I needed some horse time today so I decided to bring each horse over to the Lodge for a brushing. I caught Jesse in the corral and headed for the hitchrack in our front yard. Before we could get there, I had WILD horse on my hands. What's that on the front porch??? She was swinging around me, snorting and tail raised. There was a monster in the corner waving its arms and about to jump out at us. Gotta get away; gotta kill it; gotta do something! OK, it was a three foot tall mum plant we had inherited the night before from a wedding celebration at the neighboring lodge. Try explaining that to an irate Mustang. As soon as I could quit laughing I asked Bill to walk the plant out into the parking lot for us. He set it down; Jesse did an immediate sniff and investigate, stuck her face in the air with an, "Oh, it's a bush - not even edible."
Wow. Some excitement. Let's try another horse. Brushed Jesse, returned her to the corral, and collected Washoe. Got all the way to the hitchrack and dufus hadn't noticed a thing. Not surprising. After all, this is Washoe we are talking about. So, I go get the plant and set it down by the mounting stumps. Suddenly, whooooa. What's that? (He noticed.) I untie him from the rack and walk him over to the plant with a good show of Arab behavior. This time, Bill had the camera and we both had some good laughs. Washoe finally agreed it was just a plant - and non edible. Go figure; he will usually eat anything that won't eat him first.
Alright, we're on a roll. Next horse. Estes was waiting at the gate when I took Washoe back, so she was the next candidate. (Want to make any bets, Tel?) Now, the plant is still sitting near the mounting stumps, and she notices before we get across the road. Monster!!!! I have to coax her the rest of the way off the road. Bill is ready with the camera (and I think she noticed). Suddenly, she's in the "I-can-handle-this mode" and chooses to make eye contact with the "thing", arches her cute little neck in the air and let's me walk her over to it, sort of staying behind me as much as possible. She bravely reaches out and touches it on command, and again we have the "Oh, it's not even edible."
Three down, one to go. Ranger is the one who usually has fits with this stuff, so we were ready to help him do battle. Bill brought him across the street. We had returned the plant to the corner because guests were arriving, so Bill walked Ranger right over to the edge of the porch. No reaction. Bill walks Ranger right up to the plant, under the porch roof. Ranger walks right over to the plant, takes a sniff and looks at Bill. No further reaction. Wow, the scary Mustang says, "It's just a plant. What's the big deal?"
You just never know with horses!
(She forgot to sign her blog, so I did it for her...Bill)
Special thanks to The Flower House (www.theflowerhouseweddings.com) for the mums!
I went out to feed this morning...on a bright, gloriously sunny day. As usual I was getting the normal sing-song of horse vocals and stompings as I pull a bale of hay from the shed and toss it in the feeder. It was really nice grass hay from the new load we brought up a couple of days ago. Soon I realize I must have done something terribly wrong. Nobody wants to eat; a lot of snuffling and shoving of the hay; a lot of shoving and pushing around the feeder. I put some hay in Estes' feeder in the small pen; she quickly inspects it and actually tries to follow me back out of the pen! On the way out, I come face to face with Ranger trying to get into her pen (never before has this happened) - to see if her food looked like their food. OK, what's wrong here? I crawl back out of the small pen, walk over to look more closely at the hay in the main feeder. By this time, Jesse has pushed everybody back and personally inspected every flake of hay. I soon realize it's not what I see; it's what I don't see. Not a speck of alfalfa in the whole bale! They had gotten used to the first cutting of hay from a mixed field and now that we had some straight grass hay, they were being snobs about it. By the reproachful look on Jesse's face, you would have thought I had personally picked every single little alfalfa leaf out. I shamelessly bid them a good morning and walked away.
I was going through some picture files on my computer. I ran across some shots from a trail ride in June of last year. Some friends from Arizona showed up with their horses and we went up on Meadow Mountain. One of the horses, a 4 year old Tennessee Walker I'm sure had never even seen snow before, took a misstep and Bucky went "horse boarding" down the mountain 30 yards or so. Nothing hurt but their pride (I called the horse Toboggan for the rest of the trip).
But looking more closely at Ranger... was he laughing or just sticking his tongue out at his compadre down the hill?
Last week we had a guest park his motorcycle next to the lodge where no one had parked a big bike before, and it startled my horse. Ranger smudged the saddle bags.
