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Mesmerizing weekends with the rescue family have become the norm..often not knowing anything about horses can be scary, dangerous and have disasterous results for both horses and handlers..but time and time again the rescue family has a wonderful weekend..not only one or two of the horse/non horse people but every horse and every person has a personal best every time…. watching Deb with Sally roaming around like lifelong pals reunited and catching up on life’s little details..
Ryan and Sally in teaching mode with going up and down hills easily and fluidly now when at first one step was a challenge and getting used to people rules..it’s not polite to kick or bite or kill anyone..the arm over her back as a precurser to a blanket and eventually saddle..little pressure with sensation on both sides..and in watching there has been almost no bad manners on the horses partBella would like to tell you to listen but it appears to be with women..
i say almost as once in awhile Bella would like to tell you to listen but it appears to be with women only….Dennis and Bella have a “it’s just you and I ..don’t mind them” relationship and she is so soft with him.
but with Kelly she may challenge and Kelly is learning to answer the challenge and quickly defuse the situation
.and Lori and Sampson’s quiet talks and checking his progress with his weight and hind leg injury.. how he eats with his donkey friend and will help himself into the shed.. it’s amazing how the horses change in their chameleon like personalities with each different handler..they are so much more than we know..
and how Jadyn who has her horse here joined in and accomplished small miracles with her Mother Shallis also..teaching Jade to calmly have her feet touched and Shallis adjusting the halter on Sally like Ryan did which up till now had been nearly impossible.
.the atmosphere here becomes surreal with each pair or group addressing their own issues or questions..and then changing horses and changing the situation again..so now the introductory period has gone well we can bring in many new lessons..can’t wait till the weekend..
Jade and Bella first ride…
January 22 Sunday..another mesmerizing weekend took place here which seems the norm anymore..the rescue horses are asking to join in with people more and more..they come to the fence and ask to be petted and want to be included..even Sally joins in..still sometimes leaving but coming willingly first try…daily they trot single file from their sleep area to the large arena with the hills and sandy area to go out during the day and at night trot politely in single file back again..(when first here going out and coming in was like trying to herd loose ping pong balls bouncing in every direction)..and now on occasion when allowed to have a fun time in the hay area to leisurely munch on the tall stack of green grassy bales they will politely walk in single file out when I say “out” pointing my arm in the direction they are to go.single file..meandering around the stack and thru the narrow gate to where ever it is they are asked to go..
it appears they have learned the rules here so to speak..if you mind and are polite there are many perks and bennies..if you don’t mind and are not polite it’s just another normal day..they are very kind and well behaved and now very curious and interested..secure and not worried..a better learning state of mind..a safer learning state of mind..
Dennis has been wondering if any of them could be ridden and the universe picked up on his thoughts it appears and settled that thought on everyone’s mind.. and it just happens a good person for the job lives on the ranch across the road.. been riding and roping since he was 3 or 4 years old has the experience and talent to tackle the job.. www.whitlowranch.com is the family website..roping, riding, welding..that’s them..having won almost every title there is to win..Tyler and his brother Travis..twins..Travis the header and Tyler the heeler..team ropers..Tyler is riding horses here to keep busy between rodeos they enter .. in asking if he would work with a couple of the four he was all for it..figuring that Sally was the greenest and Sampson the least likely to carry weight at the moment it left Jade the goreous black with the long full forelock and Bella the paint with her “I’m in charge” attitude..so all four horses were haltered up and led calmly to the round pen to see what was there..and while waiting there Kelly was now handling two horses at a time and Ryan off leading three at a time..coming a long way from barely handling one just two months ago..
and once again whether it is the magical dust the family sprinkles where ever they go or the horse angels smiling on us or the talent of a humble amazing rider the result could not have been better.
Jade was up first and after calmly accepting the saddle and understanding the round pen directions from Tyler seemed to enjoy the interaction..he saddled her quietly..asked her to move out and around and with a slight and barely detectable cue to her in horse language.. body placement had her stopping..turning and walking toward him..licking her lips..dropping her head and slightly exhaling..signs of submission..join up..as he turned and walked a few steps she followed..follow the leader..seeing that, he turned and walked toward her..quietly hooking the long leather split reins to the copper o-ring snaffle bit..a rein on each side and placing them over her neck..then.grabbing the horn..putting a foot in the stirrup and swinging up and on..adjusting his feet and reaching down and stroking her neck to reassure and then asking her to step out..and he rode with ease..she rode with ease..at least it appeared that way..now anyone that has been around riding horses you don’t know knows it can go South in a heartbeat..it can get bad before you know it but Tyler didn’t pressure her too much but didn’t let her think her own thoughts too long either..Jade although looking very broke probably hadn’t been ridden very much he said.
then it was Bella’s turn..Bella saddled easily also..a good sign but she was a little humped back in moving around the round pen.didn’t buck but definitely rounded..upon riding she was far more eager and wanting to go..managable for an experienced rider..but the hard part for people watching is riders like Tyler make everything look easy..the good part is now we know a lot more about these horses and we also know it was probably the first time that Tyler had ridden where the whole crowd gathered at the edge of the round pen was in tears..tears for the success and the journey..from where they came from to where they are..and the great part..it’s still the beginning..
and when everything was done..the horses put up..the party over..and Tyler had gone home..we all went across the road to Whitlow’s ..to watch them rope and to see Tyler getting steers ready to rope..ready to practice with Travis for the next rodeo..practicing to win..which is why they do..
