Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Great Chicken Round Up

It all begins innocently enough. Your tiny, peeping balls of fluff arrive in a box at your post office one day, you raise them up and a couple years later you call your friend (the Desperate Horsewife) to tell her you've got a few too many layers, and would she like some?

And your friend (the Desperate Horsewife) comes with an old dog crate lined with soft hay to transport her new hens home, dreaming of those golden, farm fresh eggs.

The new hens are placed into their awaiting coop; otherwise known as the old sheep shed with the dog kennel door firmly attached. They spend their first week there, eating, sleeping and drinking, getting to know that this is now home, before the door is opened into their new world. Once out, the feathered ladies go straight to work, scratching and pecking about in the dirt in search of tasty insects. Finding none, they make their way to the patio behind the house, which aggravates the City Boy living inside said house.

"Get those birds off my patio! They're pooping all over the place," he grumbles.

So the Desperate Horsewife, along with her Darling daughter, slip into their boots (never mind that they're in shorts and would look a bit strange to anyone not familiar with Farm Diva fashion) and head outside in an effort to shoo the hens back towards their home.

Hens don't shoo well. They do cackle loudly and run blindly, however. Are you familiar with the term, 'running around like a chicken with it's head cut off?' Trust me, it's not a compliment! These girls darted when they should have dashed, scooting instead of scatting, and nearly caused an accident at one point as a passerby was so slack jawed by the sight of the Farm Divas chasing chickens that he nearly went off the road.

The dust was flying when Steven T. Cat (the T stands for the) meandered out to see what the fuss was all about. Certain he was capable of doing a better job than the humans involved, Steve slipped out of his 'assistant mustang trainer' hat and into his 'Head Chicken Wrangler' role and began to chase the hens around the barn yard. In Steve's mind, he was a lion after the kill.

Now Darling and the Desperate Horsewife forgot about rustling up chickens and instead began chasing after cats, for by now Steve's brother, Bob, had joined the fun. Kicking up feathers as well as dust, the two cats, two farm divas and five hens must have been quite a sight. The cats eventually captured, Darling packed one under each arm back to the house as the Desperate Horsewife finally coaxed her hens with some feed back into their home.

Covered in sweat, dirt, and a feather sticking out of her curly hair, one has to wonder if farm fresh eggs will be worth all this trouble.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wild Spots

Pony Girl commented yesterday that she'd never realized there were wild Appaloosas out there, so I thought I'd post a few photos. The Warm Springs herd is known as the "Appy Herd", although you'll find the coat pattern scattered about in other HMAs as well. Jet, my black mare, was from Warm Springs but didn't have the appy coat pattern.

The mare in the top photo shows the typical Appaloosa sclera around her eye. Her color is known as a champagne dilute. This was still a bit of her winter coat; I'd love to see her now and see what she looks like today.

In the photo below, you can see a very old style Appaloosa. Poor little thing had a mane that stood straigh up in the air. And her tail? Well....

Yup...scrawny little rat tail!

The mares in these photos were all at the Monroe adoption in 2007. There wasn't a huge amount of color, but it does show the Appaloosa characteristics in a number of them. As I said, though, you can find Appies in a variety of places. The stallion below was gathered from Jackie's Butte in '07. No rat tail for this boy!

With HMAs gathered roughly every 4-5 years (depending on funding, of course, as well as range conditions), the Warm Springs horses may be coming up again before too long. Perhaps by then I can enable help Pony Girl find her dream mustang?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sage, Salt, and...what's in that Photo?

Alvord Desert Salt Flats

The Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in Oregon are spread out over several miles throughout the southeastern part of the state. Rolling hills, high buttes and deep valleys, with nothing but sage brush and a few sparse juniper trees cover the landscape. From atop a high hill you can see the great nothingness of Harney County.

Darling was excited as we headed towards Foster Flat when she spotted the great salt flats of the Alvord Desert. Next trip, we'll head that direction.

A place Darling and I had always wanted to visit but so far had not, was the Burns Cemetery. Always a great place for exploring old headstones and local history, this particular trip yielded another little something to capture our attention.

