Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Virus

Tracey at Mustang Diaries gave me her virus just before Thanksgiving, so here it is for everyone else to get infected with, too! Anyone who wants to answer these questions, please do.

1) Where did you go riding this week?
2) Your most embarrassing moment on horseback.
3) What's your favorite piece of tack?
4) Do you collect anything horsey?
5) What's your least favorite aspect of horse ownership?

1.) I haven't rode this week because of Thanksgiving. I did ride the week before with my husband. We went to Palisades Park--one of our favorite spots. Unfortunately, my horse was tender-footed because he'd had his shoes taken off that week. I ended up walking him about a mile or so home while my husband enjoyed his pipe from horseback.


2.) My most embarrassing moment was not on a horse, it was on the ground. When I was 18 I didn't know squat about training horses, but I didn't have any money either. Not a good combo. There was no internet back then, so I did what all of us old people did--went to the library. I checked out a book, read it, studied the pictures, and VOILA--I thought I was ready.

I went out to the barn, tied up my little colt, put a blanket and saddle on him for the first time ever, walked him to the big barn, tightened the cinch again (I may have done this before I walked him), and untied him in the arena. Hmmmm...not good. He started walking, realized there was something on his back that made him uncomfortable and he started running and bucking all over the place. A normally gentle colt went bezerk.

And, to make matters worse, he had apparently blown way up when I'd last tightened the cinch because it became loose and the saddle rolled under his belly!!!!!

I was mortified and scared to death when an old cowboy, who had been watching, walked over to save the day. His name was Johnny Rynearson, who has since died in a very sad circumstance. He knew horses. He walked into the arena and got my horse to stop and stand still. Then he went over and gently unsaddled him.

After everything was under control he introduced himself and asked if I would like help. He trained horses in his spare time and would do it for free (after I told him I had no money)--as long as I did the work and he just instructed. I think we met out there four times before he cut me loose, but by that time I was already riding the colt and well on my way. Here is a picture of that horse when he was young.

Right after I bought him. He looked pretty bad--but he shaped up--he was a grandson of Quincy Dan.

Later in his life--2 year old

3.) My favorite piece of tack is my Billy Cook Roping Saddle made in the 70's. I love it! Got it from an "old cowboy"--like all of my good training, wisdom and tack--when I say old cowboy I always mean someone who grew up with horses on a ranch and has that ranch wisdom and common sense. Here's a picture of it.


4.) Do I collect anything horsey? Oh yeah. I collect horse sculpture and art, but on a budget. I've found most things on eBay. Here are a few items:

Nancy Glazier--Audacious--bought it because the horse reminded me of Cowboy--my fave ride.

A Russian piece--early 70's.

Another Russian piece.

Tim Cox--loved the scene.

Bought this goofy little horse when I visited Sienna, Italy.

Found these at Coldwater Creek.

Coldwater Creek-birch bark piece.

5.) My least favorite aspect of horse ownership is $$$$. I wish I had more of it, or things were cheaper. Since we bought this place in the rough--we need everything and it takes time. I especially want better fencing and an outdoor arena. That's the only bad thing I can come up with--though in my heart of hearts I could have said cleaning stalls. The reason I didn't is because cleaning stalls, though it seems drudgery, is actually a good time for me to reflect on life, be with the horses in the barn, and stay in shape.

Happy Trails! Hope someone else catches the fever next!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family this year. I have my mom and dad coming to join us--one of my sisters and her family and two of our children.

Unfortunately, there will be many in the family who can't be with us this year because Thanksgiving pulls them different directions. As families get bigger and older it's more difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time.

I have a question--what do you do to bring the magic to the holidays? I've been thinking about that--wanting to make my home--at least for that one special day--a place where we can all take comfort and experience something of the hope and thankfulness I remember when I was a child.

I remember whatching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade--taking walks to see the Christmas Light Displays that usually start on Thanksgiving--sometimes going with the family to see a movie after a big dinner--other times watching a Christmas movie at home in the evening after pie.

Here's our menu for the day. Does it sound familiar?

