Life on an Arabian breeding farm in Capitan, NM.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rain at last…

Well we got one good day of rain. Since then I have watched the clouds drop rain everywhere but here. Some see the desert as a place of beauty, some as a place of desolation, I simply sit in wonder at its resilience. We have had very little moisture. First the winter snows were nearly nonexistent. Then we had no spring rains, and now the monsoon moisture seems to be everywhere but here. Yet with only one day of rain, in two days time already there is a soft green hue everywhere I look. It is almost imperceptible yet unmistakably there. Only the hardiest of weeds have dared to spread their leaves thus far, and they have sprouted the barest of blossoms. These are for the most part the most obnoxious of plants with thorns to protect them from the browsers who would otherwise eat them to the ground. There is little else for them to forage on. What little grasses there are, are dried, and brown with little nutrition. Even the scrub oak, and the gourd plants have been nibbled at when they would otherwise remain unscathed. One day’s rain breathes life once again in the desert.

It would always amaze me as a child to watch the desert come to life after a brief summer’s rain. Some years the fields would fill with poppies of lavender, pink, and white, or the bright red orange of the Mexican poppy. There would be white, and purple thistle, or orange, lavender, pink and blue flowers of varieties I have never known the names of. Then there were always the cactus flowers with their brilliant waxy flowers that seemed too bright to be real. I miss the cactus flowers. We have some cholla but very little, and seldom do I catch them in bloom. We have some stunted pancake cactus, but never have I seen a blossom on them. They barely break the surface of the ground. We have yellow sunflowers that can grow as tall as a man. The first year here we were shocked to find our arena a field of sunflowers so thick, and tall the horses could barely walk through them. We bought a new riding mower. We sold the one we had in CA, which was just as well as it would never have stood up to the weeds we have here. Our new one is much bigger.

Such a fragile yet hardy land is the desert. How life manages to survive here is a miracle of evolution. Plants can remain dormant for years in times of drought, and then when the rain does fall it is as rich, and full of life as the densest rain forest. There is a flurry of activity as suddenly little red anthills pop up everywhere. All kinds creepy crawlers can be seen, and the dragonflies suddenly appear. The hummingbirds are now flying everywhere, dive bombing each other as they stake out their territories. Bull snakes are out, and about as are lizards, and horny toads. Soon I will have to take out that mower we bought once again, and I will be hard put to keep up with the new growth, that is provided we get more than one rain. Even if we don’t, even if there is little this year, the desert will wait. It will wait for another year to blossom, another year to grow thick with life. We can learn much from the desert. We can learn patience, and resilience, and hope for the day when life giving rains are heavy once again, and the desert of our lives can blossom with new life, new growth, and a serene beauty that comes only because we have endured the harshest of times.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


A few years ago I got an email from a lady who was trying to find a home for a Padron Granddaughter. They were endurance people, and she was not an endurance horse. Her name is Starlight Serenade, a ¾ half-Arabian/Saddlebred cross. She had been shown halter taking first place ribbons, and they bought her for training for endurance. When she turned out not to be a good match for them the owner tried to either get her papers or return her (as previously agreed) to no avail. The breeders wouldn’t even talk to them let alone transfer the papers. Despite all this we chose to go ahead, and take the mare thinking we could register her offspring as half-Arabians bred to our stallions. Wrong, since she was registered, any of her offspring could only be registered as owned by the original breeder or we had to lie about her registration, something I cannot do. She’s too good a mare not to breed so her kids will not be registered.

When Sere came to us, we saw a definite problem with her right away. We were told she would go lame sometimes, and then when she was re-shod it seemed to go away. We had our vet check her out with x-rays, and the bad news was she had a navicular bone cist. So much for riding her, but in every other respect she is a beautiful mare. She was shy, but with work I got her to trust me, well as it turned out not completely.

