Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nearly Human

I feel nearly human again. Since Christmas, I've been dealing with the flu and it's not been pretty. Less pretty still is the sight of my barn and runs, where the constant rain has created a poop soup nightmare. Even with a fork, there's no way to scoop manure without ending up with a wagon heavy in water.

Drainage is a huge issue. The barn is downhill from the runs and the pasture, meaning that despite the gravel, the water is still making it's way under cover. This summer the number one priority will be to get another load of gravel into those two new stalls, lifting them up enough to keep them dry through the rainy months.



A couple of days ago, the rehab horse (now named Frisco) went to his new home. I've not spent the time with him I ought to have. Cold rain, Firecracker's wound, and my recent flu all contributing factors. But I did make sure to touch his head shy face every day when I went out. His biggest issue was with the lead rope; he has a huge fear of ropes and working around that will take some time. I'd worked him with the lariat a couple of times, letting it fall over his back just as I have the others before him. Of course, they didn't come with baggage like he did. It normally only took a few minutes to settle him down and I could snap the lead onto his halter. Once that happened, he would relax.

Of course when his ride showed up he decided to perform for the added audience. It took me what felt like an hour to get the lead rope on him. I was still feeling weak, the snow had just melted off three days worth of sloppy manure, and I'm sure those folks thought the absolute worst. Eventually I decided to toss the lariat over his head, which stopped the circus act and I got the lead rope on and he led nicely out to the trailer. He took some time deciding whether or not to load, but eventually did it nicely enough and he was off.

A couple things I have learned from this brief experience with him here: Never take on two projects at once, and double that sentiment in winter. Actually, having two projects during the summer months wouldn't be bad, but during winter, when I'm dealing with snow, icy cold rain, and colds/flu, well...that just doesn't work for me. I was trying to divide my time between two horses who needed attention, but the weather drove me back to the house before they both got what they deserved.




Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Halter is Off



Firecracker's halter fell off that night. She's been receiving her powdered anti-biotic daily for the past few days; we have until Friday to go. I just pour it into her alfalfa pellets and she doesn't seem to mind.

The one thing that concerns me now is the possibility of infection at the sight and trying to keep it clean. I can't see the actual wound as her mane falls over the top. I tried fashioning a dauber out of her long branch and a piece of cloth bound to the end, but she'd have none of that. The stick is acceptable, the fabric is not. I'd dipped the fabric end into a tea tree salve and managed to bump it around a little bit behind the ear, but am afraid it only landed on her mane.

She doesn't mind walking in and out of my makeshift chute, providing there is a bit of hay there to munch on. I can shuffle the panels back and forth while she's standing there without her batting an eye. She's not in the least worried when I stand behind her. I can scratch shoulders, sides, and under the belly. I rubbed along the haunches and down her hind leg to the hock. I patted the side of her neck as you would before popping a needle in. None of it really fazed her. Her ears swivel as you move back and forth, always aware of where you're at, but the munching of hay continues. Until, that is, you get close to the head. 8-12 inches is her limit. That's when she becomes uncomfortable with your closeness, throwing up her head, trying to escape the confines of the panels. That's when I take a couple steps back and let her relax, then go about touching all the acceptable spots again.



I'm not really certain how I'm going to deal with this, except to just keep trying. I don't want her to associate my every visit with stress, or see the panels being shuffled into position and become frightened. So for now, it'll be try, then leave her to relax a day, then try again. She's light years ahead of where Sunny was, which is nice. Without this little set back, there's no doubt in my mind that Darling would be riding her this summer.

For now, it's just another exercise in building trust. The more she learns she can trust us from the ground, the fast things will come along once she's saddled and we're on board.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Graphic (somewhat) Photo


Firecracker's halter dangles from her face.


It's ugly, but at least it's off.

I picked up some ace this morning from the vet and gave it to her. Waited about 5-10 minutes, then went in to see what I could do. Nothing. I couldn't really notice a big difference, to be honest, although after 20 minutes or so she did seem to come up a bit and fought off my advances a little stronger. I decided to go the chute route with her. Put up a couple of panels close together. The front was butted up against the wood rails of the paddock and wide enough to hang a manger. Of course, I have nothing to block backing up, so ended up with it being a very long V shape with two panels on each side. Did I mention very long? Well, she's just wide enough at the hip to have made it impossible to squeeze the backs of the first pair of panels together, so two it was.

This was about 1 this afternoon. I had her in that squeeze chute for a good 40 minutes, adding grain and scratching and rubbing. She likes to be rubbed back on the hip and under her belly. She does NOT like to be rubbed up by her face. Actually, I think she may enjoy it in the future, but when rubbing against the halter I figured it was putting pressure on the wound, too.

Anyway, round one saw too much backing up...all the way to the end of my chute, which with two panels on each side turned out to be nearly 20 feet. So I let her go (after taking off the lead rope) and came back at dinner time to try again. This time I pushed and cajoled and managed to work those panels as tight as I could, not giving her any room to back up. And that worked. She wasn't happy about it, but decided it was too much work to fight it. Plus, there was hay in front of her that required her attention. The buckle came undone after a minute of work, but the halter stuck to her face. It fell off her nose, but when I left, it was still hanging from the wound.