Tom the Turkey
Green bean casserole
Deviled eggs
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Homemade rolls
Cranberry Sauce

Arbor Crest Riesling & Arbor Crest Cabernet
Shirley Temples for the kids

Sparkling cidar!! (oops forgot this for a second--have to go back to the store!)

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream
Pecan pie

Umm-ummm! Is that what you're having?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Goat Scare & Other things

What a busy weekend around here--playing. On Saturday my husband and I went to the Christmas Craft Show at the Fairgrounds with some friends--then to our neighbor's 70'th birthday party. Sunday we went to the Holiday Wine Tour and then to the play, Together Again for the First Time! There's a lot to do in Spokane when you're not riding horses.

Now we're turning our sights to Thanksgiving!

Oh, another thing happened yesterday--my husband found the DVDs I had made from our old home movies years ago. I couldn't find them--but they showed up as he was cleaning out his desk. So, I popped them in and went down memory lane.

A lot of life happens, doesn't it? My head was spinning by the time I stopped watching them and went to bed. And, I had mixed feelings. Sometimes I looked at the young woman in those videos and thought, "Wouldn't want to be her again!" But on the other hand, I sure would like to have the chance to do things over with what I know now.

Life looks so different in hindsight.

The pictures above are my horses coming in. Whenever they see me, they hope it's time to eat--and as you can see, there's nothing left in their turnout. I've closed off the lower pasture so that they don't tear it up, and they're slumming it in the back, rocky one.

One of the pictures shows our cat watching them as they make their way to the barn. She's like a dog--#42. Cowboy, the paint coming at me in front, walked right up to the camera and stuck his nose in it and then continued on.

Oh, and they tried to kill the goats the other day at dusk. The babies were following us out to fix a fence and Cia started playing. Her play was mistook for danger by the lead geldings and they came running to save her. Pretty soon the whole herd was stomping and kicking, trying to kill the goats. The poor things barely made it back under the fence with their lives--with me running as fast as I could--SCREAMING like an idiot to get them to stop. I was MAD.

And, that is about the time our new neighbors showed up to meet me. LOL.

Perfect timing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Go Madeleine!

After I saw Madeleine Pickens' plan for the Mustangs, I felt a little sorry for Beautiful Girl having been adopted and missing out on being free again.

Then I remembered, if she had stayed at the BLM pens, she would have been permanently lame and euthanized. So, it was not to be for her.

However, I'm so happy for all the other Mustangs in holding who get to be released--probably in Wyoming or Montana (where else can you get a million acres?). I want to be there the day it happens.

In fact, I will be there the day it happens. Why don't all of you meet me there!

And for everyone wanting to adopt one, this will be your best year to do so. After those 30,000 are gone, it will be much more difficult to the get the Mustang of your dreams--and probably much more expensive.

Happy Trails, Mustangs!

The Benefits of Being a Pickens' Mustang

Just for fun today (since Madeleine Pickens is going to be on World News Tonight to announce her plan for the Mustangs) I thought I'd brainstorm the pros and cons of being adopted by the Pickens' and living next door to the Pickens'....

The Benefits of Being Adopted by a Billionaire (Not a measly Millionaire)

1. You meet lots of famous people (because billionaires have lots of friends, right?)

2. You get the best hay (Billionaires eat the best food, drive the best cars, do you think they'd let their horses eat crap?)

3. You get to live in some exotic location (on a million acres) near ski resorts (Billionaires like to live by their friends--so you can figure you'll be living in Jackson Hole, WY or Kalispell, Mt)

4. You'll get to be in a documentary (When was the last time someone adopted 30,000 Mustangs, my friend--some one's going to film it.)

5. You have a better chance of finding a home. (This is the "who you bought it from" theory--if you bought a horse from Robert Redford--that's a bragging point, right? The BLM--hmm...not so much. The billionaires down the road--uh huh--"I got this horse from the Pickens' in Wyoming--you know, my good friends, the Pickenses.")

The Benefits of Living Next Door to 30,000 Mustangs

1.) If you can't feed your domestic horses--you won't have to drive as far to release them into the "wild". (Just a little sarcasm pointed at the people who actually do this.)