Known to the locals as Sage Rats, there were little ground squirrels darting in and out of holes and sage as we walked. My friend Andi happened to call while Darling was busy photographing these cousins of the prairie dog. I wanted to catch one for a pet. Andi said that was a great idea. I asked how to go about it. She offered a .22. Ha ha, Andi. I didn't bring a gun with me, so I guess we'll just have to settle for shooting with the camera.

Seriously...I think I need one!

It's a 550 mile drive from Burns to home. With our slow start visiting the cemetery, the wild horse corrals, and our stop to vacuum out City Boy's car (no, I was not spilling potato chips all over the place...why do you ask, City Boy?) it was nearly 9:00 by the time we drug our weary but happy bodies back into our own little house in the pacific NorthWET and placed the little bitty Scan Disk from the camera into the computer. And what, do you suppose, were those shadows so far out in that desert?

Warm Springs Appaloosas

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our Visit to the Rough String, Continued

Darling and I headed back down the mountain road, disappointed at not getting any close up and personal experiences this time around with wild horses. Second guessing, we wondered if we ought to have gone up to the South Steens instead in an effort to find Dibs, Honor and the Old Dun.

Eyes ever peeled for dead things, Darling spotted this bone hanging from a fence post. For whatever reason, Darling seems to enjoy playing with dead things. The bone found it's way into the trunk and has joined the horse skull we hauled home two years ago.

Later in the afternoon we met up with Andi at her place for a nice visit. We got to meet her new little calf, went out through the sage in search of a turkey hen who's gone missing (undoubtedly hiding her new clutch of chicks), and of course scratched a few horses behind the ears. Darling practiced her creative photography skills while we were there.

There was so much we wanted to do, but our one day in the sun was coming to an end. The clouds were gathering and an electrical storm was brewing. Lightning bolts were striking; this isn't something we see often up here in our little wooded corner of the world. Darling loved it, I felt like a dog looking for cover. We rushed back to the hotel, the dust on poor City Boy's car turning to streaks of mud along the way.

Sunday morning we rose, packed up our handful of belongings and headed back up highway 20. Timed right, we'd be there while the part time weekend staff was out feeding at the corrals. It's been nearly six months since picking up Steve Holt!, and mares have begun to foal.

This little guy has no tag on his neck yet; I suspect he was a Memorial Day weekend baby.

Um...he followed me home?
No, he didn't, but I'd have liked to have stuffed him in my trunk!

Very attractive bay mare look ready to foal.

This guy was very appealing. Look at those feet!
He'd likely go forever up in the mountains.

The drive back north was uneventful. Sun shining down through our sunroof, Darling bundled up in the blanket about halfway home in an effort to avoid listening to me singing to Rascal Flatts. We hated leaving, but were anxious to get home and see our not so wild any more ponies back here.

Plus...we had a photo to look at on the computer. We still didn't know if we'd seen horses or shadows up on the ridge in Warm Springs.

Our Visit to the R

Monday, May 25, 2009

Visiting the Rough String

Gtyyup and her Man

Darling and I decided to go for a drive Friday morning. She had a four day weekend, the sun was shining, and really...what better way to spend it than driving ten hours in a car? Yeah, okay, well we could have been riding. But hey, in our defense, it'd been nearly six months since we'd been 'home on the range', and with our summer months booked until August, just couldn't be helped!

We were halfway there when I called our friend, Andi, to see what she was up to this weekend. Seemed there was a high desert cutting going on, so after a good night's sleep we drove up to Dry Creek Ranch where we surprised Karen of Life On The Rough String. Though we'd never met in person, I was able to pick her out of the crowd pretty easily. I thought I recognized her from her self portrait in Sunday Stills, and I was pretty certain that was Colt she was perched upon. Of course, once I spotted the backside of her saddle there was no question left as to who she was.

Karen wasn't competing that day, but working turnback and getting Colt used to the goings on of a competition. Wendy, however, was. Who's Wendy? She's one of the BLM wranglers. Among the string of Quarter Horses she and her husband brought up to ride was Houdini.

Houdini is a big, stout mustang gelding from Warm Springs. Wendy uses him at the corrals, plus does women's rodeo (roping, I believe) and obviously cutting. On Saturday, they won two of the three classes they entered.

