Saturday, November 29, 2008

The rest of my WI break

Well, I am back in ID. I just got in last night. This break went so fast. I did get to ride my horses, but not as often as I had planned. The cold weather and that darn manuscript that I had to work on prevented that. Because I’ve been rather busy, I haven’t written in a while, so I’ll catch you up now. I have lots of pics to add to this post, but the disk my mom burned for me of her pics will not open right now. I'll update this post when I get the pictures from my mom.

This shows the view standing on my parent's porch, looking down toward my grandma's house. The horses are right behind her house (you can see the shed where Ms. Turkey lives). Their pasture encompasses both treed hills. You can kinda see the orange panels through the trees to the right of Grandma's house.

All last weekend and week, I let the horses out for a little longer each day and then brought them in each evening (bribed with oats). Thursday night (Nov. 27th) was the first night that we left them out overnight. I figured they’d been transitioned onto their grass pasture at that point, and had eaten down the best spots. Surprisingly, they came in for their evening little bit of oats, I also gave them hay, and they showed no interest in going back out to graze! And they were still in the paddock the next morning, even though I left it open. I guess they were used to the routine, and the green grass has lost a bit of its novelty. But I was surprised that they chose to eat the hay (which was a bit dusty with mold – some of the hay was rained on a bit as they were baling it up - I’ve been giving the bales that are moldy too to let them pick through it themselves) rather than go back out and graze on pasture. The hay bales in our barn are about 5% slightly moldy grass hay, 60% grass and some grass/clover mixed, and about 35% clover. We also have large round bales that are grass with a bit of clover mixed in. The horses LOVE the clover hay. They eat it like it is candy. My parents are going to give them a feeding of clover every few days, for variety. For now, they’ll just give them two feedings of hay a day, with the option of grazing on pasture. After snow covers the ground and it gets really cold, my dad will drop a round bale out so that they can free-graze that as needed.

Chico’s abscess is not quite healed up. It still is breaking open and oozing serum/pus. Chico himself is actually keeping it open. I think it must bother him when a scab forms over it and prevents drainage, then he bites at it and reopens it. He’s still not lame on it, and it is not worse, just still slowly draining. I rode Chico out and around our property first. We went through the woods and then down by the pond. Then I rode him up the road to our neighbors place and rode around the cranberry marsh. Cranberry marshes are fun to ride on because each long rectangular “bed” is surrounded by a raised sand/dirt road (sand and clay are the two predominant soil types in our immediate area). These long straight sandy roads are great for trotting and cantering down. Back when I had the thoroughbred (Taz), I took him down these roads a couple of times and let him gallop. He was a race horse in is younger years and he sure did remember how to run! Cantering down these roads with the mustangs and Cody was really fun. On our ride, Chico was pretty confident, but also very cautious, and there definitely were a few things that worried him. He’d go anywhere I asked, but while softly blowing through his nose at the strange sites (large shed, snowmobiles stored in a row, neighbors cows). The one thing that he did not blink an eye at that surprised me was the huge fertilizer/pesticide boom extending off a large truck. I think it looked too much like panels and stuff that he’s used to. I expected him to at least look at it funny but he didn’t.

I took Catlow on a long ride the next time I rode. Catlow was awful. Well, she was mostly just awful while we were still on my parent’s property. Once we got further away, she settled down. On the property though, she was in a different world and she was very nervous. When I took her up to the house to saddle her, all she could do was pace and get huffy because she could kinda see where the other horses were in the pasture across the road, but not really. She was very upset, and overreacted to a lot of things. She felt that she should not be up there all by herself and needed to be down with the other horses. I saddled her up, and worked her from the ground in the field, but it made her more upset, so I took her down to the others to lunge her a bit more. I wanted her to calm down before I mounted up. She did calm down, but after I mounted something spooked the others (or they just felt good) while we were there and they took off running to the other side of the pasture and Catlow went ballistic trying to follow after them. I just sat calmly with her head pulled around to my knee and waited for her to stop circling. Then I decided we were going to get out and ride. My grandma came around the corner of her house (Our barn is right behind my grandma’s house, just down the road from our house) with a red wheelbarrow, and Catlow wouldn’t go near that thing. She even refused to go around it (because that was going the opposite direction of where the other horses were). She wasn’t just being stubborn; she was scared. I had to dismount (she was shaking), and walk up and touch it. Then she immediately approached it to sniff it, then as soon as she was okay with it, she was heads up looking for the other horses and the next thing that might be out there to eat her. I rode her down on the marsh. She could still kinda see back toward home, so she was looking back and was definitely on alert, but I did some trotting, flexing and some cantering on her. By the time we got to the other end of the marsh and out on the road still riding away from home, she was much calmer. Definitely on alert, but more relaxed. So I rode her out a long ways and did a big loop (probably ended up being a 6 mile ride). She really did relax quite a bit, but then, just before went got back home, I think she became aware of the fact, and so became hyped up again (walking really fast and trying to keep breaking into a trotting while looking for the other horses). I took her back up to the house to unsaddle her and she was just as bad as she was before the ride. Pawing while tied, pacing, high headed and trying to look down to see the other horses. My dad walked up and was talking to her and scratching her on the chin and she was getting irritated and nipping at his hand. He was surprised because he’d never seen her like this before (I have though, when I used to take her out for walks when I first started working with her). I know she will get better (she did before), but she needs time to settle in and get used to this new environment. When I get back in March, I’ll start working a lot with her and get her riding out relaxed again. It just takes lots of one on one work to get her to trust me more to feel safe with me when we are out alone. She is the sweetest calmest horse when she feels comfortable, but right now, like I said, she is wrapped up in her own little stressed out horsey world and humans don’t have much of a place in it when she is there.