I grabbed the camera to take a couple of pics of the halter hanging, figuring I'd be able to see the crusty stuff on her face, never dreaming I'd see the actual wound. Oh, my! It's right down to the flesh.
Just above the halter, you can see the red of her flesh.

I left the halter hanging. I could have grabbed it and she'd have pulled it off when pulling away from me, but I didn't want her to associate the sting or pain with me. I'm sure it'll fall off tonight. I hope it'll fall off tonight! If not, I'm going to have to pull. I'm also going to have to utilize that squeeze chute again tomorrow and try to get some salve onto the wound to help prevent infection.

I just can't tell you, though, how impressed I am with her willingness to let me handle her while she was in the chute. In a tight space, your first thought is that a wild horse, or one under distress, would fight, either rearing or kicking. But she didn't. Aside from backing away when she had the opportunity, she let me touch her all over, under her belly and back behind her tail.

Even after all I'd done to her today, once loose and back in her stall she let me walk up and rub on her side without protest. This little firecracker is settling down to sparkler status, and I think she's going to be a suitable replacement for Quiet Storm after all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Source


Yesterday, Firecracker had me concerned. She'd been standing with her head a bit droopy the day before, but the weather was so wet and cold that I didn't spend much time analyzing it. Yesterday, though, as I looked at her standing slightly splay footed and nose nearly to the ground, I knew something was wrong.

But what? She was still happy to come to food, still eating, and most importantly, still pooping. So what was wrong?

This morning she was perked up again, and I put it down to being the cold, wet rain. After all, I hadn't wanted to be outside, why wouldn't she feel the same way? She eagerly came to get her breakfast and I put my mind at rest.

Until this afternoon, that is. I could smell that smell again. I'd been neglecting FC this past week with the wet weather and the gelding here. I'd walk in with her, reach out occasionally to touch her shoulder, but wasn't really pushing to gain any ground. That proved to be a mistake. Not that she's back slid and won't let me near her, but I could have been so much farther along.

As I picked up the lead and sniffed the air, I again wondered just what it was. I worked myself up to touching her left shoulder, then crossed sides. And that's when I saw it. There was a dried ooze coming from behind her ear. The halter had been twisted at the top and begun to cut into her. The rain had opened up the wound just enough to make her miserable the past two days and cause the drainage that I now saw.

Tomorrow the halter has to come off. I'm going to need to build myself a chute and try to secure her inside it well enough to get the halter unbuckled. I'd like it if she let me do it without the added trauma, but I'm not holding my breath. She let me touch the buckle briefly and enjoyed a bit of rubbing along her crest, but I don't think, given the discomfort that must be there already, that she'll allow me to just unbuckle it easily.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This message brought to you by Reality...

Just seven days left until Christmas!

Yeah, me neither. That is what you said, right? That you're not ready?


I've come to the conclusion that I just can't work more than two horses a day when it's cold and wet outside. Maybe can't isn't the right word. Don't want to may be more appropriate. I don't like working in the cold and the wet. I prefer sitting inside with a cup of hot cocoa.

The gelding, who's name shall apparently be called Frisco (originally Alladin), has found a home. They're not sure when they'll be able to haul him home, but they do plan on bringing him some feed so he can begin to transition into their feeding program. This means that aside from a scratch on the face as I walk through and clean, I really don't have to worry about how much time I spend with him. Of course, he's still taking up space that could be used for a few tight circles when mounting up again on Jet, but with any luck it won't be for much longer.

I'm itching to climb into the saddle again. I'm hoping to talk some folks into going for a trail ride with me down at the tree farm. I'm pretty sure Jet will be fine, but going with a group of seasoned horses, or even just a couple, not only provides me with a back up if I do get hurt, but gives Jet a bit of moral support so that she knows there's really nothing to be frightened of. Better safe than sorry on those first few trips out.

Here's a video I thought I'd share with you. It's called Sermon on the Mount and is by Ted Noland, one of the Extreme Mustang Makeover trainers. He's starting a five year old mare in the video. Sound is probably a good thing at your end or you won't really be able to follow along. Funny how videos work that way, eh?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Little Miss Sassy Pants



Jet's not been getting the work she needs, and she made the abundantly clear today. I went into the paddock to catch her up, but instead of allowing me to halter her, she began to fly circles around me, and eventually she ran right into the gate, popping it open and out to freedom.

Freedom, because the front fence had still not been mended.

Thankfully, Jet didn't know the fence wasn't there as she threw up her head, lifted her tail like some silly arab (sorry, MiKael!), and snorted her way down to the end of the pasture like a black bullet before turning around and racing back, doing her best to look like a female version of the Black Stallion. I stood and blocked the opening, pretty sure she wasn't going to want to come past me, and wondered what to do next. There were a few round pen panels leaning up against the side of the sheep shed, which fortunately for me was right where I was standing, so while Jet stood and watched, I pulled the first panel up into place. Fortunately, it was just a small section of fence; 20 feet, and I had 12 foot panels, so blocking it wasn't going to be a problem.