Andi had told us she'd seen a herd of spotted butts going over the hill on her way up into the Steens early Saturday morning, but despite our attempts at locating them that afternoon, we seemed destined to go home without even a glimpse. Making our way back down the long, dusty road I caught a flash of something way out in the distance, barely visible with the naked eye. I pulled out the camera and it's 70-300 lens, using it as a spotting scope. Darling and I took turns peering through it, unsure if what we were seeing were just shadows and sunlight upon the sage or Appaloosas in the distance. The only way we would know for sure was to snap a photo and enlarge it on the computer screen once we returned home...

Friday, May 22, 2009


Such a sweet face...

Inside such a fearful, reactive body!

Granted, she's not been worked quite as much as Empire...then again, maybe she has? But I asked Darling to step back and let me do some work with this one. So glad she's only a yearling and not a full grown, fire breathing dragon! This is the most reactive horse we've had here. In the photos she's reacting to being touched with the long pole.

In the beginning, standing in the pens at the adoption, we questioned whether this filly was even well. She was aloof, standing with her head droopy and not very attentive to what was going on around her. Darling had drawn for the number around Empire's neck, but selected Avalon as her second yearling to work with. I don't think anyone expected her to be so reactive.

Avalon is very co-dependent. She struggles to be away from other horses, even walking across the paddock can be a challenge. She's done well in overcoming some of that, but when I went to load her the other morning into the trailer, she began rearing, striking, and bucking. Very dangerous. When Darling got home I told her I thought it best if I worked with Avalon for a couple of days, just until she stopped this behavior.

So Darling stood at the rail with the camera as I lead Avalon around, rubbed her back and neck, then began desensitizing with the pole. She wasn't too concerned about the pole on her back; we'd done that early on. But as I moved it to her chest there was a wild, explosive reaction as the filly reared and struck out with all her might. I stuck with it until the reactions slowed down and were not so furious, eventually letting it rest on her back again, and then leaving the pole all together and rubbing and patting with my hand. She was relieved to be done with the pole, shaking slightly but very willing to stay close to me and let me touch her sides and chest. On that good note, we finished.


Correction to yesterday's post! It would take 20 years (not four) for the current population of wild horses to increase to over 400,000.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

BLM~ Friend Or Foe?

I get the question a lot. "Why does the BLM feel they need to round up those horses? I see fat horses running wild in photos, and skinny horses in corrals."

And you know...sometimes that's true. Take, for example, the mare and foal above. If I were to tell you to compare that mare with the horses you see below, you'd be aghast. And people who love to hate the BLM won't give you a lick of information other than that.

The truth is, that mare was part of an emergency gather last fall. Originally slated to be brought in were the South Steens horses. But a quick change was made when it was apparent that the Coyote Lakes/Alvord Tule and Sheepshead horses were going into the winter with relatively little flesh on their bones. Mares were giving all they had to their foals and with severe drought conditions in their area, the chances of survival through the winter were not nearly as good as those mares in South Steens, pictured above.

So yes, sometimes you'll see thin horses at the holding facilities. But sometimes you see them at rescue facilities, too. Best to find the story behind the photos.

Next question is always, "Why do they let the ranchers use our public lands? If they just stopped letting the cattle graze it down, the horses would have enough to survive!"

Wrong again, Grasshopper. First off, cattle ranchers have had contracts long before the wild horses were protected. That's not going to change, so we need to just move on and consider a new solution. Why? Well, because the ranchers are only allotted so much time on the range anyway. Plus, when wild herds multiply at the rate of 100% every four years, the 33,000 that are out there now will be 420,000. In four years! Go ahead, move all the cattle and sheep off, but you're still going to be stuck with the same problem. Too many horses, not enough grazing land.

From where I sit, the folks at the BLM have an impossible job. They're stuck between two entities that each have extremely vocal members. It's important to remember that BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management...they manage the grasslands and ranges with the goal of always having enough forage for all who use it. Horses are not native, nor are cattle or sheep. Keeping things at a healthy level for native wildlife is of primary importance, and it's a constant balancing act when you've got to factor in what the public also wants. Unfortunately, we the people struggle to be united in this war of the rangelands.