Then on my next ride, I took Cody out. She was very good. Alert and cautious, but much more relaxed about the strange equipment than Chico was (Cody grew up on a cluttered farm). I also took her down the cranberry marsh road. She was quite good. After we came out of the woods onto the road, she became more nervous and thought there was something scary back through the woods (I think she was seeing the snow on the side of the sand hill through the trees where we had just come from and she couldn’t tell what that big swath of white was). She became a little hyped up and so I took her off the road into a meadow and we trotted little circles in both directions for about 5 minutes. By then she forgot what she had been worried about, so when we were finished, she walked on out rather calmly like she hadn’t been worried before.

My dad rode with me on Thanksgiving Day morning. The kids were at the house, and of course wanted to sit on a horse, so we got them both up before we went. They are just tickled to sit on the horses. Hopefully it lasts until I can get my horses relaxed and obedient enough to where I can take them out double with the kids. I think it will though. Partly because we are not dragging them down to the barn and pushing them to do things with the horses. Instead, they are only allowed to just sit on them, then Grandpa and Aunt Kara go off and ride them (and Grandpa and Aunt Kara are their favorite people, so by default, riding horses is just really cool).

We just rode around our property. My dad was on Cody and I was on Chico.

It was rather uneventful. They were together so were pretty much completely relaxed (meanwhile, Catlow was screaming for them back in the corral). We we got back from the ride, my dad wanted to see if Cody would follow him up onto the deck. She did.

Remember, the 9-day deer/gun season in WI is a holiday and the woods are PACKED with people. It is required that hunter's wear blaze orange for safety, and it is essential that anyone in the woods for whatever reason, wear blaze orange.

The evening of Thanksgiving, after we got back from my sister’s house, my dad and I trimmed up all three. I wanted to get that done before I left so that my Dad wouldn’t have to worry about it while I was gone. And if he does have to do it, then he’ll have seen how I like to trim them and so would stick to my program. My dad’s mom’s brother is a farrier and my dad spent a lot of time with him, so he learned to trim horses from him. But he did it the old way where you cut out a bunch of sole every time you trim instead of letting it callous up and exfoliate on its own. I explained what I’m trying to do with these horses and he completely understands the barefoot trimming and thinks it’s great, so I know my horses are in good hands.

Pulling burs from Chico's mane (where are they finding these things!)

Rasping Chico's hooves. He didn't need much done since I'd done him most recently.

On the barefoot topic, I’m sure each of you (if you do the barefoot thing) have run into or know people who are rather traditional and will not ride a horse off their property unless it is shod on all four feet. I know a few, and one of their strongest reasons for not being open-minded about the barefoot thing is that they’ve never seen a working ranch that does their horses barefoot. Because of that, they think barefoot riding is only for pasture pets and those phoofy new age horse people (which I apparently am!). Well, I gotta tell you that I have seen a working ranch that keeps their horses barefoot - my friend’s husbands family who lives in SE Montana! They are very open-minded educated cattle ranchers, and they know people who are proponents of keeping horses barefoot. They told me that their horses do really well. Granted, they do not use horses to do EVERYTHING on the ranch – often they use trucks when they can – but there are times of the year and places where horses are the only way to access and move cattle, so they are for sure using horses as work animals. And I know they’d shoe their horses if they couldn’t handle it. I just thought you’d all be interested.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Exploring their new pasture.

We hooked up the hotwire and let them loose this morning. They were so boring; all they wanted to do was eat, so I chased them around a bit until they finally got the hint to move around! Then, Catlow got separated from the other two (they chose opposite directions), so then there was a panic fest while all three ran round and round the hill trying to find each other. It was hilarious! Finally, at the end, they caught back up.

There are just too many great photos to try to upload them to blogger, so I wanted to share this album with you...I also tell the story photo by photo...

And here is the video of their last loop around the hill.

Another chilly day

Guess I should stop complaining about it, since winter is just getting started, but seriously! It is 8 degrees F right now and the high is going to be 28 today! I really want to get out and ride, but add this cold onto the horses' nervousness, and that doesn't equal a pleasant ride. It is supposed to warm up a little this weekend with a high on Sunday of 41, so hopefully I'll get some riding in then.

Off to connect hotwire and get horse pictures!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

News from the BLM and pasture time!

Today we strung the wire and I tied strips of fabric on the wire to make it more visible while they are learning the boundaries. We didn't get the electric hooked up yet, but I was itching to let them explore their new pasture, so I haltered Cody (lead mare), and opened the panels, hoping the other two would just follow as I led her along the fence line. Well, for the most part they followed, but they also took off and galloped around and around the hills before I even had a chance to take them to the other side. They saw the fence right off, but I was still worried they might jump it in their excitement (althouth they've never jumped a fence before). They didn't jump the fence. Cody didn't appreciate them leaving her to zoom to the other side of the pasture, but I made her behave (it's good for her). When I completed the circle with Cody, I caught Chico and did the same thing (even though he'd been all over, I still thought he might not have had a chance to get in the corners). Meanwhile, Cody and Catlow continued to zoom all around. Catlow was really digging in and galloping. It was so fun to watch. Then I took Catlow around, but this time, Cody and Chico felt they had explored enough and it was time to eat, so Catlow leaving didn't faze them a bit (although it bothered Catlow...poor horse at the bottom of the pecking order). Then I let them all loose to graze for a bit.