About that time City Boy pulled back into the driveway. He went and got the wood rails that he'd promised to put up on his last weekend off and I've now got a three rail wood fence along between the paddock and the gate leading out into the yard.

As for Little Miss Sassy Pants, I walked towards her with the halter and she once again went flying across the pasture, wheeled around and ripped back up to the paddock, straight through her gate and into her stall. Thankfully, nothing on the gate was broken; it hadn't really been latched, just had the chain wrapped around it to keep it from swinging open. Still a bit snorty, I put the halter on her and then left her tied up. I went inside, grabbed the saddle and saddled her up. She spent the next couple of hours just hanging out with the saddle on. I thought about mounting up, but the ground is so soft and wet, I didn't think riding was probably a good idea, especially given how she was feeling just a bit on the frisky side. No point in getting out there and slipping or falling down.

Of course, being the horse she is, once caught up and saddled she acted like she always has...easy going, friendly, and even tempered. I really need to start riding her again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Fresh Start

Just over a month ago I went down to check out a mustang a few hours to the south of us. He'd been making the rounds and at the age of 4 had had a pretty rough life. Part of a 30 horse seizure, he'd been placed in the care of a family who's teen aged daughter was going to work with him.

For whatever reason, she wasn't able to do anything with him. His story was that he'd been ridden before Animal Control had taken him from his neglectful former home, but this gal couldn't catch him, let alone saddle him up. So, she passed him off to another friend who wanted to give it a try.

To get a halter on him, he needed to be roped. Once they had him haltered, he led nicely enough, but it took two hours to get him into the trailer. At him new home, he had the halter rubbed off within a week and was once again feeling free as a bird and about as easy to catch. His new owner was tiny, and he was tall. He took advantage of that fact and while she had him as friendly as could be, once the halter was spotted he was off and running. As she was headed to college, his young owner realized that if she hadn't been able to move forward in the few months of summer, she wouldn't be able to get anywhere during the winter when she was busy with school, work, and lousy weather, so she decided to give him up.

We had no clue how he'd be to lead across the yard and load up yesterday. But he was a gentleman. A real gentleman. In November, Steve and I had been down to help her get a halter on him, but he'd managed to rub it halfway off, so it was only over one ear when we got there. He wouldn't allow us to touch his face, and we didn't feel a fight was in something we wanted out there in the mud just before trying to load, so we led him out into the yard as he was, holding our breath and saying silent prayers that he'd not be upset about leaving his herdmates.

We needn't have worried. He followed Steve right out to the trailer, took a look inside and decided a ride may be a nice thing. He loaded right up without so much as a blip on the radar.

He's thin, his feet are over due, and he's got a mild case of rain rot, but he seems like a nice, laid back boy. The dogs didn't bother him when he got here, and the lamb jumped right into the trailer with him without him being upset or spooked. So he's getting a fresh start. Some much needed groceries will go a long way, I'm sure. I'll keep you updated on his progress. Hopefully we can find him a good home soon!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's That Smell?

I've got a call in to my vet. It's been awhile and he hasn't called back...I hate that. Not an emergency, though. At least I hope not.

While out with Firecracker this weekend I could smell something. It stinks. To me, it smells a bit like thrush, or at least along those lines. I'm a bit concerned about a possible infection after she aborted her foal. Nothing else seems wrong; she's eating, drinking, pooping...all the good stuff. And the smell isn't always there, just now and then I get a whiff of it.

In the meantime, while waiting for the call, I went out and played with her some more. She'll easily eat grain from the pan while I'm holding it. I was also able to brush her all the way back down to her stifle and down the front legs; even picked up a foot! She stands with her ears back for the most part. Not pinned back, just a cautious, watchful kind of back where she's paying attention to what I'm doing. She's more comfortable with me on her left than right, but stands quietly pretty reliably on both. I'm pretty confident that Darling will be able to work with her this weekend.

I've added black oil sunflower seeds to their diets. BOSS is what it's called. I'd not heard of doing that until recently when I'd asked folks at the mustang forum about a dry skin issue. The dryness hasn't really subsided, but I'll tell you what, Jet's black is nearly blue! I'm anxious enough as it is to see summer come back, but now more so than ever so I can see how her coat looks when it's short and sleek.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Poor Jet, So Neglected!


Jet has been terribly neglected. Always sensitive and light, making her super easy to handle, she's decided that since no one is messing with her, she shouldn't need to stand still for halters to be put on.

Not so, Miss Jet! After a couple of days being brought out to the bottom pasture (the top field is still missing a chunk of fence), she's decided that the halter is a good thing. Without the halter, we don't get to go out and play. Leading back and forth from the pasture to the barn is all the training she's gotten of late, but that's going to have to change. My friend Curt said he'd be willing to start giving me lessons after the first of the year, so I'll have to start climbing back up onto my tall girl and get some walking and trotting done on her so that our lesson can at least involve more than how to gracefully mount a 16 hand horse.

