Sunday, November 28, 2010

Working in Black and White

I'll bet you thought I'd be talking about Lefty. Trying to get some good sepia works going with photos taken on trips to the wild horse corrals this year. Not sure what to think of my efforts. Your thoughts? Do these do anything for you?




Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tis the Season...

...for you to shop!

Unless you're going the Ba Humbug route this year, of course. And I can certainly relate to that feeling, what with the snow turned to ice rink deal we've got going here. No driving to the mall or feed store or tack shop for me, I'm afraid. I'll sit right here and wish I had a remote control stall cleaning system that would pick up the frozen piles that have accumulated overnight.


Despite not being able to hop in my little black Ranger and head to the chaos known as town, I'm assured that I'm still able to go Christmas shopping. City Boy loves to shop online...I swear the internet was developed just for men so that they didn't need to go networking at Macy's.during the holiday season. My grandmother, for years, has shopped from catalogs and her telephone...not to mention Television shows such as QVC. But me? I head to town and fight the throngs and swim like a fish upstream in effort to grab that $10 DVD player, which ironically I have no need for, not to mention anyone to give it to.

But not this year. This year I'm sitting here at my keyboard, wondering where I can find a 1200D waterproof (or at least resistant) blanket with a belly band that will fit Steve Holt!. Oh...and it must not cost more than an arm and a leg. Or worse...rendered duck fat. Exactly where does one shop for rendered duck fat? Help me out with those two items and I'll be ever so grateful.

In return, I'll send you here, where you can shop for gifts for the entire family (and, naturally, feed a wild horse while you're at it!) Everything from holiday cards and calendars (which everyone can use) to thermos' and mugs sporting photos of Oregon's wild horses. It's pretty cool stuff, really! And you don't need to traipse around in the snow or ice, or fight unruly crowds of angry shoppers to get there.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Summit of the Horse

“Now is the time for all of those who care deeply about the land and the horse, to come together as ethical and moral horse people, and find ways to address ignorance and a lack of understanding by activists and policy makers.”

Workshop to help stimulate the equine economy?

Control Excess Wild & Feral Horses: Deal with Unwanted, Abandoned and Neglected Horses on All Lands.

Or an Unholy Alliance?

Stand up. Speak out. Be heard.

January 3-6 is Summit of the Horse, sponsored by United Horsemen.

"There are some that want to believe that this organization is all about slaughter, that is simply not true," says Dave Duquette, who is co-organizing the event, along with Sue Wallis.

Rep. Sue Wallis (WY) is a well known slaughter proponent. Along with Duquette, they have put together this four day event in Las Vegas to speak on a variety of issues facing the equine industry.

No one, I don't think, can argue that there is a huge increase in neglected and abandoned horses due to the current economy. Whether you want to blame the closure of slaughter houses as a contributing factor or not, abuse and abandonment are definitely an issue. I was speaking with the Animal Control officer in the county to the south of me one day, who said that originally she'd been cheering the anti-slaughter movement. But now? Now she wishes there were a more humane end for the sudden influx of horses she's dealing with.

'Clairol' and friend, Sale Authority mares who sparked my desire to start Mustang U

This month, both Range Magazine and Western Horseman have articles on wild horse management (check out page 5 of's Dibs!) Both are very practical, though despite my pro-gather stance, I found myself wincing at the boldness of those who felt the mustang a menace. I understand it...truly I do...who wants to have feral horses wandering down highways or standing beneath street lights in the suburbs?

But there is a value in the mustang's freedom that cannot be denied. Who's heart doesn't beat even just a wee bit faster when they catch sight of those who are truly wild and free? They are not only a symbol of our western heritage, but represent what so many of wish we could be. When a nation is feeling the effects of a down turned economy, feeling pressure from all sides with little hope, it's a good feeling to know that somewhere, even if it's on the drought ridden ranges of the west, the American dream still lives.

Juniper gets a little assistance from an older colt up on the South Steens HMA

So how do we balance it all? How do we create space on the range for family ranches who've had contracts for longer than horses have been protected? How do we keep wild horses inside their boundaries, and not destroying private property?

