Friday, October 31, 2008

Palisades Park

Hi everyone. I wanted to send out an invitation to join Palisades Park residents at an all day Fun Day this Saturday. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend.

If you're not familiar with the park, it's a good time to meet people and learn the way around. Preservation of Palisades is important to me. My husband and I serve on their board and volunteer some of our time to help keep the park up, but Robbi & Vic Castlebury are the power behind keeping it going.

So, a big thanks to them for all they do so we can enjoy it with our horses, walking, or riding bikes. The view of the city of Spokane from there is spectactular!

Here are the details:

Palisades Fun Fall Event
Date: 2008-11-01
Contact: Castleberry's 624-8384
Location: Palisades Park
Description: MARK YOUR CALENDARS! PALISADES FUN FALL EVENT Please come, meet neighbors and friends and enjoy the fall colors of Palisades Park.
There will be a "Munchie Gathering" afterwards at the home of Joy and Chris Hicks starting at 4pm. If you are unable to partiacipate in one of the events, please come to the "Munchie Gathering". Phone: 747-4637 Address:6204 W Greenwood

We will have three venues that you can enjoy.

1. Horseback Ride: meet at 11 am at Craig Volosings. Because some people have already removed shoes for the winter, we will ride mostly on non rocky trails. It will a fun, follow the leader ride, changing leaders along the way. Phone: 747-5273 Address: 510 N Grove

2. Bike Ride: meet at the home of Babs and Phil Robinson at 1pm. Tour around Palisades Park. Phone: 835-3880 Address: 1423 N Grove Rd

3. Walking tour: Meet at the home of Susan Dar at 1pm and enjoy walking in the fall colors of Palisades Park Phone:838-4547 Address: 2302 N Houston

Afterwards join everyone for the "Munchies Gathering". Bring something to munch on and something to drink. Palisades will provide coffee.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

What We Get Back From Horses

Can you find my Beautiful Mustang? Thanks to Tracey from The Mustang Diaries, Mesteno, and On The Shores Of Carpenter Creek, who took this picture, I assume, at the Burns, OR holding facility. What an amazing 'Stang woman to document these wild babies and their herds. Thank you so much for finding this picture of my girl.

I was on a trail ride yesterday, and Tracey's logo on her Mustang Diary blog kept running through my mind--"Ride Wild or Stay in the Barn"! What a great saying--it really inspires me to do that cliff ride you see in The Man From Snowy River--or not--but certainly it inspired me to ride a bit higher in the saddle and with more bravery.

What is it that motivates all of us to adopt wild horses, spend all of our extra money (plus more) on hay, vet care, farrier, land, barns,--ride these huge creatures up hills and down valleys, stick by our lame ones, groom, feed, and clean their stalls day in and day out--take pictures of them, write about them, blog their lives, bond strongly with other horse people--what am I missing here? What makes us CRAZY for these animals?

I imagine there are lots of people out there scratching their heads wondering why.

I'm contemplating the theme of why our "passions" are vital to our lives. And, I'm thinking that, for me, my passions are what make me believe in myself and living. I assume it's the same for everyone.

I remember when I first bought a horse--a little colt in Lewiston, ID for $500.00. I was 18 years old and didn't know a thing about horses--but I wanted one so bad. He was a weanling, and it would be a long time before me, a novice, would have him saddle trained. In the meantime, I purchased a 7 year old appy and tortured that poor horse with my ignorance. Oddly enough, he turned out pretty good, and I had a man stop by the pasture one day--watching him--and offer me money right there on the spot to buy him for his wife. At that point, my baby had grown up and I couldn't ride two horses, so I sold him.

Those were hard times. I was a college student and had to work two, and sometimes three jobs, to afford the care of my horses. Eventually, I had to admit I couldn't do it anymore, and I sold my baby when he was fully trained--he was sold to another man for his wife. (I was good at training horses for "wives", apparently.)

There was a void in me for many years--as I waited patiently to return to horses--but the void was filled with raising my three children and dreaming of the day I could afford a property in the country somewhere, large enough to keep horses right there by me.

Then, my life took a turn for the worst--my marriage of thirteen years collapsed, and at that very time--a time when I had all these feelings of failure and lost hopes and dreams and sense of self--I found out I had melanoma, too.

What a feeling, I can hardly describe, of hopelessness. Not only had my vision of myself and my future ended in chaos, but my body also seemed set on death at the too young age of 34.