My mustang, Ranger, spent the first 8 or 9 years of his life running wild in northwestern Nevada. He had very little contact with people or people's "things". Then came the round-up (or "gather") and all of that changed. Helicopters, trucks, trailers, fences and pens, and people. Scary, rude people with ropes and squeeze pens and needles and sharp knives that they use to... well, as a long term stallion, I'm sure he didn't care for that too much. All things people related were bad things.
I got Ranger 1 year after his original adoption, just the minute the cowboy that got him could unload him (you must keep a BLM mustang for one year after adopting before you get title and can sell him). The horse still hadn't gotten over his fear of "people stuff", and in fact, may have gotten worse about it. During his first year of living around people he had mastered the art of "rearing and striking" to chase people off. A VERY affective technique. He spent a lot of time being left the heck alone.
The first 6-8 months we had our new-old mustangs (my wife, Juanita and I both got our mustangs at the same time), we tried the "sack 'em out" method of desensitizing the animals. You subject the horse to close contact with whatever bothers them, in the hope that they will realize that it actually isn't hurting them. With these older mustangs, all it did was convince them that "people aren't to be trusted, they just want to torture you". Months of little to no progress left us looking for other techniques. Juanita heard an ad on the radio for a BLM adoption that had trainers in attendance to help with the training. We attended several training sessions and came away with the understanding that there are other, better ways of going about training mustangs. Clicker training was one of those ways.
Clicker training is a training method first used on animals you can't use regular training techniques with, like dolphins and seals. They will just swim away if you bug them, and most training is pretty bothersome. "Why would I want to do THAT?!?" is the response to most requests. Clicker training is a way to give exact direction to the critter, without needing to touch the animal. -CLICK-means you did something right, now you get a treat. Once they figure out the rules, you can get them to do a lot!
Once Ranger understood treats (a story by its self), I used the clicker training "touch" command to get him to touch things that he might normally shy away from. I say touch, he touches with his nose, -CLICK- and treat. Over and over again. Later I would only make him touch things he actually did shy away from, and later still just flinching would cost him a "touch". He no longer got a food treat for touching, just a pat on the neck and a "good boy".
Nothing in the neighborhood was safe from Ranger nose prints. Mail boxes, signs, trash cans... but most of all, car windows. "THERE IS A HORSE IN THAT CAR!!!"... "No you moron, it's your reflection. Touch." Smudge. "THERE IS A HORSE IN THIS CAR, TOO!"..."Moron. Touch." Smudge. Every car we went past ended up with smudge marks on the windows. Moron.
Ranger finally seemed to understand that if he didn't shy away, or even finch, he wouldn't have to touch the scary thing, and that made the scary stuff less scary to him. I could feel him tense up, but he would stand his ground. He got to the point where if something caught him "unawares", he would flinch, sigh, and reach out to touch it.
We ran a riding livery a few years back, and I used Ranger to lead out some of the "kids camp" rides. As long as the lead horse is calm, the horses in the line will stay calm. Ranger had 4 years of experience dealing with people and their scary stuff by then, and was getting pretty good at staying quiet.
One day, right after crossing a narrow bridge that went over a small river swollen by spring runoff, we found the trail blocked by a pickup truck with a sign on the side, "Trophy Trout". Walking toward Ranger and me was a man carrying a 4 foot pole fishnet that had 3 or 4 fish in it. These fish were HUGE! I bet there was 30 or 40 pounds of squirming fish in that net! Ranger turned to stone, and I mean not only did he not move, but he went rigid and hard as a rock. The fellow walked right up to us, completely focused on his heavy writhing load and stuck the net almost under Ranger's nose. At this point Juanita was bringing up the rear of the ride of about a dozen 8-10 year old kids. We had stopped so that most of the kids were still on the narrow bridge, which is fairly dangerous. She couldn't see what the holdup was, so hollered up to find out why we had stopped. Ranger heard her voice and looked back at her. She later told me the look on his face fairly screamed "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME TOUCH IT!". The fish finally ended up in the water, and the truck got moved so we could go by, but that was the day I REALLY appreciated the results of the clicker training touch command.
I'm not sure the neighbors much care for the touch command, though. I suppose I owe them an apology and a bottle of windex. Moron.