I can honestly say there's not a simple solution. Many of the people I've gotten to know who work for the BLM in Oregon & Washington with the horses have a real passion for them. But like any organization, there will be those who are passionate and those who are in it for the money (aka, paycheck.) Take the thoroughbred industry; some folks love the horse, others love the win, race, show, and whatever happens to the horse is just a figure on their bottom line. There's good and bad in the mix, no matter where you go in the horse industry. It's not just a BLM issue. If it were, you wouldn't see so many horses neglected and starving, and rescues wouldn't be filled to the brim with domestic bred animals.

What it all boils down to, at least for me, is standing outside the fence and hollering that things need to change is unacceptable. If you want change, come on inside. Volunteer to put up posters for an adoption. Post a link from your blog or add a signature to your email. Consider adopting a mustang for yourself, or sponsoring one at a rescue. Join a mustang organization such as AMBA. Make yourself accessible.

You know, a month or so I ago I'd absolutely had it with being spammed here by Madeleine Pickens. Oh, it probably wasn't her, just one of her trolls. Here she sits, money to burn, yet she wanted a contract and to be paid by the BLM to offer the horses a home. Good grief...that's what they're doing now! Any of you who's ever adopted or donated has done more to help the plight of the mustang than Madeleine has done. She can afford to take a couple thousand horses and have cash left over, while many of us pour every last cent into a horse or two and wear second hand jeans so we can afford it.

Okay, now I'm rambling. Hopefully knowing just how passionate I am about my mustangs will help you realize that I wouldn't be sitting here defending gathers and range management if I didn't think it needed to be done. Those that I know are a great group of folks. They rejoice when there's a successful adoption, cry when there's a life lost, and admire the spirit within. Basically, they're just like us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Ride...and June Bug needs Sponsors

I'd like to introduce you to June Bug. She's a four year old mustang mare who was bred in the wild, born in captivity. Like many mustangs, she's very curious and just a wee bit of a pocket pony. Or pest, as the case happens to be. It's unfortunate that June Bug hasn't been taught to respect the space of her human companions, something that has made her just a bit dangerous for those who are not horse savvy. I've been asked by Second Chance Ranch if I could help them out and give June Bug some manners as well as attempt to find her a home.

She's so cute!

If you'd be interested in sponsoring June Bug, you can paypal your tax deductible donation to


Darling grabbed this shot of Sandy munching on this lovely spring day in May

It was a lovely trail ride that Sandy and I went on the other morning. We were gone for two hours with our new friend, Liz. Although my back felt a bit fatigued by the end of the day, it was counter balanced by wading through a shallow river (to be honest, no different than our full creek) and traversing wooden bridges. Sandy's been full of energy, what with Darling doing all this trotting about in her little English saddle, that he barely turned a wet hair. And then, it was only beneath the saddle. Liz and I are planning on getting out again next week. There's to be a competitive trail ride down there next month, or so I've heard, and I'd like to get both Sandy and Steve Holt! legged up and in shape.

Speaking of Steve Holt!, he had himself a bit of a workout yesterday. I hauled down to Curt's where we began our ride in the round pen just to be sure he wasn't going to have a mental lapse. After it was apparent that he was on the right track, it was off to the arena where we had a bit of a refresher as to where we carried our head under saddle. But aside from some lookie loo moments, he worked very well and even dropped his head and kept a slow, steady gait at the lope for me. Truly amazing considering he was lucky to have had 70 rides on him prior to his 7 week vacation!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Did It!

Click to Mix and Solve
Darling's Watercolor

"Here's my halter! Take me with you!"

Steve Holt! has been pacing the paddock and crying each time he sees the horse trailer getting ready to go somewhere. I've begun hauling him alongside Sandy up to the riding club in order to get our groundwork underway again before climbing back on. The last couple of rides on Sandy have indicated my back is ready, so it's simply a matter of making sure there are no loose threads after this seven week vacation.