This weekend is the opening of the 9 day deer/gun season in Wisconsin. It is only 9 days long, so this weekend will be PACKED with hunters which means I need to wear orange even if I stay on our own land. It also means that people are target shooting right now, just down the road from us. The gunshots didn't bother them when they were in the paddock area, but out in this new area, it would cause them to gallop to a new spot to graze everytime they heard one.

Then I gave them each a little scoop of grain in buckets in the paddock area and went out to bribe them in. They came eagerly, but after their grain was gone, Cody went to pacing the perimeter where I had closed the panels back up. They had enough fun (and grazing) for today. They can have a bit more tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'll take my camera and get some video/pics of them zooming around!

Oh, and here's the burdock bouquet, as promised. Somehow, Cody found one I'd missed (of course) in her exploring escapades, so I had to pull a few from her tail. I've never seen burdocks in northern ID. They grow where it's wetter, so perhaps it's too dry out there. They are an infestation in old pastures here...

Chico's abcess really seems to be healing up. It's not draining anymore, the hole has scabbed over, and there is still no heat, so I think it is time to let it heal up.

I heard back from the BLM about Catlow and Chico's dams. They said they were rounded up already weaned so they didn't have mares assigned to them, therefore, there is no way of knowing who Chico and Catlow mother's were...makes me sad. I feel like they are orphans. Knowing what I do about horse bands and when foals are naturally weaned of their mothers, I highly doubt that they were "already weaned" when they came in (they were rounded up in August!). What that means really is that the BLM decided they were old enough to be weaned and it also meant less record keeping for them, so they separated out all the foals from the mares upon roundup. What an awful time that must have been for those mares and foals! To be rounded up by helicopters, then separated and thrown into pens, when all they had ever known previously was freedom and security in the herd. I sound really sappy, and usually I am very scientific about these things, but when I let myself really think about how each of those animals felt, it really makes me sad...although most of them seen to get over it and I know it is a necessity in today's world. And I do appreciate the opportunity to work with these animals. I have a new perspective on Catlow's fear of new places though...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fencing in the cold

Wow is it cold here compared to ID! Apparently it was in the 70's two weeks ago, but now, the high's have only been in the upper 30's. Brrrrrr! When we left ID, it was in the upper 40's and lower 50's with barely freezing overnight. I'm just not used to this cold where the ground is actually hard in the morning! ID just doesn't get as cold (at least not where I live).

Today, we snapped the insulators on the T-posts to get started on the fencing. My dad had driven the posts before he came out to ID because he was worried that the ground would freeze hard later in Nov. So far, it is softening up during the day, so we are able to drive new posts. Half of the fencing is barb wire which we will string with electric as well (I know, barb wire is a no-no for horses, but we've always kept them in barb wire and we never had an electric fence before now!) And I've never had a horse with a wire cut until these horses. Both Catlow and Chico have pawed fences and cut the back of their pasterns. Cody just likes to lean over and graze if she can. For the half that is currently barb wire, we are putting electric fence on insulators that extend about 6 inches off the fence to keep them away from it and from leaning on it. For the other half, we had to replace the old nasty barb wire and old bent T-posts. For this half, we are putting three strands of hot-wire. I think it will work nicely. Today, we only managed to get the insulators on the posts and cut away the baby trees that had grown up in the fenceline since we last had horses around these parts (3 years ago I had an old thoroughbred named Taz who lived quite happily (and safely) in our substandard fencing, but he found a new home with a friend because I was in ID). I also walked the scrubby hill in their pasture and pulled all the burdocks (cockleburs) out. I hate pulling burs out of forelocks and tails. It mats them completely! I tossed the bur plants into the burning barrel and it made a "bur bouquet". I might try to snap a pic tomorrow, but I didn't have my camera on me today. Tomorrow we will string wire and introduce the horses to their new pasture.

This evening, my nephew came over after school and wanted to ride a horse, so we saddled Cody up, and I worked her on the ground a bit. I also showed him how to wiggle the rope and ask her to back away from him. He is being very good about listening to safety rules and being careful for himself around the horses. I led Cody, and my mom walked behind me with a hold on my nephew's jacket in case of any problems (I don't completely trust Cody...she's pretty confident, but she can also be stupid and spooky and she is in a new place right now). We walked all around the field and all was okay (Cody was walking fast, and pulling on me a bit, but she stopped whenever I asked her). At one point, she did get worried about the house across the road and the dog running up behind her, so my mom pulled my nephew off and I worked her on the ground for bit. Then he got back on and we walked back to the barn.

Then, since Cody was saddled already, I bridled her and took off for a quick ride before it got too dark. She was a little spooky and whinnied back for the others a couple times. She walked so fast and we also trotted and cantered. That tired her out a bit, so she was much calmer by the time we got back on top of the ridge heading toward the barn. I was pretty happy with how she did. I have to remember that she's only 5, she's in a new place, and I haven't ridden her in a few weeks. I'm excited because my neighbors stopped over today to see our horses and said I can use their arena (outdoor arena) whenever. I've never had an arena to work in unless I went to lessons! My neighbor's are retired and have 8 Tennessee Walkers. They breed on a small scale (don't have their own stallion) and their horses are all black or smokey black. Apparently they've been hoping for a palomino, but they keep getting smokey blacks. They are also very into learning new training methods and are doing the barefoot trimming as well.

Several of my family members (aunt, sister, mom...) have gotten hooked on watching this "puppy cam". I have seen it, and must say it is addicting. It has quite a following! At any given time, there might be 15,000-20,000 people watching it! Here's the website if you want to check it out: It's good if you have sound too...the puppies howl a lot! The site freezes up or goes off every once in a while, but they get it back on line.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Barns and vet visits

I was also tagged by Jesse, but unfortunatley, I don't think there are any horse books out here at my parents house (aside from perhaps some of mine in boxes in the shed). I'll have to wait till I get back to ID.