Jan 1 2012 New Years Day
New Years Day..
The four are slowly expanding their comfort zone daily..new years day finds them spread out..one grazing..Sally of course..one standing asleep in the sand pile in the middle of the arena..it is Sampson..one off in the corner standing sleeping in the sun..it is Jade..and the other off rolling in the dirt..it’s Bella..scratching and enjoying the roll in the warm soft dirt..
three have flymasks on..Jade..Bella..Sampson..all put them on very politely and calmly..Jade needed hers put over her neck and brought up over her ears as coming toward her with it was scary..in approaching and seeing her hesitation slowly touched it to her shoulder..rubbed it around a little and she said ok by staying and not leaning away from me..then moved it up over her neck and over the ears and hooked the velcro..am letting Sally watch the others and learn about that..so halters on/off 3..flymasks on/off 3..everyone walking up and it’s all good..
it’s warm..almost 80 degrees..no clouds..no wind..horses are a little warm with their winter coats..a good day for seeing how they react to a bath..well at least hosing with water..Sampson is first as he has seemed the most experienced..take the hose..test the water temp..halter Sampson and take him to the hose..starting at his feet to not shock him slowly move the hose back and forth and around his feet..he stands..doesn’t move away or even try to..more..moving the water spray up his legs and onto his chest he stands..moving the water spray along his side and getting his body used to the cool water and finally over his back..water streaming down both sides and off the back..dripping off his tail..he seems a little surprised as maybe it’s been awhile but is very receptive..maybe it helps that he is not tied..he can move some if he choses..when introducing a horse to water especially a baby or green horse I hold the lead rope vs tie them up..if there is fear they want to move their feet..this way they can move a little and can be reassured vs being tied and getting nervous and moving and feeling trapped and getting more scared and going into fight mode..so Sampson moves a little but not much..success..
Getting Jade next she has watched him..putting the halter on and leading her to the hose she is hesitant but once the water splashes off her front feet she stands very still..seems to really be enjoying the cool water on a warm day..especially with her being a black horse..she stands perfectly still..when we’re done and the halter is removed she stands..more..i spray her with the hose and she stands..then slowly walks away..
In getting Bella I notice Sampson and Jade are now rolling in the dirt..happily a little distance away and seem to be taking their time..scratching and wiggling..making little noises..rolling over and getting both sides..then slowly doing their “get up and shake” routine..little clouds of dirt flying in the air..
Bella leads over to the water nicely but moves around more..she wants to leave some..not quickly and not rudely just not sure it’s a good idea to stay..same thing..start at her feet and once the water splashes off her front feet she seems to decide it’s a good idea to stay..i watch her closely though..the hand that has the lead rope is aware..feeling any movement..movement that says “I’m leaving” and movement that says what direction and how hard or fast..and ready to correct the movement or direct it as needed..
As the water goes over her body she relaxes some..still moving a little and looking off to the others..she doesn’t seem afraid she seems wanting to be in control..so we proceed and make it a lesson of “stand and behave”..all goes well and in removing the halter am aware she can spin on a dime and kick out with her hind feet..feeling good and scooting back to the herd..so remove the halter and step back..i leave her and am out of range..and she spins and runs off to find a good rolling in the dirt spot..after they all roll they trot around and play..some of my own horses get playful when wet..some don’t..these four seem to be having a playful moment..all four moving closely together and Sally right in there with them..
fun day..a new thing for here anyway.. all went well..Sally watched the whole thing and next time I catch her up will do the same with her..with her long winter coat the cool water should feel good..will do in the morning so there’s plenty of time to dry before the still cold nights. It’s all good..Happy New Year..
Dec 20 – crash into sally
it’s late in the evening..am checking the horses..making sure everyone’s fine for the night..making sure gates are shut..that one didn’t get left open from the days activities..making sure what’s inside stays in and what’s outside stays out..there’s a large cottonfield across the road..acres and acres of cotton and at this time of year standing tall and ready to harvest..at night the coyotes use it as a passage way to the desert..they howl to each other..sometimes sounding like twenty or more..sometimes close sometimes farther away..always talking to each other..an interesting sound show..as long as it’s out there..
am walking in the dark from the duck/chicken area to the large area where the four horses are..the area with the five thirty foot tall eucalyptus trees with huge overhanging branches.. lots of room for them to move around..sleep separately if they like chose..i open the gate..walk thru to the horses silhouetted in the dark..the stars barely making the their outlines visible..in walking toward the three that i can see all of a sudden realize there is one i didn’t see..one right smack in front of me..one i can touch when putting my hand out in front..one i almost walked right into..it’s Sally..mustang Sally..the youngest and greenest..the upon arrival move away from you..don’t come near you horse..who everyday is experimenting with coming up and being touched..scratched..and am surprised..she blended in so well under the branches of the big trees in the dark a..surprised more so she didn’t move..so taken aback almost missed the opportunity to praise her..to scratch her..to use this special moment to encourage her trust in people..she’s saying “look i didn’t leave” and i’m saying “holy smokes i almost walked into the side of a horse in the dark” quickly getting my brain back and saying “good girl”..that’s a big step”.. making good use of the accidental encounter.. i realize..as she is learning so am i..learning lessons aren’t always planned.. it’s a good lesson for both..a good night..