"I'll be good...I promise!"
Last night Froglander came up and gave Darling a riding lesson. No time like the present to climb on my boy, I decided. I had two people there to pick up the pieces and dial 911 if needed. A couple other trainers had given their horses a month off after returning home from Expo and found they were starting all over again. One said it was as though his horse hadn't even been started. I doubted that was going to happen with Steve Holt!, but wasn't planning on being alone should last months buck be a new phase of his personality I'd not met up with.

As it turned out, I climbed on a horse who'd had a vacation, but was ready to go back to work. He didn't want to pick up the lope to the left and got a bit cranky, but in the end I won that battle, along with the mental battle over images of falling that had been in the back of my mind.

So it's been done. First ride after a far too long vacation. Walk, trot and lope in the round pen, both directions, without incident. I'm about to head off with Sandy as we're meeting up with Latigo Liz for a trail ride this morning, but Steve Holt! will find himself back under saddle again tonight. And tomorrow he's heading to Curt's where we'll ride a bit more.

Now, might I direct your attention to the adorable little filly below? No bids. Why? I do not know. The wrangler comments are "Great disposition, quiet but attentive". So why no bids? She's cute! You need her!

More Oregon Internet Adoption Horses

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wild Eyes on Sunday

Our photo assignment for Sunday Stills this week was Eyes, and for me this was almost as wonderful as shooting barns.

Empire, one of Darling's two new yearlings for the YAY program, has the most incredible eyelashes ever. Photographing them was not easy, however, as she did not want to stand still. It was either run to the other side of the paddock to show off for the boys (they learn early, these wild girls!), or come stand on my toes, pushing her face right up into the camera and fogging the lens.

Of course...I had to include my own, no, I didn't alter my middle aged skin in photoshop...why would you think that? (Whistles as she moves on to the next photo...)

Last year I took on a total of five TIP horses. That would stand for Trainer Incentive Program; I receive grant money if I can find homes for mustangs while they're here being gentled. One of those horses was a stout gelding who's called Cheveyo. Naturally, all us horse owners who hold cameras in our hands simply must use them to capture pony eyes, and you know I'm a sucker for wasting time spending dedicated hours learning new skills on photoshop. Veyo was my victim here.

Now if you'll excuse me, the sun is shining and I'm going to hit the trail nice and early before heading out for our mustang meeting. Hope y'all have a beautiful Sunday!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let's Do Lunch!

This coming Sunday there is a meeting to which you are invited. It's the Northwest Region Wild Horse and Burro Association. Or club, depending on my mood and how formal I want to sound.

Basically, a handful of mustang enthusiasts who gather for a good meal and discussion on how to promote wild horse adoption in our region.

Right now we're working on the Youth & Yearlings program. Nine little punks young trainers went home a few weeks ago with yearlings and will be coming back to the youth show in July to strut their stuff. We're after sponsors for the classes. Off up $25 and you could be a celebrity for, oh, say 10 seconds when we announce your name over the PA system as the ribbons are being passed out.

Okay...longer than ten seconds, because we'll also list you in the program. Truly much more than 15 minutes of fame, and all for $25. Who says money can't buy you celebrity status?

Really? You knew you could buy it? Well, maybe...but you probably didn't realize it was so affordable, did you!

We'll also be discussing the upcoming National Wild Horse Adoption Day. Yes, that's right. There's been a special day set aside and a goal set of adopting out 1000 horses nationwide on that day. Or at least in the month of September.

Here's my challenge to y'all out there in equine land. Here in WA our club has set a goal of finding 50 homes for wild horses that month. If you live here, we could use your help in achieving that goal. If you live in another state? I dare you to out do us! Hit us with your best shot!

So seriously, if you're in NW WA...or anywhere else within driving distance, and you'd like to come join us, just pop me an email and we'll do lunch! Of course, consuming enormously large amounts of food and beverages is a must if you're planning on attending. Mostly because it'll make me feel better about all that I'll be shoveling into my mouth and the waddling I do on my way out. Much better to waddle in numbers, wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blogger's Wild Road Trip, Anyone?

The old dun featured on my blog header and background had quite the injury.

You know, of course, it doesn't take much to convince me. A comment left over at Pony Girl's blog got me to thinking...maybe we need to make a road trip! To Oregon, of course, for a wild horse photography vacation.