We bred her to Ibn. Being a maiden mare we weren’t sure how she would be when the foal came. We had the cameras set up, and our other mare dropped her foal right on schedule. We had a couple of weeks before Sere was due so I took a break from sleeping at the barn. Big mistake. She was showing absolutely no signs of getting ready to foal so of course she foaled early. We went into the stall, but could get nowhere near her let alone her foal. He was a beautiful bay with a striking blaze. Eventually we got hold of him, and Rudy put a halter on him, but whenever I tried to work with him as I do with all our foals, I had no luck. Eventually we had to change halters, and each time it was a battle so we finally elected not to put a halter on him.

A year went by, and slowly but surely I gained a little trust. I could groom him, he liked that, but little else. When I lost my job, and had more time to spend with the kids I finally got him to the point of getting a halter on him. We worked on picking up his feet, letting me pound on them, and even filing them while tied up next to Ibn for security. The funniest thing was when summer came, and the flies were terrible, he had absolutely no problem being sprayed with fly spray. He didn’t like getting his mane combed, but I could spray it with detangler with no problem. Go figure.

Late winter I started riding Ibn, and Marina, and spent less time with the kids assuming I had got them past their people issues, everyone that is except Ser-Haat as I recently discovered. I had to change his halter because he finally had outgrown his old one. He has a very refined head, and the halter I had, had lots of length on the latch part of the halter. Don’t even ask me what it’s called. I found another halter small at the muzzle, and long only it is so old that the holes are frayed. I changed to the new (old) halter by putting the new one on, and taking the old one off after the fact. Less trauma for him, and less chance of him running away from me, win win situation.
Well that lasted one day, and he had it off. Mind you I didn’t totally ignore him all this time. We would work on him being tied, grooming, working in his stall like a round pen etc. Still you could tell in his eyes he was wary of me even though he totally loves his pets, and hugs. He wouldn’t come to me right off, but waited for me to come to him in his paddock. Still I thought the worst was over until I tried to put the halter on again. No way Jose, he wasn’t about to let me put that horrible thing on him again. That meant I was going to have to start from square one, you just know I loved the prospect of that.

We’ve been working for about two weeks now practically every day. I couldn’t get the halter even anyway near him, his eyes would go wide, and off he’d go. Now I’m not about to manhandle him even if I could. He’s way too sweet to do that to him. I went back to chasing him in his paddock stopping him, and then asking him to come in to me. After a few days I had to chase him less, and less. Next step, get him to accept the whip rope (buggy whip) on his back without freaking, and let me rub the handle of the whip all over his body especially down his back left leg which is his preferred kick out leg. Ser-Haat is the only baby we’ve ever had who kicked out from the time he was little, and always the same leg.

That accomplished, we went to the lead rope. This was a whole new thing, and off he would run me running beside him so the lead wouldn’t fall off his back. Yes I have had some very good nights sleep. He wore me out I can tell you, but I got him so I could drape the lead over him without him thinking that for sure it was going to kill him. What gets into these kids minds I have no clue, but I know he was sure that it would kill him. I could go up to him, and lead him by the jaw, but heaven forbid I put a lead rope on his back. Next step, he has to let me put the lead around his neck, and lead him just as if I were holding his head. Well that took a little while but mission accomplished. He gets big hugs for that, and of course his treats afterwards. I have the halter with me all through this, and the halter is always in his stall. When I give him his treats he has to do it with the halter in the feeder. First it’s just there, and slowly I work it so I can get it over his nose, and rub his face with it.

On to the next big step, I make a loop of the lead to put over his nose. I have to trick him at first until I figure out that if I try doing it from the side it won’t work, so I have the lead around his neck, make a loop, and put it over his nose while he’s looking at me straight on from the front. I lead him around just as if it was a halter, and he does fine. Finally I get to the point where I can flip the last of the lead over his head, and basically make a complete halter of the lead. Then I put the halter on his nose and flip the top over his head. I didn’t buckle it, but it was on, and that was the important part. I’m so proud of him at this point I could bust. Still and all it is a process where I have to chase him a couple of times before he lets me put even the lead on his back. I need horse cookies.