Dec 29 – it’s been one month for the rescues
It has been one month for the four rescue horses..one month since getting out of their rag-tag run-down corral built of old hay pallets standing on end tied together with baling twine..with junk and black plastic hoses and who know what in their space..a month since the amazing rescue family went in and untangled one of the horses feet from the hoses..a month now with plenty of food and clean drinking water..a month with a variety of horse chicken turkey duck cat dog and donkey friends.. room to roam in various spaces..the park with the big shady mesquite trees and the desert broom now in bloom showering it’s dandelion like white tufts on all who come in contact with it and scrub grass that creeps everywhere..the arena..the hills..the backyard up by the house..the round pen with deep sand for rolling and running..
The horses explore more and more with the distance between them getting longer..they separate and come back together..separate and come back.. I can see the pressure release ..keep trying until you get it..it appears that’s how they work…they try and retreat..try and retreat less..try again..they don’t just go their separate ways, scare themselves and run hysterically back together..they don’t push beyond their comfort zone..they don’t have an agenda or a calendar or a watch..they are cautious..curious..it’s baby steps..easy to see how one could get in trouble pushing too hard in working with them..going too far..not reading the horse..not knowing where the “trouble line” is..where the “bolt back” to home or the herd or just back line is..not presenting something new in a way the horse understands..not having a process or method..not having a rhythm or rhyme or reason..introducing what the horse understands and not introducing what he doesn’t understand..
There are many good horse handlers..they make it look so easy..it’s interesting to watch their processes..watching to learn what to do with the rescues and how to help them the best with their mental baggage.. how to approach each animal ..each situation and help them learn or re-learn..getting rid of bad habits and creating good ones..working with young Sally and teaching from the beginning.. the horses are teaching and the handlers are teaching..teaching me there’s so much more to learn..
the rain..rain..rain..rain day..in opening up the panels for the four horses so they can have some relief from the muck and get to the long narrow hilly pasture on Pima it’s interesting to observe the horses..
the girls go to the pasture and Sampson stands off alone..pellets please..that’s his cue..so pellets it is..he’s putting on much needed weight and looking like he feels much better..he has his snack..leisurely munching and looking around some to be sure no one is going to join in..the only horse up in this area and near him is Jae..thirty year old quarter horse..bay in color ..black mane and tail..furry as a bunny in this weather with his winter coat. as timid as they come..Jae asks if he can join Sampson..asking by looking Sampson’s direction..leaning toward him a little..”may i?”..and for the first time since he’s been here Sampson pins his ears back..”no”..i’ve seen Sampson share with Jae before but this time when Jae asks again..politely but persistant..taking one small step toward the pellets..Sampson pins his ears again and semi lunges forward..”NO!”..Jae wanders off to the hay pile..bermuda grass hay for him. ..
a few hours pass and rain starts again..raining enough to make the farm one big lake..standing water everywhere looking for a place to go..hopefully it will ease up soon..standing under one of the shades for cover from the rain i notice Sampson in between the tractor and the trailer..he looks at me..looks at the hay pile..looks at me..looks at the hay pile..am guessing he has figured out that would be a nice dry place to eat and his request is for hay..that’s easy to fix..
the girls are standing under the big branchy eucalyptus tree waiting for dinner there..so they have decided they would like to eat under the tree..out of the big green dish and together..he would like to eat alone..and so they do..and it’s all good..it’s just all good…
this a.m. is black sky..bright stars..and cold..cold..cold..but a welcome sight after days of rain..the ground is near frozen in spots also a welcome sight after days of mud and muck..
in the darkness the four silhouttes greet me..all four heads together..which is getting to be less common with them..every day they are experimenting with distance between them..Sally the Mustang especially..she’ll be off snoozing under a mesquite tree or grazing by herself or explore the arena..
next to expand his comfort zone is Sampson..his draw to alone time is his treats..the pellets..everyday his weight improves and after leisurely enjoying his snack alone he finds a quiet place and snoozes..takes a nap..takes a break..it’s been a long haul for him..he can relax now..he can heal…..
Jade would be next in learning to be comfortable with some alone time..she was the one with the most separation anxiety on arrival..she would bolt back to the group if led twenty feet away..now she grazes at a hay pile oblivious that the others are fifty yards away..each in a different direction..
and finally Bella..she wanders off to see other horses..not to explore..not to find food..not to snooze..but to tease..bug..play at the fence with whoever will join her..
and i see how various trainers and teachers found the “pressure – release”..”pressure – release” system..they learned it from the horse..they go away and come back..go farther and come back some..the herd is safety..the buddy is safety..a little mental pressure at a time..back off..try again..
my friend says “find the trouble line and work below it”..the pressure – release..go away and come back..know when too much pressure is too much..the trouble line..the mental trouble line..the horse knows where the trouble line is.the line where he gets in trouble..where mental pressure is too much..where flight or fight kicks in..where instinct.and adrenaline take over..
when you don’t know where the trouble line is it can be trouble..when you know where it is and push above it that can be trouble..and i wonder..is the trouble line the same with every horse..no..read the horse..he will tell you..by his body language..by his breathing or holding his breath..by his movements or lack of..by what he’s saying and isn’t saying..and sometimes he won’t tell you..”surprise!”..and i watch these four experiment and raise the line..raise the bar..extend their comfort space move away from being the little “cluster of grapes” they were when they first came..
