Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Way Forward

Since returning back to Australia I have been anxiously looking for somewhere for me and the horses to move to.  Still no luck as not many properties are happy to accommodate 6 horses unfortunately.  In between all this searching and as a result of the changes that seemed to occur in me during my time away, my relationship with my horses has changed dramatically.  

Initially on the day I returned I excitedly dropped my suitcase and ran into the paddock to call the mares down from the mountain.  As always, Scout was the first to come galloping down and whinnied an excited  greeting then stood beside me sniffing me and asking for pats.  Sienna, Lacey and Kiowa came next and I was shocked to receive a very angry greeting from Lacey.  When she recognised me she pinned her ears at me reared up and then turned away.  This is the same angry reaction she gives Scout on her return whenever Scout and I go out for a little while.  Lacey very much sees me as a mother figure and treats me that way and she seemed downright furious with me for leaving for so long.  After a few days she was back to normal again and I found the whole process fascinating.  

There is such a huge difference in the behaviour of this breed to any other horse I have ever come across.  I am learning each and every day that I spend with my Spanish Mustangs.  All the horses have seemed a little out of sorts over the past couple of months and I to am quite unsettled and anxious about finding the perfect place for us to move to.  I had a shock encounter with my brumby mare Sienna a few weeks ago.  I walked into the paddock to go and greet the horses.  Scout walked over to me and asked for a scratch.  Sienna is a strong alpha mare amongst the group and Scout is often testing and challenging her of late.  This particular day as I was patting Scout, Sienna came over and Scout snaked her head and pinned her ears at Sienna trying to keep her away from me.  It all happened so quickly and next I knew Sienna had spun around and was kicking violently.  I received a solid blow to my arm and then another to the back of my leg as I ran away.  I was in shock.  In all the years I have had Sienna, even when she was extremely traumatised and wild after her capture and time at the doggers, she has never once shown me any ounce of aggression.  I respect her for who she is and have made sure I do not take away that spirit that she holds so dear.  It is for this reason that I don't ride her much.  She seems to enjoy long walks we take together and if I get tired she is more than happy to carry me but I felt deeply sometime ago that this was not the path that would suit Sienna in this life.  So she remains the strong herd leader and takes her role at home very seriously.  I still am unsure about why I received these kicks from her however it was a wake up call to set some boundaries about allowing this sort of behaviour whilst I am standing with them.  The next day I made the decision to place myself above Sienna in the herd and that any fighting that may occur must happen away from me.  

I don't ever need a halter or lead on Sienna to communicate effectively and within minutes she was following my body movements and dropping in behind me, accepting me as leader.  She  now seems to appreciate my role in the herd and often times will follow me around the entire property staring mesmerised when I stop to do something.  The mares all seem much calmer now and the aggression has subsided amongst them.

Just the other day I was patting Scout in the paddock and the other horses stayed back a respectful distance.  This is a big and positive change to the usual clamouring for attention.  One by one they laid down around me.  First Lacey, then Sienna then I laid down and Scout laid down close beside me.  We all napped together in the morning sun while Kiowa stood watch.  After sometime Sienna got up and came and stood over me allowing Kiowa a turn to sleep.  Scout was flat out beside me making soft whinnies as she dreamt, her big legs twitching as she ran over some imagined plains in her dreams.

Those are the treasured moments where I am deeply grateful for the trust and relationship I have with these horses.

Since I have changed my position amongst the herd Scout and I have come a long way.  I have been doing more training with her and am amazed by what we are achieving together.  I give her the option as to whether she wants to work or not by opening the roundyard gate and allowing her to go in or not.  She knows this is where we do our riding and groundwork and most times she has chosen to participate of late.  I continue to ride her bareback until we have perfected our communcation between us.  She is such a joy to work with and the more we do together, the stronger our bond grows.  She is a truly remarkable horse and I hope to get some video of our progress soon.

I recently took Lacey and Kiowa to the beach.  We had a wonderful day and they both had a lovely time splashing in the sea.  Here are some pictures taken that day.

Lacey exploring at the beach
Watching other horses arriving

Time to get wet
Beautiful Kiowa
Having fun! 

Finish off with a good roll

Thursday, September 9, 2010

USA Adventures Part 6 - Grey Feather and the Little Cayuse Ranch

We started the very long drive back down from Minnesota to New Mexico via Utah!  All up during the trip we drove over 10000 kilometres.  It was quite exhausting but I had well and truly mastered driving on the opposite side of the road by then.  We saw so much beautiful wildlife, stunning landscapes and of course horses along the way. 

