Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Horse Garden

While planting our garden, I decided to plant some carrots for the horses.  The carrots are doing lousy, by the way, but my carrot idea grew.  You see, I was telling my friend that I must be more horse crazy than I thought because I'd just planted food in my garden for my horses.  Specifically for my horses.  Yep, I'm definitely losing it.

But then I read an article that lettuce is okay for horse to have, too!  I'd already planted lettuce for me, but it wasn't going to be enough to share with the horses, so my brain made another big jump and said, "well, why don't you just plant a garden for the horses, in their pen, that they can graze on?"  And then the other half of my brain said, "That's a GREAT idea!".

So I dialed up Deejo, who provided me with the pallet collars for the human garden and told him I needed more because I was going to plant a garden for the horses.  Luckily, having the Bionic Cowgirl for a mother has rendered him immune to crazy horse ideas.  He didn't even sigh very heavily when I told him what I needed the collars for.

He turned up at the house with the most amazing planting boxes.  I thought the pallet collars were cool, but these were even better!

I didn't have nearly enough left over soil, so I headed to Home Depot to get more.  I picked up some sand for drainage and more soil and as I was standing there at the checkout line, there was a bag of grow anywhere grass seed!  In an instant, my whole plan changed from a lettuce bed to boxes of grass!  If I could get grass established, I wouldn't have to replant every year!  Trust me, I was feeling really brilliant at this point.

A couple of weekends ago, Jay and I had time to work on house projects and I was determined to get the horse garden in.  He set to work on making picnic benches and I started the garden.

I drilled random holes in the bottom for drainage (and only broke two drill bits)

Then I put down weed barrier to keep the sand from falling out.
It went pretty smoothly for the most part.  I got the boxes prepped and then had Jay help me lift them over the fence into the pen so I could start filling them.

Random sand for drainage

Then soil and grass seed
I knew that the horses, Skeeter especially, wouldn't leave it alone, so I bought some chicken netting.  I really wanted the 1cm x 1 cm wire mesh, but couldn't find it anywhere at Home Depot - I was stuck with the chicken netting.

I used a million staples to attach the netting and chased the horses away from their garden two million times.

You can see how well chasing them away worked.

They finally lost interest in the garden and I breathed a sigh of relief.  But it was short-lived.  The next morning, I found they'd "helped" me by removing the netting.

No more chicken netting
They very helpfully rearranged the dirt as well
I smoothed out the dirt, watered it, yelled at the horses, and then laughed at all of us.  They were having so much fun digging in their garden with their noses, I couldn't actually be mad at them for very long.  Skeeter had dirt up her nose and Copper had it in his hooves.  They were very happy with the sandbox I made for them to play in.

Each day for a week, I went out with the rake and smoothed out the soil.  I even watered it a couple of times, because I was still determined to get a damn garden for them.  Just as I was about to fall asleep one night, I thought to use my Google-fu to find the wire mesh I wanted.  Google assured me that Home Depot sold just what I was looking for, but I had been looking for it in the wrong department.

The next free day we had, Jay and I went to spend our Jax gift certificates at the farm and ranch store.  While we were there, Jay looked at me and said, "this is a farm store, I bet they have what you're looking for!"  By jove, he was right!

I was a happy, happy girl.

Last Saturday, while Jay was at work, my sister Nebalee came over to help me with the horse garden.  I could have done it alone, but it's more fun with help.  The horses had pushed a lot of the soil out of the boxes, so I picked up a couple more bags of soil and another bag of grass seed and we started again.

Apparently, Mr. Nebalee doesn't allow her to play with the power tools.

I was surprised to find that despite all of the horses' play time with the dirt, the seeds had sprouted!  There were tons of roots growing in the rearranged mounds of soil.  That grow anywhere stuff, really is grow anywhere!

It's not quite been a week since we put the wire mesh over the top, and we've had to add another piece of wood to help anchor the mesh, but the garden is still intact and (here's the best part!) grass is growing!!!!

Real grass!

That you can see and everything!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's Official! Skeeter's Mine!