Dec 16 – a new voice
Dec 16 Fri
It’s a cold wind this a.m…a nice wind though..just above a breeze..the good thing is the wind will speed up the drying process of all the mud..speed it up just in time for the rain this weekend..a couple dry days will be good..the horses enjoyed being in the arena all day..the area with a few hills and some sand..area to trot if they want..to snooze under the single mesquite that stands near the fence..to experiment with their expanding comfort zones..and horses to play with across the fence..
Am loading up the green double wheel hay cart with bermuda..taking hay to my guys..alternating the feeding schedule..so there isn’t a routine..a “we always get fed first”attitude..an impatient temper tantrum throwing horse can do a lot of damage..kick rails or fence..biting whoever thinks about cutting to the front of the feed line..so I alternate..mix it up..teach patience and taking turns..do they get it overnight..no..do they get it after awhile..mine did..that’s all I can speak for..one thing I noticed..if fed in a straight line down the fence it is far more orderly..more patient..more waiting their turn..if fed out in the open area in more of a circle there is more movement..more “I want what you’ve got”..more jostling and one sends one off their hay who sends another off theirs who sends another off theirs..
As the last big loose flake of falling apart grass hay is balanced carefully on top of the rest ..loading the hay cart with more than it’s meant to handle so two trips aren’t necessary..risking the chance it will all topple off the sides..i hear a nicker..a voice I don’t recognize..there it is again..a soft very low tone..throaty..calling not demanding..beckoning..it’s Jade..she found her voice..it’s the first time for her and only the second horse of the four to nicker hello in the morning..Sampson the high withered gentleman ..and Jade the fearful at first now wanting to trust mare friend..the two blacks..the two buddies..did she copy him..i don’t know..it was Sampson also that helped Jade thru the first trim..that came up on his own and stood by her still as a statue and appeared to offer moral support or was he the lookout..the watchman while she let her guard down to have her feet touched or showing her to stand still and trust..all I know is the more they teach the more I learn how much there is I don’t know..
Days 8-10 flew by like a leaf in a tornado..it was bitterly cold for Arizona..freezing temps with rain falling all day Saturday..everyone was working with the horses in spite of the weather and the good warm feeling that comes with doing a good thing and the right thing along with layers upon layers of every coat we could find made the day fantastic..
The amazing part of this journey is to watch the family that is adopting these horses..with very little or no horse experience they are stepping in..learning exceptionally quickly..working hands on..with positive results quickly also..
having almost lived in the herd myself for many many years I realize how much seasoned horse people take for granted..this is starting at ground zero..square one..the first rung on an un-ending ladder..and everyone smiling and happy with each step or half-step or even standing on the same rung for awhile..there are no expectations or agendas..it is just to love these animals..get them healthy..teach them skills to survive in the people world that for a green horse is so scary..
a horse being a prey animal..when scared the first reaction is to leave (flight)..often quickly..if he can’t leave it’s fight ..flight or fight..fight can be buck..rear..strike with front or back leg..and then some….we look like a predator..we have the characteristics ..eyes in front of the head..walk in a straight line..don’t back up..make noise as we talk..for the green horse I meander..back up occasionally..look at the ground..turn my back once in awhile..not to endanger myself but the body language says “I mean you no harm”..”I’m not a predator”..
Sally the green Mustang is coming up more and more..yes she can be lead and does a great job working with the people but to get her to just come up on her own is a work in progress..each try is better than the last..they are not in individual stalls and this is cooperation not domination so it’s a little slower..but we’ve got time..and the lessons learned by all will be valuable down the road..
Saturday was rain and working..Sunday was day off for the horses..Monday was trimming feet..
I was hoping all four horses could be trimmed but it ended up being one..Sampson..although Jade’s feet look the worst her movement is good and she needs work on letting us hold her feet..and Bella’s not too bad..and Sally’s feet are pretty good.. her being the youngest and green she needs time also on handling her feet.. it was Sampson that needed it most..with his hind hock injury the heel had grown so tall he couldn’t flex if he wanted to..it was like three normal boots and one high heel..the soles of his fronts were thick and rounded as if he was walking on big balls..and he could hardly keep up with the others if the distance was too long..
Sampson was amazing for trimming..standing perfectly still like a statue.he stood on the injured leg without a wiggle or a twitch..in looking at his eyes it seemed he was willing himself in place to make it work..his feet were trimmed and as I led him back to the others it was obvious he was experimenting with his new walk..his new feel..his old self..
the nice part about no agenda is’t all good..it’s just all good..