2.) One boundary of your property would be fenced well and you won't have to pay for it.

3.) You'd meet LOTS of famous people and probably get to be in a documentary. (The part where they interview the neighbors.)

4.) You could volunteer to help with the adoption process--gentling, etc. (This is no joke--this would be the REAL fun part.)

5.) You'd get to see 30,000 Mustangs running somewhat free.

The Downside to Living Next Door to 30,000 Mustangs

1.) You'd own about 100 Mustangs before it was over because you'd fall in love with them all--and since they're in your back yard anyway--they're practically home. Hey, and the neighbors wouldn't care--they're the ones who gave them to you.

2.) You wouldn't be able to buy any hay. (With 30,000 Mustangs to feed, who's going to have any hay left for you???)

3.) All the famous people and the documentary they're shooting next door. (You moved to the country for a little peace and quiet--now you're the local "hick" in their movie.)

4.) You'd be spending all your time next door and not getting any work done at your own place.

The Downside to being Adopted by a Billionaire

1.) You're at the whim of their financial choices--(What if they became a millionaire over night and couldn't afford you anymore??)

2.) They don't understand you--(When is the last time you saw a billionaire out mucking stalls or bucking bales of hay or even grooming their own horses??)

3.) There are Grizzly Bears in Kalispell, MT.

4.) Darn, I can't think of a fourth down side to being adopted by a Billionaire. And, the first two are pretty weak since they'll be running wild anyway. Do you think they'd adopt ME??

...can any one tell me some down sides to being Beautiful Mustang Girl Pickens?

A Note from Tracey on her Mustang Diaries site: If you get a chance, turn on World News Tonight (tonight--Friday) and see Madeleine Pickens being interviewed about her plan to take on the over abundance of wild horses that have been in holding. Update: It just ended--she plans to buy a million acres and release them!!! Amazing!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Debby Jackson: BLM Volunteer

The role of the BLM volunteer in getting Mustangs adopted cannot be overstated--Debby Jackson is proof of that.

If not for her, I doubt I would have come home with Beautiful last May. As you all know, I was at the fair to work another table when I found out about the Mustang Auction. It was my first chance ever to see one, so me, my daughter, Shiloh, and my friend, Katie, closed up shop and went on an expedition to find them. It wasn't too hard.

The moment I came around the corner and saw them in their pens it was like the heavens opened up. But instead of thinking, I want one--I was thinking--wow, all the lucky people who are going to bring one home--I want to watch.

I had no intention whatsoever of adopting a Mustang. I had six horses already, and their food bill had sky-rocketed. I had turned down several very good domestic horses because of a lack of room.

In steps Debby Jackson: BLM Volunteer. Oh, she told me her stories about her Mustang--and how wonderful it was to gentle her--trail ride--how many she'd had--how great they all were.

If she'd talked to me just a little bit I would have left and not thought much of it, but she was right there the whole time asking which one I liked, keeping me updated on the amount of bids (or LACK of bids), explaining to me how easy it was to adopt one, how capable I was of gentling one, and as you know, all of her 'splaining worked, and I adopted Beautiful Girl!!!

Well, Debby didn't just abandon me after I adopted her--she has emailed continuously, checking in with me, inviting me to rides. She's a good example of why, if we want to help Mustangs, volunteering with the BLM is a great way to help them find homes. Also, helping people afterward--like Lea who is heading to Rathdrum Friday to help with the Mustang who hasn't been gentled yet.

If we want to help Mustangs, we have to help each other--and help the BLM.

Here are some pictures of Debby and her 4 year old Pinto Mustang, Wendy, from South Steens. The Bay Mare pictured in the last two shots is Scooter, a 9 year old domestic born, trail riding Mustang who needs to find a new home. If you know of anyone, let me know and I'll give you Deb's email.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Ready for Winter

I've been doing a little work with Beautiful every day--bending, leading, and a little trotting out in a circle. She really wants to please--and picks up everything fast. She's so young, we don't do much--maybe ten minutes total--real light.