So, this is where the "passions' came into play. In all that loss I had to dig deep and find what was "true" about myself. Was I a complete failure, as I felt--or was there something in me worth preserving--something good. I rebuilt myself block by block--only putting blocks in the foundation that were "true"--beliefs about spirituality, my place in the world, animals, others--each block had to be tested and genuine--no one else's--put there by me and me alone. I wanted to resurrect a self that was my real self. And then it didn't matter if no one else liked or loved me--I'd at least love myself.

Horses were a block that was true and deep. They provided a mirror to me of my weaknesses--my fears, but also my strengths. Working with them developed my strengths--and continues to develop them day by day.

I owe them so much--that their care seems a small price to pay. Lucky for me, my husband feels the same way and is equally challenged by horses. They provide him an outlet to work with his hands and see the fruit of his labors--something psychiatry rarely does.

When we go after what we really love, doors open up and we meet friends who share our passions and provide opportunities to expand on them. That happened for me here in Spokane when a group of women opened up their hearts and lives to me and my daughter when we moved here two years ago and started the non-profit club, Moms Daughters & Horses-- a club that has grown and expanded its deep-hearted charity.

Now that circle of friends has expanded to the Mustang women who have mentored me since I adopted Beautiful.

Horse women are a special breed, that's for sure-and I'm very thankful to be at this place in life--it was a hard road to get here, and I'm sure there'll be more challenges ahead, but I believe if you take it day by day and do your best to be honest with yourself along the way, you'll be prepared to face whatever comes your way.

There's a saying I once heard from a cowboy, "Never hold a grudge against a horse--every day is a new day for them." He said this after my horse, Cowboy, had taken a kick at me and I was about ready to sell him. Turns out, he was right, and Cowboy has turned out to be my fast friend and main horse. There's nothing I enjoy more than a ride with my 'Boy. But what if I had nursed those bad feelings--that grudge--and sold him back then because of his temporary failure?

There's a lot we can learn from this journey with horses. Happy Trails!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nice Weather, But We Need Water

Last night my husband brought his little tractor in and dug out Beautiful's stall. Then, he brought in fresh dirt to completely redo it. It was the only answer. The free-choice hay helped quite a bit, but she needed a fresh start in there. And, I'm sure she loves the soft dirt under the woodchips.

Today I'm heading out for a trail ride. It's cool, you can see your breath, and the breath of the horses, but the sun is up and it's clear skies.

I love the weather, late October days up in the 60's, but this drought is severe. Everything's turning to dirt around our house and if you dig just a little bit under the surface it's powdery--no water to pack it down. Horse's hooves are hard on pastures. All the other fields I see are the same way.

Next year, we're going to have to put sprinklers on some of it--maybe those big Rainbirds. Does anyone have any suggestions about irrigating?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BLM Calls

Good Morning, everyone.

Well, I got my first call from the BLM yesterday. They asked if 1.) I still have the Mustang I adopted last Spring, 2.) Is she at the same address I have listed, 3.) Have there been any health problems, and 4.) Is she gentle yet.

Of course, I told them all about the hoof issues, and I asked if they'd had any other input from people who adopted the yearlings who were with Beautiful and had the same issues. However, she was just hired to make the phone calls, and really didn't know anything about Mustangs. She directed me to Angela Link--who I called and have left a message for.

Off that subject, we've been working on the barn--stall dividers, as I showed you in the last post--but I didn't mention the amount of noise associated with cutting the boards. My husband set up his work area directly in front of Beautiful's stall. To our amazement, when he started cutting, all the other animals ran out of the barn except Beautiful. A shiver went down her entire body, but she stood there watching, like always, big-eyed and curious.

I am so happy about that--as it shows the temperment I always look for in horses--the stand-there-and-don't-kill-yourself-with-fright type. I look for that in horses, but not all of my horses have it. In fact, my main riding horse, Cowboy, was exact opposite of that type of horse. He was a flip-around-and-run-the-opposite-direction-as-fast-as-you-can horse. Now he's a modified version of the same.

I'm excited for Beautiful to grow up and get saddle trained--but I have a couple of years to wait.

I have another thing on my mind today--I really wish I had an outdoor arena here. We have plenty of land for it, and it's on my list of things to do, but it seems to be coming so slow. By the time this ranch is like we want it, I will have developed a lot of patience--but I'll also be OLD.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Putting Up Walls

I think there's a good time to put up walls--and basically, that is between horses when they're eating. There's nothing worse than going out to the barn in the morning and finding a half kicked down stall divider.