Sampson is learning to ask for his pellets..the funny thing is he asks differently every day..one day he is backed in the corner away from the other horses..”see me..i’m alone ready for my food”..one day he stares at me and goes to his pellet bucket..looks at me again..touches the bucket with his nose..looks at me..he communicates the most and the best at the moment..for today..for now..
Usually feeding in the dark and enjoying last look at the stars before dawn today was different..with frost on the ground and the horses still laying down I went in to write and waited till daybreak..till everyone was stirring..till they were asking..i hear a clump..a bump..a thump..then a low throaty nicker..not the higher pitched one as before..in looking up from my computer and out the window that overlooks their area it’s Sampson again..tapping the large green plastic feeder with his front foot..he taps..looks at the house..t
aps..looks at the house..the girls circled around him..apparently he’s the elected speaker..they all look and wait..so I grab coat, shoes and mittens and head out to feed..and I wonder..do they connect “tap on the feeder she comes out the door”..time will tell..and it’s ok ..as long as tapping doesn’t become bashing or smashing..
Jade the protector of the group is softening some..she appears unsure that there will be no mistreatment here..only time will help her there..having a yard full of rescues they have taught me each one is different..some come around quickly..some not so quick..occasionally not at all..each horse has brought me an encyclopedia of new lessons when I thought I had learned a lot..they have all taught me I have a lot to learn..
Sally the mustang is wanting to be with people while her instincts still say watch out..each day is better than the last..she is a beautiful young mare..large feet..thick fuzzy winter coat..thick black mane and tail..
Bella has had an abcess or injury on the inside of her back leg up high toward her belly..it appears to be healing well..she sort of floats around in the middle of the group..following whoever seems to be on the road to something good..if it’s food she follows them..if it’s turn out to a new place she will follow..if it’s play she will go..but she is a chameleon ..looks like a follower but can take care of herself..
So all have had shots..Only one of the horses took wormer so far..yes it was Sampson..and one has been trimmed..so it’s working on polite worming techniques and foot handling for the rest..learning manners so to speak..learning..learning..and am sure two of the three already know how this works..it’s learning to trust..and that takes time..one of the country horse Docs says “tot” as a prescription ..”tincture of time”..
Am turning them out to a new long narrow pasture by the road..the gate is open that goes back to their sleep area so they can retreat if they need t..if they get scared..if something bothers them..
they trot off to explore..to graze in the bushes..here also their reaction to noise from the street can be observed..trucks going by..the occasional honk of a horn..neighbors calling out as they pass..observations that can be helpful down the road..literally..
It’s all good..it’s just all good..
Day 11 Dec 7..still so cold..frost on the ground..black as black can be sky with bright twinkling stars as I come out to check the horses…the stillness is amazing..a couple of the horses are moving around nuzzling the frosty ground for leftover bits from last night’s dinner or a little tuft of scrub grass that the others missed..the rest are curled up on the ground..whether it’s warmer or just getting off their feet..am assuming it’s warmer as most mornings they are up roaming around..
Yesterday brought feeding across the fence from the horses that live here..the running at the fence..the jostling for leadership..the pecking order display..the horse drama that comes with new arrivals seems to have ceased..for the moment anyway.. with a fence between them anyway..it’s peaceful and serene..although they have taught me..it depends on who’s there..and the day..and the weather..and anything else you can think of.. if the alpha horse decides he/she wants another’s hay pile and moves that horse over it will move another who will move another..moving them politely ..or harshly..with pinned ears or a nip or kick..today it’s all polite and calm..
Seasoned or experienced horse people working and moving in the herd have been taught many lessons from the horse..lessons like keep the eyes in the back of your head open..keep your ears listening for what is going on and what is not going on..and what is going to go on..lessons like know who the alpha horse is and who the one is that doesn’t look like the alpha but is..lessons like the herd can move in an instant like a flock of birds or a school of fish and if you’re on the ground they expect you to do the same..being in the herd teaches lessons that are never learned by just taking a horse out of a stall..riding..spending time with it..and putting it back..some lessons you wish you hadn’t learned..their compatibility.. communication.. heirarchy..problem solving..
Yesterday was tractor work in the arena and finding out if the rescues are accustomed to machinery..the answer is yes..Sampson stood and didn’t move..wasn’t bothered at all..Sally the same..Bella and Jade followed along..as soon did the others..even gently and slowly raising the big green John Deere bucket overhead didn’t phase them..a move that can send some horses running for the hills..
They stayed in the arena all day and meandered back to the park..back to the bushes and tall green mesquite trees..to the shade and the food..i watch them back in to the bushy desert broom bushes to scratch their behinds..weaving back and forth ..slowly scratching a spot they can’t reach..
Spending the day there..being fed dinner out there for something different..staying until it was dark..they explored in the moonlight until about 9pm..i went to see if they wanted to sleep there or come back to their usual area..up by the hay ..up by the house..and the answer was very clear..in the moonlight under the stars came four trotting silhouttes..trotting to the open gate..trotting past me and single file nose to tail slipped back in their home..the days adventure was great..but the safe bed was better..