It's interesting how poor hoof quality affects the whole skeletal system and musculature. She still moves a bit on her toes--which gives her that up and down look rather than a fluid forward motion. It's like she's learning to move again--teaching her body how to balance her weight in this new position.

Sometimes, when she starts to run around the round pen during her free play, she's trippy. So, I'm thinking of this stage of development/training as physical therapy.

I'm sure it will be a year before her feet are where we want them--after having been clubby for so long. That tendon above the heel will have to stretch and move fluidly. She'll have to slowly start to use the heel to toe motion. And, the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and hind will have to develop to support a body that is more level than giraffe--as it used to be.

It's a slow process, but looking at her, she appears to be coming together well.

It certainly doesn't take much food to keep the weight on her. When she first arrived she ate all the time, but that has finally slowed down. She's a little chubby, but not bad--nothing that would threaten her health.

Last night it got down to 27 degrees--the ground was completely covered in frost--and on the way out to the barn to feed, a flock of Canadian Geese flew by. There were probably 50 geese in formation and it was quite beautiful.

Trying to make sure the horses keep weight on, but don't get too fat, is always an exercise in educated guessing at this time of year.

We have them separated into individual stalls during feeding--which is GREAT for keeping them on individual diets.

For example: Shadow, the 18 year old herd leader who could "get fat on a freeway" as my farrier likes to say, he gets his hay, plus Senior Feed-- & salt block.

Red, the 28 or 29 year old gelding--who looks 13--gets more hay with alfalfa--and more senior feed--plus salt block.

Cowboy, the 13 year old paint who broke his P3 last year and perfectly sound today because of my excellent farrier--I worry about him developing arthritis in the coffin joint due to exostosis--so he gets Red's diet which is high in Glucosamine--and a bit of MSM in a joint supplement on the bad days--plus his salt block--which they all have in their troughs--so there's no need listing them.

The fillies, 4 year old Cowgirl, and 3 year old Cia, get a good deal of roughage in the form of grass and alfalfa--plus whole oats with a mix of supplements.

The Mustang, Beautiful--1 year old--gets less hay than the fillies and less grain because she was gaining weight too fast--plus Horse Guard supplements.

The pony, Jasmine, is fat--which is odd because I barely feed her anything. Obviously, she doesn't need much.

The next thing on my schedule for the horses is a wormer that gets the tapeworms--Quest or other. This is the time year, now that it's freezing, when they work best.

And blanketing is always a debate. I once used them, but then read that if it's cold and dry--the blanket pushes the hair down and keeps it from it's natural insulating capacity--apparently, it's supposed to stand up to get full affect. (I saw an illustration of this in Horse and Rider one time--I'll try to find something on the Internet that does the same.) Anyway, the horses have shelter to keep them dry--which would be a primary purpose for blankets--because a cold wet horse is going to be cold to the bone--and drop weight fast.

The heated, automatic waterers are working great. I check them every morning and evening--even putting my hand in there to check temps--and that water stays pretty warm. It's amazing and I highly recommend having at least one out in your pastures--if you pasture them together. Your life will be so much easier!!

I haven't mentioned my barn kitty in a long time. I think I last told you she moved into the house. Well, she's in her own room since my husband is allergic to cats. I take her out to the barn with me every day when I feed and clean. Believe it or not, she mouses while we're in there. She has caught a couple in front of us.

One night we were out working and she caught one leaving the goat pen. One of the goats, my sweet little "English" who wouldn't use her horns to save her life (we thought)--saw the cat with that mouse and came running at her and hit her with her horns--tossing her about two feet in the air.

The cat was stunned, but she jumped back up and got the mouse again. English went after her yet again and again until finally the cat was afraid to come out of hiding and when she finally did, couldn't find the mouse.

We've got crazy animals around here--makes you wonder what happens when you turn off the lights in the barn at night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Plan For the Mustangs

From the Washington Post:

The unwanted horses seemed destined for death. The wheels had been set in motion to put down about 2,000 healthy mustangs, those in a federally maintained herd of wild horses and burros that no one wanted to adopt. "The Bureau of Land Management knew that euthanasia was a legal alternative, but officials were proceeding slowly, afraid of an intense public outcry. The wild horses had become too expensive to maintain, and cattlemen argued that turning them loose would be a drain on the already scarce grazing lands of the West.

