Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wild Horse Fundraiser

In six weeks there will be a Wild Horse adoption held in Monroe, Washington. One of the highlights of these adoption events is the wild horse gentling demos. This year Lesley Neuman will be doing three demonstrations for the event. Lesley is an incredibly blessed human being; she's able to walk into a round pen with a wild horse and have it following her around like a puppy before your very eyes.

Having these demos is a key element in helping folks understand that yes, these horses can be worked with and gentled. However, it costs money to get folks like Lesley to the events. If you've ever wished you could adopt a wild horse, but just haven't got the space, time, or facility, you can still help! I've put together several new products, from clothing to notecards, featuring the wild horses I saw while on vacation in Oregon earlier this month. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the gentling demonstrations!

Please take a few minutes and browse through my shop. There are gifts under $15 (Wild Horse Fundraiser heading), lovely gifts for mom (Mother's Day is coming up!), and even a t-shirt for the family dog!

Want to help spread the word? If you could place a button on your blog or website, I'd greatly appreciate it! Just let me know and I'll get you the code to either of these banners.

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sixty Day Wonder

Several have commented on how patient I must be in order to give Sunny so much time to come to me. But patience is not my nature. I'd rather rush things, to be honest, and Sunny is no exception. I wish she were one of those sixty day wonders; those horses that you bring home and within a couple weeks they're saddled, a month later you're mounting, and by the end of the second month you're off to horse shows. That's what I'd like.

But that's not what I've got. And you know what? That's not what I am.

I'm not a sixty day wonder. I'm not one to accept what others insist is in my best interest. I'd rather make my own mistakes and learn things myself. Sometimes, the lessons are simple. Other times, they're hard. And if I'd just listen to those around me, those who are experienced, I'd save myself a lot of time and trouble.

The other day Darling and I were talking, and I don't recall the personality trait that the conversation brought up, but Darling said she didn't like it. She didn't want to be that way. But Darling is a work in progress. She's just 13, after all, and she's got plenty of time to grow and learn.

I'm far from being a teen, but I'm still learning and growing. I still make mistakes and I'm certain that the people around me get frustrated with my slow, stubborn learning style. And it's not just the people that I push to the point of exhaustion. I also push God. I know I'm not the woman God would have me be. I still question His wisdom some days. I still offer up my suggestions (as though God needs my input, right?) I don't listen that well when He points out the best way to go about things.

And yet, despite this, God still loves me. He's patient. He waits. He shows me the path that ought to be taken, and then steps back and allows me to make the decision, be it right or wrong. And when I chose wrong, I'll find myself in a mess of trouble. Like Sunny when she ran through blackberries the other day. I'm always finding myself in situations like that. Had Sunny just ignored the horses next door, had she allowed me to walk right up to her instead of rushing off in a panic, she never would have ended up full of thorns. But she chose not to trust me until after she’d gotten into trouble; something I can easily relate to!

Sunny is a gift from God. Through her, I see myself. I see how patient God is with me, not expecting perfection overnight, but allowing me to reach the goal at my own pace. He allows me to get into sticky situations, because that’s how I’ll learn. And because of this, I’m able to allow Sunny the gift of time as well. She’s not going to reach the goal over night. And while the going appears tediously slow, she is showing progress. Like me. Neither of us is a sixty day wonder.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Five Things

The Ghost is now just a ghost of a dream.

Five things I’m pondering today.

First, why did I say I’d do a blog carnival about five things, when I can only think of four?

Second: I’m in mourning. The Ghost horse was sent to Utah, along with that stunning red roan. The Burns Corrals are being remodeled, so they’re holding tons of adoptions between now and the one up here in WA in June. Excess horses are being sent to other states. My two favorites were among them. Boo Hoo…

Third: I really like Sunny. Did you know that? I’ll be putting her up for sale once she’s titled (February 2008), and I think she’ll make a dandy all around horse. Not an all around show horse, mind you, but something that can be worked off of on a farm, or a nice trail horse, or some 4-H project. I don’t think she’s a jumper type, but who knows? Maybe even pony club.

Fourth: I wish I had a spare half million dollars. Don’t you? I’d like to completely re-do my fences, as well as subdivide them. Then I’d fence my neighbor’s property in. Afterwards, I’d put up a new barn. Nothing fancy, maybe just add onto the one we’ve got. And a truck and trailer…that would be such an awesome thing to have. Right now we're having to beg and borrow.

