‘Trailer loading 101’

11 11 2011

Here’s another great update about Steeldust. It came about a week ago, but a lot has been happening, and I’m just now getting it up. But no less appreciated!

From Melissa: “I am just grinning so much my cheeks hurt. Today is the 8th day since I brought Steeldust home. Just EIGHT DAYS! Remember that we were ALL expecting the old warrior to be quite the handful. Three trainers even backed out from wanting to take him on before I decided to bring him home & do it myself. All of them said that they would probably have him for a minimum of three months just to gentle him to halter, lead, trailer load & pick up all four feet. Ok, so eight days later we have three out of four things accomplished. I have not tried to pick up his feet but today he conquered Trailer loading with ease. Yes TRAILER LOADING! I am sooo proud of him. He very smart and brave. The only thing that is frustrating me is his weight. He is eating up a storm and loves his hot bran/sweet mix/ beet pulp/sliced carrot/apple/corn oil & foalac mash as well as a constant supply of hay but he is just pathetically skinny. I guess when we get him gentled enough to allow a tranquilizer to be injected then I can have his teeth floated but it will just take TIME for him to put that weight back on I guess.”

Are ye cryin’ yet?

“Mr Steeldust (The Boss) is still doing marvelous with his trailer loading & leading. Being able to just park the trailer next to the round-pen has been perfect. He has decided that it is his “Man Cave” and prefers to just go in and sleep in there every night. Too Funny! Please pass it along to other adopters to give this a try and just feed them directly in the trailer (put their hay, grain & treats in there) even with those horses that folks aren’t able to even lead or handle yet. It’s mere presence all the time as a “feed barn/shelter/wind break” will desensitize them and help take away the fear of even seeing or smelling it before they actually have to USE it. It certainly will advance the “trailer training” for many folks especially if the horse feels comfortable and safe going in and out of the trailer BEFORE you NEED to get him in there for some emergency.  My trailer is just going to be parked there for The Boss the whole winter. This is an easy fix for something that can be a real issue for some horses & owners. Though I can just lead The Boss in and have had wonderful luck with him, I really WAS worried at first wondering just HOW I would ever get him into a trailer without a chute should anything go wrong during this gentling time and he should need to go to a vet. I suggest that backing the trailer up to the pen needs to be introduced SLOWLY for some of these horses though and might even need to be brought into position over several days if necessary.”

“I am so proud of how far this old man has come but I don’t want to let people think that EVERYTHING has been a “piece of cake” with the Boss though and leave folks with the impression that they are not progressing fast enough with their own horses. Each horse & situation is different. He has me certainly baffled me at times because he is just not as predictable as what I would expect from any other horses I’ve ever worked with. The things that you would think would scare the livin patooties out of him don’t phase him at all, like the ease of leading him into the trailer, getting cleaned off with the hose, both dogs & the cat all sharing his feed dish with him, throwing a winter horse blanket over his back on an especially cold & sleety evening before he decided to take refuge in the trailer on his own. Then there are other things that have made him act like he was about to go ballistic & launch himself over the fence if I pushed it too far.  ie: Some friends and I were all carrying a big trough up the hill into the pasture the other day and we were going in the general direction of his pen yet about 100′ away. I thought he was going to explode when he saw us with that trough and he went running frantically around the pen crashing into the panels. We dropped the trough immediately and shoved it back down the hill out of his sight. His crashing around was enough to give him a cut over his eye that drew some good blood. SHEESH! Another freak out was when I drove my pick-up into the pasture with a load of hay. This too sent him snorting, crashing & running wildly around the pen. These incidents did not happen in the first days of his arrival, they happened just this week after I thought we had been doing so well. I have to admit that one day I had gone in to shovel poop in his pen and the door just swung back behind me as usual but this time it just didn’t catch. I had not noticed. I was busy hacking at the frozen poop when I looked up and HOLY CRAP, he was gone & just standing out in the pasture grazing. Visions of trying to catch a loose wild horse in open country were flying through my brain. But he didn’t go running off into the sunset and just stood there as I walked right up to him in the pasture, got the lead rope and led him right back into the pen without any hesitation. Whew! LUCKY!!!”

“So yes these ponies are a mysterious bunch who really AREN’T going “by the book” in the domestic horse training world. I am thankful that I have been a lucky owner so far with a really kind hearted horse.”

“The Boss is getting constant & free feeding hay and a nightly hot mash and is holding his own with his weight. So now I am hoping to hopefully start to see some actual weight gain. Adding Probiotics to his mash may be starting to help with all the dietary changes & gelding. As for Banjo, he is doing well and is fat & happy. He is definitely starting to go through yet ANOTHER color phase. The winter coat on his front end is coming in a very dark charcoal grey. I don’t know how he can actually be shedding some of his coat at the same time his winter coat is thickening during this time of year but that’s what is happening. Have you seen this type of color change over the winter before? So there is our bi weekly update. Life is Good. Winter is moving in and the horses are still settling in.”