We've all heard the term "flight or fight" with regards to horses. Yesterday we had "something" in our corral cause this reaction with two of the horses: my daughter's mare and my Mustang mare. This is extremely unusual for anything to make my mare bolt. I didn't know anything had happened until I went out to feed the evening meal and saw what I thought was mud on my daughter's horse. On closer inspection, I discovered it was dried blood. She looked like she had been bitten by something in several places, but not horse bites. My first suspicion was the neighbor's dogs, who like to fight in our corral. Deciding I should look further before accusing the dogs, I noticed a torn up area on the ground - from their hooves. It soon became obvious the two horses had been standing nearly side by side when "something" caused them to whirl and charge. Unfortunately, they were quite close to a drop-off (maybe 10-12 ft. steep bank to the lower portion and stream bed). They realized their mistake and put on the brakes, only to slide down the hill. It was Estes' misfortune to slide right over some broken aspen stumps, of course, leaving some hide behind. She now has a horse's version of road rash in three spots along her right side: the top of her knee, behind her elbow (right in the cinch area) and a major abrasion in her right flank. I washed her down with povodine/iodine and nothing seemed too swollen.
I suspect she is a lot more sore than hurt. Those muscle bruisers always hurt worse. I spent some of today collecting stuff to make her feel better so she has now been treated with penicillin to fight any infection, bute for the pain of the sore muscles, and scarlet oil as a topical on the wounds for pain and to keep flies away, plus she is current on her tetinus shot. She does like the extra treats she gets for standing still for all this; she's been a great patient - but don't you dare look like you are thinking of touching the flank wound. Hopefully she will get more rest tonight.
As you all know, we have three Mustangs - wild horses - feral horses - normal by all accounts, yet somehow different. I have spent a good deal of time just watching all the horses around us: about 40 across the road at the livery, and friend's horses. I have started picking up on subtle differences between our wild guys and the "domestics", as I call them. There are a few at the livery that are crosses, like my two, and one BLM Mustang that they use. The differences I have noticed apply to those also - they fit into the "wild" side.
We have our daughter's horse up here with us, a domestic, albeit a ranch raised, unspoiled, very smart mare. She has been losing a lot of weight lately; so much so that I was getting quite worried. The "wild ones" don't particularly like her eating with them because she tends to be a slob, as do most domestics. That's one of the most prominent differences. Wild horses don't waste food; they don't throw it around; they don't tromp on it; they definitely don't POOP on it! It might be all you get. So, whenever the domestic starts messing with her food, they chase her out of the feeder. I would feed her in a seperate feeder to save her stress, thinking that was why she was losing weight. Didn't work. Two days ago, I started actually seperating her to a special pen to eat so the others couldn't crowd her and she could eat all day if she wanted. That same day I talked to a horse info person in town who suggested maybe the whole problem was that she just ate slower than the others. I bought some probios anyway, just to help put the weight back on before winter.
Well, the other pen is working like a charm, but is also emphasizing the differences again. Now that Estes has enough food, she has regained energy and is giving the wild ones something to think about. It's fun having the old girl back to herself. As for the differences: when food is withheld from the wild ones, they GET all energetic and rowdy, as if to say,"Just let me out of this pen. I'll get my own food!" When food is withheld from domestics, they get lethargic, as if conserving energy until the human appears with food. I had noticed this before when I would cut my mare's rations if she was putting on weight. She would get very rowdy. Now, just the opposite is so apparent with Estes; within 24 hours of being allowed to eat her full rations, she has become rowdy.
Just one more of the many nuances of the animal world.
Makes 16 pieces
9"x13" baking dish, sprayed with PAM
350F for 20 - 25 minutes
Dough: Day before:
½ c. soft butter (Country Crock)
3 oz. Cream cheese
1 c. sifted flour
With electric mixer on med.,beat butter & cheese until smooth. Beat in flour. Shape dough into smooth ball; wrap in foil, refrigerate overnight.
1 c. orange juice
3/4 c. sugar
½ stick butter
Warm until dissolved.
4 apples (Delicious or Granny Smith)
Quarter, core and peel.
Divide dough into 16 small balls. Roll each ball very thin and
use to wrap each apple quarter. Lay seam side down in pan.
Pour sauce over them & sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake until
golden brown. Baste with sauce before serving.