So, I saw the Washington Post article on the mustang rescue, and I also read what Fugly Horse of the Day had to say about it. Fugly really pisses me off sometimes. I don't really know what to do about this mustang situation (well, actually, I'd like to see less taken off the range, and look into alternative sustainable management...we'll probably have to euthanize the cattle that they are competing with instead (kidding...)). My big beef with the Fugly blog is the fact that she tends to be so negative and acts like a horse is not cared for properly unless it is cared for the exact same way she does hers...and you need lots of money to care for horses like that. Anyway, done ranting.

I sent an email to someone at the OR/WA BLM horse program to see if I can track down Chico and Catlow's dams. I want to find them. If I can swing it, I'd like to adopt them.

Today, I took some "after" pics of the barn. The barn is just an old tin shed that my grandpa built in the 70's for his cows. It's holey and rusty, but with a good load of sand and some lumber, it makes a great horse shelter.
This is before we made it horse safe...

And this is after...we covered the corners of the tin and nailed boards up inside to give them and L-shaped area for shelter. We also brought in a load of sand and smoothed it out.

I still can't believe the horses are really here!!!

Today, I worked with the 3 horses. I took Cody for a bareback ride around the property. She became nervous once out of sight of the others, and whinnied for them a few times (meanwhile, Chico was screaming in the background). She was okay, but was very fast (fast walk). We did trot and canter a little and she was good. I didn't boot her at all because the ground here is so gentle on a horse's feet, compared to the ground in ID.

Then I took Chico out for a bareback ride. Since he's not lame, I'm going to ride him. I think it might help break up the puss in the wound. He was quite eager to get out and see things, but then after we crossed the ridge, he became a bit more uncertain and nervous. He was also very fast...when Chico walks really fast, it's almost like he's gaiting because of how short his back is.

After his ride, I loaded him into the trailer and we took him to the vet in Sparta (amazingly, there is no one near us who will see horses, guess maybe there's a niche for me after vet school?). The vet said she thought this was an older injury that had abcessed because she didn't think that a wound he got only a few days ago would be draining puss like this without having heat or lameness. So, there is no heat in the injury and his temp was not elevated. She rinsed it a lot, and thought that whatever was in there causing the abcess had probably drained out previously with the puss. She thought there was no need for systemic antibiotics, so gave us this salve to use on it to help drain, with the instructions to flush it with dilute iodine once every two days. The bill was VERY cheap compared to the one for this same injury previously in ID. I won't tell you how much, but in ID, they charged over 4X as much to probe the poke from the stick, and tell us that he didn't have wood in it (which it turns out that he probably did). They sedated him that time (not sure why) so maybe that explains the difference?

During the visit, the vet asked me about ID and why I'd moved back. After I told her I had applied to vet school, she invited me to ride along with her on her appointments to see what this large animal/equine thing was all about. How cool! I think I'll go early next week (after I get my manuscript edited and submitted).

After we got back, I took Catlow out of the pen (she didn't try to avoid me this time). I loaded her in the trailer and gave her some oats in a bucket inside. We continued to go in and out, grabbing mouthfuls of oats whenever we were in. She was definitely hesitant about going in at first, but after she discovered the oats, she relaxed a bit. Then I took her for a walk (thought she needed to relax more before I ride her out). She was actually pretty good on our walk. I've had her be worse before. She was definitely nervous, and I had to constantly wiggle the rope or back her up to remind her to walk next to me, not lead me. And she was definitely huffy about me asking her to flex, but she did everything I asked. I think I'll ride her next time. Once back at the barn, she was very relaxed. I guess they think of it as home now!

I think my dad and I might try to go for a ride tomorrow. We also need to put up fence.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 1 - Mustangs in Wisconsin

This morning, the horses had busted out of the barn. Last night, we had hurriedly nailed up boards to hold them in after they'd grazed a bunch, but they were on the outside, rather than the inside of the enclosure, so they were able to push them off. The enclosure was kinda small for 3 horses so likely Cody pushed one of the other two to where they hit the boards when they are getting out of her way and knocked them off. No big deal; no one was scratched or anything from the event.

They are doing great. At this point, the grass is packed down a little bit more from being walked on and grazed, so I'm not so worried about it being too much for them. They are eating so slowly too. They take a bite here and there, and they are also eating hay that we have out for them. I think there is just too much to look at and watch out for to really get serious about the grazing. They have all lost a few pounds from the stress of travelling and not eating constantly like they were before they left.

This morning, I noticed that Chico's rub mark on his leg had somehow abscessed or been punctured. Puss was running out and had matted up his hair.

We took him up to the garage to thoroughly clean it out. It's bizarre, he's not lame on it at all. In the center of the quarter sized bare patch of hair, there is a circular wound that extrudes outward. I do not remember seeing a puncture wound in the middle of the bare patch when I first noticed it at my friend's ranch a few days ago. I washed off all the serum and then used a syringe to flush the hole with a dilute iodine solution. The syringe tip goes very deep into the hole, it seems all the way through the skin, and when I push the liquid into it, it blows up a pocket about 4 times the size of the bare patch under the skin. When I remove the syringe, the liquid oozes or squirts back out.