Fifth: We’ve booked another date for Quiet Storm. She’ll be visiting a local feed store in town the weekend prior to the Monroe adoption. The BLM sent me a gross of pencils, a bunch of postcards, and a handful of very neat pens to hand out. I think we’ll also make a few coloring pages for the kids, then when they’re given back to us, we’ll post them on the blog. I got that idea from Janey Loree at Mustang N Cowboys.
Sixth: Come to think of it, I do have five things! I'm going to be putting together some of the photos I've taken over the past couple of years of wild horses and put them into a calendar. Each Wedensday over at Carpenter Creek I hold caption contests; be sure to stop in and offer up your suggestion. Each winning entry will be put into a drawing and someone (or two?) will win a calendar!

Wild horses in Burns


MiKael at Rising Rainbow got me to thinking this morning about a recent experience with Sunny. She's done a series of articles on 'trapping' your horse.

It's important for a horse to know how to react when they're 'trapped', or confined. Because I deal with wild horses, not domestic bred, they've never had the experience of being in enclosed spaces such as stalls or horse trailers, or even halters. While MiKael is talking about how she deals with domestic bred horses, and her technique varies greatly from mine, we are both after the same goal. The goal of having a horse who's relaxed and trusts us in any situation.

Sunny has been dragging a lead rope around with her here from two months now. For a wild horse, wearing a halter is feeling trapped. Dragging a lead, even more so. I'd love to take them both off, but she's just not ready for that yet. She'll come to me when I have grain; I've been sitting in the chair and letting her eat while I stroke her face. This also creates of feeling of being trapped for Sunny, as she's been terrified of having her face touched, especially on the right side. But this past week she's been allowing me to reach up and touch her right cheek and run my hand around her halter while she munches on the grain. Such a small step for most horses, and yet HUGE for Sunny. She's learning to relax and trust.

Being allowed onto Sunny's right side is a huge accomplishment and shows she's beginning to trust me more.

Dragging a lead is something most domestic horse owners would want to die over. The halter left on is horrifying enough, but dragging a lead? Yet for our wild ones, they learn so many important lessons from this. They become accustomed to the rope on their legs and learn to untangle themselves without flying into a panic. They step on the end of their rope and learn to give their head (which comes in very handy when you begin leading and riding!) Most of us never think of the valuable lesson this teaches our horses, but trust me, it goes a long way. Case in point:

The other afternoon I decided to let Sunny out into the pasture. She'd been out twice before, and while there's little grass for grazing, it does promote a nice emotional break from the paddock for her. While I can't just waltz right up to her, she does come to feed and she's proven that she's not a fence tester. I figured it was an hour before dinner, so I'd let her out while I did other chores with the sheep.

My neighbor has three horses. One of the horses is a gelding who's been proud cut. He screams day and night like a stallion at the two mares, and he's one nasty tempered boy. They only get turned out of their paddocks in the evening, and I'd never turn Sunny out while they were out because I don't need her thinking about this guy over there.

Sunny trotted calmly to the other end of the pasture. It was so nice to see her relaxed and not so flipping excited like she had been the first two times. She was quiet, calm, and content just to be out nibbling on the short grass. But no more than ten minutes had gone by when that all changed. The neighbor's horses came screaming out into their pasture, and Sunny heard the cry of that blasted gelding.

The beast was not nice. He reached over his fence (wood) and bit Sunny. She didn't know where to turn. In a hurry to escape his teeth, she dashed through the blackberries. This patch of berries is very thick, and there was no way I could walk through them after her. Sunny was now between the blackberries and the lower pasture. Vines were tangled around her legs.

Sunny has learned to give to the lead all on her own.

And this is where dragging that rope around was so handy! Sunny could care less about feeling those vines on her legs. And because I had grain, she stood trembling right where she was and waited for me to bring it to her. After a couple of nibbles and my picking up her lead rope, I began stomping down on the blackberry vines, hoping she wouldn't spook at my being so active in such a close proximity. She didn't. She was trapped and not flighty.

I got the vines down below her knees, and slowly Sunny began to follow me out of the berries. City Boy had cut the fence into the lower pasture open so she could be led through a narrow opening and back to the safety of her paddock. All the while, that nasty gelding was pacing back and forth along the fence line, pinning his ears back and shaking his head.

As if Sunny's trusting me to get her out of that sticky situation wasn't enough, when we got back to the barn I noticed thorns all over on her face. And while she'd just begun allowing me to touch the sides while eating, she'd never allowed me to do so without grain or while standing up. And yet, she stood right there as I plucked them from her face and cheek. One of them was 1/8 of an inch from her eye, and after tossing her head once, she stood silently while I got it between my fingers and lifted it out.

Thorns were everywhere, one of them right alongside her left eye.

Who knew that something as simple as dragging a halter and lead rope would lead to a wild horse knowing how to stand trapped in a thicket of berries? Who knew that the wee little bit of touching I'd been able to do up until that point would allow me to lead my otherwise sensitive horse calmly through a narrow opening and across the pasture, being followed by a flock of sheep, without her feeling upset or threatened? Heck, she doesn't lead well most of the time in the paddock, but if you'd stopped that day you'd never know it.

