Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sassy meets Pumpkin

Here is the 'Sassy and Pumpkin Meet' post, as promised.

Remember, we got Pumpkin in the Spring to serve as a guard animal. Todd had some problems with coyotes in the past and thought a guard animal would be something to try. Usually, donkeys are used with cows, but I also know that mules can be pretty fearless protectors. I found Pumpkin through a rescue. She was a 4 year old pony mule. The rescuer said that she chased dogs in the pasture, so we decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, Pumpkin did not take to the cows. She stood on the hill along the fenceline, calling to the horses (mine) that she could see across the valley. She ignored the cows, unless they were in her way. In that case, she pinned her ears and the cows scattered. They were scared to death of tiny Pumpkin, even though they were much larger.

Todd's nephew had a horse that he had lost interest in. He'd just gotten her that spring from a friend of his who was planning to attend college the next fall. But then, he also got a motorcycle and the horse fell on the back burner. The horse, Sassy, was a 5 year old paint/appaloosa mare who'd only been trail ridden previously. She is super friendly with people, but had been kept alone since her previous owner acquired her as a weanling. Sassy didn't have any social skills. She had been standing alone in a little pasture for most of the spring and summer and her pasture was getting rather eaten down, so Todd's nephew decided to turn her out with the cows and Pumpkin.

I thought that Pumpkin would be delighted to have an equine friend, but boy was I wrong! She saw Sassy as an intruder. She ran a couple of circles around Sassy, then promptly rounded up her cows and drove the painted intruder away from them!
If you look closely in this picture, you can see Sassy standing at the gate begging to be let out, while Pumpkin stands guard in her cow herd.

The tiny little mule had shed out into a lovely shiny chestnut color over the summer.

When I entered the pasture, Sassy followed me, looking for some security. I walked up the hill away from the cows.

Pumpkin watches from within her cow herd. Click the picture to see it bigger if you can't pick her head out!

Pumpkin decides to come up and see what's going on.

She sniffs the intruder's poo.

Then she sets chase after Sassy! Sassy runs for her life! This picture captures Sassy's stance well. It's almost as though she doesn't know how to run. She sort of "stots" like a mule deer.

Sassy runs right through the cow herd!

Pumpkin returns to the center of her herd, while Sassy must stand outcast.

Pumpkin comes again to check Sassy out and perhaps give her another talking to.

Sassy watches, prepared to run.

Within a week, these two were best friends. Pumpkin was definitely the boss of the two-some. This was the start of Pumpkin taking the protector role in the herd. Unfortunately, she took that role too far. She was with the cows that were about to have their first calves. Most of Todd's cows calve in the fall (to sell during that time when the demand is higher due to lower supply), but he always has the first calf heifers calve earlier so that their calves have a bit more substance to them going into winter. So, as summer went on, the heifers started having their calves. Pumpkin decided that the calves were hers. Some of them, she tried to steal from their mothers. I watched her do it. She would basically walk alongside the calf, circling around it and blocking it from its mother. The calf would start following her. If the mother tried to intervene, Pumpkin pinned her ears and even kicked the cow! The cows gave up. Probably if she'd been with the more experienced cows, she would not have gotten away with this. She had to eventually be removed from the pasture with her pal, Sassy, to prevent any further problems.

Pumpkin is a very interesting little animal. I remember when we visited the rescue, she was in heat. She displayed and teased the horses and managed to convince a gelding to mount her! It was kinda funny because she is so little. So, Pumpkin displays very intense heats, even though she is a mule, and is therefore sterile. There must be something in her that wants a baby so bad. I bet she would be a fantastic nanny to a foal that lost a mother...if she could be made to lactate.

Now, Sassy and Pumpkin are integrated into my herd. Pumpkin is no longer the queen of the pasture, but she doesn't seem to mind so much. I think she likes being with the other horses.


Linda said...

:) I love, love, love the picture of Pumpkin in her cow herd. Very funny story!! I had a good laugh. I imagine she was quite the pest when she was stealing the calves from their mamas.

Anonymous said...

Funny pictures and story - love her "hiding" in the middle of the cows - I guess powerful things sometimes come in small packages!