We are droughty dry again this year in NM and the Dog Head Fire that started June 14th and burned nearly 18,000 acres in our vicinity last week scorched that onto the minds of the East Mountain area populace emphatically. It went from 600 acres to 16,000 acres in two days, incinerating pinon, juniper and ponderosa pine in 100 foot flames.
Because the wind blew the fire east, we were not threatened, and the amazing work of the fire crews, along with some help from the weather, kept the fire from spreading as much after the third day. Click to see a map of the fire progression.Continue reading »
I thought Jim and I were going to pack salt to Beatty’s Cabin for Big Horn Sheep last weekend, but there were enough haulers, so after a Friday fun ride and a Saturday cross cut saw clinic, we ended up doing trail work on Cave Creek trail instead, and that was very satisfying! (Then we went kayaking on Monday but that is another story.)
Our work crew: LT, Indy and Penny
Trails, it turns out, do not magically remain free of debris and overgrowth. They have to be maintained. One mission of the Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen is work on trails in both the Pecos and the Manzano Wilderness (which I continually type as Wilberness, for probably obvious reasons!)
It wasn’t even astronomical twilight. It was 0 Dark Thirty.
The first hot and bitter swallow of coffee almost drove the sleep grit from my eyes, and I packed the cooler while Jim (because he is the best) loaded my three horses. Penny came for the cattle drive and LT and Mitch for cow horse arena work.
It was 4:30 am when the diesel chugged to life and I pulled out of our gravel driveway heading north to Watrous.
Driving into the day is way better than driving the day away. The sun comes up.
I got there in time (whew!) and we penned up LT and Mitch. I saddled Penny, reloaded her and followed Barret, Jason and Wyatt to meet the rest of the crew.
We warmed up the horses and headed out across the ranch at a long trotin thestill slanty morning light. It was no-sweatshirt-warm!
When we got to the pasture with the moms and calves (pairs), we split into two groups and went hunting for cow. We kept our forward pace and Penny found a nice rhythm. She watches where she is going, and the area was not super rocky or full of holes, so it was easy terrain to ride!
We slowed when we spied our quarry!
Most of our herd fragment was down by this windmill.
As we approached, I could smell their grassy poop smell. There is a grand description, eh? When they saw the horses, they began to moove and moo, too. Penny fell right in behind and we let the herd meander down the two track to our meeting place.
We consolidated the bunches at a tank that was mostly dry.
After a break where all the guys could hop off and pee using their horses as a screen (or pee on their horse’s leg, is what it kind of looks like–and, no I didn’t stare or take pictures of this) and I had to go find a tree, we pushed the group toward the gate.
This seemed pretty straight forward. We went slow and pushed them from behind with holders on the sides. Then the calves started to group up at the back. Then one or two started to peel off and race away toward the almost dry tank, apparently, forgetting their mom’s were just up ahead!
Calves at the back.
One beat me and I gave chase, but Penny got a little humpy and the calf got a good lead. We got our act together and went for it, but we were cleanly beat, so Kenny galloped in and roped the little bugger. He kept it roped and herded it back to the group. Kinda fun to do and see!
We made it out of that pasture and got a ways, when a couple of calves developed a new strategy and decided to depart together. Several riders left to corral them, leaving us with too few to hold the remainder. There was an avalanche of bolters! It kind of reminded me of the herding cats Super Bowl commercial.
They returned to the fence and stacked up there. Some were small enough or pushy enough to squeeze through and go galloping on. Only a few moms joined the deserters, which was too bad because more moms would have helped them relax and the moms had no issues going where we asked! The rest of the mamas were grazing way back where the little runners had run off.
We let them settle, reassembled and got them going again. We were getting close to the main bunch of moms and one rider went to look for a rope that had snagged in some trees and was lost. As soon as he left, the calves thought he should be followed. Two went. Four. Ten. Crap. They stopped following him and literally high-tailed, went all the way back to the fence! There were somewhat fewer this time, but a couple snuck through the fence again!
Regroup, settle, get going, be vigilant.
We got all the way to the most of the moms!
(The video was taken from my moving horse…. explains the quality…)
We got them bunched and kept easing them along. We could see the next gate! We could see the trucks and the windmill and the water tank. We could see the group of bovids that had made it that far! We were feeling pretty confident and some of the guys were tossing their ropes and chatting. The calves however, still clueless about the location of their mothers and bawling for them, were a little hot after all that cavorting. As we passed a stand of juniper they started sneaking in there for shade, and then they realized they were FREE!
