Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meet the Herd

I went out this morning with Beautiful--did more of the ten foot arm. She let me pet her for about ten minutes on one side--but had issues with the other. On her good side I was able to ease up on the pole and get within a couple of feet of her from the side to do the petting. So, I'm happy with the progress.

I've picked up the drag rope a couple of times, but she throws a fit and I don't hold onto it--I just figure she's not ready yet and I don't want to start something I'm not willing to finish.

She watches everything. If I'm out in the pasture with the other horses, I can always see her over there watching. She's curious and likes people. She'll stand by a group of people rather than by herself anytime. I've noticed that she really likes human/horse relationships through bars--maybe she's used to that after being at Burns for so long.

So, here is the rest of the herd. I'll paste their pictures in according to their herd order--which is also they order they eat in. LOL.



Shadow--18 year old Quarter Horse. Shadow is the head of the pack--as you can tell since he is a FATTY. You can point him down any trail and he'll get you through whatever comes your way. Arenas are another story. He is my husband, Mike's, horse.


Red: Red is a 28 year old Quarter Horse. He's been there, done that. He is rode a lot by the neighbor children at this point--for lessons and fun. Whenever there's a child's birthday party, he's the guy that gives the rides. He was my daughter, Shiloh's, first horse, and he's a great guy.



Cowgirl: Foundation Quarter Horse-4 years old. Shiloh has raised and trained this one. She's a solid horse, but still young. She used to be a great trail horse, but lately, since we've been taking jigging Cowboy along, she has started picking up on the jigging, too. It will something Shiloh works with her on for the summer.




C' ya: APHA-3 year old. C'ya is my baby. I've been working with her since last August. She had a lot of handling previously, and human bonding from birth, so she's about opposite a Mustang in every way.


Jasmine: 12 year old pony--she's another project since she has trust issues from way back. I adopted her in July and she's doing better all the time. I don't think it's the kind of thing that passes on from owner to owner, though. So, I hope to keep her for the rest of her life once I earn her trust.



Cowboy: 13 year old APHA Gelding. Cowboy is my guy. He was a stallion for the first part of his life--and produced one filly. When I got him he had issues jigging/prancing on the trail and had been through quite a few owners. I worked with him solidly for a year--almost every day and he largely got over it. However, a year and a half ago he suffered a P3 fracture in the hoof. It extended into his coffin joint. The rest period took until two months ago and we're still rehabilitating him. I'm supposed to ride him only at a walk, but since he has reverted to jigging/prancing, it makes it impossible to stick to that. However, he does great in arenas--as I've been taking him for dressage lessons.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Ten foot Arm

This is day 10 with our Mustang. I don't like the drag rope and halter on all the time, and I don't like not being able to get to a horse to doctor it, trim its feet, and groom. And, since Beautiful Girl is quite comfortable and has been since she moved in, I figured its time to step it up. Another blogger and Mustang owner, Nikki, suggested that I use a 10 foot pvc pipe with a sock attached and basically extend my arm so that it could touch her safely anywhere in the turnout. What a great suggestion. Here is how it worked for me. Yesterday I introduced the pvc and sock for the first time. Beautiful Girl did not like it. She kicked it, ran from it, and never really settled in to let me pet her with it. Also, I'd pulled the sock on tight, so there was no droopy part--this caused her to hit against the pipe a few times--which, though it didn't hurt her, may have contributed to her fear. I took the smallest sign of acceptance and called it quits for that day. Then today, I went out to do it again. The sock had become droopy. Beautiful Girl was again quite scared of it and didn't like it touching her. There was a lot of kicking it and running around--maybe 10 minutes max (not caught on tape)--then she stopped. It came seemingly out of nowhere, but she stopped and let me pet her with the pvc for about a minute or two. This may have been because I had started to touch her with the soft, drooping part of the sock rather than the hard PVC (something to remember if you're trying this for the first time). I quit and then fed her from my hand.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Beaty's Butte


Okay, Beatty Butte, Beaty Butte, Beaty's Butte--whichever it is, and I think it varies depending on person, here are some pictures of that area last summer--a month before Beautiful Girl was captured.