Then yesterday, at a public hearing in Reno, Nev., to discuss the issue, a solution arrived on a white horse, so to speak.

Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States.....
Read the whole Washington Post Picken's Plan

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Horses Heal

"You Never Know Through Whose Eyes God is Watching You"

Quote from the author of Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together

I heard this quote yesterday as I was getting ready and half listening to the t.v. in the background.

It made me think first of people. Whatever your ideas are about God, the Creator, Spirit--and I believe that's personal to each of us--you can probably relate to this saying. The idea that, at the very least, there is something spiritual at work in every human being and on some grander scale we are accountable for how we treat others--is a universal truth.

But then, as an animal lover, it also made me think about animals.

I remember back and every time after one of my animals died I used to go to my parents and ask, "Is there a heaven for animals?" My parents would look through their bible and search their memories--and usually come up with consulting their own spiritual understanding. They'd always tell me that the God they knew would take care of the animals, too.

Hearing that, it confirmed what I already understood--animals have spirits.

That's why I believe that when you do good by other human beings and animals--you're nurturing your own spirit.

And that brings me to the topic of How Horses Heal, since for any animal to heal, you have to approach it on a physical and spiritual level--there has to be respect.

I got a hold of my friend, Kay Anderson, in Winchester, ID who uses horses for therapy, and I asked her two questions: 1.) Why horses for therapy, and 2.) How have horses healed you?

Here were the answers she sent me:


There are many reasons to use horses but the main one is that horses are so interactive with people. They are large powerful creatures so being successful with a horse creates a great deal of confidence. They are very much like people, they are social animals that live in herds with defined roles. They have distinct personalities and moods. What works with one horse often does not work with another. They like to have fun and they are curious and sometimes stubborn. They mirror what the human body language is telling them and when you change what you do the horse changes to respond. This allows children to learn, "If I change what I do--I change what I get."

Horses are honest and that makes them powerful messengers.


Horses have been so important in my life that it was a hard decision to bring that part of my life into my work. Horses have always been where I went to heal even as a young child. Until recently my longest life relationship had been with a horse. They were trustworthy when many of the people in my life weren't. They were my friends, my confidants, and my first experience with unconditional love. They have given me all my greatest achievements and a reason to love life. Now they are my cotherapists and my teachers. Every horse in my life has brought with them a dream of a bigger, better, more exciting life, and in some way fulfilled my life.

Kay's website Looking Glass Horse

Kay is Eagala certified. Go here to learn about Eagala.

If you want to find out who you are through horses, Kay's ranch is a great place to start.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beautiful And the Long Line

Well, today was Beautiful's first session on the long line. My farrier said to start treating her like a "horse" as soon as possible (was I treating her like a *cough cough* baby?).

Hmmm...when you a treat a horse like a horse, guess what--they act like a horse!!

So, what did Beautiful do?

She decided she wanted to come in with her ears back (have I spoiled her??? Not me.) I flippped the rope in her face to push her back, then she kicked up at me (I swatted her with the whip lightly). Guess what? She started going around in circles like a cultivated young filly.

Then, #42 came in and started chasing my dangling long line. She thought it was a cat game and got out in Beautiful's circle. Beautiful proved she had BRAKES. SCREECH! She came to a stop, and I kicked the cat out of the roundpen.

I see children's book written all over this. Does any one draw??

Friday, November 14, 2008

KXLY Story On the Plight of Horses

Click here KXLY Story

For video, click here Video "Some horses led to rescue, some led to slaughter"

Kim--Congrats for the Pushcart Nomination

A good friend of mine wrote a non-fiction short story which was published in the last issue of Shenandoah magazine called "The Blue Hour Before Sunrise." It's a heart-breaking tale of when Kimberly acquired an abused mare after the death of her own son, and how she worked through her grief during the process of training her.

I found out this morning it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!! Yahoo!! Congratulations, Kimberly!