When we built our barn, last winter, we put up a 36x60 enclosure--and we figured we'd fix it up little by little as the funds became available. (You know, when money falls from the sky or grows on trees.) Eventually we imagined a barn with thick dividers, concrete, enclosed, heated tack room, hay storage, brick pavers lining the breezeway, fans, and barn art--like the barns you see back East in magazines--the kind you'd like to actually live in. This would be our "dream" barn.

It's a year later, and the part we're currently working on is the solid dividers. We have automatic, heated waterers, 12x24 runs, and lots of dirt. We still have a long way to go. But these dividers are a huge step in the right direction. They'll block out wind, keep the horses from stealing each other's food, and encourage them to do all of their socializing (and eliminating) outside in the runs.

I would think that watching us do all of this since we moved in a year and a half ago, would discourage anyone from starting from scratch unless you have enough money to hire someone to do all the work and build your dreams for you. It's time consuming, expensive, and there's a huge learning curve.

But there's also something to be gained from it all--knowledge, patience, and pride when it's done well.

I'm the dreamer and my husband is the practical one behind it all. I dream up big plans for us, and he gets in there and does most of the hard work. I'm his "go-fer". I hold up boards while he cuts them, I hold up one end of the measuring tape to keep it straight, I drive with him to keep him company at Home Depot, I shine flashlights in the dark--oh, and I turn on and off water mains and electricity when he yells for me to do so.

So fittingly, I give him all the credit for building and designing the stall wall above--but it was me who took the picture. (wink, wink.)
If you could build your "dream barn", what would it look like?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beautiful Tears Up Her Carpet

I've blogged before that you can take the Mustang out of the wild, but you can't fully take the wild out of the Mustang. Now I know it's true.

I started Beautiful on her diet about a week ago, but each day I went into the barn her stall was an absolute mess and she'd dug holes into the bedding with her hooves.

Well, I finally put it together today--she's digging down for food.

Last year, we kept the goats in that same stall--then converted it for a horse--then for Beautiful after her surprise adoption.

The goats had made this thick mat of straw that covered the whole 12x12 floor and was almost impossible to dig through. So, I decided to leave it down there and cover it with thick woodchips. It really was a great natural matting--soft, and wicked away the moisture.

It worked well all of this time, until Beautiful figured out there's food mixed into that mat. Now she's digging into it with her hooves like she would in the wild.

The way I'm going to solve this problem is by giving her free choice grass hay with a small amount of the richer alfalfa/grass combination we've put up for the winter. I'll give her a skinny flake of the alfalfa/grass morning and night--along with her vitamins--and free-choice grass.

We'll see if she stops tearing up the floor.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Riding Other People's Horses

A friend of mine who lives way, way out in the boonies of Newport, WA--he he--I like to tease her about that--came in to ride with me on Wednesday. Not wanting to haul her horses that far, we came up with a novel idea--why not ride one of my 7 horses?? Wow. Who woulda thought??

She rode Shadow and I rode Cowboy and the horses know the ride so well all we had to do was drop the reins and chat, they knew every turn, every hole in the road, everything.

As we were talking about how great it was to have this new option, she invited me up to her place to do the same--ride one of her horses on a trail.

Hmmmm...I thought--don't think so.

So, why not? Why won't I ride someone else's dead-broke horse?

I think it's just my comfort level. Almost every time I've gotten on a horse I don't know it has turned out bad.

My first ever all-by-myself-and-friends horse riding experience was when I was in the 6th grade and riding in the desert in Las Vegas. We rode bareback. As you can expect, leaving the barn it was slow going, but when we turned the horses around to go home--BEZERKO, and mine bucked me off and ran back to the barn. I had to walk.

Then there was the time I test drove the Paint in Coeur d 'Alene, and as soon as it got around the corner and he couldn't see home anymore--BEZERKO--there was no control--the horse just tucked and ran. (Maybe why they were selling him?)

So, I've learned the only way to fully guard against the Bezerkos, is to actually ride my own horses. At least I know what makes them go crazy and I'm ready for it.

Thinking about it, though, I don't know if this is a good thing, because what a great option, to ride some else's horse and not have to haul. It worked out well for us, and once again has got me thinking.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bone Density

Has anyone noticed their Mustangs putting on a lot of "bone"?

It seems like Beautiful has--compared to other yearlings I've raised.
The other thing I've noticed is that she's not as hungry as she used to be. Remember when I used to write that she just never got enough to eat? It's not like that anymore. She seems satisified now with a small flake of hay.

She has been on her diet for about a week, and her neck is already starting to feel better.

I'm going to include her picture from the auction last may until now--5 months later--as a before and after comparison.