What desolate terrain. If a horse can survive there, it can survive anything!

Lately, with the cost of everything going up--especially hay--people are evaluating their herds more than ever. There has been a backlash against frivolous breeding--fugly horses with defects and what have you, but how can anyone question the value of the Mustang? It has proven its own value by surviving.

I was told by a friend who had a Connamera/Arab Cross, that the Irish Connameras were released every year to see which horses could survive, and only the ones who thrived in the rugged Irish wilderness were bred.

Why isn't this still the way we assign value?

I love all my horses, the ones who would survive in the wild and the ones who wouldn't, but you have to take your hats of to the Mustang. Maybe every "official" breed should have a bit of the wild horse introduced back into it from time to time. Don't you think?

******THANKS to Debby Jackson who sent me these pictures--she's an awesome BLM volunteer we met at the adoption. Here as an excerpt of her letter to me answering some of my questions.

If she is eating out of your hand already thats great. You are going to have one heck of a horse when you get done. Don't expect everything to come fast because even if it comes slow, in the end you will have a very trustworthy horse! The Bond is great! As for your questions, the other horses go back to Burns and will go to the next adoption in Pasco then any left over will go back to Burns and on to other adoptions in other states. There are walk up adoption also right at the pens in burns. The Beattys Butte herd we rounded up due to lack of water. Horses are usually gathered because of Lack of water, feed, overgrazeing the area, not only by horses but deer, and cattel as well, and to thin herds of over population.
I looked at property in that area and it is miles and miles of nothing. When they are rounded up in August it take several months to process several herds of horses before actual adopions that are usually starting in April. When the wildhorses are gathered, they are emediatly loaded into trucks by seperation of stallions, mares and baby mare pairs along with yearlings. Then at the pens they are further separeated if needed. Then processed which means vaccinated, branded, worming, doctored, and aged by teeth, and all this takes much time and paperwork before they can be adopted. As for the scar, it may have happened in the wild, or in the gathering of confusion?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Way to the Heart Is Through the Stomach?

First of all, yes, I'm going out today to clean up the manure piles in BG's turnout. That's embarassing--but what a great shot of her! The good news is that she's starting to do her business outside of the stall--as you can see. This is great because it keeps her stall cleaner.

I just want to get in there and groom her! But not yet.

Today we had a trail ride with our horses and when we brought the trailer around to pick them up, Beautiful Girl looked genuinely frightened. Every time I walked by her stall she jumped back. Hmmm...did she think I was coming to get her to take her away?

When we got back from the ride, she seemed lonely and came up to me in the outside stall without food. Then, I went and got some alfalfa and went into her run and fed her from my hand until it was all gone. I can't deny it--Beautiful Girl likes me better when I bring food.

I really want the halter and lead rope off of her. And, I'm wondering when I should take the lead rope up and start restraining her so that I can get close enough to touch. I could have done it several times, but I always stop myself because I don't want to lose her trust. I'm going to go read other blogs and see what other people have done.

update: I went out and stood with her and picked up her lead rope. She did fine until she decided to walk away and found that it was caught on my hand. Then she went a little wild, but I let her go peacefully. She came back in and ate out of my hand for about ten minutes and looked just fine.

The picture is of her today when we got back with the other horses. She was at high alert watching the horses unload.

Friday, May 23, 2008


At every point of training a horse we evaluate ourselves and the horses and what's happening between us. Eating hay out of your hand is great, especially if there is no trickery involved, but at some point she also has to know that just standing next to her is also an okay, safe thing.

Tonight I wanted to just be by her, her treat being, that if she stood still with me, I'd stop advancing and just be next to her. I did this until I was about two feet from her in a 12x12 stall with the exit open to her large 36'x30' run.

The 12x12 stall definitely makes her feel trapped, and I don't prefer to work in it, but it's where she wanted to be, and I felt safe enough.

At first she left the stall and I let her go out--followed--and she went back in. Eventually she settled to stay and let me be 4 -5 feet from her. We sat like that for a while, and then I advanced a foot, and a foot more later to the 2' distance. Then I left.