Back in April, I received my title application.  I set up an appointment with a BLM volunteer (who I met at Mustang Days at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo) to come inspect Skeeter and sign off on her paperwork.

Unfortunately, when the scheduled day arrived, the BLM volunteer was deathly sick, so we rescheduled.  The day of the inspection was cold and nasty; it had been raining for days and the temps hadn't been much above 40*.  The pen was a muddy, mucky mess and it wasn't terribly safe for a two-legged to go into it.  Feeding time was an exercise in core strength and balance just to make it the four feet from the gate to the hay storage.

Luckily, the volunteer said I didn't need to pull Skeeter, she just needed to take a look at her, make sure she was being well-cared for and ask a couple of questions.  It was very much like the home visit in January, only I had my title resting on this visit.

Skeeter came when called, allowed us to pet her all over through the fence then wandered off to eat.  Easy-peasy.  The volunteer signed the paperwork and I mailed it off on May 22, about one year and two weeks after I got Skeets.

A couple of weeks later, June 5, I was crazy excited to get an envelope from the BLM, but when I opened it, it was the "unofficial" title with a letter my title would be arriving soon.  Basically, Skeeter was "unofficially" officially mine.

The unofficial copy was beautiful.  Printed in color on cardstock and delivered in a full-sized envelope with a letter of congratulations.  I couldn't wait until the official-official title came.  Which it did, nine days later, printed on cheap paper, folded up and crammed into a traditional envelope.  I was disappointed that the official title was much less impressive than the unofficial one, but it really doesn't matter, because it's going to get framed with her tag and go up on the wall.

And once I get it up on the wall, I'm going to do the happy dance every time I see it, because Miss Skeeter Bang is MINE!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Copper, Copper, Copper

This morning we were woken up by a banging that we've never heard before.  I rolled out of bed to look out the window and saw Copper with his front leg in the rubber trough banging it around.  I climbed back in bed, looked at Jay and said, "this time it's your horse".  Usually it's Skeeter who is the trouble-maker, but Copper does have an odd sense of humor sometimes.  We eventually got out of bed and fed, but Copper was off his feed a bit.  He'd take a few bites, then go lay down and stretch out. 

After a few moments, he'd get back up, paw the ground, eat a few bites, lay down and stretch out.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I wasn't entirely sure he was colicking, but I knew he wasn't feeling well.  He had good gut sounds and wasn't kicking at his belly or even trying to roll, but he just wasn't right.

Just to be on the safe side, I wanted to give him some banamine, but couldn't find any.  What I thought was banamine was bute, so I called my neighbor to see if she had any.  Luckily, she did and was willing to give me some.

Copper was pretty good about letting me shoot it in his mouth and started feeling better pretty quickly, so I thought that if it was colic, we'd caught it pretty early. I headed into town to do some errands, and about half an hour before I was about to head home I got a text from L.E. saying that Copper was laying down, but she got him back up and moving.  That's when I decided it was time to consider a vet.

I called Mom, who called her (our) vet while I was driving home.  Because the ultimate plan is to have the horses up the hill, I hadn't gotten around to finding a new one.  Our vet doesn't practice this far north, so he gave me the name of the vet he'd done his internship with, so I called that vet when I got home.  Unfortunately, the second vet was unavailable, but was willing to refer me to a third vet.

Copper didn't look horrible when I got home, but he didn't look great either and I was wavering on whether or not to have a vet come out.  I watched him for a bit and when he started wanting to roll and kick, I decided to bite the bullet and call the third vet.

And the third vet referred me to a fourth vet, because he was off to another emergency, but told me that if the fourth vet couldn't make it out, he'd be willing to come by.  Holy cow, I was getting dizzy with the run-around.  The fourth vet was out of town, so back to the third vet.  He told me to start walking Copper and he'd be over as soon as he was done with his office emergency.

Of course, the minute I start walking Copper, he started looking better.  Jerk.  It did give us some bonding time, I suppose.  I don't handle him often, other than a few minutes here and there, so walking laps around the pen was good for both of us. 