The last cookies I bought none of the horses would eat so I fed them to the dogs who eat everything they can get in their mouths. I’ll just have to make my own I decided. I have no clue where to begin, but I do know the key ingredients, mainly beet pulp (shredded), and rice bran to bind it together. Well the rice bran didn’t break down (it’s in pellet form) so I added some flour. I didn’t want to use white flour as it’s not that good for people let alone horses, but I did get a cookie of sorts. I used too much oil, and too much water, and while it sort of held together it was too soft, and fell apart too easy. Ser-Haat didn’t care, and neither did the other horses I gave it too. I have to perfect the recipe, but it did the trick. Today was the clincher. I gave him a cookie first, and then I brought out the lead. He started to walk away so I picked up the whip, and told him I could chase him or he could let me put the lead on him. Wisely he chose not to turn away, and I made a halter of the lead. He also got his new cookies in-between along with lots of pets, and praises. Then the big step, I put on the halter, buckled it, and led him around. I did this several times, finally taking it off, giving him his treats for being such a good boy, and letting him enjoy his freedom. With him I can’t leave the halter on I decided. I will put it on to work with him, and take it off when we’re done. I’ll do this every day until it’s not an issue. Of course this is only the beginning. He will get towels, blankies, and anything else I can think of draped over him. He needs a complete sacking out.

Ser-Haat is an exceptionally sensitive horse. In order for him to go on with his life I have to get him over as many scary things as I can think of, and many more I can’t think of as of yet. When Rudy comes home I’m going to have him put the trailer in the arena so that when I can finally lead Ser-Haat out to the arena to play, I can trailer train him as well. I’ll put goodies in the trailer slowly moving from the edge of the ramp to the inside. That way he will trailer train himself. I have to trailer train Storm too, but I think he will be easier to train. He’s four now, and far more trusting than Ser-Haat. Anyone is far more trusting than Ser-Haat thanks to Sere. Next foal she has won’t be so bad. Ser-Haat was the first, and you never know with maiden mares how they will react, or when they will drop. She reacted badly to our presence, and that made him afraid. If she wouldn’t trust us then he was danged if he would trust us. We had to be some kind of dangerous creatures. I’ve been battling that fear ever since, but I’m bound, and determined to get him over it once, and for all.

As for my cookies, I went, and bought some rice flour, flaxseed, and wheat bran. I won’t use much oil or water next time so they won’t be so soft. I also got some apples to add with the carrots. If I use the cheese grader on the apples I think it will work well. I cut the carrots since all I had were baby carrots, and grading them was too much of a pain. We’ll see how the next batch turns out. Who knows maybe if I get the recipe right I can sell some at the feed store, which will pay for the cookies I give the horses. You never know it could happen.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I have been remiss...

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I last sent a post. Much has happened. The days have been cool till about three or four, most days at least. There has been rain to the east, west, north, and south, but we have only had one rainstorm. A little of the topsoil got some moisture, but no more than that fell. It will come, it’s just taking a long time. Still the clouds are appreciated as they bring cooler weather if no rain as of yet. The sunsets, and sunrises are spectacular, and I enjoy my morning coffee in the stillness of the morning calm, or sit at days end watching the last kiss of the sun before it leaves us in a world of semi-darkness.

As for the new arrivals, I left the two little girls (Star, and Cupid) in the arena feeding them extras before I put them in pasture with Angel, and Sere. They will be on the bottom of the pecking list, which will be new for them, and I wanted to get a few more groceries on them before they had to compete for food. Both are very sweet, and definitely not dominant, just sweet little girls who are totally inseparable. They do everything together, running up when I come down to feed or putz at the barn. I love watching them each with their own kind of beauty as they munch on the same flake of hay, or nibble on the sparse dry grass in the pasture. One couldn’t ask for two more beautiful little girls.

Zara (Lightning’s dam) had a cut when she came, and I didn’t really think anything of it, but of course it got infected, and I had a time of it trying to clear it up. Dummy me I didn’t remember our silver spray until a few days ago. I was washing her wound twice a day, giving her antibiotics, watching carefully as it the swelling slowly went down. When I finally remembered the spray the cut was still a little swollen, and still oozing. 24 hours after I applied the spray all the swelling was gone, the old ugly stuff had pealed off, and there was new pink skin. Not to make excuses for myself, we haven’t had to use the spray for years, and even Rudy forgot we had it, and how well it worked. The worst part is I spent over $40 on another product, and I didn’t have to. Oh well I’m sure eventually I’ll use the other product as well, but if you ever have a wound that you can’t wrap, use Aluspray. It’s fantastic, cheap, and keeps all flies, dirt, and whatever else away from the wound.