Strangly enough, this is perhaps the exact same location where Chico had received a poke from a branch about 6-7 weeks ago. Initially, he was very lame on that poke, but the vet said there was no wood in it, and that the puncture from the branch didn't even go all the way through the skin (she looked at it about 2 days post-poke - we called her out because his leg had really swollen up and he had become very lame on it). The vet had said the inflammation was from the impact of the blow to his joint, so it was just bruised (He walked briskly into a branch that stuck him in the leg). He healed up after a week and a half, and after the initial soreness and swelling, he was never lame on it.

So with this wound, perhaps there really was a piece of wood in there, and now there's been a small abscess growing under the skin for several weeks? A vet told me that right before an abscess blows, sometimes the hair falls out of the skin there. That could be what happened here, but I'm not sure. I was sure he had bumped it en route to WI and just scraped the hide off, but now that it's draining puss I'm not so sure. We will take him to the vet tomorrow because I worry that the infection could progress if not treated and infect his stifle joint. That would be bad.

Chico was such a good sport about being closed into the heated garage so we could treat him in comfort. When I first led in him, he nickered at himself in the mirror, but then realized it wasn't a horse.

Aside from treating Chico, today, my dad and I pushed sand into the barn, and put up some boards in the barn to keep them out of half of it. I'll post pics after I get the "after" pic tomorrow. It was so funny after we dumped a load of sand into the pen (I wish I'd had my camera). They were fine with the dump truck coming into the pen, then Chico and Cody both came right over to investigate the sand pile. They nuzzled it, pawed it, then both laid down to roll and roll in it. Catlow was still off being by herself. I also got some treats and spent time just going out and visiting and scratching them and giving a few treats. Catlow has made a turn around from yesterday. She's always standoffish a bit, but she'll let me approach her now, and she's showing interest in me again, and sniffing my pockets for treats. :) Cody and Chico were pests while we were working on the barn. They kept coming in to investigate what was happening in there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We made it!!!

We made it to Wisconsin Sunday afternoon!

We are tired, but everyone is settled in and doing okay. It took 4 days of driving and I really don't think it would have been good for the horses to push it and do it in 3 days. As it was, hours per day were 1st day: 10 hours, 2nd day: 8 hours, 3rd day: 11 hours, and 4th day: 7 hours. Normally, that trip takes me about 27 hours of total driving my myself (done over 2 days), but I've never done it with horses!

Day 1 (Thursday): Thankfully it was not raining this morning. The weather was much improved from the previous few days. The night before, we were packing everything in the truck and trailer in the rain! All three horses loaded very well. They each stopped to look in the trailer and pause before they would step up in, but they all did it well. Chico first, then Catlow, and Cody in the back. As soon as Chico was loaded and the divider shut, he started pawing nervously, but Catlow and Cody loaded okay through his racket. He quit as soon as we were moving, but it had been almost a year since he'd been anywhere in a trailer.

We stopped in Moscow on the way out for coffee. All three stood quietly while we were parked. Then we headed up 95 and then East on I-90.

Halfway through the day, we stopped and gave them hay in their bags at one gas station, then offered them water at the next. Cody was the only one that might have been the city water effect that turned the mustangs off, or nerves.

That evening, we stayed at a place in Belgrade, MT (very interesting place). When we pulled in, the wind was blowing hard and it was snowing sideways. The heavy winds made it seem much colder than it really was. We hurriedly unloaded the spooky, jelly-legged horses and left them to their pen with food and water. They didn't spend much time eating that evening, and instead stuck tight in their little threesome and ran back and forth around the pen. The woman that owned the place raises mules and owns a mammoth jack donkey.

Her house is incredible...very solid, well built, and like an old west museum inside.

The horse facilities were good. Our three were in a large round pen (much bigger than a roundpen), with a feeder and water tank. The ground was a little mucky (but better than where they were living previously). I can see, however, that it would be difficult to keep it sanitary with many horses moving through.

Day 2 (Friday): The horses were still flighty the next morning, but Cody approached me immediately, followed by Chico (Catlow was off by herself). I haltered Cody easily, but Chico left me, then came right back to be haltered. I had to follow Catlow as she left me across the whole pen, then cut her off, as she was going to try to duck around me. Then she stood for haltering. At home, she's normally really good, but she's also relaxed. They all loaded up fine, just a moment's hesitation at the door, as usual. We did the same routine today, with hay in the middle of the day, with water offered at the following stop. None of the three drank today, and I was getting a bit worried because I wasn't positive they had drank over the night (I think the tank was self-filling, so we couldn't monitor the water level).

This evening, our destination was a friend of mine whose husband's family owns a large ranch in the very SE corner of MT (4 miles from WY border, and also close to SD). We cut across Hwy 212, then down and onto the 18 miles gravel/mud road that led to their house. The truck/trailer had no problems and the country was beautiful.

We arrived at my friend's place in the daylight so were able to easily navigate their very muddy driveway. They call the red mud "gumbo". The truck and trailer blended into the landscape!

Here, our friends had set up a stall for each horse with water in a 5-gal bucket, so we were able to see that they had indeed drank water before we went to bed. I was relieved. However, I noticed that Chico had a quarter sized hairless patch on the front of his stifle joint, almost exactly where he'd been poked by a stick about 6 weeks ago. He wasn't lame on it, and I figured that he must have bumped his leg at the previous night's place when they were spooky and running around.

That evening, we visited with old friends, and sipped homemade huckleberry beer (mine).

Day 3 (Saturday): We woke up, tended to the horses, then shared coffee with my friend, her husband, and his father. After coffee, we accompanied them out to feed the weanling calves. They believe in letting the cattle make their own living off the land, and never feed the cows unless there is a really heavy snow that prevents them from getting adequate feed from the place. They've bred their cattle to have these qualities. However, they do supplement the weanling calves with a higher protein pelleted feed at about a lb per calf per day to give them a head start, but they are also expected to forage on their own.