Sunny is proof that even the smallest steps can help your horse through a difficult situation. Allowing them to get stuck and figure out on their own that they can relax and get out of a sticky situation is a priceless experience.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The Saddle

"You want me to what?"

"You're joking, right?"

"I've obviously misunderstood you."

"Well, that ain't gonna happen!"

"Can we discuss this?"

"I'm not so sure about your plan. Let's just postpone it for a year or seven."

"How about if I kiss your feet? Does that get it?"

"It's getting late. Maybe we can talk about it tomorrow..."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Love isn't Enough

Some folks think love is all you need. They get a wild animal and figure if they can touch it, that's good. If it let's them rub and scratch on it, they've done done a fine job.

Then reality sets in. Suddenly you're faced with a wild animal that insists upon things being done their way. They take what you give, and force you to give more. And if you don't give it, you can find yourself in a difficult and dangerous position. Such was the case with our first mustang, Sassy. She was spoiled, taking food from the hands of her family, biting when they didn't have anything to give.

Today I was at a feed store when the woman at the counter saw my sweatshirt. I was wearing one of the Mustang Diaries shirts, and her eyes lit up when she realized I had mustangs. A customer had come in saying they had a yearling mustang from one of the reservations and they wanted to give her away. They'd had a halter on her, but couldn't handle her feet. Plus, the woman had been kicked twice. Since she wasn't far away, I drove over.

The filly is pretty. She stood on the other side of her round pen and enjoyed the scratching we did. The woman had bought her at auction; there'd been a tuckload of horses that had come in, and most of them went to the meat buyer. She had a soft spot for this filly and brought her home. Her intentions were good, but she's now realized that she's in over her head.

The filly, unfortunately, was easy to gentle. When horses are easy like that, and a bit less sensitive to touch, they can get pushy real fast unless the person handling them knows to prevent it. It's our nature to try to nurture, but with animal it creates a spoiled child effect. We do it with our dogs, and these folks were in the process of doing it with this filly.

We got the halter on her, though, and I led her around a bit. She'd pin her ears back, and she was a bit jumpy. Not scared, but she was using little things as an excuse to be stupid. Such as, the quiet hum of a nearby saw. There was very little sound, but the owner had her husband turn it off so the horse wouldn't spook. The filly had been tip-toed around so much that she was like a fussy princess. At one point she got upset, so I gave a yank on the lead rope to get her attention. She flew backwards and would have flipped herself onto her back if she hadn't been caught by the round pen panels.

While the rope gave me a bit of a burn, I didn't let go. Instead I took up the slack as much as I could so she couldn't try to wheel away. I made her walk around once more, made her back up and try to focus on me. At this point she was getting agitated, but she did manage to do what I asked. I then led her towards the gate and unbuckled her halter. She thought that meant she was done, so I put it back on her. I did that a couple of times, scratching her to get her to relax. Then she thought something scary might be out there, so she took a big lunge off to the side while the halter was unbuckled. Too bad, because that wasn't a good learning experience. Still, she'd probably been asked for more in that five minutes than she had been all along.

Because of her somewhat alpha temperament, I've decided she wouldn't be a good fit here. I'd be up for the challenge, but Sunny is already taking a lot of my time, and she's not a horse I'd feel comfortable having Darling walk around at feeding time.

I will, however, be contacting a few more horse savvy folks who may be capable of handling her. She's going to be a lot of work, because she has very little respect for people right now. A firm hand, a round pen, and a determination to keep her from trying to be a buddy (at least for now.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quiet Storm goes to School

Darling gives Quiet Storm a hug while visiting Irene Reither Primary School.

We got a call just before leaving on vacation from a local school. They've got an after school 4-H program, and the local extension agent had suggested we bring a lamb to visit. When she heard we could do a 'wild' mustang, she was quite excited!

So Monday after Darling got out of school, we loaded up the horse and drove out to Irene Reither Primary School where we met 16 children. Sixteen little children! Being that this is a primary school, the kids were in the neighborhood of seven years old, maybe a year or more less. But much smaller than our last group.

Quiet Storm could care less, though, about the size of the person scratching her. After a brief question and answer period, they came in groups of two or three to pet and scratch her face, and she loved every minute of it! So did the kids =)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Burns, Oregon

View from one of the highway passes in Eastern Oregon.

We're home from Oregon and the Wild Horse Corrals. It was great fun, but I'm happy to be back in my bed!