I think it will resonate with all of you--knowing your own big hearts for horses. Kimberly Verhines has a heart for them like our own. Her writing combines all of my favorite themes--familial relationships, journeys, longing, forgiveness, and horses.

I'll add a few excerpts from it this morning, but, unfortunately, the only way to read the whole thing is to get a copy of the Shenandoah, Fall 2008--or wait until the collection of Pushcart essays is published. It deserves to be read in its entirety because each memory flows into the next and tells the story. It's one of those you want to read fast because you're hooked and emotionally invested in the telling--then you go back and read it again and again.

This will give you a feel for her language:

"I blow on my raw palms. Harold removes his cap, then rubs his head and chuckles, perhaps at my ignorance, perhaps at my bravery. More likely, he laughs because he is going to have $250 in his pocket, and the crazy mare will be someone else's problem. The bargain will not include a handshake. No papers to fill out. However, if I buy the hay, the mare can stay on his land. He'll feed her. "When the roads turn icy you might not make it out," he says.

"Oh, I'll make it." I am not afraid--of blizzards or icy roads or careening my car into a tree. In point of fact, I buy the mare because I believe she will kill me, though I will not admit this for years.

Then later in the piece:

"After a while, I get too hot and pull off my sweatshirt, hang it on the gate where Margaret's sitting on the fence rail, smoking a cigarette. She drags her hand down the side of her neck to her shoulder. She tells me a horse bit her there. "Wasn't even a year old," she says. "I kicked its baby ass and tied it to a fence post. Stupid thing nearly died."

"Nearly died? How?"

"Dumb filly tangled up in the ropes and fell. One was wound around her neck. The more she struggled, the tighter it got. She was half-dead when I cut her loose."
"What happened then?" I ask.

Margaret tosses her cigarette into the dirt. "She lived."

The ending doesn't give anything away, since the story is about the journey, so I will quote the ending to give you a sense of the poetry at work in her prose:

"This blue-furred morning, before the sun lifts over the trees and pales the moon, I bring nothing but myself. The ground is fanned with frost. Nearby, tomato plants hang fuzzy and limp as bathrobes, the fruit stunned and swollen with cold. Squash and zucchini vines crumple the ground, their woody stalks folded into the dirt. Fingerling cucumbers climb the fence, instinctively searching for heat. I rub the mare's legs, her belly and back as she nuzzles my shoulder, her breath warm and moist on my neck. I press my face into her fur and inhale the sweet smell of hay and horse and memory."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Did You See the Moon?

As I stepped outside to take this picture just minutes ago, it struck me that we all see the same moon.
Is this the one you saw tonight--wherever you are?

A Native American Story from Kalispel, ID "How Coyote Was the Moon"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

America's Wild Horses

Today my interview with Joanne at Whole Latte Life was posted, so please stop by and check it out. Thank you so much, Joanne, for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Mustangs. If you're one of my Mustang blogging buddies--please go to her site and comment on this thread--any extra information about our Wild Horses and their situation, would be great.

As I said in my interview--I was ambivalent, even ignorant, about Mustangs before adopting Beautiful, but my eyes were opened and my life has changed deeply because of her.

There are 30,000 wild horses and burros in captivity with the Bureau of Land Management. They are facing a budget shortfall and have requested to euthanize many of their horses in permanent holding.

As the future of Mustangs is in question, please take a moment and reflect upon how or what these American symbols of freedom mean to our country and to us individually, and what we can do to help them.

Questions always arise when I discuss this with non-Mustang owners. Why are there so many in holding? Why not leave them in their natural habitat? What can we do to keep their numbers down, or should we? (Feel free to offer suggestions about this).

Beautiful is from the Beaty's Butte HMA. (Herd Management Area) She was rounded up with the others because of a "lack of food and water". This is part of the land management program of the BLM, the organization that tries to balance the needs of the wild animals and the cattle who use the federal lands.

Mustangs have three opportunities for adoption and then they are placed in a permanent holding facility. I believe Beautiful was out for her first time when I found her. Yet, because of improper care from August to May--her hooves had grown in such a way to have almost made her permanently lame. For a 1000 pound animal who puts so much weight on all four hooves, that would mean having her put down.