While Jet goes out to play, Firecracker works. In the past three days she's made big steps. Friday's success led to an easier time stepping into her personal space on Saturday. We didn't need to work so many circles before she stood, trembling just a bit, and let me rub her shoulder's and neck. I don't do it for long, just a few minutes, then I leave to get her some hay or a bit of alfalfa pellets. Keeping it light and positive is the plan.

Yesterday, Sunday, it was late before I got out there to work with her. Daylight was fading, Jet was still in her paddock alongside Firecracker. Jet nickered, knowing it was feeding time. I walked up and played with her lips a bit, then began to work my way towards Firecracker; it's always positive when a wild horse can see one of it's buddies allowing you to touch them. I didn't pick up the lead, just let her stand. She wasn't welcoming me, but she also wasn't leaving. She stood still, letting my hand move up and down her neck, under her mane and along her freezebrand. She appeared to enjoy, at least momentarily, the feel of my fingers on the bottom side of her neck.

Darling has nearly two weeks left of school before Christmas break. By then I think Firecracker will be ready for her to come out and lead her a bit, and hopefully do a bit of brushing.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Touching



After a week off, I decided it was time to start working with Firecracker again. Rain, snow, and an aborted foal, then more rain had me thinking a short break was in order. The past two days, however, I've been out in the paddock with her again, first reaching out with my long branch, then switching to the lariat, followed by trying to move inside her personal bubble.

She appears to have no problem coming into my bubble while I'm carrying hay through the paddock. Rather than open the sliding window and tossing it in, I've been carrying her feed past her, then standing at the manger allowing her to come into my space for something she knows will be positive. She's gotten to the point of coming up and grabbing hay right out of my arms as I walk through. Not greedy, not aggressive, and not fearful. She politely walks up and will stand their eating as I move by.

I find this very promising. Sunny would snatch and run. Quiet Storm would pin her ears back and grab in an aggressive manner, and Jet becomes a greedy pig. All three had those mannerisms from the very beginning, so Firecracker is a breath of fresh air in this sense.

The past couple of days I've been back out in the paddock, working with both my long branch and my lariat. The lariat is old and stiff; there's a loop at the end, of course, which normally would be used to rope a calf or steer or even a horse. With my lariat, however, that loop isn't big enough to drop over anyone's head. I've got it small and tight, so it resembles more of a knot than a loop. This suits my purpose as combined with the stiffness of the rope I can reach out and it becomes an extension of my hand, much like a pole or stick, only it gives a bit more when it touches the horse.

Of course, even a stiff lariat can only reach so far without gravity taking over. Standing five feet away from a horse means you've got to toss the rope and have it land on the horse's back if you're going to make contact. That's what I've been doing with Firecracker; tossing that knotted end onto her back and letting it slip off her side in hopes it feels like a light pet with finger tips. She tends to tense up, but if I've already done the ground work with the branch, she's usually at the point mentally where she's decided it's easier to stand. And because she's comfortable enough to come into my space for food, I'm willing to pressure her when it's my turn to come into her space.

Yesterday while working with the lariat, I began to shorten the space between the tight, knotted loop and my hand. I stepped in a few inches, drew up the rope a few more inches, and watched her eye to see what she was thinking. A couple of weeks ago she would be visibly shaking over something like this. Now, she was tense, her muscles were tight, but she wasn't going anywhere and she wasn't trembling.

My hand worked it's way to the end of the rope while my feet tried their best to inch just close enough to allow my hand contact. And there it was. My fingers were touching. Not the light glance off the side like had happened a couple weeks ago. This time they were putting pressure on her withers, rubbing, scratching, moving up and down the neckline and down onto the shoulder. Firecracker wasn't too sure what to do at this point. There was that look of pleasure over being rubbed under her mane, along with the instinctive fear that said she was in a dangerous position.

The lead rope was loose; I wasn't controlling her head. She could either back up or step forward. Before she could come to her senses and do that, I backed away. I asked her to take a couple of steps towards me, which she did (although slowly), and I approached her to touch her again, this time with no lariat. She stepped back to her corner, but again let me reach out and rub on her.

I walked away at that point, moving the panels back into place so that Jet could be brought back into her paddock (she'd been out in the pasture during our rain free afternoon.) For good measure, however, I went back a third time to Firecracker. It'd only been three minutes, but she had stepped out of that mind frame of allowing me access. I shortened the lead so she didn't have much space while circling me, and one more time I was able to get close and scratch. Before she could become uncomfortable enough to leave, I stepped away. Darling had just walked out after getting off the bus, so I sent her for the alfalfa pellets and she stood holding them while Firecracker munched and slobbered away.

Desperate Horsewife
Wild Horse Calendars now available!
http://www.cafepress.com/mustangfever/3572746

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Poop Soup


Where did our blue skies go?

The rains have been relentless. Add that to the melting snow from this past weekend and WA state is a mess. Up here, it's just annoying. Down south, they're requesting federal funds to help with rebuilding roads. I-5 had nearly 10 feet of water over it and is closed momentarily. If you want to drive from Seattle to Portland, it'll take you 7 hours as you'll need to head east through Ellensburg; meaning a trip over the pass before heading south, then a trip back over another pass in Oregon. It's just insane.