I can't wait until her double-sided mane grows back! She lost it during the transition for a reason I never figured out. I think it was the stress of a new environment--and maybe she had a worm load. She's been on a regular worming rotation since arriving, so I'm sure that makes a big difference.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beautiful Gets Another Trim

We have water again. They came out and pulled up the pump and it turns out they had nicked the wires while lowering it down last month. That is the second time it happened, so they reinforced the wires with a special tubing and put a new one down the well. Unfortunately, the short wiped out the whole system--panel and pump, which required everything new be installed.

My normal farrier came out today, to do all the horses and Beautiful, and he got her backs done this time. She was great. He was impressed with how far she let's him pull her legs up for the trim. And, he was super impressed with how gentle and sweet she is--and how much she loves humans.

I had a long conversation with him about what he thinks caused the hoof issues in that group of colts based upon how Beautiful is doing now. I explained that they'd been captured in August and adopted in May--so the rest of the time they were in the pens.

He said it's most likely a man-made problem. He guesses that they were running on hard ground that summer--digging in their hooves and wearing down toe--then plopped into a pen where they grew their heels straight up because there was no natural trimming like they'd get in the wild.

He said again that she is steep in the front, but he didn't think it was unnatural or would cause her any long term conformation problems. He pointed out that she's in a big growth spurt right now judging by how high her hind is compared to her shoulder--and a little toeing in and goofy footedness is to be expected until they get all of that together.

So, I guess I won't worry about her feet anymore--I just get to enjoy her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Water, Colic, & Other Things

Still no water and the weather's starting to change--clouds and wind rolling in--hmmm...there'll be some water soon--sky water.

I'm a little frustrated--can you tell from my last post? It's not like we've skimped on taking care of our well. We call the pros out to do the job, and yet, we're without water every month or so.

I mentioned that Cowgirl coliced Saturday. I think it was because of the moldy hay. She's a baby about tummy aches--she's only four years old and has a low tolerance for them.

When we first purchased her, we drove from Lewiston, ID (north) to Hagerman, ID (South East) in fog and snow to pick her up. Shiloh had found her on and just had to have her after she'd lost her colt to a broken leg. They told us they'd deliver her half way in McCall.

However, when we got to McCall, they said Boise. When we got to Boise, they said a rest stop two hours away. When we looked at the map, we ended up five minutes from Hagerman, ID. Ha ha--the joke was on us.

By the time we got there, we didn't even inspect her. We just said load her up and here's your money. Turns out, though, she's a great horse.

On the trip back--about 7 hours of winding cold road and dark--this little weanling did great. The only problem she showed for it was some gas colic the next day. We gave her a bit of Banamine and it took care of it right away.

Since then, she has coliced three more times. Once in Fall '06--we loaded her right up and took her to the vet. She had a BM on the way thanks to the trailering, and was fine and dandy when she stepped out. (The vet still tubed her).

Then, the next time was this summer. I'm not sure what caused it, but after dinner she was lying around in her run. This time I gave her a tiny bit of Banamine and trailered her around. She was fine.

Lastly, this Saturday--I watch the horses like a hawk from my living room window--it overlooks the barns and runs--I have eagle-eyes on all of my horses for the slightest abnormal behavior-- I saw Cowgirl lying down at breakfast. I was out the door and into the truck faster than you could snap your fingers. Banamine and a trailer ride--a little bran mash and voila!--all better. (Thanks to the the vet who gave us the Banamine from Spokane Vet Clinic).

So, I consider myself an expert on colic nowadays--after learning about it the hard ways. It may seem like a over react, but I lost my baby I'd raised and trained, to colic last year.

Last year was a bad one for us and horses. My horse, Cowboy, broke his coffin bone, and then the vet misdiagnosed it as an abscess. I had the vet out every week and multiple x-rays for three months, but they never figured it out until I got a second (actually third) opinion in Spokane. Fractured P3. So, thanks to the farrier and a year of stall rest, and MIRACLES, I have my horse back and I rode him all summer.

But my baby, I'd raised and trained from four months old--he died from colic. The vet tubed him over and over again, and we kept him well-hydrated, but there was something else going on in there, and he died. I regret that I didn't have the vet open him after he died, but I didn't even think of it at the time. We figure it was either twisted or dislocated from all the rolling around he'd do out in the pasture (he was a roller), but now I'll never know. He'd always had a hard time keeping on weight. I had his teeth floated from the time he was a yearling (genetically bad teeth), and I had him on high protein diets with lots of rice bran. All of our other horses are borderline obese half the time, but he was always on the thinner side.