It wasn't the BLM's fault that they couldn't trim her hooves for the 9 months they had her in holding--she was wild and had never been touched by a human. However, had she been in the wild, she would have filed them down naturally on rocks and hard ground.

Mustangs were, and still sometimes are, thought of as "junk" horses. Before the '70's they were often killed for animal food. In J.R. Simplot's obituary this year--an Idaho millionaire who was king of the potato industry--they described how he got his start--killing mustangs to feed his hogs. What he did was no different than what many others had done in light of their understanding at that time.

Those days are over, Mustangs are protected from hunting, and America has become much more humane in conserving these horses. By living in the wild, they have culled themselves and developed strong hooves and hearty bodies. They have spirit and fight. The United States Calvary once used them--the Native Americans captured and used them. Today, the Border Patrol uses them to walk the border between our country and Canada.

If you have any interest in adopting a Mustang--it will be a great journey. If you can't adopt a wild horse--please write your legislators and encourage them to make decisions in keeping with the proud heritage of the United State's Wild Horses and the dignity that all living creatures deserve.

Happy Trails.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remembering Back & What I'd Do Different

Back when she was still wild.

Beautiful and I after I could pet her.

Getting ready for the farrier--picking up her "weapons"

Mike, getting her ready for a male farrier to pick up the feet.

Introducing her to others--she's not sure about it.

"It's not the touch, it's the anticipation of the touch that they most fear."

I've learned so much about wild horses with Beautiful. It's hard for me to believe, but true, that there was a time I used to wonder if she'd ever trust me fully.

I thought I'd repost my earlier reflections about what I'd do different, just in case someone who is thinking about adopting a wild horse comes across the blog. If anyone else can add to this list, please comment. Happy Trails!

1. Plan ahead: Study the herds, the BLM in your area (their practices, etc), track adoptions, watch their site.

2. Rent, borrow or buy Kitty Lauman's DVD "From Wild to Willing". Watch it over and over and over and practice on your domestic horses.

3. Take a friend or knowledgeable horseperson with you to the adoption and get there the first day to observe and hang out all weekend. Relax and enjoy--see which one your heart attaches to.

4. After watching Kitty's video--decide if you want them to halter your horse or not. If so, a nylon halter with long lead is best.

5. Make sure your pen at home is really 24x24 and tall and sturdy. There will be a lot of banging into the walls, so if you have a big boy or girl they'll demolish it or pull it apart. (Again, refer to Lauman's video of the mustang jumping into the side of the corral.) I went with a bigger corral thinking I was doing my mustang a favor. Wrong. You can't reach them with the bamboo pole. Which brings me to number 6.

6. Find a 12' long bamboo pole. Good luck! I never found one and had to improvise with PVC. Oh, and buy more than one because there's a good chance it will break!

7. Buy a 25' or 30' long piece of cotton or yacht rope--soft and heavy. Either tie leather tassels to the end or tie the rope in a knot at each end--no buckles. You'll use this rope to go around the bamboo pole and then their neck. (Refer to video)

8. After an initial welcome home period--get going on the training--like the next day. The sooner they know they're going to be okay the better, and it will prepare them for farrier and vet care.

9. Get your farrier there the first day to assess those feet and tell you what to do to get them ready for a trim. Then do it.

10. Don't underestimate the importance of getting your mustang to look at you with both eyes--acknowledge you. One eye isn't good enough--it's okay at best. (Refer to video). Until they have looked at you with both eyes and allowed you to touch or pet between their eyes--you shouldn't try to get their feet.

11. Expect Respect. If your mustang likes to give you its hind end, like mine did, work on getting them to face up. If you don't know how to do this, hire a professional or get someone who knows how. Basically, make it uncomfortable for them to present their hind. My little girl loved to flip it around--it was her best defense even though it was a BIG bluff. If she does it now, I swat her with the end of the carrot stick (Parelli) and she either throws a little fit or turns around nicely and faces me. The latter is the only answer I accept.