The vet wasn't exactly thrilled when he found out Copper was a mustang and (mostly) joking said that if he'd known that he wouldn't have taken the call.  You know, a mustang is just a horse.  Each horse has a different personality; some are angels, some are assholes.  Lucky for the vet, it was the angel, not the asshole, was the one who wasn't feeling well.

I wasn't sure how he'd do with being handled by someone he'd never met before, and I didn't know how he'd react to all the "stuff" that goes along with colic treatment.  He was unbelievably good.  It took some time to get the tube down his throat, but he was never mean or panicky, he just didn't get it.  Eventually, he figured out to swallow instead of cough and down the tube went.  After an initial step back or two, he stood still and let the vet pump in the water and mineral oil.  He breathed a sign of relief when the vet took the tube out, but was still pretty calm.  He took both IV injections like a pro, with just a flick of the ear. 

It came time for the palpation exam and Copper said, "no thank you".  He was polite about it, but he said nope and meant it.  The vet said that he could feel some feces, but was certain that Copper would be passing it soon.  Because the vet was so uncomfortable being on the south end of Copper, and was still convinced that Copper was going to kick the tar out of him*, I didn't have him push the issue.  I told him that if he felt he didn't need to palpate, then it was no big deal to skip that part of the exam.

I couldn't be more proud of how Copper did with a stranger poking and prodding him.  He was so amazing, like a dead broke horse.  And then it was time to go back into the pen.  That was one giant NOPE.  It took us longer to convince him to go back in the pen than the whole of his treatment.  Jerk.

Jay and I just got back in from checking on him and he's looking a lot better.  He was never as sick as Estes, but I'm fairly certain I am suffering from colic PTSD thanks to her.  It's such a fine line with colic - can it be treated without the vet and resolve, or is the horse going to go south quickly?  Ugh.  I hate it.  I'm sure I made the right decision in calling the vet out and having him treat Copper, but it was a tough decision to make since he wasn't nearly as sick as Estes - there were no clear-cut signs of colic.

I don't work tomorrow, so I'll get to stay home and keep an eye on him to make sure he's out of the woods for real.

*I did tell the vet that Copper has never offered a kick; he's an evader, not a kicker.  If he doesn't want to do something, he'll just go away.  Sometimes going away involves rearing and spinning, but I was ready for that.

Friday, May 8, 2015

It's Been A Year!

I can't believe it's been a year since Skeets came home. My heart just stopped when the trailer door opened and there she stood.  It was for real - she was really mine and we were really going to start this journey.

Surveying her new kingdom.

From the minute she picked me out in the pens she was a cheater mustang.  In the pens, she allowed me to touch her all over, including her legs and belly.  I went into this partnership confident that I could handle whatever she threw at me.  She proved herself to be fairly level-headed even on the first day home when she finally calmed down enough to approach me to say, "hi, I remember you".

I love this picture :)
She even allowed me to take her tag off that day.  I know that she was busy taking everything in, and not totally focused on what I was doing, but she knew I wasn't going to hurt her and allowed me into her space long enough to cut it off. (I didn't even know until just a couple of months ago that you could un-thread the tags to get them off - I didn't look at them very carefully.)

The scratches after the tag was off felt pretty good.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but it's been a lot easier than some people have with their wild ones.  We've had our big issues, but I can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over.

About a week after she was moved out of her gentling pen, she tried to pick up my camp chair and when I scolded her, she wheeled around and kicked out at me with both barrels.  It was a warning, and she had no intention of connecting, but it shook my confidence for a while.  She learned very quickly that she had to "face up" whenever I go into her pen.  We've not had an incidence since.

A few months later, just when I was starting to trust her again, she pawed at me while I was closing the gate and scraped the back of my calf.  I got after her pretty hard, and didn't turn my back on her for a very long time.  She wasn't being malicious in any way when she pawed at me; she wanted me to hurry up and she paws when she gets impatient.

And just two weeks ago, the bitch bit me (and Bill).  We got after her pretty hard, but I do have to take some responsibility for it because I'd let her manners go by the wayside.  Familiarity breeds complacency.  I got complacent and it bit me in the ass.  Okay, she bit me in the shin, not the ass, but you know what I mean.  We went back to groundwork and respecting space and you can believe that she'll not be allowed to turn her head toward anyone again.