Is it right for people who do not live this first hand...those in Hollywood or nestled into an apartment in upper make life altering choices for those in the west?

And is it possible, even in the least, to have humane slaughter? I look out my window and know for certain that had I not picked up Tika, she would be one of those candidates, as would the Paisley Desert pinto mare. And out there, somewhere in Oklahoma, is a beauty known here as Clairol...or Beaty's Beauty...who's life may hang in the balance.


But despite my trembling heart regarding these horses that I know and love, I'm a firm believer that slaughter can be made humane. As someone who raises a lot of their own food, I know that I wouldn't want my lambs or pig to be hauled several hours, crammed into a trailer or truck across the state, let alone the nation. Yet for some reason, this is what faced our horses. I know for a fact that if I were able to haul my horse directly to the same facility that I've taken my other animals to, that they'd be treated well and their death would be equally as humane as euthanasia (I've seen that go terribly wrong, I'm sad to say.)

I don't know that I could ever haul one of my own horses to such a place. I don't know that, if slaughter were reinstated, it would be any better than it was before. Either way, it will be interesting to see how this summit impacts not just slaughter and the domestic horse, but America's Living Legends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunset Valley

I live in a valley, but I do not see sunsets. To the east is a large hill which, in the winter, delays the sun in it's morning appearance until 10 am. And by 3:00 in the afternoon it has slipped again from view, this time behind the treetops to the southwest of the house. Sunrise, sunset...sunrise, sunset...we never see either here. Not in a glorious blaze of color, that is.

I imagine, however, if I were to live on a road called Sunset Valley Lane, that things would be different...wouldn't you? I mean, would you name something Sunset Valley, if you couldn't see a sunset? Which is why, despite City Boy finding a near beating heart at the top of the ridge, nestled up against a bottle of beer, which in turn was leaning against a makeshift cross made of old, tattered silk flowers, I believe I just may want to live here.

Plus, it would shave 11.5 hours off my driving time to see the wild horses. Not that this is a motivating factor...


The home sits at the top of a knoll, surrounded by trees of all shapes, sizes and colors.


A most adorable little cabin sits alongside an old cattle chute. Perfect for the occasional overnight guest, don't you think?


The property includes 440 acres...its' long and, well, narrow by Harney County standards. It stretches roughly a half mile out behind the home. Be still, my still...


The silo has been converted into...guess what? A tack room! Perfect. Blissfully so.


Corrals and chutes are made of board and what I am assuming is juniper log (very prevalent in this region.)

No, I never did see a sunset while I was there...but to be fair, it was 4 in the afternoon. And there was sun... Sure, the current weather conditions for the region are a whopping -8 this morning, and that is without the windchill...but don't you think it's a fair trade off for land stretching a half mile...and sunsets?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beauty and the Punk

We've been hit with a winter blast...and it's not even Thanksgiving yet! My timbers are shivering...I need long underwear. Or maybe it's time to pull out the winter coveralls?


When I climbed out of bed this morning (4:30 am, I do not know why I was up at such an un-Godly hour) my thermometer said 11 degrees. Can we say cold? I think we can.

For some odd reason, my horses do not feel the cold. Maybe it's all those middle of the night feedings I've been doing, adding grass hay to their usual 2 flakes a day alfalfa diet to help them stay warm on these frost bitten days. I decided to turn Tika and Paisley out yesterday for a bit. I led Paisley through the round pen gate, and before I could close it behind me, she shot out across the frozen ground...lead rope flying out behind her. Sigh...


Wasn't long before Tika joined her...Beauty and the Punk, dancing around on the frosty ground. Crazy mustangs.


I grabbed a few shots...and came inside for my hot chocolate and contemplated why my horses felt like celebrating, and I felt like hibernating.


They're wearing their blankets, and I'm wearing a sweatshirt and my heavy coat, scarf and gloves. Without my layers? I'd be frozen just as solid as the water buckets. But not my mustangs...


