Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Tom halter's Quiet Storm before she's loaded into a trailer to come home.
Quiet Storm's training began as soon as she came home. We sat with her inside the round pen, talked to her as we cleaned, and just allowed her to watch us come and go. The second day, I began walking around the pen, getting her to move forward, turn, and even follow me. I picked up the end of the rope and asked her to move off the pressure of the halter. She did it without hesitation. She was a dream. Not flighty, not spooky. Just as quiet as she'd been in the pen with the other horses.
I got pretty brave, and since the round pen was also inside an arena, I figured she really didn't have any place to go if she got away from me, so I led her out into the open arena. She didn't bat an eye. She followed obediently, just as though I were the strawberry roan.
I looked around the arena. Poles, cones and a tarp were out. We walked around the cones. We stepped over the poles. I looked at the tarp, took a breath, and walked over to it. For the first time in less than 48 hours, Quiet Storm came to a stop. I stepped onto the tarp, allowing it to make some noise under my feet. She looked at it curiously, and stepped forward to check it out. I immediately stepped off the tarp and led her away. She didn't spook at the noise it made as I stepped across it; didn't walk sideways to make sure it wasn't following. She just assumed I would lead her to another safe place in the arena.
We went back over the poles again, and then to the tarp. I walked onto the tarp, and this time she stepped on with me. Well, her front feet stepped on. I made her think she stopped there only because it was my idea. She blew a little out her nostrils and began to paw at the plastic. I turned her around and led her away. That was enough for tonight.
The following morning we walked to the poles, around the cones, and straight onto the tarp as though it was something she'd done her entire life! In fact, here it was, her third day associating with humans, and Darling, at age 12, was able to lead her over every obstacle in the arena!
Quiet Storm proved herself to be more quiet than storm that first week with us, and there was no doubt we'd be able to bring her home by the end of our 30 days at Cheryles. What more could we do with a filly who was already proving herself over trail obstacles that most domestic horses came unglued over? Well, we'd find something...
Due to lack of facilities here at our place, I'd not been able to adopt a mustang direct from the BLM. I had, however, attended a couple of adoption events when they were here in Whatcom County. Shortly afterwards, I met Cheryle McConnaughey of Living Legends Stables in Bellingham. Cheryle had adopted three horses over the past two years when the horses had been here. She was also an official volunteer for theBLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program. Together, Cheryle and I made the trip to Spokane in 2005 to help with the adoption event there. Getting to know the folks who work the adoptions can be beneficial, as you'll soon discover.
In 2006, the BLM was planning two adoption events in Washington State. The first was in late May and to be held in Spokane. The second was two weeks later in Monroe. Cheryle had told me that I could use her facility for 30 days if I ended up adopting; she had a horse coming in for training and that's all the time she could spare. Since the BLM requirements state that you need to be able to catch your horse before it can leave the smaller round pen, I knew my work would be cut out for me. But both my daughter and I wanted to adopt, so we decided to find a nice, laid back yearling, which we felt we'd be able to gentle within the time frame set.
Since Monroe was obviously much closer to home than Spokane, that's where we thought we'd adopt from. But since we were headed to Spokane anyway during the adoption weekend, we spent a great deal of time there going over the horses. Because this was going to be Darling's horse, I wanted her to have a good grasp on what to look for once the horses got to Monroe. While we were there, we got to talking to Greg, one of the BLM wranglers, and told him we'd likely be getting a horse when they came back in a couple more weeks. Greg told us if there was something we really liked here in Spokane, he'd be sure to bring it to Monroe for us. That forced Darling and I into a decision. How would we know if there would be nicer horses at the next adoption or not? We had no clue what was coming, so we decided to make a short list of our favorites here in Spokane. Darling selected three horses, and I told her those were the three she could bid on. I didn't want to spend more than $150, because I knew there'd be plenty of horses that went for the base price of $125, so we were taking a real risk that she'd be outbid on her choices.
The horses Darling chose to bid on that day were these: A large strawberry roan filly who had a bit of percheron in her background. She was quiet and pretty, not a bully but certainly the leader of the group. She was followed around by the smallest filly in the group, a shaggy looking thing that had a pretty cute face. The shaggy filly never paid any attention to the crowd, while the strawberry roan watched everyone with curiousity, and by the end of Saturday she even reached out and sniffed Darling's hand. This filly was definitely on the top of her list, but there were others who talked about wanting her as well, so we knew the chances of getting her were slim.
A two year old red dun gelding caught our eye. He was long, lean and lanky. A bit stand offish to begin with, but he watched the people from a safe vantage point in the pen. He was near the bottom of the pecking order, but stayed out of the way of the bully.
A few more trips around the pens, and we were back to the yearling fillies again. The shaggy little filly was still ignoring the people, but the fact that she knew to stay in the shadow of her large body guard, we hoped at least, meant she had some thinking skills. And like I said, she had a cute face. I probably wouldn't have chosen her for myself, but Darling liked her, so that completed her list.
When it was time to start bidding, the two year old was the first on Darling's list to come in. She was quickly outbid. When the yearling fillies finally made it in, the roan's number was the first to be called. Again, Darling was quickly outbid. In fact, the bidding went over $300 for that big girl.
One more chance. The shaggy filly's number was called. No one bid. Darling took a deep breath and raised her paddle. No one bid against her, and she won the bid at $125.
Have you ever met a little girl who's just bought a wild horse? It's something to behold. But I've got to tell you, the next two weeks were downright painful as we had to wait for our new girl to come back to our side of the mountains. Greg promised to take good care of her. He told us he'd wrap her up in bubble wrap to keep her safe. And that became her nick-name, which she is still occasionally called by both us and the BLM staff; Bubble Wrap!
"Bubble Wrap", as she was orignally called, was soon to be renamed Quiet Storm.
So you're at an adoption. What now? I don't know what other people look for, but here's what I do when going to adoptions:
This big pinto was in a pen with a bully horse. The bully would seek out the pinto, demanding a fight. When pushed, the pinto would give in and the two would rear, strike out, and reach out to bite each other, just like stallions in the wild. But the pinto would have preferred to be left alone. Other horses followed him, which irritated the bully. Sound familiar? Kinda like kids on the playground. The bully horse was jealous of the natural leadership of the pinto; he wanted to lay claim to the 'herd' that was following the pinto around the pen. The pinto was a smart horse. He watched and knew where the bully was at all times, doing his best to stay out of the way. I found this to be a very positive thing with this guy.
Some horses get curious about the people who come to see them. They'll come up and sniff and eventually let you rub them through the corral rails. I have mixed feelings about these horses. I like a horse who may sniff, but uses caution over a horse that suddenly falls in love with the crowd of wither scratchers, and this is why; the cautious horse is going to give you more space once home and training begins. The overly friendly horse may become pushy; refusing to give you space. Not that it's always like that...it's just my personal preference when selecting between the two. The younger the horse, the less trouble it will likely pose; but if it's an older horse, I would personally select another. The filly pictured above finally got brave enough to reach out for some hay once all the other horses in her pen had been taken home. Without any other companionship, she turned to a friendly human.
The more time you're able to spend watching the horses prior to the adoption, the better idea you'll have about which one you may want to go home with. There are always plenty of people available to ask questions to. Both BLM employees, volunteers, and past adopters attend these events and have plenty of stories and advice to share. Listen to everyone...but in the end, you'll need to select the horse that speaks to your heart.