I don't know why some are more prone to illneses like colic than others. We have a couple of old guys out there who don't colic no matter what they eat. I'm starting to think it all has more to do with genetics than we understand.

When I purchased Red, he was getting fed lawn clippings over the fence by an ignorant neighbor. His owners were letting the neighbor do it!! But he was as healthy as (Who came up with that saying, btw--obviously, not a horse owner).

He's 28 years old now--almost 29--and still going on most of the trail rides and teaching all the young kids in our family and around the neighborhood how to ride. Our 18 year old QH, Shadow, same thing. The guy just keeps going and going.

It seems like it's the young ones who get in the most trouble. Maybe it's that they don't know better--or they have a lower tolerance for pain...I'm not sure.

I'm thinking that Beautiful has a high tolerance for almost everything. Her swelling went down and she's dropping weight in her neck fast. I've got the whole family on the same page about how to feed her. She looks good right now. I've meant to start working her in the roundpen now that her hooves are under control, but I haven't yet. I think I'll wait to talk to my farrier about it tomorrow and see what he recommends for her.

You'd never know she was a wild mustang by the way she acts around the kids--she's as gentle as she can be. Domestication is not a bad thing for a wild horse like her--they were domestic to begin with after all. It seems to come natural for them, and oddly enough, Beautiful seems to prefer her stall and run to the great outdoors. She seems to appreciate a home and reliable food and water much more than the domestic horses do.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Water

Well, it happened again--after installing a new pump and panel--it shorted out again and we have been without water since Friday!!! So much for those new automatic waterers--if you don't have water, you're out of luck.

We've had our grandchildren for the weekend, so it has been like camping around here.--we've made it fun, but I sure could appreciate some water out of the tap about now--showers, cooking, laundry--it all piles up.

The company we use won't be out until tomorrow, so let's hope it gets fixed yet again.

We have had fun with the horses today. I took the grandkids on a ride around the property and we fed and petted the horses.

Cowgirl was colicky yesterday, but a little Banamine cured it. I think one of the grandkids accidently fed her some moldy hay we'd set aside. She's fine today.

Beautiful loves the grandkids and treats them gently. She seems to understand, like the other horses, that they're more vulnerable.

What a beautiful day today!! It would have been a perfect for a really long trail ride. I know the Mustang club met yesterday, and I would have loved to have rode with them, but with our company and also the colic that Cowgirl went through yesterday, it kept me busy. (One day I'll be taking my grandkids on these rides, too!!--they're in training now.)

Hope you've all had a great weekend with your horses.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Update on Beautiful Stocking Up

When I went out this morning, Beautiful looked about normal. I'm going to go back out later and walk her around some more, just to make sure she's putting weight on the back feet like she should.

Also, my male farrier is coming next week, and he couldn't get her back legs last time, so I'm going to pick up her feet a lot this weekend to prepare.

I don't really think they need trimmed, but he might want to file them a little to get her used to him.

We lost one of our barn cats--probably to owls or hawks--#1. These cats break my heart. I don't think I can get another one. (Maybe I'll see if Spokanimal can deliver me a completely feral cat--one that is the color of dead grass).

We moved the surviving sister inside, like she always wanted. I'll have to get a picture of her lounging around on the bed.

Right now we have no barn cats.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beautiful Stocking Up

I went out today and Beautiful was stocked up in the back legs--especially the back left. It scared me at first, but when I haltered her and picked out her back hooves, there wasn't any unusual heat in them that I could discern.

Also, I walked her around and she seemed to do okay.

I think she's eating too much. Everyone's feeding her, and sometimes, she sticks her head through the bars and steals food. I'm not sure how much of this she has done, but her neck is starting to feel pretty fat!

So, I'm putting her on a diet tomorrow and I don't think it will take long for her to drop pounds in this cold weather. She's going to be ticked because she LOVES to eat.

Any ideas or suggestions?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Country Miracle

We had a little miracle around here yesterday. I'll start from the beginning to give you some background about our cats.

When you have horses, you often live on the edge of a town or way out. We always try to live as close to town as possible, for work, but still have enough land for our horses.

When we moved to our horse property in the Lewiston Valley, it was on the edge of farm fields--which were split down the middle by a ravine and creek. We lived at the very top of the ravine, and the tip of our land was the beginning of it.

What came out of that ravine? Well, there were deer, coyotes, owls, wild turkey, cougar, moose, and more recently, a bear.

But it was the coyotes that gave us chills every night when the sun went down or a plane passed overhead--they went to howling from all their spots in the canyon and whupped it up like they had just made a kill. It was eery, and it always got our dogs to barking.