At first, it was just a few….
Penny will bushwhack with the best of them, so we headed into the thick of the trees, but calves can go where a horse can’t and those few drew a mob! Suddenly, they were not tired and they were off again!
As we broke into the open, Penny was covering ground like a seasoned pro! I know it is better for the cows and calves if everything stays sedate, but YEE HAW, chasing calves at speed in the wide open on a good footed horse with the wind in my face made me feel like I sorta knew what I was doing (and that I was not 54 but maybe 35 instead!) We all were looping by the calves, driving to their necks, trying to turn them, and because the calves had used up at least some energy (they were panting and had flecks of foam speckling their lips) they did turn. We stopped their progress in a little swale. They milled around and were bawling. That drew a couple mamas to them, and several calves laid down to rest. Thank goodness!
Kenny decided enough was enough, and he took a couple folks to bring back a bunch more moms while the rest of us kept the little delinquents from gaining any more ground! There were only a few that kept pressing it and all it took was a step to them from a horse to push them back.
As we waited, a few more moms drifted to us. They would either moo and their calf would recognize its mom’s voice and come and nurse, or the moms would go calf to calf and sniff until finding theirs. One mama only sniffed brown calves. Mom yellow 247 (I might have mis-remembered her ear-tag number) could not find her calf. She kept mooing and then she would re-smell but hers was not with us. I started to feel kind of sorry for her!
When the mom bunch got to us, we watched for a while to make sure things looked calm, and finally headed for the trucks, leaving the clueless calves with the moms.
Two suddenly rejuvenated calves came careening along with us (there were more moms and calves at the water). Good grief!
The horses were happy for a drink as our “morning” gather had gone well into the afternoon!
After we got back to the ranch, Mitch and LT and me along with Jason and Barret and their horses got to do cow horse arena work. That was a great time, too! Thanks Barret!
Surprisingly, I was not a zombie on the 138 mile drive home (I left around 7 pm).
Salt hauling for bighorn sheep this weekend with Back Country Horsemen, two cow clinics the next two weekends and a cow horse show in Texas is the schedule for this month.
Last weekend I had the distinct privilege of an ethereally (as in seeming to belong to another world) ephemeral (as in short-lived) weekend at Taos Horse Getaways (which is really near Tres Piedras) three other women that I ride with.
The Pasque Flower (in the Ranunculus family) was the most abundant flower, but we just got lucky because they only bloom for a little while and then you don’t see them. Perhaps they are ephemeral?
“Ephemeral” was our word of the first day because the map said there were ephemeral streams–streams that are not year round, and that led us to “ethereal” because, well, they both have a lot of “e’s”, I guess.
Max was abandoned at 3 months old. He was rescued and went to live at Walkin N Circles. He was sponsored by Mary Ann and Roger and he came here in November 2015 for saddle training. He was 3 and 1/2.
Max did not have much trouble getting started under saddle! He is pretty much game for any thing!
He just left for his new home with Miriam and Justin last Saturday! We are both happy and sad to see him go. Jim really liked Max because every morning Max would leave his breakfast and come at a fast trot to get a pet and say hello.
First: Slim, the cryptorchid mustang stallion, was gelded 4/21/2016 at Albuquerque Equine. All went well!! Thank-you to all who chipped in!
Second: Max’s (the rescue from Walk N Circles) adoption is underway! More next week!
The Back Country Horsemen, Pecos Chapter, spends time in the back country (surprise!) and while we are very careful (some might even say boring) in our riding and tree-wreck clearing, this has helped us avoid having to make much use our first aid kits and first aid training!
Still, since we have these kits, it does behoove (he he beHOOVE) us to be trained. Luckily, we have Lisa Kazmar who is a certified first aid instructor who put on a scenario-based training for us last weekend! And double lucky, we have Dr. Stacie Boswell who gave us some equine first aid tips as well!
Lisa Kazmar, our fearless instructor! (And Terri’s head)
Dr. Stacie supervising leg wraps (and we all got to practice!)
For the human part, we had four scenarios, and I failed to get pictures of the first one I participated in–a nasty bleeding compound fracture!Continue reading »