It was great to see their ranch, then we got the horses out of their stalls and took them for a brisk walk down the road and back to loosen up their legs before loading them. They had one of the ranch geldings running loose the yard area where we were walking our horses, and he came flying up behind up. I shoo'ed him away, but he followed us with a bit of distance for a bit. When we stopped to turn around, he advanced a few steps forward, and Chico stopped and backed a few steps, and before I could even utter a reprimand, he kicked the gelding right in the chest with both hind feet! The gelding (a nicely put together bright red chestnut), wheeled, ran, bucked and shook his head as he retreated. He was fine, and Chico felt really proud that he protected his mares. I got after him and backed him a ways up, but then we loaded the horses in the trailer. Same thing, they all loaded with just a moment's hesitation at the door. Cody, though, just walked right in, no hesitation this day.

We got on the road later this day, but had a great time. Looking back at the ranch.

We saw some amazing sights. We snapped some photos when we took a quick rest with the horses.

We stopped to get pictures of a mule deer buck and does in the midst of rut that didn't have time to even notice us.

We got on I-90 in WY, and continued east, through western SD, where there had been 4 ft of snow (with drifts three times that), just a week earlier (thankfully it had melted down quite a bit by this time). It got dark before we even hit the Missouri River in central SD, so we left this day with the image of the West imprinted on our brains yet. This day, when we offered the horses water, Cody drank well, but Chico and Catlow had only a few small sips…I think the city water effect again.

We arrived at Aunt Reba's Bed and Breakfast in Larchwood, IA, very late that evening. Rich and Reba were very good hosts and we highly recommend this place. The horse accomodations were very clean. They offer pasture (if you horse is used to is) or larger indoor runs, or individual stalls. We put our three in an indoor run together, and retired for the evening.

Day 4 (Sunday): We awoke very early the next day (didn't get enough sleep). After tending to the horses, Reba cooked us a very good breakfast and sent us on our way. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of this cute farm, but they do have pics on their website.

It was now readily apparent that we were in the very flat plains of the midwest's bread basket region. There is so much agriculture there. As far as you can see, it is flat tilled fields, with islands of deciduous trees planted around the individual farm houses to give them relief from the constant prairie wind. This is not my country, and seeing this first thing this morning, made me feels a bit apprehensive about this big move back to this area.

But then we came down the bluffs to the Mississippi River to LaCrosse, WI, and I remembered why I loved this place.

As soon as we crossed the river, the trees became more abundant and the landscape had more topography. I felt like I was home, but I wasn't yet able to really let down my guard and feel relief. I don't think I will be able to feel that until I actually move home more permanently next spring (or maybe it will hit me after a few days).


We arrived to a welcome committee of my mom, neice and nephew.

Then we unloaded the horses into the small round pen set up around the barn area. The horses were nervous, but we didn't feed them while on the road this day knowing it'd be their shortest and last ride, which meant that they got busy eating the green grass in the pen. They were alert and looking around, herding up and moving back and forth in the pen, but they were settling in good.

Watching us approach with the kids to check on them...

We let them graze for a few hours, then locked them up in the barn with some hay. They aren't used to this fall green grass, which is actually the highest danger for causing founder. We had a horse founder extremely badly out here when I was a kid, so I'm paranoid about it.

I can see that before I leave, I need to really introduce Chico to the kids, and work with them on safety. Chico sees them as something different (Cody and Catlow see them as smaller people, and basically sniff, then ignore), and he is so reactive and defensive right now being in new territory, that I can see accidents happening (which I'd like to try to prevent right now). He's so reactive and defensive that when I was unloading the others, he was last and as I approached his divider, he couldn't see me, but was worried, and so kicked out sideway with one hind leg. He hasn't done that to me in a LONG time, so I see that we need to settle in and be worked with. My sister and grandparents know that they CANNOT let the kids in the horse pen with out immediate supervision (holding hands) for their own safety.

Also, Catlow is being really standoffish. She doesn't want to be caught at all. I think she fears that I'll put her back in the trailer. She's also just too unsure of everything to let down her guard and allow me to approach her. I hope this doesn't last because I feel very sad about it. I'm sure she'll get over it after she settles in.

Both Cody and Chico will approach me in the pen, and Cody is being very cuddly. Chico checks me out, then goes off to be flighty. Chico and Cody are inseparable, and Catlow is on the outside, looking in and out to be sure nothing will eat her.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Dad is in Idaho!

This afternoon, my Dad arrived in Idaho! This was the first time I got to see the new horse trailer he found and we took Catlow to a riding lesson.

Taking Catlow to a riding lesson accomplished many things. I was able to take her to see the trainer/friend who I've been watching train horses and get some help with my own riding form. Catlow had a good first trailering experience. She went to a completely new place for the first time, and found out that it wasn't that scary. It was a really good experience for both of us.

When I loaded Catlow at Todd's mom's place, she calmly walked right into the strange trailer without a bit of hesitation. Then I turned her around and led her back out. Then turned around and took her right back in. It was raining, so we didn't mess around with in and out anymore, we just tied her, closed the divider and took off. Three miles down the road, we stopped to open her window and see how she was doing. Her eyes were wide, and she had her legs spread to keep her balance and she was definitely nervous, but she was okay, so we just continued to the lesson. She rode very well. There was no pounding coming from the trailer and she did not paw when we stopped. She was much calmer by the time we got to the lesson. When I opened her divider, I just stood next to her and scratched her for a few minutes to make sure she was calm and didn't learn to expect to get right out of the trailer whenever the doors open. She was alert, and high headed, but okay. Then I lead her to the door so she could stand and look out. She nickered at the white arabian stallion who had ambled over to check out the new trailer occupants.

