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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The lost calf posse.

Last week Rosebud, the heifer I rounded up with my jeep, misplaced her calf and mooed for hours. She had the idea her calf had gone through the fence and had wandered off with the herd. (We're keeping her in so she can get extra feed because she's so small). I walked her pasture twice looking for him and then had William take a look to confirm - no calf.

I let Rosebud out of her pasture to go find the herd and hopefully her little calf. Dandylyons and Foxsun joined us. Dandylyons plods along always keeping to the trail making her a great hiking companion. Foxsun kept stopping to snack on the spring grass then he'd canter pass us and graze ahead of us and let us catch up. When there's not much to eat he'll plod along next to his Mrs.


Here Foxsun gets ahead of us and Rosebud is way ahead very desperate to find her little calf.


We found the herd but Rosebuds calf wasn't with them. The cows came back with us.


I was getting kind of worried, but just before it got dark, the calf showed up. He'd gone through the fence and was asleep in the ditch I think. Here they are the next morning.


Also last week poor Dandylyons lost her horn. She must have been bashing her head into the sagebrush like she does and hit one of the many boulders out there. Her sister did the same thing years ago.


Bobby found the horn and didn't want to part with it.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Cold, windy and icy still.

This morning I had a reminder of exactly why I did not do much with the horses during the winter, it was freezing cold, windy and miserable. Even at noon there was ice on top of the horses water.

Saturday night Wildairo was locked up in the small pen and was a very humble boy Sunday morning. He pressed his nose up against his prison bars wanting kisses. We were taking William back to Ellensburg so I couldn't spend anytime with him. I just let him out into the big corral.

This morning Wildairo was keen to interact and Echo is enjoying his last days playing the wild horse card. I am going to attempt to finally get my hands on him in the small pen. Funny thing is even though he won't let me touch him he enjoys me kissing his nose. I will also work with Wildairo in the small pen because I need to have his full attention like I did before. Right now he has the attitude of 'quit messing about with me and just do your job and feed me'.

I was rough-housing with Bobby in Echo's corral and Echo wanted to be right in the middle of the action despite the fact Bobby was 'play' growling and going pretty much crazy like she does when she plays. I could feel Echo's nose pressed against my back as I wrestled about with Bobby then he gave a tug on my sleeve. He knows he is not supposed to do that so when I turned around he jumped back and his front feet came off the ground a little bit. He came right back to me when I held my hand up. I'm not sure if he wanted me to stop hurting Bobby or he got carried away in the ruckus and wanted to rough house too. Then he started chasing Bobby, but didn't try to hurt her even though he could have.

I have been feeding Echo in the alley and he has finally ventured out of his corral. This evening when Brad came home we went over to the corrals. The wind had died down and it was much nicer. Echo was in the small pen so when we walked down the alley we had him cornered. He was big eyed looking at Brad and was actually shaking! We were talking nice to him and he even took a carrot from Brad, then the cattle came in and were pushing and shoving around the water trough right near the pen. Then Dandylyons started a fight with another cow and that's when Echo lost it. He tried to bolt. What I really like about mustangs is they are pretty sensible and don't seem to do anything too foolish and hurt themselves even when they are petrified like poor little Echo was.

Tomorrow I'll get him in the small pen and just have a calm little one on one session with him. While we were looking at Echo, Wildairo kept stomping his foot on his gate wanting attention. Yep, he's doing that again. I made a big fuss over him before we went in for the night. For a big lad he responds very well to baby talk. I made a point of touching the top of his head and also holding his head so I had control of it. I always marvel at how horses let you do thing's like that. They are so much bigger and stronger than us yet they will give us control. That's one of the many reasons I love them so much.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wildairo needs haltering 101.

I screwed up. Wildairo should have been handled more over winter. I have been feeling really bad this winter because of the sarcoidosis I have, plus the cold really got to me this year. Foxsun didn't help by chasing Wildairo away from me, but still, I should have tried harder with Wildairo. I should have spent the times I was out there divided more equally between the two mustangs, instead I spent most of the time with Echo because he's so sweet and easy to be around.

Here's Wildairo in the rain.


Over the last week I have been spending more time with Wildairo and softening him up by just petting his face, neck and giving him a back rub. Yesterday, when there was a break in the pouring rain, I decided to put his halter on and failed miserably. I got him to the point where I could easily touch the top of his head while holding the scrunched up rope halter. When I went to put the halter behind his ears I found he was too tall and I couldn't do it. I fiddled about and by that time he said he had enough and backed away from me. I tried again and he backed away quicker. That's when I really screwed up. I decided I'd put his lead rope over his neck to hold him still while I haltered him but I was very clumsy in doing so and he ran over to the gate begging to be set free.