Elsa, our older dog, would stand at the edge of our property and bark until almost daybreak to ward them off.

Every farm needs a cat to keep up with the mice, and our house was no exception. I found mice in the breadbox and in the storage room downstairs. So, we counted ourselves lucky when a brown tabby emerged from the wheat one day.
Where she came from, we do not know. But the boys named her "Killer"--as they witnessed her kill many times as they put up fence, and then she'd disappear back into the fields with her prey.

The girls came out of the house and followed her one day. They'd have none of that "Killer" stuff--they took her in the house, up to my daughter's room, petted and combed her, and named her "MJ"--Mary Jane.

Well, we had ourselves a mousing cat from that day forward, MJ. And, she was pregnant. Her pregnancy got her killing more than ever, and sometimes we felt sorry for the prey, but we saw that it was part of her nature, and necessary.

When the kittens were born, she took to training them by bringing fresh kill into the garage where we kept them, and letting them play with it. She'd plop down and watch them, relaxed--a practice she still continues. She did such a good job training them, that our puppy who we brought home at the same time, also got in on the education, and is now a better mouser than most cats.

The training was an amazing thing to watch. Every day, every night, there was an opportunity for her to teach them something. Often, we'd sit out on the deck with MJ, the puppy, Maggie, Elsa, and all the kitties, and watch them finding hiding places, chase insects, and learn from their mother.

After a while we found homes for two of her kittens, and two of them, the gray twins, stayed with us. We named them Boy Kitty and Girl Kitty. And, eventualy, we moved them up to Spokane--to a new ranch--two hours away. Again, on the edge of town, lots of wildlife, lots of coyotes.

We did pretty well with them, until last spring, when we lost Boy Kitty. It could have been the coyotes, but there were also two Great Horned Owls nesting in the barn next door.

Boy Kitty, despite his mother's teaching, never really learned he couldn't hide behind a blade of grass. Still, we held out hope for a better outcome, calling the animal shelter, visiting all of our neighbor's for a couple of weeks, but eventually we had to accept that he was gone.

After that, I took to locking them in at night and letting them out during the day. They might be working cats, but you still grow attached. In fact, I respect and love them more for the work they do. I don't resign myself to the inevitability of their loss--I try to be proactive and avoid it.

But in the end, it comes down to themselves and their mother's training--and yesterday proved it.

It was a busy anniversary weekend for us--we had guests Friday night and then we were out of town from early Saturday until Saturday night. It wasn't until Sunday morning, yesterday, I realized the animals had stayed locked in--the pet door cover had not been removed since Friday. There had been people in and out of the garage, so they had opportunity to get out, but it was clear, when I did a head count, Girl Kitty had gotten locked out of the garage all Saturday night.

My husband and I knew that was a death sentence.

We walked around the house calling her, and in usual circumstances she'd come right out, but no kitty. By mid-afternoon, she still wasn't home, and we felt her odds of survival were greatly diminished.

MJ, her mother, lay alone on her pillow, kneading her paws in her sleep, as if her daughter, Girl Kitty were lying there, too. We'd had MJ spayed, so there was no chance of her having more kittens, and we wondered if she would, like so many cats we read about, disappear when there were no strong bonds to keep her.

The sun went down last night around 7:00. It was dark. There was no Girl Kitty.

At dinner we began to blame each other--then stopped ourselves and said there's no way we can protect them all the time. On the farm, one mistake could mean death--and death is so final--but we are bound to make mistakes. It comes down to their training--and then their own ability to survive.

I'll let you know right now, this story has a good ending.

Shiloh, our daughter, went out to say good night to MJ, and guess who came in from the outside--Girl Kitty. She was wide-eyed and thirsty, and we don't know where she'd been, but there she was, perfect, and healthy, and alive.

Shiloh came and got me and we all ran to the garage. We hugged each other and jumped up and down. MJ circled her full-grown kitten, ever still the mother--she licked on her and, I'm pretty certain, she was smiling.
She'd raised her two kittens the exact same way and one had learned her lessons, and one had not. One had survived in whatever circumstance she'd faced--and we can only imagine what it was that kept her gone so long.

We have four cats, two dogs, seven horses, and three goats, and every one is special to us. Living on a ranch and facing the death of animals--the horses we've lost, the cat, the baby goats one year that really broke my heart--it teaches you to let go and accept that life is about the here and now--the animals understand this lesson best. The lesson summed up is: Things live and things die, and it's all about the living.