She's definitely frightened of me, especially when I advance toward her. Her instinct kicks in in fast and she moves away quickly. I think the good food is starting to have an effect on her, too. She's a little more lively.

You can see the change in her eye when I advance as opposed to when she relaxes. The look is almost blurry when she gets in that fright mode.

Patience. She is wild.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Is Her Story Til Now?

If only horses could talk--what a story these Mustangs would have.

Instead, we have to construct their stories out of what their bodies and their actions tell us.

Let me give you the information--and you can construct Beautiful Girl's Story.

She was rounded up in Beaty's Butte August 4, 2007. She was listed from 3-6 months--but she could be younger judging by her observed looks today. She lived at Burns from August until May 2008. She has a sewn up scar on her right hindquarter. She doesn't eat carrots, apples or grain. She likes to lie down in manure and she urinates by her feeding bucket. She has a sad eye--a been there, done that kind of attitude. I said earlier she pines for the herd, but I was wrong, she seems content to just observe them. She's super hungry--could eat all day if I let her. She's cautious, but not frightened. She seems relieved to be where she is, not wanting to get out.

I took a picture of her eye today--with the understanding that she's thinking about the camera--but I will tell you she didn't take a step back when I came up to take the picture, and she didn't seem at all nervous about it. So, what you're seeing the eye, is pretty close to what I see whenever I observe her.

So, what is Beautiful Girl's story?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Gentle--And I'm Starting to Like You


Same day, different story.

I cleaned her stall with her in it and she stayed in with me. She sniffed the wheelbarrow and the shovel and watched with open curiosity and calmness. A couple times she did shy away when I'd move too close or fast. And, I clucked at her to move away, too, so I wouldn't get kicked. I'm working on having her respect my space and know when she's invited in to my space.

I fed her from my hand in her stall, and she did very well with that. She seemed content to eat that way.

What a sweet filly.

Also, there is a scar on her top right hindquarter. It looks like it was stitched up at some point--maybe 2 months ago.


I'm Gentle--But I Still Don't Like You

This term--gentling--what does it mean? Beautiful Girl is gentle, but that doesn't mean she wants us to pet her. If we take steps toward her, she takes steps back.

So, a better word for this process might be--hmmm...--peoplfying her.

Let's look at it from her perspective. To her heightened, prey-animal senses we are probably:

1. Stinky (we do eat meat, after all)
2. Noisy and annoying (our whiny voices)
3. Ugly (I mean, compared to a horse...)
4. Stupid (We don't seem as cool--with it--as the other horses. Horses look at us like retards half the time).

What we have going for us:

1. We have the food. (Even though they wish we'd let set them free so they could eat grass like they're programmed to do).
2. We have the power. (Our developed carnivorous brains know how to forge steele cages, mimic other animals (like horses), invent bits, bridles, halters, ropes, trucks, whips, locks, and on and on.

It's a wonder they like us at all!!

However, despite all of our unattractive qualities--we do need and insist on a relationship with the horses under our care--for their safety and ours. Not just a relationship, but RESPECT.

This is day 3 with the wild-horse, and at times she doesn't seem "wild" at all. She looks like any other yearling in the barn, but closer observation shows that she's nervous about us, and much more independent than domestic horses.

She'll still eat out of our hands, but takes steps back if we approach. She does not seem afraid of us, but leery. She watches the other horses a lot and pines to be with them--quietly--and with dignity. She never does anything wild--she seems too proud to act up. She walks with confidence and a keen eye.

I thought she'd be an easy-keeper--horseman's term for doesn't eat much--but boy was I wrong!! She eats and eats and eats. I told my husband she'd hardly raise our hay bill. **cough, cough**

Shiloh went out with her after school yesterday. She can't wait to get home to see her. She's heading up the peoplfying training and has told me NOT to grab her lead rope until she wants to come to us and be touched. (See what I told you about her being smarter than me??)

I'll take pictures today and write more tonight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mustang Adoption

I'm not sure when the BLM brought the mustangs to Ride the West. RTW started Friday night and ran until Sunday--the silent auction ended at 10:00 am Sunday--just about the time I arrived. I assume they came in on Friday--as they made their way to other auctions along a route.