I ended up putting him in 'lock up' so I can more or less start from the ground up. Once in the small pen I touched him with the bamboo pole like the old days. He shied away from it when he saw it. He'd never done that before. But then he quickly remembered it was the 'scratchy stick' and held still while I scratched his itchy spots.

I notice he's not focused on me like he was when we first adopted him, instead he's looking out towards the sagebrush that Foxsun disappeared into.

I have a issue with Wildairo's size. He seems huge to me! I know I lost some height because of my spine thing but to me Foxsun seems to have shrunk and Echo is still dinky. Could Wildairo have grown that much? When I first saw him with his wild bunch in the BLM corral, they all looked like ponies with their shaggy manes. I remembered telling a man there I didn't think any of them were going to get to be over 14.2 and he agreed. Once home in our pen, I realized Wildairo was already over 14.2.

I wish I didn't get disheartened so quickly. I have been trying to tell myself he's still a 'little handled barely gentled' mustang and not dear old predictable Foxsun.

Meanwhile Echo and I are making great progress.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mustangs are the melting pot of the horse world.

I have heard that some people have a bad opinion of mustangs and or even hate them.

My two adopted BLM mustangs came from the same wild horse herd. They were captured on the same day in August 2007. They are complete opposites of each other.

Wildairo is a big brave bay gelding. As a newly adopted horse he'd stand his ground and fight if necessary instead of fleeing. Not once has he ever tried to bolt through a fence or even think about it. He loves to try new foods, enjoys an occasional adult beverage. He was a breeze to halter train because he enjoys new experiences and human devices like bamboo poles, plastic bags, ropes, brushes gave him not one second of fear. He'll walk boldly up to a new object, like a wheelbarrow, and rub his nose all over it because Wildairo has to have a good reason to fear something. He does have a comical distrust of strangers because he's not exposed to new people very often. He's not looking for excuses to act silly or spook and he would make a wonderful trail horse. I love him dearly.

Echo is a small very dark bay. He is the sweetest horse I have ever been around. No matter how scared he has become he never has attempted to bite or strike out. He never has even put his ears back. Echo is scared of every thing including his own tail. He needs a leader. He is intelligent and very responsive. Even though he's not halter broke yet he has learned to step up and rub his nose on my upraised palm when asked to. He knows his name and will walk right up to me when called if all his calm in his world and the wind isn't blowing his tail around too much. I feel very protective towards the little boy and will keep him forever as my pet if nothing else. My big goal is too halter break him and work on his fears.

To say that you don't like mustangs is really saying you don't like horses. Mustangs are all horses, all colors, all sizes and all temperaments. Some are elegant and fine, some descendants of draft horses, some are descendants of brave fearless Calvary horses, some were bred by native Americans, some were brought to the new world by the Spaniards centuries ago and some are ponies. Most are all of the above. Mustangs are all of the horse world.

They are the ultimate horse experience. You adopt a completely wild horse. His first halter is put on his a cattle chute and he's scared to death and trying to escape. He's yours. It's like Christmas morning. You don't know what you have but it's beautiful. Not matter his temperament he comes to you as pure as the driven snow. You have to win his trust and he has to win yours. He's a herd animal and you are his new herd. He wants to know his place in the new herd and wants you to show him. Some, like Wildairo are bold and brave and adapt very quickly. Some are like Echo and you have use all your horsey knowledge, compassion and patience.

To say you don't like mustangs is saying not only don't you like horses but it is saying you don't want or you are incapable of accepting the unknown, the unproven but purest of all horses, the American Mustang.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Echo won't leave his corral.

Today I tried to move Echo to a smaller pen so I could work with him but he was too scared to leave his corral. I have got him to follow me out and down the alley before, but today he said no.

I tried to lure him out with the mother of all those baby carrots he's been eating.


No go. So I threw a piece down on the ground in front of him.


Then he was content to stand there and do that thing where, after he crunches the carrot up, he spends ages with his lips tightly pursed making loud sucking sounds as he enjoys the carroty goodness. This is what his face looks like when he does it.


Next I tried hay. He peeked around the corner.


He was getting very hungry by now and decided that if he kept most of his body in his corral he'd be safe.


Meanwhile Wildairo is munching carrots and laughing at him.


And to think I've been worried about Echo escaping!! The wind was cold and I decided to call it a day. I will work with Wildairo first because he's always so eager to do thing's.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chasing Windmills and Wild Horses.

Saturday we went to Ellensburg to bring William home for Spring break. Instead of racing home we took old Vantage highway and stopped by the Wild Horse windmill farm but they were closed for visitors till next month.


We took a little walk. You can see the windmills in the background. I had Brad and William posing for fun.