Even with those three issues, we've had it pretty easy.  Easy enough that I probably should be full-on riding her, but I'm not really in a huge hurry.  Yes, I want to be on her riding, but I'm enjoying the easy pace we've got going.

I really wanted to get a pretty, one year "Gotcha" pictures.  Instead, thanks to Mother Nature and this very wet storm system, this is the one year picture I got:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Adoption Process

I got a question on our Facebook page about the process and I thought I'd write about it here.  It can be confusing to navigate, but it's doable (obviously, since both Jay and I have done it).  I only have experience adopting from Canon City, so I have zero information about adopting from other facilities or through internet adoption (IA).

The adoption process begins with the application that you fax into the BLM office.  The application asks about the facility, trailer, food, and water.  There's nothing on the application about horse experience, which I found a bit disconcerting.

There are three options when you adopt: unhandled ($125), halter trained ($300-400), or saddle trained ($1,025).  Jay and I decided to go with unhandled, as we wanted the experience of "doing it ourselves".  If we didn't have Mom and Bill to help, I doubt we would have gone that way.

The requirements differ based on what type of horse you choose to adopt.  Unhandled horses must be in a 20'x20' pen (minimum) with a six-foot fence, while halter and saddle trained can be in any standard pen/fence.  The unhandled horse is required to stay within the six-foot fence until they are gentled (a term I never heard in the domestic horse circles).  A gentled mustang is one who can be easily caught and haltered, and leads.  It can take days, weeks, or months to take a wild mustang to a gentle one.

The only exposure to adoptions I'd had were through watching the Extreme Mustang Makeovers, so I assumed we'd have to bid at auction for horses.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  We got to go into the pens, interact with the horses and get chosen.  There wasn't any bidding, once a horse claimed its person,  it was no longer available.

Jay and I both ended up with "cheater" mustangs - they were easy to get our hands on right off the bat, for which we are very thankful.  We had our horses out of the gentling pen in under three weeks.

If you pick up your horse the day of the adoption, there are regulations about the type of trailer you can use (stock trailer with a divider), but since we chose the delivery option, we didn't have to worry about the trailer. At the time, Canon City offered free delivery of horses within 150 miles of the facility.  However, they're undergoing some staff changes and the future of free delivery is uncertain. 

Once you have possession of the horse, you're really just "fostering" it for one year.  It remains property of the US Government until it is titled.  During the course of the year you're fostering, you're subject to in-person or phone inspections.  I was worried about the inspection, because I didn't know what to expect.  Turns out it is pretty easy.  They come out to check the facility and the horse, ask a bunch of questions about how training is coming, what you're feeding, and if there have been any issues.  Skeeter had an in-person inspection in January, while Copper had a phone inspection just a few days later.  The inspections are randomly assigned, so it is possible for one adopter to never have an inspection, while another is chosen.

At about eleven months, you receive a title application to fill out and return to the BLM.  A vet, farrier, or BLM-approved inspector must fill out part of the title application, certifying that the horse has been properly cared for. I don't believe there is a training requirement for the title inspection, but it can't hurt that she's halter-broke and just barely beginning under saddle.  If there are any training requirements, I would think it would be the bare minimum, as some people adopt these horses as pasture pets.  I think they just have to be gentled enough to get vet care if they are sick or injured.

This is the point Skeeter and I are right now.  I've got my title inspection scheduled for Thursday at 9:00 am.  After the inspector signs off of the paperwork, I will mail it in to the BLM and they will choose to either assign a title to me (Skeeter will be mine!), suggest remedial care, or repossess the animal.