Out of about 26 horses brought to Spokane, 7 were adopted. From what I understand, that is an unusually low number. I think horses, in general, are selling slow in this area as hay prices increase. I'm seeing more stallions be gelded and hearing about more domestic horses going to auction. Maybe this is happening all over the U.S., but it's not a good sign for mustangs.

Here at our place, we have 14 acres and a 60x36--8 stall barn. The neighbors all have acreages, and no horses, so they allow us to graze their pastures-most years--except this year because they plowed it under to seed in fall. We have 8 horses here and the general rule is 2 acres per horse for sustained grazing, so we still feed hay.

Last year we purchased about 20 tons of hay for 6 horses--maybe 22 tons. We had a mix: orchard grass, alfalfa/grass, and blue grass straw. The alfalfa/grass mix was about $165.00/ton delivered, the orchard grass was about the same, and the blue grass straw was $85.00/ton you pick it up.

The BLM feeds their wild-horses alfalfa because it is the highest in protein and it's the best we can get in the West. When we moved Beautiful Girl here, she transitioned right to our alfalfa/grass mix hay. The BLM does not recommend graining them if you feed high quality hay--like ours. My general rule with hay is ask yourself if you'd want to eat it. If it looks and smells yummy to you, it will probably smell good to the horse, too. Be picky.

You need a good trailer to adopt a mustang, or access to one, in order to get them home safely. You must also prove that you can provide adequate shelter. Volunteers will stop by and check in on the adoptee at random throughout the year--and remember--the BLM owns them during that time. You can apply for ownership after the year is up, and you've proven you are a good adopter. Though it sounds like a lot, this process wasn't difficult at all, and I look forward to my inspection.

Here's a list of some things you might need if you want to adopt a wild horse:

1. Good feed
2. Shelter
3. Adequate fencing (older mustangs can jump normal metal panels and need the higher ones)
4. Adequate trailer
5. Minimum $125.00 adoption fee
6. Time to gentle a horse
7. Halter and lead rope
8. Enough $$ for vet care, farrier, worming, and immunizations--maybe teeth floating, as well.

I wish I had been more prepared and asked more questions. For example, I wish I knew more about the Beaty's Butte area where she was taken--or where to find more information. I've noticed two different spellings for the same place. Her file says she's from Beaty Butte--but I've seen it referred to as Beaty's Butte more often. I'll just have to go there someday--from what I understand it's rugged and tough to get to.

I wasn't sure how they were going to load her into the trailer. I had images of them pulling her in with a rope, but of course, the BLM is much more organized than that. They separated her and got her into panels, opened gates to move her along, and got her into a chute to put the halter and lead rope on before she left. Oh, and they cut off her tag, #8000, and gave it to us for a souvenir.

Here are pictures of the loading process--our trailer was at the end, and we opened the doors at the same time so she would tunnel right in--as she did.





Being around horses all the time, you get to where you can easily recognize signs of distress: loose stool, nervous whinnying, lack of appetite, pawing, and on and on. Beautiful Girl had none of those signs. She loaded and unloaded without much to do--and she immediately started eating. She didn't even look around much or whinny, except to say a basic hello to the herd. I imagine she had a lot of exposure during the round-up and ensuing months, as well as during the trek to the adoptions.

Tonight I'm going into her stall to catch her lead and touch her for the first time. They say the sooner you gentle them the better, just in case they need emergency care and a vet has to see them. The longer they stay wild, the harder it will be for us to do the basic health care for her.

More later...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beauty Survives Chaos

Day 1 & 2

Yesterday, May 17, 2008, we went to Ride the West in Spokane, WA. We were there to work at the Moms, Daughters & Horses table for our club, but it was slow and we went out to the BLM Adoption we read about in the program.

It wasn't easy finding them--they were tucked back behind everything, but after winding around the long way--there they were.

What a sight, if you've never been to a Mustang adoption, like us. My daughter, Shiloh, and I, and our friend Katie, like everyone else there were instantly obsessed--we were taking pictures, peeking in the pens, and reading the tags.