I saw lot of tracks that looked too big to be deer. I think they were elk. Buttercups were everywhere.


When we got on to the freeway (I-90) I suggested we stop by the Wild Horse Monument because even though we've driven by a million times we have never stopped before.


I wanted to get closer and before you know it, we're walking up there.


I never would have dreamed I'd ever walk up there. For years the only walking I did was grocery shopping and then I had to use the shopping cart like a walker. I was so pleased to have an ankle that bends now. It's also wonderful not to have a painful ankle 24/7 that hurt so bad I wanted to chop it off with an axe. (No kidding). Brad did have to hold my hand all the way up though and I was puffing so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack. When we to the top I turned around and looked back down and I told Brad and William there was no way I could go back down that steep path. For some reason I cannot go down hill anymore without feeling like I'm going to pitch forwards. My achilles was lengthened when I got my new ankle because it had got really tight and short. Maybe that's got something to do with going down hill being so difficult for me now. I wish I'd brought along my walking poles because they really help with balance.

The horses were beautiful up close. It was well worth the climb.

This one I called 'Beautiful' after Echo's and Wildairo's sister filly.


Far off in the distance the sky was rumbling with the sound of thunder. It was a good day for hiking.




Here I am with the lead horse. When I approached him I talked to him out of habit. He is awesome.


Down below is the I-90 freeway and the Columbia River.

We were very worried about how I was going to get down and we were looking for a back route I could take that wasn't so treacherous. Then this man came walking up the way we came, he had a quick look around and popped over the edge behind the lead horse and went down that way. It seemed he went up there often for the exercise because he was as fit as a fiddle. So we went down the same way he did. I had to scoot down on my bum in a very undignified way. I sat on a stink bug.

The hike did wonders for me. One day I'd like to ride one of my mustangs up there. Has anyone done that?

Here's William with his beloved bass.



What a fun day it turned out to be.

Below is some information about the Wild Horse Monument.

Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies– George, WA
Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies is a sculpture of 15 wild horses that has crowned a prominent Central Washington hillside. It is an inspiring sight for travelers along busy Washington Interstate 90 as they enter Grant County from the west.

The 200-foot line of life-size charging horses, the creation of David Govedare of Chewelah, Washington, captures a mystical spirit from a time when real wild horses roamed the steppes. Titled “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies,” the scene symbolically re-creates the Great Spirit turning loose a herd of wild horses above the Columbia River’s Wanapum Lake.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We have Buttercups.

I have been feeling very under the weather for awhile. I hadn't had a cold since 1995 but the immune suppressant medication I was taking suppressed my immune system like it was supposed to and I caught the most terrible cold. I will not be suppressing my immune system ever again.

For about a week I only ventured out a few times to see the horses but they didn't hold it against me. Today I took a walk and was very pleased to see the first wildflowers. Buttercups.



It was difficult to take photos because Foxsun was tagging along and getting in the light and just being a general pest. The cows have managed to have calves without me interfering. Our calves are born either white or gray but every year Dolly or her mother Rocky have a red calf. This year Pebbles decided she'd have a red one. The red calves are always huge and this years red was no exception.


Our cows are very friendly and so are the calves they have. People who buy the calves always comment how tame they are. This little gray one has a snack while his friend waits for him.


Here are two more friends going for a walk.


Last week a heifer was out and about on an unauthorized adventure. I just got out of the shower and looked out the window and saw Brad try to get her in as she high tailed it all over the place. She knew where she was supposed to go but even though her belly was huge with calf she wanted to have a bit of fun. I went to help even though I wasn't really dressed (jim-jams) and my hair was dripping wet. I think it's what made my cold worse because it was freezing outside. Anyway, after hobbling about for awhile I decided to use my jeep to chase her back in. Brad always gets a huge kick out of me going after cows in my jeep. I get them turned in the right direction then I pound on the gas and the horn at the same time. It scares the crap out of them and they know I mean business and run back through the gate.

In my eagerness to stay on her tail I almost smashed into Brad's pick-up. Brad gave me the thumbs up and I thought that was it but Brad was so busy laughing he forgot to hook up the electric fence and by the time we got home the heifer was out frolicking around again. This time I didn't even mess about with chasing her on foot, I just went after her with the jeep and it was awesome. I almost took out a power pole and some feed totes. I left some deep gouges in the ground as well because the heifer wanted to do some fancy footwork. Never a dull moment with cattle.

The mustangs are doing great. Wildairo seems huge to me. Brad says he has 'tude. (Attitude) Wildairo is brave and daring and behaves well with me. I wish he wasn't so big. I have no idea what I'm going to do with him. I may never ride again and he's too big for me even if I did. I hope he behaves as well as Foxsun does with the cattle when he's turned out.