Am at the computer in the office..two feet from the door that leads outside to the backyard which leads to the first horse area..the gate is open ..the horses can come from their sleep area to the backyard and up to the house..am chuckling while typing as there is the clomp clomp of horse hooves on the cement slab outside the door..am guessing it’s Sampson..the elected speaker.. to get me for something..better go see what’s up..not to spoil..but to share..to ..to see what they have to say..
day 12 Jade
Tom came over and trimmed one of the horses..couple weren’t too bad and warned me on this one in the story..he guided me a lot and his wisdom and encouragement works miracles..today am busy most of the day but let’s set a day/time for her..looking forward to it!
Day 12..wasn’t going to write today as nothing really happened..the same exploring everywhere..still making friends..realizing that this isn’t a layover or a stop to the next scary home..wasn’t going to write until my encounter with Jade..
Jade..the beautiful black mare..beautiful but with an eye that speaks volumes..someone called it “the stink eye”..it’s that look if you’ve seen it before you’re ready for what it’s going to say..whether it’s “I don’t trust you and will protect myself”..”don’t like you and will protect myself”..or “don’t like myself and will protect myself”..it’s an eye to be cautious around..squinty..ready to bolt..or strike..or bite..to protect myself..
Letting the four out to pasture to graze and mosey I notice Jade headed my way..coming up..standing there..asking to do something?..asking for food?..whatever it is my thought is to get the halter..catch her up and take her to the others out by the short grass tufts by the palo verde trees..
As we head that way..passing the area where the foot trimming tools are kept I think.. hmmm.. maybe a good day to try touching her feet..sunny..calm..quiet..up till now she offered to leave.. body slam..step on your toes..if a hand reaches for her leg..hasn’t offered to strike but if you’ve been around this very much it’s common knowledge that’s an effective tool in their “don’t touch my foot” toolbox..my first horse had a left hook like a boxer..instead of striking straight up in front where I expected he would come around to the outside best he could with lightning speed making it almost undetectable ..making me pay attention..
The hitching post where horses are tied for saddling or for trimming feet can be approached from two sides..on one side a cement slab for the calm and experienced horse..and on the other side soft cool dirt footing for the nervous or anxious horse.. Jade falling in the latter category I opted for the dirt side..tying her there she instantly became nervous..moving her body toward me ..a subtle warning of an impending body slam..with me between her thousand pound body with the force she decides to use and the unmoving steel pipe welded rails..immediately untying the lead rope I gently lay it over the hitching post..she stands there..too good to be true..almost as offering to try..is she saying I’ll try if you don’t tie me?..i’ll try if I’m not trapped? .
.stroking her shoulder my hand moves slowly down to her knee..then down to her foot..trying to pick up her foot she offers to leave..i grab the lead rope and bring her head back to position..she offers to move me with her body..leans into me..warns that she is barely exerting any force..i get the message..she is afraid to have her foot picked up..so there are a couple options..work with her day by day and hope for quick successes in picking up her feet or trim from the top..let her stand there and trust that she gets I mean her no harm..opting for the second..getting the nippers..getting my courage..saying a prayer an amazing situation unfolds..Sampson walks up and positions himself nearby..he’s looking out over the fence..watching the other horses..standing like a statue..is he showing her how to behave?..is he moral support?..whatever the answer Jade stands perfectly still..bending down with one knee barely close to the ground..with feet and ankles on the ready for a quick exit..being off to the side..and an escape route planned I touch the nippers to her grossly overgrown curled up cracked and chipped toes..she stands..
with one hand blocking the path of a quick moving hoof to my head and the nippers awkwardly in the other the slow process of nipping and clipping begins..she stays..stays like a statue..and it goes as it goes..an awkward makeshift trim from the top..hoping that every next move isn’t the one that makes it all go south..nip and clip..clip and nip..finished..the trimming done and the edges ragged I reach for a file..will she let me file the rough edges smooth to finish the job..finish as finished can be for now?..gently touching the file to the edge of her hoof and moving it back and forth slowly..she stands must mean its ok..it’s as if she went in some sort of trance..she stands..i file..rounding the rough jagged edges best i can..best for now..
they’re not finished but they’re good..or maybe just way better than they were..for a first time for her and a “made it thru safely” time for me.
.it’s all good..it’s just all good…
observations from 5am…still dark with amazing stars …and very quiet/still…only the start of day 5
as i come out of the trailer there is a gentle nicker…the first time any of the four nickered to greet me..all are standing patiently at the fence…four bunched together silhouttes in the moon/star light…there is a quiet gentle nicker…there it is again…it’s Sampson..what a nice greeting and the start of using their voices..
as i walk to the fence am wondering if Sally the Mustang/youngest/greenest will stay..she does..that’s a first..before she would leave quickly…in stroking the others first not to scare her, i make my way down the line to Sally..she stays..offering my hand to her cheek she turns her head away from me but stays..i pull my hand back..try and back off, pressure, release, offering my hand to her shoulder she leans in..i scratch her shoulder gently..she leans in again..”more”..stroking her a few times i pull my hand back and do it again..she stays..
it’s a morning of “firsts”..Sally at the fence (who on day 1/2 we couldn’t even catch) and waiting to be petted, Sampson talking (he asked again last night to have his fly mask off to sleep..the way he asks is comes to the fence, hangs his head over and stares at you..”take it off please”..)…so far he has asked for fly spray (stomping his feet to get a fly off and then looking at you), and his flymask (squinting his eyes in the sun and putting his head down)…could this be just what they do ..sure..but from having almost lived in the herd for many years now have seen this over and over..often horses that make similiar requests..my friend says “you just see what they need”…i like to believe it’s their way of asking…they all draw you in but Sampson has a special place..he knew he was losing ground physically by his loss of weight and his hock injury and would have been the first to succumb to the elements or predators … his stoic nature was trying to overcome everything..