Then we exited the trailer and I continued to walk her around the trailer until she calmed down completely, which she did! She was high headed and alert for about 2 complete circles around the truck, but then I let her graze and we continued to walk and she really calmed down. She was alert and not completely relaxed, but really really good. If at home she is relaxed enough to be a 0, and when she sees cows on a trial ride she becomes a nervous 10, at my lesson, she was about a 2-3 which is how she normally is when I take her on a ride by herself.

We got there really early (partly because she loaded so well and it was raining so we left right away, but part was on purpose to give Catlow a chance to check out the place). So I was able to walk her around a lot, and take my time with saddling her up.

This picture is before the lesson, right after I saddled her up (it was actually a bit lighter outside than that, but the flash made it look like it was midnight).

I'm just really happy that my dad is here and so is my horse! By the way, I can't believe how much like my mom I look in these pictures. It's uncanny.

Then Katie got home from work, so we went to the arena. There are lots of objects (tractor parts covered in a tarp, an arena grader, just lots of stuff) near the door, so she needed time to absorb that (very uncertain and wanted to get out of there if given the choice). Katie opened the arena door and that scared her a bit, but she just jumped then watched as the door rose up.

I did some ground work with her first, and explained to Katie how she seemed to shut down if I pushed her to much, especially at the canter so I didn't canter her much when lunging, mostly just trotting and changing directions. Katie suggested that I need to continue to up the degree of stress that I place on her so that she learns to accept more and won't retreat within herself and shut down. I guess that I have done this with her with other things, but not with the ground work stuff. I'm happy with how she works, so I sometimes don't even do ground work. I did work with asking her to canter while lunging, but I could hardly get 3 good stride out of her before she'd fall back to the trot, and she broke into a canter very spurty-like, with a tucked tail. I think that Katie is right that I just need to do it with her more and be sure to reward her lots when she maintains a canter.

Then I mounted and we warmed up at the walk and then the trot. The guineas were in the arena roosting on the beams, and at one point they went into a screeching fit, and that freaked Catlow out quite a bit for about two seconds (she jumped and froze), but she got over it really fast and ignored them after that, even when they flew down from their perch to walk across the arena and move to a different perch.

So, we worked at walk, trot and canter and did circles for bending in the corners, and also worked on canter-walk transitions. It took me a couple circles to get the hang of just the right amount of leg pressure for her, but then she did really good with bending and circling at the walk and trot (she's just really sensitive to leg pressure so will move off it well). She was also very cadenced at the trot (well, good for being her first time with arena work - most of the time we work on the trail - her trotting was mostly very cadenced, but occasionally she lost focus and became a bit confused about what she was to do, so would lose momentum). She especially would lose momentum in the circles because she wasn't sure how to circle properly at first - she would sort of drop her shoulder and almost seem to pivot on it such that she was swinging her hind end out and around to help her complete her circle. She did quit doing that after a few circles.

Once she was going well at trot-circles, then we moved up to cantering. First we just cantered around the outside of the arena until Catlow was maintaining a rhythm and slowing down. When I first asked her to canter, she shot forward with a strong leap into the canter, and then cantered strongly around, cutting corners and really leaning into her circle. I had to slow her down, help her straighten up, and move her to the rail with leg pressure. She responded well. Once she was cadenced, then Katie said to try a smaller circle in the corner of the arena. The first two times we tried it, she dropped to a trot and I could not get her to pick the canter back up until she was on the rail again, but by the third circle she had balanced herself enough to keep cantering through the circle. Katie said I need to pull up on the inside rein (with my palm upward) to keep her from dropping her shoulder and to also keep urging her through the circle with my outside leg. After the first couple rough circles, she at least maintained a canter through all the circles and many of them felt really nice. Then Katie asked me to bring her to a walk, and Catlow responded by halting them jumping into the walk. Katie alerted me to the fact that Catlow's response was due to my sloppy riding - she stopped fast because I overcued her, and when I lost my balance, my heels dug into her and so she shot forward again. So we worked on canter-walk transitions in between canter-circle exercises. By the end, with a simple deeper sit into the saddle (with my feet forward to keep my balance and not touching reins at all), Catlow was coming smoothly down to a walk.

Catlow was pretty tired at the end, and really had calmed down a lot and was understanding what I was asking of her and how she was expected to respond. I walked her to cool her down and I could tell when she had caught her breath. As she aired up more, she became more and more aware of the scary things in the arena (not bad, but she because uncertain of how she should respond - but this also could have been due to the next lesson horse entering the arena and walking around the center).

After the lesson, she did hesitate just slightly before loading back into the trailer - slight hesitation, but with a calm insistent pull on the halter, she put one leg in the trailer, then scratched her sweaty head on her knee for 30 seconds. Then I asked her to come all the way in and she did without hesitating. Once home, I stood with her for a while before unloading her. She was very calm by the end of this trailer ride.

I think Catlow had a very good first away from home experience. Tomorrow, I have to work, but then my dad and I will be loading up all my horse stuff and readying our intinerary for Thursday morning when we leave!

Monday, November 10, 2008


This morning, I said the final goodbye to my very good friend. It was tearful and very hard, but I know we will stay in touch and I will see her again!