But it also teaches you that when miracles happen, like Girl Kitty and Cowboy, my horse with the broken foot who survived last year and who I've ridden all summer, though he should be dead--when miracles happen, you celebrate--they don't come often, and there's no guaruntee there'll be many more.

Update: The horse guest is gone. Her family came and picked her up yesterday. They brought her brother home from Lake Roosevelt so that she'll have a pasture buddy, and we hope, stay home and stay safe. So, good luck to Cassandra as she learns her way through a life with horses.

Also, I'm including a picture of Beautiful, taken yesterday as she watched us load the horses mid-afternoon for a ride at Riverside. She has been putting on a lot of weight, and now she's a pudgey thing. She's our observer--nothing happens around here that you don't look back and see her peering through the panels bars--and watching intently. She's trying to figure out everything about what living here means.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Magic of Woodhenge

This is my second post of the day, and the one I meant to write for the last few days, but I had an unexpected guest last night who side-tracked me. (See below)

This is going to be short.

No, the picture above is not Stonehenge, but it is or was our very own Woodhenge, and just like the ancients of old who we do not understand why would move a bunch of heavy rocks into an odd formation, we do not understand why we sunk so many railroad ties into this odd formation.

However, unlike Stonehenge, we connected the dots and formed them into something more useful than worshipping at--stall runs.

Though, because of the cost, we do plan to worship there occasionally.

We can figure out the mysteries of life in its presence--why was this magical white horse sent to us in the dark of night, and why would anyone spend so much money and hard work on such a monstrosity???

Kidding aside, it does look pretty good now that it's done, and it did manage to keep our special herd in last night during all the mayhem of the magical, white, run-away horse at 1:00 am.

It did its job. It did its job well.

Late Night Guest

Who's that horse?

Not one of ours, I assure you, but the cause of much late-night excitement around here. A runaway.

When a horse escapes in these parts, I have two fears:

1.) This land used to belong to a dairy--over 1000 acres of cows and barbed wire. When they sold off the lots, much of the barbed wire remained or had fallen and embedded itself into the ground. This wire is impossible for horses to see at night in a wild-runaway panic. Often they run through it and get caught--ripping open their chests or their leg tendons. In one case a friend of mine's colt slit open its throat and bled to death.

2.) A busy Highway--many people call the highway around here a freeway, because there's so much traffic. A friend of mine who worked at an equestrian center near it had two of her horses runaway and make it up there. They were both hit by cars and put down on the spot. When we first bought this house, our horses were confused about the fence line and broke through it. They ended up one block away from the Highway at another equestrian's home--eating the grass in her backyard.

Some lose sleep over the stock market--I lose sleep over the Hwy and my horses.

Last night, before leaving the barn and our horses--somewhere around 10:00 pm., I had an uneasy feeling. We had just finished the runs off the barn and rerouted the fence around the barnyard. I kept two horses in the barn, as I always do, so that if any horses break out, they would want to return to the barn to be with their buddies.

But one of our fillies, who was out, acted more excited and high-strung than the others. She ran around charging the fence and in and out of the open stalls.

I asked my husband to help me put up one more gate in the dark, which he did. I thought, if anything happens tonight, this isn't a good time for her to be wound up with new pasture borders.

We left the two old geldings in the open pasture and went back to the house to go to bed.

I was in deep sleep when at 1:00 am, my daughter ran to our door yelling the words horse-owners always dread, "The horses are out!!"

I jumped up so quick, my husband and I scrambling around in the dark for clothes and the light switch--me speaking jibberish in my half-asleep-panic--and out I ran behind my daughter-- followed by my husband.

"Cowboy's out--I saw him at the barn." My daughter shouted to me, but as I ran toward the barn, I saw clearly by the barn light that Cowboy, Cia, and Cowgirl where exactly where they should be--in the new stall runs.

Then, I looked over to the bigger pasture and there were two white horses, rather than the one we own--two white horses and one Red.

When I realized we had a guest, everything changed. A new horse is an unknown.

I went to the barn and got halters and leads and we contained our own horses who were at high alert over the fence. The new horse ran toward them and you could see the electric shock from the fence light up in the dark night--and the horse snorted and ran back. She was scared and wanted to be by other horses.

Our horses wanted to protect themselves, but they were curious, too.

After returning them to the barn, I went back to the pasture where my daughter and husband were trying to coax the mare into the round pen with grain. Shiloh managed to get a halter and lead rope around her, but the mare panicked and swung her butt around to kick Shiloh, and she dropped the rope.

In a second she had it back and was trying to lead her to the pen where I entered with hay. The darkness worked against us. We were shadows and noise to her, and she was frightened and appeared to be young and ill-trained.