Well done. 🙂


9 08 2011

I’m so easily distracted … I was looking at other photos when I came across this one:

Young master Varoujan tried to squeeze between big brother Gideon and mama Luna. I’m pretty sure it was Gideon who kept the squeeze on that never did let Varo inch his way totally between them.

In the background at right is Steeldust, Gideon’s sire and Varo’s grandsire (Butch, Varo’s sire, is Steeldust’s son). I swear, the old man sports new scars every time I see him. Mouse – seen through legs in the back at left – was dominant again.

This was toward the end of the day as a big storm cloud was threatening the sun. Earlier in the day, the band was arranged in almost a crescent around Varo, who was laid flat out taking a nap. I walked around them, and once in a while, someone would turn his or her head to look at me, but Varo was out cold – eyes shut tight and little lips slack. There’s a definite heirarchy, and little Varo is king – well, most of the time. 😉

Heaven in a meadow

4 08 2011

The northwest “meadow” is the new east pocket.

There’s grass. There’s water.

Horses are there.

Four beautiful bands … and Kreacher’s – and Duke – were just to my left.

Beautiful day. How could I have thought he wouldn’t still be there?

Boy band

13 07 2011

Is there anything as fun as watching bachelors? 🙂

Most of our older bachelors have found families, and we have a new generation of bachelors. They’ve been together, they’ve paired up, they’ve split, they’ve found older boys, they’ve found boys slightly less old. During last week’s visit, all the young boys were with Aspen and Sundance (who have their own history), and they were all hanging out close to Luna’s band, which has Lt. Steeldust (formerly the band stallion) and satellite Mouse (and those two have gone back and forth in recent weeks). This visit, Mouse was entertaining the boys while Steeldust and Butch stayed close to the girls (Luna and Alpha).

Bachelor boy butts. 🙂 Might as well start with a chuckle, eh? In back is Milagro, then left to right: Sundance, Cuatro, Ze, Sage and Aspen.

Luna’s band: Steeldust at back left, Butch, Gideon barely visible, Alpha, Luna and napping Varoujan. He kept lying down … and the girls would graze away, and he’d get up and follow … and lie back down … and they’d graze away …

The little with mama Luna and “auntie” Alpha.

Sage, Cuatro and Mouse

Butch finally decided to leave the girls (and Steeldust) and come check out the competition, all of whom were politely respectful. That’s Sage he’s stretching toward, Ze to Sage’s left, Mouse in back and Aspen at right. Who spots napping Varoujan?

Varo napping while Cuatro grazes.

Ze walking past napping Varo. He was followed by Aspen – most of the boys are to the left, and Varo’s band is to the right. None of the stallions made so much as a threatening flick of the ear toward the little boy.

Sundance mostly ignored the goings-on. Milagro tended to stick back with him. He’s quite a bit smaller than the other colts, as you can see in the first pic of their butts toward me. He, Sage, Ze and Cuatro are all 2 years old. Sundance is probably about 6; Aspen and Mouse are probably about 6-8ish.

Mouse, right, and Cuatro.

Mouse, front, and Sage.

Ze – that’s Cuatro, grazing, at right.

Ze and Cuatro again – comfortable with each other. They’ve been together and apart … the pal-pairs are Sage and Ze and Cuatro and Milagro.

Just makes me smile. 🙂 From left: Cuatro, Aspen, Sage and Mouse.

And wider, to show some of the beautiful background – looking eastish.

Varoujan napping, framed by grazing daddy Butch.

Can you even stand how cute he is?! Just a tired little boy who’s been playing in the mud and is now all tuckered out. 🙂

Taking steps to convince mama it’s lunch time. How DO little boys get so covered in mud?! 🙂

I caught up on some pix of ponies today – more coming.

Stallion action

21 06 2011

My friend Karen Keene Day came out to visit the horses with me last week, her first trip back to the basin since she and her husband are back in Colorado for the summer. We got to witness some changing of the guard between former dominant band stallion Steeldust and bachelor Mouse.

Steeldust was formerly in charge of the biggest band in the basin – the biggest after the roundup, with only Alpha having been rounded up (and released). (As an aside, for people who are worried about the effects of PZP and PZP-22 on mares, Alpha has been with the same band since her release, bred by just two stallions – Steeldust and Butch – and oddly enough, not only did PZP-22 apparently work really well on Alpha, she still has not foaled. (It didn’t work on the other three mares, ranging from no effect at all to a delay in foaling of two months.) The point is, she has been coming into heat since she last foaled in July 2008, and not only has she not been “raped,” the bachelors once with the band have all dispersed but one and found their own families, and the band has naturally broken up as youngsters grew up and dispersed. And, as it happens, she’s in fantastic condition – and so is her almost-3-year-old son, Storm, who has had his own band since this spring (as a 2.5-year-old).)