My dad arrives here in Moscow tomorrow! Right now he is sleeping in Missoula. He'll arrive at 2pm, I'll meet him, then we'll pick up Catlow and go take my lesson on her.

Wednesday will be last minute packing...

Then we leave on Thursday morning! Countdown: 3 days!

I don't think I'll be able to post pictures during our trip, but I'll definitely get them up as soon as I get back.

Please cross your fingers that our trip goes well! I have never hauled horses this far before! I have a first aid kit, we shouldn't be on the road for longer than 8 hours in any one day, and my horses accept trailering pretty well (except for Catlow - has never trailered, but she loads well!). The weather should be good, but my dad's truck is very loaded down (even with an empty horse trailer), so we'll be going quite slow and easy.

And cross your fingers for my friend, who leaves tomorrow morning to drive her horses to Colorado. I love you Windy!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

rain and confrontations

Our long fun trail ride was canceled today, but I went for a ride in the rain anyway. I rode Chico and saddled him up simply to keep my butt dry (he was wet). He was funny today. We don't ride in the rain much and he was quite leary of the wet areas on the paved road. I couldn't convince him it was okay to walk on those wet areas (which were no where near as deep as puddles) unless I dismounted and crossed it myself. He did good otherwise, and it was definitely raining most of the time...not enough to get me wet, but enough to make Chico wet.

I got yelled at by one of the neighbors today. The guy that lives by the big red barn has this australian shepherd type dog that barks and barks and barks whenever I ride past. She barks the whole time until I'm out of sight. Since hunting season started, I've been riding on the road more often so most weekends I pass by this house on horseback at least once. And there is a scary pile of logs and an old gate at the foot of their driveway that all of my horses always eye warily (combined with the barking dog, they tend to get a bit uptight through there). So I tend to stop and let them relax and look at the gate before they move on.

Well, today it was the barking dog, log pile, and wet road all combined into one, so I tried to convince Chico that the road wasn't going to swallow him up, then we stared at the gate, then we continued on (dog barking meanwhile). My dogs kind of ignore the barking dog, although I have to be vigilant to call them to stay with me, otherwise they'd like to run up and greet her.

So on the way back past the house and the red barn, I came across a very large puddle, and Chico really wouldn't cross it, so I dismounted and led him through it. Meanwhile the dog is barking (I can tune her out though), and then I notice the guy walking across his lawn toward me. He says "Why do you have to come by here!". I respond "I'm just riding on the road" (Which I'm thinking is public property, therefore within my rights), and He says "But then you go stopping here and drive our dog crazy!" At this point, I respond with "There is a puddle here, my horse is afraid of it, and I'm trying to train him not to be". Then I realize my cinch is too loose to get back on, so I have to tighten it, then I lead Chico out of the puddle, then mount and continue down the road. I never looked back at the guy...I felt awful, and sick to my stomach from the confrontation. I really wasn't intentionally stopping there to drive his dog crazy. Every time I've stopped there was because my horse was uptight and I wanted to give him a chance to think about the situation and relax (it usually works). Was I completely wrong for doing that? I guess a barking-barking-barking dog drives the guy that lives there crazy, but I would have thought he was used to it...the dog barks constantly when I ride past there, and don't I have the right to ride on the road?

Anyway, I felt awful, but then I got back and tore down the old turkey pen and fixed her up a smaller pen and gave her clean hay in her house...then I felt better.

Check out Chico's wet pattern. How often do you see it this way on a horse? His back dried out under the saddle pad and everything else stayed very wet.

And here are Chico's hooves 2 weeks post trim. He's grown a little heel (pasture is all mud so there is nothing to wear them at all). I like to closely scrutinize how much they grow and maintain the trim.

So, tomorrow morning, my dad leaves Wisconsin to drive out here. He expects to get here by noon on Tuesday. Tuesday night, we will trailer Catlow to my trainer/friend's for a lesson to give her a good first trailer experience (one that returns her home when it is finished), so that she doesn't always think that trailers will uproot her and take her somewhere new.

Then we leave Thursday! So countdown is now 5 days! I'm excited but nervous about this major change that is about to occur. And I have lots of stuff to get ready before my dad gets here, so I better get to it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Family trees

One thing that I really wish I knew about Catlow and Chico was what their parents looked like and where they might be right now. Does anyone know if the BLM keeps those records? I know that both were rounded up as weanlings in the fall, so I'm sure they were rounded up with their dams at least, and probably also the herd stallions. If I go dig out their BLM registration numbers and call the Burns office, could they find that info for me? At least to know if their parents were adopted out or if they were turned back out (how often does this really happen when they bring in a herd). I especially want to see Chico's dam and sire because he has such interesting conformation.

There's just something comforting about knowing a horse's parents. I feel like I know more about Cody in general, just because I've seen her parents and have pictures of them (even though I don't really know them...I have no idea what their temperaments are like or anything...I just have pictures).

Cody's previous owners who raised her gave me these pictures when I bought her.

Cody's sire was a grey quarter horse (brown under the grey). He was basically a ranch horse lineage but had an accident as a young horse so was never trained to ride.

Cody's dam was a palomino quarter horse. I don't think she has the greatest conformation (weak hip perhaps, but then again, she was just a broodmare so that affects a mares shape after several babies). I can't remember if they said she had ever been ridden or not.

The foal in these pictures is Cody. Isn't she cute? I bet she was a pushy, energetic little foal.

Not that knowing the mustang's parents would actually change what I thought about them, but I just wish I knew what combination of conformations gave rise to them. I love them so much. If Chico's mother looks like him, I'd love to adopt her, no matter how old she is at this point.