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 drank...it 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.
Hope and Possibilities
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