Here at home, the formerly frozen ground gave way to a few inches of snow, which turned into a sloppy mess once the rains began to beat down. The gravel in the paddocks seems to be holding up well, although the manure has become liquified and impossible to clean up. And while no one is walking around in pastern deep mud, it's still wet. With Quiet Storm gone, the paddock that Firecracker was in has doubled in size and she has access to both stalls. Still, her feet can't help but come into contact with moisture as the water just can't seem to drain away fast enough to keep up with the rainfall. Another load of gravel, especially in the stalls, would do wonders.

Since the bad weather began I've not spent much time out with the horses. Cheryle came and trimmed Quiet Storm and Jet on Friday, and with Firecracker aborting her foal on Sunday, I decided to just leave things be for a bit. Firecracker's training has consisted of me waiting for her to come up and get a mouthful of alfalfa pellets before I left the paddock. Unlike Sunny, who snatched a mouthful and ran between bites, Firecracker stands there and munches away. When I opened the window to put hay into her stall yesterday, she walked right in and pushed her nose up to my face, obviously feeling very comfortable. After a week off, and with that bit of relaxation, I decided I'd best jump back into training mode.

Firecracker struggles with the whole join up process. She knows to turn and face me, but she doesn't want to come into my space. I can walk left or right and she'll pivot to keep her attention where it belongs, but if I walk away she also turns away. Yesterday I managed to get her to take a few steps towards me. I feel limited by space, as I can't walk more than five feet before coming to a fence. Firecracker managed to keep fairly close a couple of times, but when I stopped her ears went flat back and she snaked her head out at me just like a snitty, bossy mare would push around another horse. I have to admit I felt very vulnerable at that moment! That attitude just won't do, but at the same time I need to encourage her into my space so I don't want to get after her in an aggressive way. Raising the hand caused her to take a step back before we started all over again.

After ten minutes of working like that, I pulled put my lariat and started tossing it over her back again. Jumpy the first time or two that I swung my arm, she settled right down and eventually allowed me close enough to rub the loop on her shoulder. When that happened, I told her she was a good girl and walked away. Total training time? Fifteen minutes, followed by dinner and me standing and holding her alfalfa pellets. I think food is going to be a big motivator when it comes to me being able to touch and handle her.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

If Looks Could Kill...


...I'd be dead. Firecracker wasn't happy with me in her space. I'd been there too long, asked for too much. Greed. That's what it was. Things had been going smoothly and I wanted more than she was able to give.

This morning Stephanie and her husband showed up for Quiet Storm. She was so excited about taking home her new horse. Darling and I fought back the tears and were brave little soldiers. Loaded and on the road, we were in the house when Darling came and sat on my lap to cry. "I didn't want to sell her." And yet, less than a month ago she'd wanted nothing more than to give up her little filly for the new horse.

But Quiet Storm will be okay. Stephanie emailed three times from her cell phone to proclaim her love for this horse. And it will only get worse...that love sick feeling. They'll make a good team.Quiet Storm wasn't the only upset that faced us today. Firecracker lost her foal. Much farther along than I thought, I could make out the tiny body inside the crimson placenta laying out in the snow this morning. The head, the ears, eyes and even nostrils were prominent enough to show through. Legs; long and curled under it's belly, with the knees and hooves, and even it's hip could be made out. I'm left wondering what caused her to abort. She'd been coughing a bit when she first came, her nose a mucusey mess. Could it be rhinonuemenitis, a disease that causes late term abortion in mares? Or had she felt too stressed with me messing with her these past two weeks?

I'll likely never know. Thankfully, we hadn't grown attached to the unborn foal, so no grieving from anyone involved, least of all Firecracker. Her main concern today was how quickly I was going to produce her hay for breakfast and dinner. She didn't bat an eye when I hauled her aborted foal out in the wheelbarrow, never turned to wonder what I was doing. Far enough along to be more foal than fetus, not far enough along to be her baby. With the loss of the foal, I trust God must have something else in mind.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Got (more) Snow?

Snowy Ear (Quiet Storm's)

Firecracker has icicles hanging on her forelock!

It's snowing. Again. More. I don't like.

This morning I was supposed to haul Quiet Storm up to the vet clinic for her health certificate. I don't know what time the snow began falling, but I do know there was enough on the ground when I woke up at 5 to think twice about hauling anywhere. The temps are low, 29 F, so the flakes are small and not accumulating much. But it's not stopped all day. The vet, bless his heart, came here.

I've struggled to overcome these feelings of loss over Quiet Storm. I regret letting Darling make this decision. I'm the one who put it into her head, and although I tried to talk her out of adopting last month, it wasn't because I didn't want her to sell, but rather I wanted her to sell before getting a new horse. We're both grieving right now, feeling a bit as though we're betraying our old friend. I wonder what goes through the minds of horses who are bought and sold? Do they feel confused, unloved, forgotten? The one blessing is that Stephanie will spend every spare minute with Storm when she gets there, and I know that little mustang will thrive on it.

