Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delivery Day

My parents and I send our horses to winter pasture from mid-November until mid-April or early May. My step-dad’s horse, Ranger, is an adopted BLM mustang, that was wild for the first nine years of his life, and my mom’s horses, Jesse and Washoe, are mustang mixes. My horse, Estes, is a quarter horse/morgan mix, but was raised on a mountain ranch and is used to having the winter “off” to be a horse. We’ve found that the few months that they are turned out on hundreds of acres to roam in the foothills are essential to their mental health. As much as we miss them, they are much healthier all the way around if they get their “horse” time.

The livery horses work hard, six- to ten-hour days, six days a week from May until mid-September and then the majority of them are also turned out to winter pasture on the plains. The seven months that the livery horses are turned out are also essential to their general health. They’ve got time to heal up, socialize, and foal. Each spring round-up finds multiple foals sired the previous winter by one of the free-roaming mustangs. In the past these foals were immediately written off as worthless, but in the last few years the mustang mix has gained more respect as a hardy mountain trail horse.

One of the best parts of each season is the beginning. The anticipation, the itch, for the season to start begins in March for me. As there are more and more sunny days and the snow begins to melt, the horse fever begins.

By April, I’m like a horse-crazy teenage girl. I need the season to start. I need to be on horseback in my favorite place in the world; the mountains I grew up in. I start pulling out all of my gear and getting it ready. My saddle gets cleaned and oiled, the head gear un-packed, worn equipment mended or replaced.

Mid-April finds me counting down the days until the horses are delivered. I start moving my cold-weather gear back up the mountain, water-proof my boots and treat my oilskin duster. And I count down the days…

Delivery day, for me, is one of the most exciting days of the year. Opening the back of the trailer and unloading the first load of horses is like opening a long-anticipated Christmas present. You know what you put on your Christmas list and now you get to see if your wish came true. One of the liveries I’ve worked for bills itself as being the oldest continuously run livery in the area. As such, the Barn Boss gets to request certain horses at the close of the previous season – it is like writing out a Christmas wish list, but we never know exactly which horses we’re going to get until they are delivered. Delivery day is a day of renewing old friendships with the horses and getting them settled in. It’s usually a pretty laid-back day; nothing is a chore, not even feeding.


Linda said...

I think turning them out is great. Do you ever have any that don't return because of injuries? Do their feet hold up okay? I guess they'd wear them down on the rocks-plus, they grow slower in winter. Do they have enough to eat or do you have to drop hay out there?

GunDiva said...

Our personal horses are turned out separately from the livery herd. Ours do great - no supplemental hay needed, but they're Mustangs (except mine) and used to foraging. As for their feet (again, with the exception of mine), they've never been shod and their hooves are amazing.

I don't know about the livery herd, if they throw them hay during the winter or not. I do know that they lose a certain percentage of their herd every year (but their herd is almost 2,000 head), usually due to age, not injury or illness. The livery horses just have their shoes pulled before they're turned out and are trimmed and re-shod in the spring.

Mrs. Mom said...

So, are they home yet????? :)

Jennifer said...

WOW! What a NEAT description. I wanna be there, too!

How fun!

Rising Rainbow said...

So when IS delivery day????

GunDiva said...

Delivery Day for my parents' horses will be sometime next week - there's some fence that needs to be mended and it's still snowing up at the lodge. My little girl will come home the first or second week of May. Soon, so soon! I can't wait.

Gotta call the farrier for my baby, though, can't ride her with her long toes - better do that today.

Killlashandra said...

Wow, I can't imagine not seeing the horses over the winter months. I can totally believe delivery day would be an exciting one for you. :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Pure magic the way you write about your love of horses and your excitement of the season starting!

I always wanted a pony for Christmas....you get an entire trailer full and more!