Bella and Jade are being very polite..in throwing the hay am spreading it far apart..Sally is the first to go to the farthest flake (also last night she was the last to come in from the pasture out by the pond.. she also asked for some alone time.asking by.standing back, looking around and then wandering around by herself exploring the chicken coop and the turkeys and finally being coaxed in to go to bed)..could she have slept off by herself..sure..but my guess is in the middle of the night she would change her mind..baby steps..will try that another day..
Sampson being a little ribby is getting pellets daily…he looks forward to his alfalfa pellets soaked in some water..the old healed over cut on his hind leg at the hock is being cleaned daily…the proud flesh is reducing and he is flexing better..moving more/ trotting more…we’re gaining on it..
today is the first feeding that each horse ate right away from a separate flake (instead of two horses on one flake or three on one) ..i always think…these changes are so small but 1 or 2 small things a day is 365 or 730 things a year..quite a tally…
off to turn everyone out..
day 6 of the rescue horse adventure…
Mustang Sally is continually exploring off by herself unless something scary happens..like the turkey fluffing his large grey tail feathers up in a fan and shaking them at his girl friend turkey..or a chicken chasing another chicken who sat on the wrong nest..although Lucy the little fluffy Maltese dog has walked under Sally’s legs many times with no reaction on the horses part…
today was the first day Sally came up and took a small bite of the handful of alfalfa offered to her..she is more comfortable with my back slightly turned toward her..when i face her she turns her backside to me..often this can be interperted as “she’s going to kick!” but Sally is serene and when offering her backside she rests her back foot..the good part though is in still getting to know her the green panel is between us..if i mistake the gesture hopefully the steel panel will take the brunt of a quick hind kick and not my knee..but she is sure of her move..i reach up slowly and scratch her hip and the top of her tail..she leans in ..”more”..and in moving the palm of my hand around in a large circle over her rump she gently starts to sway..ever so slightly..back and forth..relaxing..
Sampson the tall high withered black gentlemanly gelding ate serenely with Prince the little miniature grey donkey..serenely until Jade the tall black saddlebred looking mare took a small bite of Prince’s hay..it appeared she didn’t think that little short fat donkey would mind and the next thing i see is Jade running as fast as she can and Prince in hot pursuit in his head down donkey hop super speed run..never underestimate a little short fat donkey was Jade’s morning lesson!
after breakfast , which was mostly calm and happy the four were asking to be let out to the pasture area..asking by leaning their collective heads over the green panels and all staring in the direction of the pond and trees..in trying to mix it up and have a different experience i let them out to the arena which has the barrels for practice and the poles for pole bending..Sampson went immediately to the left over small pile of fresh bermuda and began to nibble while Bella, Jade and Sally went exploring..walking the perimeter fence and checking out any stray manure piles from the horses that slept there last night..
the property on that side is divided in half with green hw panels criss/crossing the area to be more sturdy..the front half arena, dirt with the poles/barrels and the back half a two acre mesquite grove with areas of scrub pasture in amongst the trees..natural growing bermuda not planted..the desert broom is in bloom and the white fluffy tufts of dandelion like blossoms are drifting everywhere making some spots look as if dusted with snow….the horses are slowly making their way to the mesquite grove which the kids call the “park”..in the park is a road that winds around and thru the tall trees that are like big green branchy umbrellas..great places to stand in the shade..it’s cool there and quiet..another new experience..we call it the “road to no-where” as it winds down and around and then it comes back again..
so there they go ..coats softer than the day before..eyes brighter..each day i can see they are settling in more..still hesitant to trust that this is home and not a pit stop to the next bad life..that they have good food and clean fresh water and room to run and play and people that love them ..who see to their needs..that they don’t have to be looking over their shoulders and do everything like a cluster of grapes for safety..
it appears after seven days the horses are getting more comfortable..settling in..not wondering if this is a lay-over or a pit stop and that looking over their shoulders every ten seconds isn’t necessary..
every morning now they ask to be let out to the pasture/hill/pond area..
the large stall/pen area with open gates to the big back yard could accomodate many more horses..it’sbig enough for them but apparently very boring..it’s a good area though for feeding as the various size/color chickens wander under foot and occasionally “Flower the rabbit” eats with them testing out their response to small quick moving animals..Flower is a beautiful white rabbit with pink ears and pink eyes..the gift of a very young girl whose home the rabbit had outgrown..