Mouse, the bachelor still with the band, managed to get between Steeldust and the band a few weeks ago, but Steeldust quickly re-established his dominance over Mouse, if not son Butch. Last week, Mouse had managed to turn the tables again.

Mouse, right, chases Steeldust. This photo is quite a bit cropped; the band is almost directly behind me.

Circle of life … It was hard to see Steeldust, still in his prime, so frantic to get back to “his” band, even knowing it’s nature’s way. Imagine all the stories those scars tell. When we left, though, the stallions were grazing calmly together, with Alpha and Luna and Gideon and Varoujan nearby.

The future … Varoujan

And a guy in his own prime – Kreacher

Life goes on …

Close at hand

6 06 2011

These pix of Varoujan and family – and trailer – were all taken from my Jeep, on the road, through the driver’s side window.

The full midday sunshine doesn’t do this little guy justice – he’s just handsome as heck!

Big brother Gideon reminds me so much of big sister Hannah, and not just in color. He was being encouraged by both Mouse and Steeldust (likely his sire though he was raised with Butch as head of the band) to stay with the group and not linger back with interloper Aspen.

He’s shedding out of his darker hair, leaving behind that smooth, beautiful red-bay.

Varo and mama Luna. He has full run of the family, and you’ll just as likely see him hanging out with grandpa Steeldust as daddy Butch as brother Gideon (they’ve really started to hang out and play now) as auntie Alpha as mama!

Steeldust taunting Aspen.

Butch looking back at Aspen.

Aspen up on a hill looking down at the band – deterred – for now.

Dawn and on

24 05 2011

Still have lots to share from almost two weeks ago … looking forward to getting back to the basin this week, weather-permitting. Loved getting all that moisture (including snow!), but I can hardly stand not having been in the basin for two weeks. I want to see it GREEN, like we’ve hardly had yet this year (the green-up was as subtle as I’ve ever seen it, and the cheat grass has already gone to purple), and I want to see ponds brimming with water. I want to see all the babies and families! Don’t know what I’ll find … and that’s why I’m so eager to get back out!

Juniper, mama Kestrel and daddy Comanche. For whatever reason, I just love knowing Comanche is a full-fledged daddy … He has taken such good care of Winona.

Baby girl in the spotlight

Isn’t she divine?

And the whole world is new and interesting and beautiful, to be explored and marveled at.

Then they left the shadows of the trees for the morning sunlight.

All things bright and beautiful …

All things wise and wonderful …

It was a gorgeous morning. If snow fell in the basin last week with the rain, I wonder what she made of that? What all the babies – tough little mustang babies, made of stern gossamer stuff – made of it? I hope they delighted in it and kicked up their tiny heels and ran for joy of life!

We wandered over the pinon-juniper island and found Luna’s band already hard at work at nap time. There’s just about nothing better than napping in that delicious morning sunshine after the day’s first trip to the water hole. At least, that’s my take on it. 🙂

Alpha was just to the left. I think Mouse was a little back, also to the left.

Zeroing in … Steeldust is likely Varoujan’s granddaddy (likely sire of Butch).

The littlest mister laid down …

And big brother Gideon came thiiiiiiis close to joining him … His nodding head dropped so low, I was sure he was going to lie down, but he never did.

Meanwhile, just a little distance away …

Big sister Winona, fascinated by the baby …

Ha! Mama Kestrel was just steps away to the left. Pretty soon, these two will be playing together and running circles around mama and daddy!

Handsome daddy Comanche

He stays close …


Baby girl couldn’t resist the call of nap time, either …

Like mama Luna, like daughter Kestrel … I really don’t know how to articulate how I feel when I sit with these horses, in the sunlight of a beautiful spring morning, a million miles away from anywhere and everywhere. It’s the most incredible gift to be able to do that, feeling their quiet magic all around. I am grateful beyond words … I am amazed beyond reason … It keeps me going back, it makes me do everything I can to ensure their survival in the best conditions possible. Above all things but my own family, they are my light in this world.


Luna the beautiful and wise, mother of (at least) Kestrel, Ember, Hannah, Gideon and Varoujan; grandmother of (at least) Winona, Fierro and Juniper. We are so blessed to have her (she came from Sand Wash Basin in 2001).

Varo and Luna, Gideon and Alpha in back.

Do you see all their eyes? Luna and Varo, of course, Alpha … and Gideon? I love trying to capture images like this – puzzle pieces of family life.

Baby gives mama a schnuzzle …

Mama gives baby a schnuzzle! I love how her mobile lips are stretched out to him.

Mama, always a comforting presence …

Loved the light on him against the shadowed arroyo wall behind him.

Just love … just always simply love.