So, depending on the weather, tomorrow is the day we'll say goodbye to our dear little friend. I keep telling myself, "One less mouth to feed, one less paddock to clean, and one less set of hooves to trim..." And at some point next summer, Firecracker will have foaled, giving Darling and I one more project to look forward to.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sunny's New Home

Snow, that objectionable white stuff, fell from the sky on Monday night, covering our land with a wet, white blanket. I'm not a snow person. It's pretty up there on the hill, but I'm not fond of it when it interferes with my life. And Tuesday morning when I got up, I felt interfered with. Sunny was to be going to her new home, and I didn't want to have to deal with poor road conditions.

Thankfully, the temps rose up to 40 and the roads, although wet, were clear. The day proceeded as planned. Well, almost. I was going to borrow Nancy's horse trailer but found that my truck lights weren't compatible with her trailer lights. Thankfully, Nancy also owns a truck and the two of us piled into it, along with Molly the Pug, and continued on with the day's plan.

Sunny wasn't sure about the trailer. It's been nearly 10 months since she was last in one, but she didn't panic or throw a hissy fit. Rather, she stood on the outside looking in until I decided we'd looked enough and ran the rope around her back end. Still took another minute, but she jumped in and made the ride without any complaint. Unloading was easy as pie. Such a sound minded little horse! I guess every horse has to have a hang up; too bad Sunny's hangup is her fear of people.

In anycase, I felt good about her new owner. I think I'll have them shorten up the length of her pasture until they can get a bit more familiar with her. It's much larger than she's used to and I know she'll use it's size to her advantage when it comes to catching her up. A smaller space will mean she'll have to work harder to stay away, and since she already knows she'd prefer not working in circles, it shouldn't take them long to get her mind on track (and behavior!) Once she gives up in the small pen, she'll be fine in the large one as well.

Hope you enjoyed the journey with Sunny here on the Diaries. Here are a few last photos of her settling into her new home.

New owner, new home.

Sally the mustang and a gray Arab say hello.


Sunny loves dogs...good thing because they own three!



Monday, November 26, 2007

Photography

Does it need a frame like the one below?




To pass the time these past couple days I've been playing a lot with Photoshop and some pics that I took while in Burns. There's a lot I really don't know how to do, but just sitting and working on it layer by layer helps. Biggest problem is I forget how many copies I have, some with merged layers, some without, some I save as jpg and others I forget...before long I've got a dozen of the same photo saved and when I go to find it in the files, I can't figure out which one is the right one for the job!

Curiosity killed the cat, which is why this foal is rather cautious.

Mares at dusk

"The Old Man"
Beatty's Butte Stallion

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You Scratch My Back...



...but don't expect me to scratch your's in return.

That's become Firecracker's motto these past few days. She's graduated from the lariat to the back scratcher. I tried using the handle end of the apple picker first, hoping it would be a good substitute for the bamboo pole I don't own. However, Firecracker wanted nothing to do with it. I got a pretty strong fear response, so set it aside. Wondering what else might work, I spotted some long, thin branches that had come down in last weeks windstorm. Perfect!

There's no reason why the branch should work when the handle of the apple picker didn't. But then, there's no reasoning with the psyche of a horse, either. For whatever reason, the branch was acceptable and after a less than frantic trot around the paddock with the stick sitting upon her back, Firecracker turned to face me. I began working the branch back and forth over her shoulders and withers. She stood patiently, a bit tense, licking her lips.

Over the weekend I've managed to get into her space, providing I've got that branch. Without it, she moves away. With it, she settles down and lets me into her bubble. I've even gotten a couple of passes with my finger tips across her shoulder and down her barrel before fright takes over.

She's not as lopsided as Sunny; although she bends more easily to the left and wasn't sure about me standing on the right side, it's the right side is where she's the most comfortable after a week of my coming and going. Not as supple, but she's learning. One thing that always brings a smile to my face is that I can reach over with the branch and lift the lead rope up off the ground, and as soon as she sees it she stops and follows it. I can almost lunge her with a dead tree branch, lol!

In other mustang happenings here, Sunny's prospective owner called this weekend and she's gotten approval from her fellow land owners to bring Sunny home. We'll need to get her official paperwork filled out, of course, but we're expecting to be able to move her this week. For all the distress I went through with this girl earlier this fall, wondering just how I'd be able to give her up, I'm feeling really good. They clicked~connected. I have no doubts that this is going to work for her and am happy to see her in a good, loving home.

Another change will be happening this week as well, one that brings tears to my eyes. Quiet Storm has been sold. I've only ever cried twice before when parting company with a horse, and I never expected it to happen with this one. But it has. She's headed to a wonderful, caring home in Oregon, but the chances that we'll ever see her again range somewhere between slim and nothing. There is just something extra special about that filly; she's been my daughter's best friend, her confidant, and her esteem builder. To watch them both learn together has been a treat few people ever witness. Even City Boy's face fell when I told him her new owner's would be here on Sunday to pick her up. He considers Quiet Storm to be his puppy, his barn building buddy.

And so it is that we head into a difficult week, one that will be filled with bittersweet rides and goodbyes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kisses


Firecracker is learning that all good things come from me. Well, at least food. She perks up her ears and waits for me to walk into her paddock with an armload of hay each morning. The other horses are nickering, but she stays silent. She's not looking forward to it that much...not yet.