They fly and dance and carry on like it's summer on the beach. Which it is not. It's winter, and ice covers the ground, and I'm worried about breaking a leg as I walk across the same ground that they feel is a raceway.


Someone once told me that if you don't shave your legs, they'll stay warmer in winter. Maybe that's the trick? My horses don't shave their legs...and look at all the energy they have! This is something I may have to think on a bit as I sit inside and sip my hot chocolate...


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Warm Springs Gather

Two posts today, as I just spotted my friend Maggie's recount of the Warm Springs gather. Two lies being told include the roping and dragging of a foal, and the death of the 'blue roan stallion'.

Commentary below photos are by Maggie, who was present during Saturday's event.

The foal that got separated on the hill, coming in pretty much by himself. No whips, absolutely not one moment of dragging. It took 41 minutes to get him from the top of the hill in to the catch area and he is now with his herd.

The foal did come in quietly and not appearing to be stressed and never dragged.

The helicopter holding the herd in while the guys close the gate. The bay roan mare (called blue roan stallion by media) remains fairly calm, no flags no whips. The helicopter leaves the second the gate is closed. When she needed to move over so they could bring in more horses is when she tried to make her escape. Very sad and very unexpected.

Bay roan mare, no panic, no sweat...watching them close the gate. Never did we see whips, abusive flagging....the loss of the mare devastated even the wranglers. You could see in their body language, they were affected just as we were.

She seemed calm until she needed to move over for the next horses to enter. The crowd of guys on the right are trying to close the gait. No flags, no whips, no panic at this time.

Because most of what you see on 'Advocate' sites is a lot of negativity and sensationalism (if not downright lies), I felt it important for those of you who read my blog and are concerned for the welfare of these animals to witness the passive, quiet and tranquil moments as well. A foal quietly walking down a hill (not roped and drug as has been said), and a mare who appeared to be just as settled as the rest of the horses until her moment of panic.

There is a video that claims the pilot hit a horse as well, but it was a horse jumping up in front of the helicopter, not a pilot running into a horse. Other video footage always shows a well trained pilot who moves livestock for a living and knows how to minimalism the dangers by keeping a safe distance, while also putting pressure on when needed. Nothing else I've seen has shown contact...I believe it was simply a matter of the camera angle in the one video by the Animal Rescue Unit.

I was asked in a comment last week about the BLM's plan to zero out all HMAs except for a select few. I've done some asking around, and there is an element of truth to this story. There had been a suggestion earlier this year to keep only 'treasured' herds, such as Pryor and Kiger, but that didn't appear to have a whole lot of support and the idea has been dropped.

Took Awhile

Couldn't watch it for awhile. Darling scolded me.
"I had to edit it...the least you could do is watch it."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Darling edited this video I shot over the last couple of visits to Oregon

I've been hauling Tika to the riding club to work with her while Darling rides. She's been a frantic mess, and I have no clue as to why. On top of that, while working her in the round pen I noticed something that I'd nearly forgotten...a funny mis-step in her hind end as she trotted around. I'm not exactly sure what the deal is, but wonder if it's scar tissue from her entanglement in barbed wire? It was odd...she'd be trotting then suddenly her hind end would drop out from under her. It happened both directions...

I mentioned it to Darling, who wasn't happy to hear. She's been pestering me to just get busy and get up on that horse already. Well, I've been on her, haven't I? Plenty of times. I was thinking that after a week of consistent work I'd grab my good friend Roz and have her pony me. But now...what was this nervous bit about? And what is the whole back end issue thing about?

The following day, Darling was sitting on Steve Holt! as I was working Tika. "What!?" She exclaimed. "You saw that?" I asked. She nodded. So it wasn't my imagination...Tika has an issue. more issue than the others she's already packing along.


Tika's scars are on both hind legs, as well as one foreleg.