Grey Feather racing the feed truck

I was very excited to get back to New Mexico to see Donna, Jim and Sierra again and of course Grey Feather.  She was more captivating and beautiful than ever and I spent a long time watching her.  During the days I would do some work haltering her, asking her to yield her hindquarters, forequarters etc and of course just getting to know each other.  She is very sensitive, intelligent and curious which was pure joy to when it came to groundwork.  She is incredibly quick to learn and I have no doubt that we will go a long way together.  

I watched one day when the horse trailer was backed into a space in one of the yards to allow the mares to get used to it.  I was very surprised to look from the house to see Grey Feather loading herself into the trailer, standing then coming out a number of times.  One of the other fillies, Josee was watching all this and came over to investigate.  Grey Feather seemed to like her new audience and quickly lept into the trailer, then backed out turning her head to see if Josee was watching.  She did this a number of times before finally staying in there and having a nap!  Needless to say she travels very well! 
I had a wonderful time at the Little Cayuse Ranch and am so grateful for the hospitality that was shown to us.  It is rare to find people who open their home and hearts to strangers and this is exactly what Donna, Jim and Sierra did for us.  The time spent there will be engraved in my memory for along time.  I learnt a lot, laughed a lot and bonded with my beautiful filly.
Azor Neosho

During my final week in the USA I received an offer of assistance to help me bring a Cayuse Ranch stallion out.  I eagerly accepted and after a few phone calls the powerful, kind grulla stallion I had admired the day I was at the Cayuse was set to join me and my mares in Australia.  

This was more than I could ever have hoped for and I am thrilled to finally be able to offer future Spanish Mustang foals to people in Australia and New Zealand.  The Spanish Mustang will be a powerful presence in Australasia.  Scout and Lacey have thrived since being here and I am certain they have a huge future in this part of the world which will hopefully one day assist in the Spanish Mustang being removed from the critically endangered list.  My hope is that they will be around for future generations to experience the depth and magic that a relationship with a Spanish Mustang brings anyone who shares a bond with them.

Sahara & Grey Feather

Sunset at the Little Cayuse Ranch

Sunday, September 5, 2010

USA Adventures - Part 5

I was extremely excited  to go and meet Leslie at Twin Hollows and to see Laceys beautiful sire - Renegade Shadow.  I bought Scout from Leslie in 2008 and we have stayed in touch nearly every week since then so it was very fun to finally meet face to face.  

I didn't think it possible, but Shadow is even more spectacular than I could have imagined.  I was so impressed with him in every way.  He has a very sweet temperament and there is no faulting his conformation.  I took my tools with me and gave him a hoof trim whilst I was there and he was such a good boy.  This stallion really is a rare find.  His second foal was born a few weeks before we arrived and this colt is all quality with a bold and people friendly nature.  
Below: Storm and Rose
 We spent some time with all the mares as well and they were all in beautiful condition and were eager for  attention, particularly Storm, a lovely blue/black sabino mare and Rose, a very sweet and pretty white appaloosa mare.  Rheta is a mare that I have admired for sometime and she was also spectacular to see.  She is certain to produce an incredible foal with Shadow in the near future.  She has a lovely soft and quiet way about her and is a beautiful, proud mare.

We decided to visit a couple more ranch's and Leslie kindly came with us to see Nancy at Free Spirit Spanish Mustangs in Wisconsin.  Nancy was a delight to meet and I was very pleased to see her lovely stallion American Yellow Fox.  What an impressive horse he is!  We then went on to Zen Cowboys to see Wes and Janes horses.  Hurrah, a smokey black 3 year old stallion was very eager for attention and he was kind and gentle and a wonderful mover.  His full sister Lucita is a lovely red dun mare that I would have loved to have bought home with me!  After we left Zen Cowboys, it was time to start the long journey back down to New Mexico to spend 10 days working with Grey Feather.

Our visit with Leslie seemed far to short and I hope to get back there one day soon.  If anyone is looking for a stallion quality Spanish Mustang colt, I would urge you to contact Twin Hollows regarding Ronya, the colt born this year.  Their website is http://www.twinhollows.com

The magnificent stallion - Renegade Shadow (Silver Shadow x Faith)

Ronya - Renegade Shadow x Little Dove