12. Work with your mustang as much as you can each day. I would do an hour or so long sessions--multiple times per day. Set realistic goals and meet them ending on a positive note.

13. Don't underestimate the power of curiosity and then, take the time to let it work for you. If your mustang doesn't look at you, sniff you, look at the tools, sniff them--he/she hasn't acknowledged and accepted them. Give them time to do this and develop their curiosity and willing partnership.

14. My farrier recommended that 1.) If you don't have their head, don't go to their feet (as I stated above), and 2.) Spend a lot of time grooming them--especially around their legs and feet, and don't worry so much about picking those feet up as much as preparing them for being touched there and everwhere the tools might touch (under the belly, shoulder, etc.) 3.) Oh, and when petting the legs, go with the fur rather than against it.

Any Other Suggestions?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kissing Horses

Whenever my husband comes home and I greet him at the door smelling a bit like, well, manure--he always teases me by asking if I've been out "kissing horses."
Guess what? I do kiss my horses.

They like it. Only the old ones who were raised by men don't do it. All the others, raised by my daughter and I, or other women--love it.

They do it to each other all the time. You see them walk up and touch--smell--and walk away. It's a greeting.

Today I realized I didn't have hardly any pictures of Beautiful and I since I'm always the one on the other side of the camera. I need one for Joanne's blog, Whole Latte Life, where she's going to give me the opportunity to answer some questions about Beautiful and I--and Mustangs in general. I look at it as a great opportunity to share the joy of adopting a Wild Horse!!!

My husband obliged me--and we had a lot of fun. It had been raining, so I took out my umbrella and let Beautiful examine it. She wasn't too sure--especially since the wind kept blowing it over into her face. But when I asked her for a kiss, she put all fear aside and walked right over to me.

She and Cowboy are certainly my "kissiest" horses. I just love 'em.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My First Born "Mustang"

Yesterday, Halloween, my oldest son, Brook, came to town for a short visit. He's a young man whose energy fills up a house as soon as he walks through the door. If he was a horse, he'd most certainly be a Mustang!

And, he's busting out of the seams with creativity--serenading me with his songs upstairs, downstairs, in the Living Room, in the kitchen--singing, strumming--beautiful music--full of passion.

I treasure those moments.

Four years ago, when Brook was fourteen, he went to live with his dad in Montana. That was a tough loss for me, and maybe one of the reasons I chose some "hard-case" horses recently.

As a mother, you expect to be with your children in minutes, hours, days, months--that ever-present relationship it's easy to take for granted, but combined, is what "motherhood" is all about.

Instead, for the last four years, I mothered him in moments. I might have a week here, a day there, a summer here, a Christmas there--moments--mourning the day to day life I'd lost with him--but happy for what I could get.

The horses helped distract from the loss.

I remember my farrier saying to me the first time I really got to pet Beautiful--when she trusted me enough to stand there for a long time--he said, "You're probably the first one to do that since her mother."

It makes me think about raising teens--when their will to be independent temporarily breaks the maternal bonds--makes your relationship so tenuous. A sort of dance starts--much like when you're working a Mustang in a pen--trying not to get kicked, trying to let it know it has its space, and room to get away--yet trying to touch it and let it know you're there to be its friend--helper. Except the work with the teen goes on for years, whereas the initial roundpenning with the horse is over in days.

The guitar in the picture is one I bought for him one of the times I said good-bye. He had taken violin lessons from the time he was a young boy--progressing through the 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and eventually a full size violin. But in his teens, he transitioned to electric guitar---which was LOUD and impractical to use too often.

He had so much music in him--I thought--if I can give him anything to take my place in this time of life, what would it be?

And, then I thought--his opportunity to play his songs. I thought his creativity, if nurtured, could see him through the tough times he'd face--and maybe, just maybe, bring him safely to the other side.

Well, so far, he's safely to the other side--and that guitar has provided him no end of comfort and joy.

Two months ago he painted it--the story of his life--his struggles and temptations--his detours--many things are depicted there. And, me, I'm the woman's head that's painted on the front.

Good or bad, I'm part of his music--and he's certainly part of mine.