All three of us managed to get her in with my husband doing a big round circle behind her to get her moving through the gate.

We went to bed and didn't have the chance to see her until daybreak. She's cut up from barbed wire and still scared. I've been giving her food and water and trying to get her to calm down enough to doctor the cuts.

No one has claimed her yet.

This is what I can deduct from what I've seen.

1.) She belongs to a young lady--maybe college aged--because her mane has been braided--that's definitely a "girl" thing.

2.) She appears to be a young appaloosa because she isn't well-trained, she's easily spooked, and she's lean and healthy like she's never foaled. She also has spots on her hind.

3.) She is owned by a young girl who's going to college. (Here I'm stretching it.) But there hasn't been a call in that she's missing yet and it's almost 9:00 am. College kids are notorious for sleeping in and feeding their horses late--as I was when I was in college. Takes one to know one, as they say.

4.) She's boarding her out at a new place--which is why the mare broke the fence and got disoriented and is looking for a herd mate. And, that would be another reason why she doesn't know yet that she's gone.

Okay, just got the call from the police. She's owned by a guy. Bummer. I'll find out more later--I bet it's his daughter's horse!
I got the call from the owner, and yes, it is a guy, but it's his daughter's horse!
Apparently, they bought her five days ago and this is the second time she broke out. She's from up by Lake Roosevelt and is five years old. She was born on a ranch and ran with her herd the whole time. She is just now being halter broke. In fact, yesterday was the first time they'd tried it. (We were lucky to have caught and contained her). They are keeping her on a friend's property by herself, but are going to get a herd mate for her this weekend. I could be wrong, but sounds like they're new to horses. I'll find out more when they come to pick her up this evening.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Beautiful & The Automatic Waterer

My husband and I spent part of our day putting up rails around the new double, automatic waterers. He got them installed about a month ago, but hadn't figured out how he wanted to extend the runs to incorporate them. So, only a few of the animals had access to them.--Beautiful did not.

The plan he came up with, and which he now regrets, was to sink railroad ties into the ground for posts and build up rails around the waterers. All in all, he sank 29 railroad ties. And, the grand total for this project was about $1,300.

While we were putting up the rails this afternoon, he stopped and thought it over and realized he would have been better off to have bought metal panels and had them customized for the waterers by a welder. It would have been easier and cheaper.

I've been trying to help him look on the bright side--one of which would be that we now have 29 solid posts on which to tie our horses. And, let me tell you, they'll last longer than the house will!

Beautiful was the first to get access to her new waterer, and she went right to it like she couldn't wait to take a big drink. If you've ever been around them before, they work like a toilet--if you empty it, it fills back up to the same level.

She was on high alert, but she wasn't as frightened as I would have thought she would be. And, when it filled up, she stopped and looked down at it for a second and then resumed a long, long drink.

She reminds me of Bambi--everything's new, but she's eager to learn.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cautious Riding

Seven years ago exactly I found a melanoma growth on my back, left leg. I was only 34 years old, so I was surprized and really disappointed in my "loser" body--giving it up to cancer so early.

Not that I'd been a poster-child for healthy living. I had tanned in tanning beds a little when I was in college, I had an occasional cigar (sometimes too many, I'm sure), and, at the time I came down with it, I'd let myself get pretty depressed about life.

Looking back, I think hopelesness or depression had more to do with it than anything.

But needless to say, when I came so close to NOT finding that darn mole--or not believing it truly was cancer until forced to a doctor visit, I decided if I was going to die I'd rather do it on horseback than waiting around for some stupid freckle to do me in.

During those years it was like a return to my teen years when I KNEW I was invincible and dared life to disprove it. I took risks on horseback that I would not have normally--ponying my colts through ravines and creeks--up and down hills--anytime I had that voice of caution talking to me, I tried not to listen to it. It was like I was running from what I considered a "bad" death--a quick death by horse seemed like a good one.

But as the years went by and there was no recurrence of the melanoma, I started to think I didn't want to die at all--on horseback or of cancer. So, I got more and more cautious.

Today I'm solidly a cautious rider. I never take risks I don't understand beforehand. I scout out trails before I take my horses on them, and I never ride a trail with my horse that I would not walk myself. I worry just as much about injuring them by a stupid decision as I do about injuring myself from one.

And, I don't mind being in this place--this safe place. I enjoy riding my horses more than ever--I don't let caution keep me from getting out there and being with them every day. I actually feel like I'm a better rider because of it. I feel like I'm a better handler on the ground because I look and listen all the time.

I respect the power and nature of the horse.