Zara, and Aulina I have in the barn. Bobbi Jo wants to breed Zara to a stallion down the road, but Zara needs to put on some weight before we breed her. First of all he’s a big (and I do mean big) APHA stallion. Zara will cross wonderfully with him. You just have to look at Lightning to see how well she out crosses with other breeds. Then there’s the cut. It’s right at her girth across her ribs, right where the stallion will grab on with his front legs. I want that to be well healed before it is subjected to those powerful legs.

Zara’s a beautiful dark bay mare. Bobbi Jo doesn’t particularly like her gait (I’ve not ridden her yet) but you can’t argue with what she produces. We thought of keeping her for a season to breed with Ibn, and now that she’s here for I don’t know how long, we may yet. She’s not fond of her new digs (a stall with no paddock), and she doesn’t particularly like the oat hay I’ve been giving her, but she definitely remembered the goodies we gave her the last time she was here. She’s so funny she won’t touch her hay until she has her goodies. Aulina remembered too. I’ve had a time of it getting Aulina to eat the oat hay, but it’s better than alfalfa. It has great roughage, doesn’t make them buzzy, and fills them up. I feed less, and they put on the pounds. They don’t gobble it down so it lasts all day which means they aren’t starving when it’s time for their next feeding. Unfortunately, unlike alfalfa there is only so much so when it’s gone it’s gone, like the wheat hay. Over the winter I’m going to try to put money aside so I can get enough next year to last through the summer. I’d like to store enough to last a whole year, but I can’t see that happening, not unless we suddenly get popular, and sell a bunch of horses we don’t have yet. The oat, and wheat hays are not that popular so I can only get it from one feed store. With the price of gas, and the price of hay going up because of the drought in the southwest, I don’t think I will be able to get any more this year. My friend upstairs will just have to plan ahead, and make it possible for us to buy a truckload next summer (You are listening I hope).

Aulina is Marina’s daughter (how’d you guess that one) by Ibn. I’ve seen her in videos, but was still surprised when I saw her in person. She is so beautiful, and taller than I expected. The more I look at her the more of Ibn I see in her. She has a beautiful dish deeper than either Ibn or Marina. Her gait is more like Ibn as well. She’s a little longer waisted than Marina, and that may account for it. She’s also taller. She’s a bit of a pistol under saddle (wonder where that came from), and not near as well behaved as Marina, but that’s the fault of the trainer she had. Rudy could have her minding her p’s, and q’s in no time I’m sure. We’ll see how well I do with her. I would like to get her to the point that she can be used in showing. She’s quick, and agile like Marina. and I think she would make a great reining horse, but I have to get her to mind first.

Our first trail ride was an eye opener for her. She has become citified to say the least. The little I rode her while Bobbi Jo was here told me a lot, but wasn’t enough for her to realize that she was not in the city. She was all excited, and rode out smartly, but we only went to the big meadow across from our property. After they left I took Aulina into the real woods, and she learned all kinds of things she never knew she could do. There was this huge, and dangerous crevice (water runoff rut) I expected her to walk over time, and time again. Finally she actually jumped over it (I was told she freaked when asked to jump), and then walked back, and forth over it. That was scary. Then there was this steep mountain (rocky gully) I asked her to walk down. She was sure she would die, but discovered that she could go down a rocky mountains without killing herself. The worst was I expected her to walk through scrub oak. She just couldn’t go through it, without being torn to shreds, she just knew she couldn’t. Lo, and behold I was right, and she survived it all. By the end of the ride she calmed down considerably, and pretty much went where I asked her to go. Lucky for me we didn’t meet any elk or deer. That’s going to be really fun. I hope to get back on her back again soon. This time I will work her in the round pen first to get some of the jitters out, and we will go farther, and do more scary things.