We’ve been planning this ride for a couple of weeks, but wanting to do the ride for the last couple of years. In fact, two years ago Bill and I had started up this trail, not realizing where it went, but turned back because we were running out of time and the trail was extremely over grown. We would have needed a whole day for exploring it. Last year, we just didn’t get the amount of ride time we needed. Then we find out Phebe, owner of The Warming House and Footpaths of the World, an inn-to-inn hiking business, knows the way. We are one of the "ending inns" for her WTW tour, so when chatting one day we discovered a mutual like for riding - and the challenge ride was on. So…about 8:45 a.m. our guide, Phebe, arrives (she’s a bit excited, too!) and we collect the horses. She was suddenly a little concerned, having realized the night before that being “hiking fit” is not the same as “riding fit”. (By the way, two days before, she and her husband had hiked over the Continental Divide to Grand Lake, stayed the night, and hiked back…38 miles round trip.) She had grown up on horses, so was at least comfortable in her ability to handle one. We had packed lunches, decked her out in an extra pair of chaps, made sure we had raingear, water and hats, and left the Lodge at 9:30, our planned departure time. Prior to this, Bill and I had driven the PU and trailer over to the end of the trail, at the Camp Dick campground, so we would have transport home. I started out on Washoe, Phebe on Jesse and Bill on Ranger. It took longer to reach the trail than expected. Rock Creek road is really hard on the horses’ feet, so we went slowly, and even stepped off to hike about 15-20 minutes, to let my hip rest (and Phebe’s, too). Deciding to hike part of the trail was one of our better decisions! I had estimated it to be a little over two miles away, but it was more than three, so it was about 11:00 when we actually stepped onto the trail. We mounted back up and started UP, and continued UP, this windy, overgrown path. The horses had to step over lots of undergrowth and sometimes we had to traverse around and into trees to get over stuff that was too high. A couple of times, we stepped off the horses so they would fit through the trees – we would have been scraped off. The horses took it with good grace, doing whatever was asked of them as needed and we ended up in a meadow high on the mountain for lunch. Jesse maneuvering over deadfall; trail much steeper than it appears. Unfortunately, due to wildfires burning in CA and some controlled burns going on in CO, it looked like a foggy day and we weren’t able to get many landscape pictures. At least the weather was perfect for riding, though, at about 78 degrees, no rain and just a nice breeze. On top of the mountain the sun broke through the smoke and it was beautiful, but not picture worthy. We let the horses rest and ate our lunch, spending ½ hour lounging against some downed timber. We mounted back up, this time with Phebe on Washoe and me on Jesse. Now for the fun of locating the trail. Up to now, there had been blue markers along the way, and at least a faint trail to follow, but from here it got a little confusing. On her foot hike through previously, Phebe had built cairns along the path, but even with them it was difficult to find the right path. We did a lot of tree ducking and I managed to bang my shoulder and head when I thought I could duck a large, fallen tree. After I had started under I realized I had misjudged a couple of the smaller branches and barely had room to squeeze through. I called to the others to go around. Then as we were winding downhill, Ranger caught a large branch with one of his back feet, causing it to flip up into his butt and tail. The rodeo was on. Between bucks he was kicking out with both back feet, trying to “get away from whatever had him”. He managed to slam Bill’s right shin into a good sized tree before he got free and calmed down. I’m not sure how Bill stayed on, but thank goodness for chaps. He has a goose-egg swelling, but no lost skin or breaks. Phebe, on the other hand, seemed to have come through unscathed, although she said she had plenty of sore spots from overhead tree branches. Phebe on Washoe, nearing the other side. We finally hit the well-marked trail coming up from the other side and decided to hike again. We had come up on a particularly steep, rocky, downhill section, with round rocks about grapefruit size. If one of the horses would have stumbled or had a rock roll out from under them, it would have been a nasty fall. It was hard enough for us to keep our own footing, leading the horses. Just as we were coming off the rocks onto a 4x4 road, we heard a gunshot! Just what we needed; someone target shooting. We hollered out so they would know there were others about. Sure enough, as we came around a corner, a couple of guys were firing off some rifle rounds. They graciously waited for us to walk the horses past…teasing us about walking, not riding. By this time, we were noticing a large influx of horse flies and bees. Quickly mounting up, we headed down the road to our final destination: the campground. Our final obstacle was crossing a wooden bridge completely surrounded by bees. Some of the campers had the campground host cornered, complaining about all the bees. As we passed that group, Washoe managed to snuff one up his nose and started dancing around. Phebe hopped off, I grabbed at his headstall and the two of us managed to get him across the bridge. Fortunately, that’s where our trailer was parked and the horses wasted no time climbing in. When we got back home, I couldn’t convince Jesse to unload. She had literally fallen asleep in the trailer and was planning on staying right there! That’s the first time I have ever had her not want to get right out. They were tuckered out little puppies. We made the ride over in five and ¼ hours, including our lunch. Not a ride for the faint of heart…or untrained trail horses. Thank you Phebe for being such a good sport. You were great with both my horses! And thanks to Bill for handling the camera work. Juanita