While I'm trying to figure a plan of action for the red headed fury, I'm also needing to get busy with Lefty. With the trips to Oregon here of late, I've not spent a good amount of time with anyone here, and the big boy really needs to get going. So that's what we did. We went. I loaded him up today and hauled out to the riding club. I was met with 4 other horse trailers there, however, and a severe lack of time to attempt to fight that much distraction. I opened the trailer door, though, and allowed the backward facing boy to stand and munch on hay while I stood in the parking lot talking to Roz for a bit. Good for him to learn to stand patiently and not worry about doors opening to unfamiliar scenes.

Upon arriving back home, the winter daylight was fading and we unloaded into a fairly dark driveway. Lefty did fine, stepping out carefully and slowly, then leading nicely to the barn. Certainly not a difficult work out, but it's good for him to travel without added stress of workouts now and then.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living Off The Land

Up on the South Steens, horses are plump and happy. Yet over at Warm Springs they're barely getting by. Heading into winter, we want our horses to have a heavy enough later of fat on them to protect them from the bitter cold of winter. If you live in a cold region where the winds howl, you know what it's like to feel the frigid air, and frostbite is a real concern.


The old stallion, often referred to as One Ear Jack, knows what it's like to live in a harsh winter climate. Frostbite had caused the loss of half an ear. This is not uncommon among wild horses. Last year a mare was gathered that had just two little nubs the size of bunny tails where her ears should have been.

The terrain plays a big role in what a wild horse looks like going into winter. On the South Steens, grass is abundant, even as late as our trip in early November. A late fall warm streak helped a surge of new grass to burst forth in addition to the longer, yellow grasses of late summer. While the yellow grass lacks nutrition, it still is a good source of forage. And the South Steens horses were gathered just a year ago, dropping their number down to roughly 150 horses, less than a third of what had been here a year earlier.

South Steens

Meanwhile, down the mountain near Foster Flat, the horses at Warm Springs are struggling. Some carry enough flesh to be considered in good condition by our domestic horse standards. But take into consideration that our domestics will likely have feed in front of them all winter, are provided with shelter and often blankets to help them stay warm, and you (should) begin to see that being 'perfect' in weight may be an issue a couple months into winter.

On Warm Springs the grass is yellow, but not tall. There isn't the green that you see on the South Steens. The sage brush is over six feet high and plentiful in some areas. The horses haven't been gathered in four years and their population on this barren land is currently over 500.


Further on down the road, across the valley and near the Palomino Butte HMA, horses as well as other livestock and wildlife find themselves munching their way around deposits of soda ash, a result of soil heavy in alkali.


It is important for us to realize just what these horses go through on a daily see the big picture, if you will...when we try to make decisions concerning whether or not it's humane to gather. When horses start coming in looking like those we've seen from Warm Springs (posted yesterday), we need to weigh the options. Leaving them alone would create an even greater number of horses...can the land truly sustain them? Even if we took off all the long would it last?



Someone from the BLM read my blog yesterday. Dog gone it. Now they know I'm secretly harboring horses out there. Well, you know what that means. Gotta go gather them all up and move them home with me! Oh, City Boy...I have the BESTEST news...


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome to the Quarter Horse Diaries!

No, didn't get misdirected. Nor were we hacked. This is the new face! Yes, indeed. I felt it was time to come clean and confess...I've been hiding Quarter Horses on public lands! Letting them graze among the wild ones so I could take nice, romantic photos, and letting them get fat while the mustangs (whom everyone knows exist on air and sage brush) keep fit and trim. Mmmm~hmm...that's right.

Oye Vey, what a day yesterday! Honestly, some folks just make me laugh at their nonsense. Never been to see wild horses, never been to a gather, never been to the corrals...yet they're suddenly experts because someone else tells them this is the way it is. And honestly...saying that mare looks like a fit endurance horse and that I'm used to seeing plump quarter horses? Come on, ladies, you can do better than that!


Well, at any rate, the rest of you should enjoy my 'quarter horses' that I've been hiding out there on the range, starting with this lovely bay! We'd not ever seen him before, but he sure was interested enough in us to pose, pose, pose! What a camera ham! Nearly as bad as Dibs has been in the past.


Traveling with him was another stallion, a pinto that was roaning out on his flanks. Definitely a looker...and plump!