Before I start working Aulina in the arena I want to build her confidence in her own abilities. I want her to be responsive to my cues, and believe that whatever I ask of her it will be fun, and I won’t ask her to do anything that she can’t do. To me teaching horses (I don’t like the word training) is like teaching little kids. You open a world to them that is fun, and exciting, and they become all they are capable of being. If riding isn’t fun for the rider, how can it be fun for the horse? If they don’t enjoy what they are doing, they aren’t going to do it well. People have drawn a hard line between humans, and animals, yet I see no line. They are not people, but we all share common traits. You have only to see a bear, or cat, or horse, or any animal defend her baby to know that we are alike in so many more ways than we know. The responsibility of teaching a horse to be all it can be is the same as teaching a child to be all they can be, and the reward is just as great. That’s what I want for Aulina. I want her to discover all that she can be.

I didn’t spend the entire week just playing with the new arrivals. I started working with Ser-Haat again, moved the little ones to pasture with the older mares, put the two love birds (Jeri, and Sadie) back in the arena for a second try at breeding Sadie, and got frustrated trying to catch Lizzie when she is in season, but those stories will be told in my next post.

I have one more month of the freedom of being a full time rancher before I start working in the real world again. This is what I love most, but it isn’t paying the bills. I have to go back to work to be able to pay for all this fun. Meanwhile I will continue to spend my days working with the kids. I have to spend more time with Sierra. I want to make the big step to the round pen, and then to the arena. Hopefully the summer will be long because once winter comes there will be few days I can do things with the kids unless we have another bad winter with no snow. But I’m getting ahead of myself, right now is what’s important, and right now it’s time to close, and leave more stories for another post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy 4th...

Today is the 4th of July, but no fireworks here. It’s evening, and as has become the norm the smell of smoke hangs thick in the air. I don’t know why one can only smell it at night, but that’s the way of it. The Donaldson fire has now gone over the 100 thousand mark making it the second largest in New Mexico history. The Concho fire in Los Alamos is number one at over 125 thousand acres. The Donaldson fire has crossed into Mescalero land now. At least there are no more homes threatened, that is no human homes. Many wildlife families will have to search out new meadows to lay in, and browse. There is no sign of rain either. We did have one good day of rain, and the firefighters were able to get the fire 51% contained. Slowly but surely both fires are coming under control.

Bobbi Jo, her family, and the girls came in Saturday morning. There was no room for Sammy but that’s ok, when she brings Lightning back in about a month she’ll bring Sammy. The girls are painfully thin, and Zara has a cut on her ribs. Their little Haitian man has not been feeding them properly they discovered, and Kaytlin has had to go back and give them more food. We also like our kids to have plenty of groceries, so what I call painfully thin may not be quite that bad.   I told Bobbi Jo that she has to remember coming from a third world country what he thinks of as well fed is far different from what we in the land of plenty call well fed. She is just going to have to make sure that they feed everyone before he gets there to do his little chores. That way there won’t be any more issues. She doesn’t want him riding the horses anymore either, seems he has been using a very severe bit so she said she is going to find him a $50 horse at the auction so he has his own horse to play with.

It was wonderful to finally meet the family I have only corresponded with over the Internet. We made introductions first, I to them, and they to the horses. Sunday I let Kaytlin ride Marina while I rode Aulina to see what she did or did not know. They spent a lot of money on her training, and Kaytlin worked her tail off paying for lessons for little more than groundwork. Poor Aulina doesn’t know diddlysquat. Of course part of that is her own fault. She figured out how to get out of being worked by pretending she was lame. They finally got a good farrier who informed them that she had some of the best feet he had ever seen in an Arab, and there was no reason not to ride her. She doesn’t pretend any more, the little stinker.

