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Archive for June, 2008

A Field of Daisies

A herd of domestic~turned~feral horses.

An idyllic scene greets your eyes. Tranquil.  Peaceful.  Picturesque.  The long, narrow valley filled with daisies in early June, the foothills of Mt. Baker creating the perfect backdrop.  A small herd a horses grazes peacefully.  The mares are fat with the spring grass, their foals napping in the mid morning sun.  Nothing at all to make you think things were out of place.

So why has Animal Control been called in?

This little herd, which looks so harmonious, has spent the winter fending for themselves.  Before the spring grass, it was the harsh, cold winter with nothing but snow and tree bark.  Rather than fat and shiny, they were starved, ribs and hips poking out from shaggy winter coats.  Two stallions, two mares, and their offspring were given freedom to roam not only the valley, but the hillside across the dangerously narrow, winding road without any regard for motorists or logging trucks that may be making their way up or down the mountain.

A palomino mare approaches cautiously, protecting her colt.

Typically in the wild, there will be one herd stallion who will chase away his offspring by their second year.   This keeps herds from inbreeding.  Young stallions band together in what are known as bachelor bands until they are able to steal a mare from an established herd and begin their own.  But in this situation, both stallions, ages six and seven, were born on the property and live a daily existence with the two mares.  They get along, so long as there’s not a mare in heat.  Once one of the mares is in season, the battles begin.  Rearing, striking, biting and kicking.  Battle scars mar both bodies.  Wounds have festered and sport proud flesh due to being left without treatment.

Wounds left to fester on the side of this stallion have created scar tissue.

The hooves of these horses are long.  The ground is not the hard desert rock that most wild horses travel across, so there is no natural wearing.  When they get too long, they chip and break off, sometimes leaving the hoof so short that the horse ends up lame.  Thankfully, these horses haven’t the need to travel 20 miles to find water, or they’d never make it.  In fact, aside from the summer grass, the only blessing to these horses is that there is a creek running through the property which gives them fresh, clean water to drink.

Stallions, aged seven and six,  run free with the mares.

Neighbors have complained for years.  They’ve seen the horses in winter.  They’ve slowed down for them as they’ve crossed the road.  But because there are stallions in the mix, finding suitable homes or rescues is difficult.  When a warrant is issued, the animal control officer (ACO) has just 24 hours to move the horses.  Because this particular band hasn’t been handled, capturing can be rather tricky.  On the first attempt, only two of the ten were caught and relocated.  Now the ACO is struggling to get her crew back together on a single day that works for everyone.  The crew being a band of volunteers with enough trailer space to haul two intact stallions, two yearlings, and two mare and foal pairs.

And so the little herd waits in the sun, unaware of their future, content in a field of daisies.

A curious stallion stands watch.

…to be continued.

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Okay, so maybe he didn’t really say so, but if he saw it, he’d want it. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Lost in Cle Elum

Last weekend Darling and I took a road trip across the state to a wild horse adoption.  Adoptions here in WA have been rather depressing this year.  This was the third, final, and most successful with a whopping nine horses finding homes; the other two events saw only 7 and 2 horses going to new homes.

With three of our own, we didn’t really need to be dragging home any more wild horses.  However, since the trailer just happened to be following us, and since there were no other horses in it, well…it only made sense to bring a couple more back to the Northwet, didn’t it?

No, it didn’t, but we’ve got a plan.  There’s our local fair coming up in a couple of months and we’ve arranged for several gentling demos to be held each day, and at the end of the week we’ll be adopting out these two horses.

On our way home we made sure to stop several times so that the horses could rest.  It’s hard work standing in a moving vehicle, especially on the bumpy highway.  Halfway over the Cascades, we pulled off the highway into the little town of Cle Elum.

Two towns, one school…

Cle Elum means swift water in the language of the Kittitas Indians.  It’s located just east of Roslyn, which is better known as Cicely from the television show, Northern Exposure.  The two towns are so small that they share a school district.  They also share a Safeway, Chevron and stop light.  No, wait…I don’t think they had a stop light.  But you get my drift.  They are small.

So if the place was so small, why was I lost?

I pulled off the highway in search of the Safeway as Darling and I wanted to get something that almost resembled food from the deli.  We’d spent the weekend eating chips and cookies and an evening dining on Big Macs…now we were craving deep fried chicken strips and spiced potato wedges and there’d been a sign at the exit saying we could find these things in Cle Elum.  But could we find it?

“Mom, are we lost?” asked Darling, as she looked with just a wee bit of concern up and down the nearly deserted streets of a town which gave off the eerie feeling of being the stage of the next Steven Speilberg horror story.

“How can we be lost?  The town is only 8 blocks long and three blocks wide,” I said, trying to reassure her.  And yet, there was nothing reassuring about the empty streets on a sunny Sunday afternoon.   I drove eight blocks up from the highway exit, then zigged and zagged back and forth, wondering where the heck the Safeway was located, all the while pulling two wild horses who were by now wondering just what the heck was going on.

“Mom…I think I spotted the Hotel California back there,” Darling said with an evil grin.

“Yeah…well, if I could find a way out of this town, that might almost be funny! “

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City Boy’s Yard

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning to find a pile of fresh horse poo in the middle of your City Boy’s perfectly manicured lawn…

Unless, of course, it’s finding two piles…

So…where the heck have I been?  Cleaning  up horse poo.  No, really, I have.  For two full months I’ve been spending my days down in the county just south of us shoveling up the sweet smelling refuse of horses.  It’s been a blast, but a little time consuming.  And smelly.

Where did we leave off?  Oh, yes…the letter P.  I’d been dislodged from the top of my mustang, Sandy.  I hit the ground hard.  I was left with a huge black and blue bruise on my hip for weeks.  I was, of course, wearing my helmet so that by the time my head came into contact with the ground it was well covered and safe.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Sacramento, CA, for the Western States Mustang Challenge.  Sandy did well, far better than I’d expected.  Until he went lame, that is, and I scratched from the riding portion of the competition. If you’re one of those who follows along over at the Mustang Diaries, of course, you already know that City Boy adopted Sandy back for me and that he’s come home to live with us.

Now that we’re home and the competition is over, I no longer have to drive down south and trade cleaning up after horses in exchange for board and a dry place to ride.  This made me very happy.  That is, until this morning when a certain black mustang decided to take a joy trot around City Boy’s front yard…

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