Yes? You agree?

I'm certain Darling wouldn't mind an opportunity to visit with Dibs again.

Perhaps we'll spot his big brother again, too!

The ever elusive, on guard Sox paced the top of the ridge in December when he spotted us.

And Honor...such a strikingly handsome boy.

My friend Lea emailed me tonight, upset over an article she'd read in Western Horseman. Seems someone said that mustangs are feral scrubs that no one wants, and that there is no such thing as the American Mustang. Guess I'm proud to be a no one! I'll be heading out to pick up a copy and certainly be writing a letter to the editor. If you're proud to be a no one as well, why not write as well!

Itching to ride and Another cutie overlooked

Steve Holt! is tired of vacation

Yesterday, Darling and I hauled Sandy and Steve Holt! up to the riding club where she rode and I hung out with my boy. He's beginning to get bored with no job, and it was all I could do to keep myself out of the saddle. My back still has a small sore spot which gives me little to no problem for the most part, but Steve Holt! is a big mover, and you may recall when I first climbed on board in January I could feel every hoof hit the ground for a solid month. So I'm determined to try to take this journey back into his saddle slow.

I'll likely fail. I'm good at failing things like this. Little tests of patience and such. Enough pain pills and it'll all be okay...right? Sure, it will! I hopped on Sandy's back a couple times last week without any issues, so the plan for the next few days is to work Steve Holt! from the ground, put a few more rides on Sandy to limber myself up, then back into my new saddle on a mustang who's now had as much time off as he had rides on him before our set backs.

Now you tell me, does this mare have Sandy's smiling eye, or what??? Why is no one bidding on such a good girl? I may have to bring her home. (Shhh...dont' read that part, City Boy!) Four years old and approx. 15.1, she's a decent sized girl. And she comes from Coyote Lakes, so perhaps she's related to Quiet Storm?

Again, the offer still stands. Any of the Oregon horses who are left after the adoption, I'd be happy to pick up for you and do the gentling if you'd like to adopt them. Let's find these lovelies homes!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wild Weekend

This weekend City Boy loaded up his family and hauled us over the mountain for a non-horsey day in Winthrop. The drive was lovely, as evidenced by the above photo, although the top of the pass still had plenty of snow. 6' pushed off to the sides in some spots! And while we did hit cloud cover and sprinkles driving down the other side, by the time we got to town it was lovely out once more.

Unbeknown to us, there was some sort of festivity taking place just outside of town, where tents were pitched and mountain men were hawking their wares.

Darling liked the looks of this hat, but with the lowest priced chapeaus starting at $100, we passed on that and purchased her a few scraps of fur instead with which to create her own, including a little skunk tail as well as his itty bitty face. We think she'll make a lovely little stinker.

Darling and Avalon struggled to bond at home.

Avalon has made great strides this past week. Great for Avalon, that is. On Friday morning I decided she needed to be at Greenhill where it would be easier to work her. Rains have been pelting us here and the paddocks a soggy mess once again, making it difficult to work a horse still dragging a lead rope around.

While her leading skills are not great, Avalon's following skills were good enough to get her into the horse trailer with no hesitation, and before she knew it she was at her new temporary home. Avalon is very insecure, so it's been good for her to learn she doesn't need to worry when people wander in and out of the barn. Over the course of the weekend we've been able to start turning her out into the big paddocks along with Empire and Goody, an old Thoroughbred mare who acts as baby sitter. Not surprisingly, when put into this new situation Avalon has become much easier to reach out and touch. She can even go ropeless because she comes straight up to us when we walk into the pasture. Still a little jumpy, she at least is allowing Darling to handle her a little more each day.

Empire has some play time in the paddock.

Empire, by stark contrast, is more than ready to go to work each day. She's thrilled with people coming to visit and has learned to trot with a bit of coaxing while on the lead. Darling hauled her to the Laurel Farm open House last weekend (below) as well as the riding club where she practiced walking over poles. A little pushy and impatient, Empire does need to work on her willingness to stand quietly, but she's a cute little filly with a lot of personality.

Darling introduces Empire to new faces at Laurel's open house.