The past couple of days she's allowed me into her space and even reached out with her nose to sniff my face and blow warm air out her nostrils, fogging up my glasses in our cool November air. I have to bend down a bit before she feels comfortable, and usually its in 'her' corner, where she stands alongside the fence with Quiet Storm acting as her moral support system on the other side. Whatever it takes, right?

I may go out and get a pvc pipe such as Nikki suggested. The rope doesn't bother her coming either from the left or the right. Although she's definitely more left sided than right, it's nothing like Sunny and I can still get over on that side and she's learning to give a lot more readily than she was a week ago.

She's also letting me approach into her space to pick up the end of the lead rope a lot more willingly (as in, I can get within 4 feet of her before she becomes nervous), and when it's in my hand she immediately turns towards me, ready to take a step or two forward. I think I'm going to rearrange my panels, though, when I get in to work with her from now on. She's needing something a bit more round in shape to keep her from getting stuck in corners.

Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Daily Grind

And so the daily grind begins.

I'm upset with myself for trying that short little rake. Not long enough to be effective. In the video it looks like I'm chasing her with it, but it was positioned there at her hip for the most part and even sat on her a couple of times. I can see how the bamboo pole would work, but for me the lariat will suffice. It takes a bit longer, but has the same effect.

Yesterday I was able to rub the coiled end of my rope on Firecracker's nose. She's reached out to touch me and yesterday she ate out of my hands while I held the hay. After just a few days she's already working out the fear issues that have plagued Sunny all along. If we could just get some dry days, I'd be able to spend a bit more time with her and she'd likely come along quite fast.

Speaking of Sunny, someone came to see her this weekend. She put on her frightened little horse show for them and they weren't scared away. They're big into Parelli, and while I'm not a fan I know that they'll have the skills needed to work with her at this stage of her training. After spending a few minutes with her, Sunny began to relax and do what the woman asked as far as giving to pressure, leading and even trotting for her (we've done that a few times but I didn't expect she'd trot for a stranger.)

That was Saturday; the woman left saying she was in love but that it was something they needed to discuss as a family. I didn't hear back on Sunday and was disappointed. But yesterday she called and said they just needed to work out a few details, but that they wanted her.

I feel very good about this match. The woman was soft and sensitive to Sunny's fears, but also didn't back away from her when Sunny refused to do something. She seemed to know just when to stop asking and recognized when the eyes went soft and willing. They've already got 2 mustangs, but haven't ever had one this green before. Sunny's the perfect step for them as she's always wanted one that's wild; with Sunny she'll have the opportunity to work on developing trust and a bond without having to mess with the 'how to touch a wild horse' or the added fencing requirements. She also uses Cheryle as a farrier, and Cheryle gave her a good reference. That gives me a peace, because I've been so concerned about finding the right home for this girl. She'll always hold a special place in my heart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Little Darlin' Has a Firecracker!


Darling was having a hard time coming up with a name. A Spanish online translator was in use every spare minute as she searched for the perfect description of her horse. Nothing she found either sounded right or could be pronounced by our thick German tongues. While the two of us sat and watched a couple of music videos Saturday morning, Josh Turner's Firecracker came on. I laughed and said that would be a good name.

Darling had yet to see her new girl get down and dirty. "She's not a firecracker, she's too calm," was all she said. I just smiled.

Later in the day Darling brought her camera out while I went into the pen with the nameless filly. She'd been dragging an 8 foot lead rope; not long enough for me to just pick up the end of it and start working her with bending and giving to pressure. It was long enough, however, to get me hurt if she decided to turn and kick in fear should I reach for it. So what were my options?

You already know I'm not a flag person, but I must admit to being intrigued by Kitty Lauman's bamboo pole method. I had nothing that was light weight and eight feet long, however, and the next best thing was my little rake with the flag at the end of it that's I'd used on Sunny a couple months ago. Well...no reason not to give it chance number four, right?

The goal was to reach out and place the rake on her inside hip, letting it ride along as she circled around me in hopes that she'd get used to something touching her and realize it wasn't going to eat her. That was the goal...but here was the reality:


video

I should know better. I don't like flags or sticks and neither do my horses. I'm sure part of the problem was that my stick was just too short to do the job...but you know what? I've got a rope! I love my lariat and it does the same trick, only it's softer. Sunny accepted it straight off and so did...yes, Darling decided after the gate crashing incident to call her Firecracker.

A couple of jumps to avoid the swinging of my arm, she came to realize that nothing bad was happening and stood with the rope dangling over her back, allowing it to fall over her shoulders and down the off side, bumping up against her legs without being frightened.



That was Saturday. By the end of 15 minutes, she was letting me pick up the end of the lead rope and giving her face. Sunday she let me touch her nose. Briefly, but it was a touch. With the weather being cold and nasty, I'm only spending a few minutes at a day with her, so I'm very pleased that she's allowed me into her space. She gave nicely to pressure, turning both left and right and came to the realization that nothing was going to eat her.