Kaytlin had a wonderful time riding Marina. She’s used to having to prod her horses to do what she wants them to do, and of course Marina is always ready to go. I told her what Marina’s cues were, and off she went, first in the round pen, and then out to the meadow the other side of our property. That’s when she really had fun, Aulina not so much. I do have to say that Aulina stepped out sharply only she wouldn’t go into a canter, and her trot was way too fast. Forget trying to collect her, she reminded me of Marina was young flipping her head in every direction. I’m going to have to do basic schooling on her while I build her up, and give her extra groceries. I’m not even going to attempt to ride the little ones. They are way too small to ride at this point. They are only three as it is, and underweight to boot.  I’ll simply put them in pasture with Sara, and Angel. They can build up their strength, put on some muscle, and learn some herd etiquette.

Aulina I will ride in the mountains for a while before I try teaching her a few things. She needs some more muscle, and most importantly, she needs to get experience only a good trail ride can give her. Riding in the mountains here will settle her down, keep things interesting for her, and teach her to expect the unexpected. I can’t wait until she sees her first elk or deer. She’ll probably jump out of her skin, but hopefully she won’t bolt. That would not be fun. She looks so much like Marina, but her gait is more like Ibn. She doesn’t collect so that makes her a bit choppy. She’s also a little longer waisted, and taller I think than Marina. It’s hard to tell because she’s thin, and I’ve been riding Marina regularly so she is built like a brick poop house. Marina is also older giving her more bulk. Cupid is taller, and longer waisted yet again. She got the bulging forehead from her sire giving her a deeper dish, but thankfully she got the square muzzle I like in our horses. The three together make a beautiful picture of grays. That single dominant gray gene is in all three even though in each case the sire has been chestnut. Marina’s only chestnut foal was when we bred her to a black.

As for Zara, I can’t ride her right now because of that cut. I looked at it again tonight, and it’s slightly infected so I gave her a little antibiotic, put Neosporin in it, and covered it with swat to keep the flies away. Tomorrow I will wash it with Betadine, and put more Neosporin, and swat on it. Hopefully it will heal quickly. Bobbi Jo wants to breed her to Dakota for a paint foal. Zara crosses well with other breeds, and since she won’t be buying Dakota, this is the next best thing. She is taking home a palomino gelding of his for 30 days to see if he will be what she wants for barrel racing. After riding Aulina I told her that Aulina would be a perfect reining or barrel horse. She’s just not an English horse. She is however, very tight, agile, and quick. We just have to get Kaytlin to sign on to reigning. She really wants to jump, and I can understand that. Hunter or English pleasure is too boring for me let alone a young teenage girl. She has no clue how fun the western classes can be. If I can get Aulina doing reining she just might change her mind.

Zara crossed with Dakota will produce a good western or jumper prospect. Zara is 15.1 or 15.2, cross her with a 16.1 hand stallion, and you can’t help but get a tall well built horse. Dakota is massive, and Zara will refine that into a lean mean working machine. Bobbi Jo was also talking about bring her Cob mare Gwen over to breed to Dakota. It will be getting late in the year for a foal, but maybe we can do that too.  We’ll just have to see.

All in all it was a wonderful visit. We went to a rodeo, they saw our small, but sweet 4th of July parade, Joe, and the kids got to see Jan’s farm, Lincouln and the jail that held Billy the Kid, and we talked a lot. I petered out today, but other than that we did a lot. Kaytlin wanted to take home Sierra, Ser-Haat, Lightning, and Bear, but since I wanted to keep Mocha (their Siberian Husky) I guess it came out pretty even. Joe actually liked our little town, which surprised Bobbi Jo since he came from Pittsburgh, and lived in Florida, and Phoenix, all big cities. I’ve been telling her for years she needs to move out here, and maybe, just maybe they might consider it sometime in the future. It really piqued Joe’s interest when he saw his old boss on the news. It seems that he knows the Police Chief of Los Alamos. Small world. Whatever they decide to do in the future, we have come closer together, and I’m sure we will do more together especially when it comes to the horses. We have no children to pass on our legacy of breeding, and none of our nieces or nephews are interested in horses so maybe this will be the family we pass on our passion for the horses we breed, and love. I’ve always said God has a plan, and maybe this is the beginning of the fruition of that plan. Only time will tell that story.