Missy the little grey chicken that looks like a walking powder puff scratches the hay covered ground near the horses ..taking care of any small bug that may be near them she moves in and out of their feet and on to the next bug buffet..
the turkeys test out the horses response to large fanned out big feathered birds..there is really no reaction to either..it’s sort of a “there’s always room for one more at our table” attitude or maybe they think they are still guests and not sure who to send away from the table..i prefer to think it’s “there’s always room for one more”..”join us..we have plenty to share..
am watching Sampson closely..he prefers to not go explore with the others..either that or he is reluctant to leave the food source since his weight showed his previous lack of a food source..his hock wound is improving daily..am hoping the Monday foot trimming will help go well and help him be more comfortable..he seems to be saying “i’m not as young as i thought i was”..his body shows the signs of many various situations he’s either gotten himself into or been put in..what an amazing animal..
in looking out the large glass window as daylight is creeping about the horses silhouttes are a few feet from the house..and they are also more spaced out than they have been..the cluster of grapes is expanding it’s distance between grapes..having so far always moved in a “cluster” so to speak..it’s nice to see them more comfortable with the space..a day at a time..a step at a time..
november 26, 2011 day after Thanksgiving
The 4 horses rescue..
Days 1 – 4 were a whirlwind of experiences for both horses and owners..
after being contacted by a neighbor who had shirt tail relations that were rescuing four horses I proceeded to help find them a place to go..the four were not being abused per se..but very neglected..Bella the line back Dun/Paint cross had an abcess on a hind leg inside the thigh area, Sampson the tall black thoroughbred looking one..the only gelding was ribby and losing ground fast weight wise..also having a serious hind hock injury..Sally the bay Mustang seemed healthy although the youngest and greenest of the bunch..and Jade the tall black alpha protector..with an eye ready not to trust you..the two black..Jade/Sampson hung together and the two brown so to speak hung together..
The place they were at was a pen of wooden pallets tied together with bailing twine and whatever was handy..occasionally the workmen at the farm would let them out to pasture..the water trough was mucky and usually not filled..usually nearly empty..
Upon hearing about the horses Deb the amazing family matriarch initiated the trip to go see them and upon seeing the conditions ..the dull coats the lifeless eyes and their depressed and semi forgotten state the rest of the family was contacted..the situation discussed and decided they couldn’t leave them there ..
One small detail that didn’t matter to anyone..they weren’t really horse people..they were a family with a huge collective heart recognizing a very sad situation..and as she says..”we stepped into it instead of away from it”..”we’ll take them”..and to their surprise as they proudly shared the news with many the responses were usually “do you have any idea what you’ve done”..vs God Bless you..but they didn’t care..it was to save them and to love them..anything beyond that was a bonus..
After the decision to take them it was where..when..how..the day after Thanksgiving became when..how became two borrowed horse trailers not caring that they had not hauled horses before..but the where was yet to be discovered..that’s where I came in..having over the years become the contact person for the neighborhood and especially the horse community of the neighborhood, I sent out an email about their situation looking for pasture for the four horses..
one pasture wasn’t ready..one pasture wasn’t big enough..one pasture wasn’t secure enough..finally someone said..”why don’t you take them”..hmmm..well why not..in working with beginners and helping new horse owners it seemed a logical solution..little did we all know it would be the beginning of an incredible journey for everyone..
Since everyone had no expectations or timeline any progress was success..
The day after Thanksgiving the caravan arrived..two trucks each pulling a borrowed trailer..in looking in the trailers I could see one of the horses tied in with bailing twine..one of them had a broken halter with bailing twine holding it together..one had a halter almost growing into it’s head..in unloading them i asked where the lead ropes were..the rope that attaches to the halter to lead the horse..and everyone said “what’s a lead rope?”..and so it starts..the love a family with not knowing what to do or what they need and the universe connecting them to the place that helps beginners start out..in walking the horses back to their new home it was the most amazing feeling for them to have gottenthese animals out of the conditions they were in yet heartbreaking to see the horses mental state..seeing it in their eyes..scared..worried..looking to each other for safety..
The first day was settle in..and the second day pretty much the same..although they did get their shots..everyone being perfectly behaved except for Sally who had been handled only enough to halter and didn’t want to be caught or touched..so the solution there was guide them to an alleyway on the property and move three of the large green panels into a triangle shape guiding Sally into the middle of the triangle..reaching in thru the bars a lead rope was hooked to her always present halter..i proceeded to give her the shot hoping for the best..the worst being she jumps out of the triangle or bashes me into the panel..she gave us the best..standing still..very still..thank you Sally..
the third day was leading and brushing and being around people..especially new for Sally..day four was exploring the different new areas..the arena..the “park” the mesquite grove..the pond area..the round pen area..the hills and various terrains..rocks..sand..grass..and standing back while my horse ran up and down the fence line letting them know he owns this place..
the food transition went well..from what they had been eating..or not been eating to what they needed to eat..tomorrow Sampson will be introduced to some pellets to help him gain weight..adding them slowly as to not cause him a problem..
and yes there was much more to day 1-4..the eyes slowly getting brighter..the coats looking more like velvet within 2 short days..the curiousity of everything and anything..meeting the chickens..turkeys..cats..dogs..ducks..turtles..the running over the hills..the staring in amazement at the room to roam..but enough of going back..it’s almost tomorrow..it’s almost day 7..