I'm not as nervous about this inspection since I went through one in January.  If I hadn't had an in-person inspection, I'd be fretting a lot more, but I don't think this will be that much different. The only thing I'm concerned (slightly) about is that I haven't had Skeeter's feet done.  They're a good length and she doesn't have any lameness issues, but they've not had a pedicure to pretty them up.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Scary Trucks

Chances of the horses running across radio controlled vehicles while out on the trail are pretty darn low.  However, both of my brothers and their wives race RC trucks, so I saw an opportunity to start desensitizing the horses to them.  We live in paradise (just my opinion, but I love it here) and one of the things Jay and I want to do is host get-togethers frequently this summer.  With a few acres to play on, we can easily run the RC trucks, play with dirt bikes or three-wheelers, throw knives, or shoot the crossbow.

Jay and I have shot the crossbow outside of the horses' pen before and they don't care.  They didn't care much about the knife throwing either, but the RC trucks caused a bit of a ruckus.

At one point, a truck made its way into the pen (things happen when you allow a six year-old to drive), but as soon as the truck came to a stop both horses went up to sniff it.  Monster, my youngest, managed to snatch it from the jaws of death just before Skeeter started pawing it.  Thank God for quick reflexes and the ability to climb fence like The Flash, because I don't think I could afford to replace one if Skeeter had rolled it around trying to figure it out.  Those trucks are made to withstand a certain amount of abuse, but I don't think 900# of abuse would be good for them.

We still have to get the three-wheeler up and running, along with the dirt bike, but so far, summer desensitizing seems to be going well.

Hay net update: the horses have slowed down on their hay intake, to only a bale a day.  They're still killing the bale overnight, but not *starving* to death in the morning.  Looks like Mom's not going to get our net.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Slow Feeder, My Ass!

If you haven't been following the hay net exploits on our Facebook page, let me enlighten you here.

Mom has had great success with her hay net.  Us?  Not so much.

We started on Sunday and all looked good.  We started with a full bale, which should have lasted them 24 hours according to our regular feed schedule.  We were feeding 1/2 a bale in the morning, and 1/2 a bale in the evening.

 Since they were supposed to be eating from a "slow" feeder, I was confident that there would be a bit left over on Monday morning.


Ten hours after we put out the first bagged bale it was empty.  And I do mean empty!

It was so empty that I had to walk the pen to look for it.

I made Skeeter carry it to hay storage for me.
I filled it up for a second time that day, all the while cussing at them.  Certainly they couldn't kill TWO bales in 24 hours, right?

I was wrong.  At feeding time on Monday, we had to again walk the pen to find the empty net.  We filled it for the THIRD time and anchored it to a cinder block so we could easily find it when the pigs emptied it.  By this time, I was also cussing my mom for talking me into this cockamamie idea.

Bale #3 - we're going to go broke at this rate.
Not only was I cussing about it's lack of powers as a slow feeder, I was cussing at the increase in hay waste.  I mean, our horses are Hoovers - they clean up after themselves, there is very rarely a single snuffle of hay left ever.

After work on Monday, the hay bag wasn't empty-empty, but it was close.  Almost three bales in 36 hours.  We put out another bale and thought, surely they have to be slowing down.

Wait Dad!  Don't take it, there's still some in there!
Bale #4 went out and we were optimistic.  They had to be getting full, right?  Right?   Jay and I went into town for the late showing of Furious 7 and when we got home after midnight those fools were still standing there eating.  Jay may or may not have told them that they were going to pop like zits if they kept it up.

Tuesday morning there was still most of the bale left.  Success!

64 hours and almost four bales to get to their "full" point.  In fact, when I looked out the window on Tuesday morning Copper was sprawled out on the ground looking like me after Thanksgiving dinner.  If he had pants on, he would have unzipped them to find more room.

They grudgingly ate breakfast when we took it out to them, but their hearts weren't really in it.

Finally!  We were getting somewhere.

Tuesday night (last night), we got home and the horses were starving.  Like, pacing and pawing the fence (Skeeter!) starving.  In went bale #5 (heavy sigh).

This morning, there was about half of bale #5 left.  Instead of letting it run out, I just added another bale to it and sent up a quick prayer that they wouldn't kill it in one day.

I swore I'd give this hay bag thing a solid week, and I will, but damn it's getting expensive pretty quickly.  If I get home from work tonight and that damn bag is empty I might lose it.  (Which Mom would like, because I told her if this bag didn't work out, she could have it.)