Naturally, the Lady In Red had to visit her 'Paint' horse while we were there.


And look at what I found at the corrals! Gathered from Palomino Butte, I think she looks ever so much like my Miss Tika...don't you?

Of course, we know these can't be real mustangs, because they're too fat. And plump. So to please those of you who want to see 'fit' horses straight off the range, here ya go!


Yearling colt


roan mare


and our super fit endurance mustang...

With that, I promise we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming. I've got photos of the terrain, which helps explain why some HMAs have hefty ponies thriving, while others are gathered on the slim side to share.

And just for you Tika fans, you'll be happy to know she got to go for a ride to the arena tonight where she learned to wear a martingale. See? I'm still playing with my own pony :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Advocate, the new dirty word


Do you know people think it's a conspiracy? That the BLM is breeding horses in secret? That they're hauling them to Mexico for slaughter? That they're secretly running them to death with a helicopter and not telling us?

So here I sit on a hill full of sage among friends who have also come to witness the gather. We want to have the total experience, to know first had just how 'brutal' it is.

Except we don't see a single horse. The helicopter has returned several times to refuel, but horses are so far out that he never gets them to the trap sight.

Now on this trip we have an 'Advocate'. Someone who claims to be the voice of reason for the wild horses (this is what 'Advocates' claim.) She is now insinuating that the BLM ran the horses so hard that they were afraid to bring them all the way in. And you KNOW if the BLM had actually brought them in after 8 hours, she'd have complained that they'd run them 8 hours.

Darling has been told that Advocate is a dirty word. She is no longer allowed to use it.

Why people can't grasp the need for gathers is beyond me. Really, truly beyond me. I'm frustrated with photographers who only show the fat, healthy horses, but forget to show you the ones who are thin and struggling.


We were up at Warm Springs before dawn. It was chilly before the sun came out. The helicopter was about an hour behind schedule getting there. And for the most part, everyone was in a good mood on the hill. It was tedious...the waiting, that is. The helicopter came back to refuel a couple of times, and now and then we could hear his engine over the top of the hills. But we never saw horses.

There were only two viewing days, and each group of people could attend only one. It was nearly 4 when we were told they were calling it off on Friday since the pilot didn't want to push the horses any further. While we were disappointed, we were at least happy that the horses weren't over taxed. Well...most of us.

Maggie and Farrel were there on Saturday, and she's got photos as well as video that I'll get for you here in the next day or two. And while they were seeing horses gathered, Darling and I were up on the South Steens visiting with a few old friends.


We're heading home today after picking up Deb's new horses. Pictures...yes...I'll have some of those coming for you tomorrow. Wish us a safe journey home!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Packing Up, Heading Out!

Darling and I head out tonight in hopes of getting some insight into how wild horse gathers in Oregon are conducted. We'll be meeting friends Andi Harmon, author of Oregon's Living Legends, and photographer John Wheland (find him on flickr!) when we get there. Hope you're looking forward to the new photographs and video as much as we are!


And speaking of photographs...the new Mustang Diaries Calendar is ready to go on Cafe Press! Great photos and memories of horses on the South Steens.

It's been a slow week with the horses at home. Yesterday I let Paisley climb in and out of the horse trailer; I put some grain in there and she was more than happy to beat mom to the feed trough and claim it for herself!

Tika's mane has been detangled...and of course was immediately tangled again the next morning.

Lefty is Lefty. Sweet and amiable and following you like a puppy. Until the hose is drug past at watering time, that is, when he bounces into the air much like he did when the big red rubber ball bounced off from him in the video. We need to get over that.

Darling and Steve Holt! seem to be in a holding pattern. School is sucking up too much time. Guess that means I've got a horse to ride, after all, eh?

Well, then...the camera battery is charging and I'm very nearly finished packing. Hopefully someone loaded photoshop back onto the laptop. Stay tuned for gather updates. We'll be up on the mountain bright and early, giving you a front row seat when the Warm Springs appaloosa mustangs come in!