I must say that, after driving the passes from Northwest Washington over to Burns, Oregon, I have a great deal (more) respect for those who pull those trailers full of horses over them! It was all I could do not to get dizzy as a passenger; it can't be any fun pulling a trailer.
It was a one day drive over, so our second day we visited the corrals, plus drove to the Steens Mountain in hopes of seeing the herd there. I had a horrible headache, however, so we never made it through the complete loop.
Rocky cliffs near Burns, Oregon in the Steens Mountain area.
Gary and Kid...okay, in reality they were in the corrals working, but I couldn't resist seeing what they'd look like out on the range!
Horses on a steep hillside. Very little vegetation aside from sage brush grows here.

How many pictures can a person take of one horse? Well, if that one horse is this roan, the answer is plenty! That mane of his shone like flames in a fire.

There are currently approximately 200 horses left in Burns; by June they'll all be gone as the corrals are being repaired. Horses that haven't been adopted or sent to prison training programs will be moved to other districts.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Please Note: I'll be blogging to Carpenter Creek this week regarding my vacation to the Wild Horse Corrals. For daily updates on our trip visit me there!

This morning I was in for a surprise. Here it is, one day before taking off, and who do I see outside my window? Sunny!

She managed to open the gate by rubbing her itchy behind on it. The latch gave way, the gate swung open, and out she came! Thankfully, she's not wanting to take a vacation apart from her friends here, otherwise it could have spelled trouble.

Fortunately, Sunny resisted the urge to run frantically out into the road. Fortunately, I resisted the urge to run back inside to get my camera and document it!

When I got outside, she bucked and snorted, then settled back to grazing. I carried alfalfa to the sheep, grass hay to Quiet Storm, and wondered how I was going to deal with my wild girl. She didn't want to let me up close enough to grab the lead, but she wasn't being stupid, either. Just happy to have stretched her legs (oh, yeah, I could see where she'd been doing that) and eat a bit of spring grass.

Since the sheep were peacefully eating, I took a gamble and opened the gate, hoping they would be absorbed in grain and not notice that freedom was at hand. I then managed to get Sunny to move in the general direction of the open gate.

Lucky me! She saw the gate open and ran into it! She was in there running once before, and has seen Quiet Storm playing out there, so no doubt she associated that pasture with freedom!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A little video

One of the things I'd like to be able to do for you while on vacation is video the horses. Alas, my fancy camera hasn't got a video feature. Darling's does, however it's a bit low on the quality end of things. Still, it shows motion and picks up sound.

I went outside yesterday afternoon and practiced a bit. Here's one of Sunny. Short, and not terribly good. But hey, I've gotta start somewhere!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Exciting News!

I've been sitting on pins and needles, waiting until now to let everyone know that this weekend I'll be leaving on vacation. Unlike other bloggers, who leave their laptops and readers behind, I'll be bringing you both along with me!

And where am I going that you should care?
The Wild Horse Corrals in Burns, Oregon!

City Boy, Darling and I will be heading out early Sunday morning. Be sure to pop in here for my morning post. While I'd prefer not to be travelling on Easter, Darling is out of school that week, and we need to be back here for the youth fair on Friday. So, Sunday it will be.

Between now and then I'll be learning how to operate the video function on my camera...I hope! Say a prayer and cross you fingers that we'll actually find a real, honest to goodness herd of wild horses while we're there, too!

Monday, April 2, 2007

I touched her!

We woke up yesterday to snowflakes falling! I couldn't believe my eyes. By the time I got outside to do chores it'd turned to an icy rain. I figured my time with Sunny would be put on hold, but thankfully by afternoon it'd cleared up.
Sunny's biggest improvement this past month was allowing me to stand on her right side. Yesterday I went from standing at the end of the lead rope, six feet away, to within touching distance. The two of us would just stand there, me close enough to touch, her wondering when I was going to fall into a hole deep enough to never climb out of and bother her again.
I'm certain to that if there had been anyone stopping and watching, they'd have wondered why I was just standing there with the horse. It certainly didn't look like the usual training session. But my heart was pretty happy when she took a deep sigh and relaxed.
And then, I just couldn't stand it anymore. I had to touch her! Which was something Sunny did not want to have happen. She'd managed to back up quickly enough, then turn her head so I was back on her left side. I'd scratch her, then move back onto the right side, keeping my hand outstretched where she could see it. We danced around the paddock for several minutes. Things that normally don't bother her, she found spooky. The lambs bounced by on the outside of the paddock, and she jumped. Tait ran across the lawn, she snorted. I was turning her world upside down by being on her weak side.
I'd cross back to her left side now and then to reassure her, then back to the right. Eventually, after five minutes or so, I was able to reach out as she jumped, and my fingertips brushed ever so lightly along her neck. Success!
With that, I moved back onto her left side and scratched her, allowing her to relax and take a deep breath. Once she sighed, I stepped away and left her.