Friday, November 16, 2007

She's Home



Darling's new filly came home last night. The weather was wet and wild, and we didn't get her home til nearly dark. Still managed to snap a few new photos of her.


She didn't have any trouble figuring out how to eat from a manger, but the water gave her difficulties. Not that it's anything extraordinarily different; it's just a tub with water in it parked out in the paddock. But for whatever reason she felt disinclined to drink from it. Hence, when I went out this morning to feed, she was all tucked up and looking a great deal thinner than she had when she climbed out of the trailer last night.

At some point during the day she determined that she was thirsty and that the tub wasn't so terribly bad after all. Of course it was after I'd been out cleaning and she'd ran over it and dumped the water all over the ground. That left her with an empty water tub rather than one to gain refreshment from. She grabbed at it and lifted it into the air to protest it's emptiness, then dropped it and placed a hoof inside and tried to dig for something wet. When that didn't work, she left and returned to her hay and I came with the hose to fill it. She didn't bother to say thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What is it About Kigers?


Aside from the small bit of white on her forehead, this mare has near perfect markings.

To be honest, I don't know. Walking around the corrals this weekend I found myself drawn to very few Kigers, but several other mustangs from Beatty's Butte or Jackie's Butte. And yet, Kiger's have managed to capture the hearts of many.

I suppose it's like any breed of horse and their following. Quarter Horses, Arabians, Halflinger...they all have their 'peeps' who swear there's no other. I'm just as bad with mustangs, although I'm not limited to one particular type of mustang. I just love the blank slate they come with.
Gray is not a desirable color as it creates a silver dun in the offspring; highly undesirable in a Kiger breeding program. This stallion is 17 and was captured at Riddle Mountain.

Kiger Mustangs are different than the other free roaming horses in the west due to their Spanish heritage. While other herds are a blend of ranch horses, cavalry mounts and the like, Kigers are the direct descendants of the horses brought over by the Spanish; they're thought to be the purest strain of Spanish horse left in the wild today.

This pretty boy had many people talking. Exhibits the classic Kiger look, but because he was captured at Beatty's Butte, he can't be registered.

The original Kigers were found on Beatty's Butte by BLM employee, Ron Harding, in 1971. He noted that these horses were different than the other mustangs that the BLM had been dealing with. A group of these horses were gathered, genetic testing was done, and high levels of Spanish markers were found, linking the Kiger Mustang to the horses the Spaniards brought over in the 1600s. Two new Herd Management Areas (HMAs) were set aside so that these horses would continue to remain pure. They can be found in the Kiger or Riddle Mt HMAs.


Group of Kiger colts waiting to be adopted.

There are currently three different Kiger registries in the U.S., all of them battling it out in terms of what's acceptable and what isn't for a Kiger. The original registry is the Kiger Mesteno Association, founded in 1988.

When it comes to spending big money on a Kiger, the public is looking for color. Classic coloring for a Kiger is dun with a black mane, tail, dorsal stripe and stockings. Black muzzles, webbing on the face, tips of ears, tiger striping and shoulder barring are highly sought after. White is acceptable, but not desirable. Long, blond streaks extending from the crest of the neck down into the mane are prized. Many people also are drawn to the grulla coloring, a lovely smokey blue with dorsal stripe such as the colt below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When Does No Not Mean No?

I like this photo...Darling took it.

When your 13 year old snatches your cell phone away from you and answers (after seeing it's her father)..."Daddy...???"

So there I was, shivering in the cold of south eastern Oregon, telling everyone that no, I was not bringing home another horse, my barn is full, when DD effectively bats her eyes at a man who doesn't give me the time of day, and over the phone at that, manages to talk him into letting her buy another mustang. "I'll sell Quiet Storm..." she says sweetly. I had told her she needed to sell first, but did Daddy? [I]Nooooo[/I].....

But wait, I didn't sign up to bid on any Kigers, so I was at least safe, right? No, they'll let us take one of the other horses through the walk up adoption process. Silly me...I should have known. DD marches herself straight on down to the mares and fillies, finds a couple and we ask The Nice Wendy Lady if she's had them there long enough to get to know them. Not really, but the couple DD has picked out didn't stand out in her mind as being crazy. However, she'd say they were 4-5 years, and luckily that's older than I wanted DD to take home.
Brown Kiger

Not that we had a truck or trailer with us. But as a friend said before I took off, "Any fool knows you can rent a truck and trailer..." Didn't take DD long to find my former friend Steve and ask for a ride home for a horse. Didn't take my former friend Steve to point out there had been a nice little Kiger filly left behind during the first round of bidding because she wasn't a dun (the sought after color.) Also didn't take my former friend Steve long to hand DD his bidders number when I said we couldn't because we hadn't registered. Steve is no longer my friend. But he[I] is [/I]DD's friend...

Somehow I'm feeling plotted against. But I must admit that I think DD got a steal of a deal. She paid the base price of $125 when the other fillies in this age range were going for $2000, and only because she was the wrong color. Of course, we've never paid more than the base, but the reason I'm rather smiling over this one is that the filly was likely mis labeled...she's got a very clear line down her back if you get close enough, which we did with the telephoto lens of the camera.