I thought it would be fun to watch other people adopt the horses, but after looking at the empty bid cards and talking to the volunteers--we found out that hardly anyone was bidding. Out of all the horses there--only seven would be adopted yesterday. And, one of them, would be adopted by us.

Here are some pictures of other horses there.




I have a lot to learn. I wasn't there to actually adopt a wild horse--though I know people who have and have read their blogs and admired the quality of the horses and horse-human relationships. Still, it wasn't something I pined for--I'm a Paint and Quarterhorse woman--just look at my herd--it's all Paints and Quarterhorses!

But they touched our hearts. My daughter and I both fell in love with them, and one in particular, instantly. I hadn't wanted another horse--I didn't even know they'd be there--but I guess it was fate--that thing that happens and you feel like you're outside looking in--going through the movements like destiny is more in control than you are.

There I was in the BLM tent, filling out the paperwork, drawing diagrams about how to get to my house and stick pictures of our barn and the stall and run she'd have. I was providing personal information, history, driver's licence numbers, money. They were having me sign here, proceed to the brand inspector, pick a hat or a shirt. They were talking to me, helping me pick out halters, telling me the stories of their own mustangs and showing me pictures.

The volunteers were beyond helpful, and they took our email address to keep in touch--I hope they do.

I think all of this happened at about 10:30 am--and we left Ride the West at 11:30 to go get her stall ready and pick up the trailer. Shiloh and I were bickering the whole time about how our partnership was going to go off. She wasn't too happy about sharing the new mustang with me.

So, just who was this new mustang, where was she from, and how did she get to Spokane, WA?

The beautiful girl, which we call, Beautiful Girl, for lack of a real name, was, like all Mustangs, somewhat anonymous. The paperwork stated she was between 3 and 6 months at the time of capture. They had her down as "buckskin" though her dorsal stripe down the back and the primitive striping on her legs, were more correctly, "dun". She had been captured on August 4, 2007, along with her herd who, I found out in the tent, had no water. They were taken from Beaty's Butte in Oregon--the same place the original Kigers were discovered and taken from in 1977.

Here's a diversion: everything about her looks says Spanish Mustang. She's a poster horse for just such a thing, but she cannot be registered with Kigers because she was not in the Kiger HMA. That's how it goes with official breeds--humanized and categorized, then altered. I can hear it now--I want a bigger mustang--I want a bulkier mustang--and pretty soon it's not a mustang at all.

No matter what you think of Mustangs, you have to admire the way in which the breed culls itself---survival of the fittest. What you get when you buy one of these horses is an animal who can survive in the desert, unvaccinated, unshod, untended. They know the herd, their place in it, and how to live on their own. They're capable of human independence. That's admirable. They may be shorter, leaner, and wilder, but they're naturally evolved, and nature's pretty good at what she does.

So, Beautiful Girl is now about 10 months to a year--they had her listed as a yearling. She was in a pen with other yearling fillies. They had her vaccinated, Coggins tested, brand inspected and hoof trimmed. Other than that, she is scuffed up, scraggly and thin--but obviously healthy.

We came back to get Beautiful Girl about 3 hours later. And, the loading process is a story in itself (with pictures) which will be written and posted in the blog tomorrow.

For now, I can say, the day I spent with her only improved my appreciation of her intelligence, kindness (observed instantly in her gentle eye), and sweet nature. She is already eating out of our hands and standing as near us as she can through her gate. She has sniffed the pygmy goats in the stall next to her and observed them with her big, dark does eyes--she has sniffed our hands, and Maggie the dog, similarly. She has joined our herd from a distance, and they've studied her from a distance.

more tomorrow....


Yesterday my husband pointed out a tulip growing in the yard waste people brought in to fill up our gigantic pasture "hole". This gorgeous flower growing up among the garbage. I thought, beauty in chaos, just like the wild ones who were brought in from Beaty's Butte because they ran out of water. I'm going to dig this flower up and move it over to the house to preserve it. This seems so symbolic of the Mustang: we're going to work to preserve her spirit and heart so that she survives her own transplantation from the wild to domestic life.