Echo on the other hand is little and a bit of a sissy. Here he is today eating carrots with Bobby.


I clipped all of Bobby dreadlocks off and Echo wanted to sniff her to make sure it was still Bobby, so I let her in to visit him.


Bobby is now ready for a spring and summer of stuffing her nose (all day long) into irrigation pipes and other small places in hopes that rodents, and other small creatures, finally tire of her incessant barking and run into her mouth.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cows and horses.


In the calving season when you see a cow off on her own and looking at you like this, it can only mean one thing;


Notice how he's all cosy up against that rock sheltered from the wind.

This other cow wanted some attention so I took her photo. But look whats behind her!


Another calf! It's not hers though. Bobby was chasing rabbits through the sagebrush and he came walking out. His mother was waiting for him. The first cow didn't think much of someone else getting the attention.



Foxsun and Dandylyons spotted me and wouldn't leave me alone.


I gave in and took some photos of them too. Dandylyons's ears were flapping about spoiling the shots.


Her heads too big and my arms are not long enough to get us both in the picture.


Foxsun didn't want to be left out. You can see behind me Dandylyons was still trying to cuddle up.


And that was a typical cold but sunny March day on this Eastern Washington ranch/farm.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm not staying on my toes.

Yesterday I was saying how the cows will start calving soon and I have to be on my toes; well I'm not on my toes in more ways than one.

When Brad was feeding the cows this morning, he called to tell me that the first calf had been born. Later I went out to check on thing's and I fell over.

Foxsun spotted me.


He decided to ambush me. He did that thing where he walks fast to get in front of me to stop me, then begs to have his belly scratched by holding up one of his back legs. I got around him and tried to walk faster so he couldn't stop me again. My foot drags a bit and it got caught some sagebrush and I went crashing down. Foxsun ran like hell so he wouldn't get blamed. That's one way to get rid of him.

I went looking for the cows using all my tracking skills, lol.


I found the cows but not the new mother and child. The rest of the cows looked in fine form.

Dandylyons and Foxsun stay together and not always with the herd. It's funny he doesn't mind me cuddling her, but he will not let Wildairo anywhere me. I noticed he had a big patch of hair missing from his shoulder. Now I know why Wildairo was walking around with hair sticking out of his mouth yesterday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Reflecting on the month of March.

At last March is here! This winter has really dragged by for me for some reason.

I just remembered that Brad and I were married 25 years ago today. One us always forgets our wedding anniversary and it looks like this year it's his turn. Every year it's a bit of a game for us to see who forgets it.

My pet cow, DandyLyons, turned 18 yesterday. She's a real nice cow. One of the nicest pets I've ever had. She's very fat, breaths heavy and loud. I tell her it's because of too much cholesterol and beef, then I jiggle her brisket to prove my point.

The cows will start calving any day so I have to be on my toes for any cows off on their own acting suspicious. The older ones normally have no problems but we have 3 or 4 heifers out there. We'll run the heifers in this weekend so I can see them from the house. I'm almost useless if the cows get into birthing trouble. I can get them in if they can still walk but then I have to call Brad if the calf needs pulling. I do help by holding the rope around the cows neck and shouting out encouragement to her.

It was a year ago this month I had my ankle replaced. I felt really helpless because I couldn't walk around the pasture and check the cows. One day I saw a cow down alone in the corner and I couldn't get over there to check on her. The binoculars didn't help much because when she was down she was hidden by the sagebrush and I had no idea what was going on. Then I saw her stand up quickly and look intently down at something on the ground and knowing what that meant, I cheered.

Ankle replacement is not as easy as a knee or hip replacement. It is a lot more complicated and I was non weight bearing for 3 months after my TAR (Total Ankle Replacement). The day after I got home from the hospital there was a cow out and William, who was here for Spring break, was trying to get her in. I was watching from the window and saw her trotting towards the road. I managed to use my knee scooter to get out to my jeep and head her off. That felt good to be useful! Then shortly after William went back to Uni, a heifer had to be pulled and Brad needed my help. He helped me hop through the corrals and helped me attach myself to the fence so I could hold the end of the rope (it was wrapped around a fence post) while he used the calf puller to crank the calf out. I was really proud of myself because many people are still bed bound with ankle elevated and maybe even using a bed pans a week after a TAR. Country people have to be tough.

I so happy with President Obama and I think he is doing a wonderful job. He is protecting the endangered species again and our mustangs will be safer under his care. The Interior Department (they oversee the BLM) Secretary, Ken Salazar is just a darling man and is looking after the best interests of America's beautiful wild places and it's wild horses.

It also looks like American's are finally on the path to getting affordable health care. I really think we're going to get out of the awful mess that Bush got us into.