from Europe. They feed on insects, and in return, the mustang provides a safe and warm spot to land during chilly South Dakota mornings. 

We can blame Shakesphere for the presence of these invasive birds in North America. Dave Taft from the New York Times writes, “The first European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were deliberately introduced to the United States around 1890. The thinking of Eugene Schieffelin, chairman of the American Acclimatization Society, was that any bird worthy of inclusion in Shakespeare’s works deserved a place in North America. And so, executing this dubious biological notion — the bird gets a passing mention in Act I of “Henry IV, Part I” — the society released about 60 birds in Central Park, New York City.

“Wild horse’s job as a keystone species allows them to maintain, protect and help to rebuild environmental systems, allowing other species to thrive alongside them––all working to keep nature in balance, by helping to build bio-diversity. Cana Foundation works with science backed information to create rewilding initiatives for wild horses and environments.” -CANA Foundation

About the Author: A long-time advocate for preserving the legacy of wild horses, Karla LaRive comes to the CANA Foundation with a background in photography, communications and marketing.

Her production company, PK Productions, LLC was founded in 2006 with a focus in media production, music management and cultural awareness. In 2015, PK Productions LLC was nominated for a Grammy (NARAS) for “Best Regional Roots Album” as Producer on GENERATIONS featuring Windwalker and the MCW. Her company has also won two Native American Music Awards (NAMA) in addition to other memorable music nominations… More on Karla.

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Horses grazing birds
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Keeping Nature in Balance

Photographer Karla LaRive, Cana Foundation’s newest team member, shares the story of one of her iconic photos.