Santa Fe Trail map.

Santa Fe Trail map.
Map of the Santa Fe Trail.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cowboy Reunion Parade, Las Vegas, NM!

Quick Draw and his lady love Poco.

Since I made the disappointing decision that Quick Draw (the big 16-hand mustang) may be too lame to join our Santa Fe Trail ride in the fall, I will try to give him his chance to shine in the upcoming Centennial Cowboy Reunion parade in Las Vegas, NM instead! I will also try to bring his girlfriend Poco too, (pictured here with him... they are inseparable!) Both of their stories are featured in my book "Brand Name."....

Quick Draw was originally rounded up in Nevada but Poco's origins are unknown... (I've yet to shave her neck and send a photo of her brand to the BLM so they can give me her details.) Quick Draw was used as a trail horse and for rounding up cattle before I bought him and Poco was an award winning child's barrel racer and trail riding contest winner. She was going to be put up as an item in a yard sale before I bought her in 2012. Both have lameness issues. Quick Draw has ringbone and Poco has arthritis in one knee. The parade is only 2 miles long though, on a good street, and so I think they should both be OK for one day. So, although they will neither participate in the Santa Fe Trail ride, they will have their day in the spotlight! (Fingers crossed.) Check out this wonderful event scheduled for August 2015!:

Meanwhile, I am working with Sissy to get her ready to pull the wagon (or maybe I should, get myself ready) and I am also plugging away at a first draft of the sequel to my book "Into the Shadowlands." The new book will be called "Whispers across the Plane." It will pick up where we left off with Tate and Abby, Julia and Lisa and introduce a few new characters, including Richard Szabo/Book McCready. There is also going to be a wild horse element in the new book, both past and present.  "Into the Shadowlands."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sissy, Suerte and snake bites.

Sissy, pondering her new home.

I had hoped to train my 16-hand mustang, Quick Draw to be our wagon horse for the ride. He is already a riding horse and I think he would make an excellent and very handsome driving horse but he has an old injury that may prove troublesome. When I got him in 2012, (his story is featured in my book "Brand Name,") I soon discovered he was suffering from ringbone in one hind leg. When the vet X-rayed him, he determined that the ringbone was quite advanced and had been there a long time. Since Quick Draw was only 8-years-old at the time, it meant that he could well have received some kind of injury as a baby which had led to the development of the ringbone. I surmised that perhaps he had been injured during the roundup that had first captured him. Quick Draw was captured by the BLM as a yearling in Nevada, and since they use helicopters for their gathers, chasing horses over miles of rough country, an injury wasn't such a far-fetched idea.
    Quick Draw has a mild limp but he can still manage a trail ride if it isn't in rough country and perhaps if he has a dose of butte to dull any discomfort. Although I had thought that he could pull the wagon along gentle roads, I have since decided that to ask him to be a part of a ride that could take 10 days or even 2 weeks might be asking too much. I would hate to get him all trained up and then find he was too lame to participate. The training alone could put too much usage on that leg. It is sad and disappointing. Quick Draw is a beautiful, big and powerful horse but he is happy with his harem of female admirers (horses and humans!) and lives with plenty of freedom in the fields at the farm.
    Once I made the decision not to train Quick Draw for the wagon, I pondered who else might work. On a whim I looked online for wagon horses for sale. Of course a mustang was my first choice but to find one nearby would be a remote possibility. I really didn't want to drive across 2 states again to pick up a horse I didn't know anything about, (except if it was to adopt a mustang out of a pen.) I wanted a horse that was fully trained and bomb proof and although there were many advertised as such, none were close by. It was just a whim though. I had 37 horses, I needed another one like I needed a hole in my head!
       There was one mare advertised in Edgewood, NM. Not too far from me and the same town where I had picked up my wee mustang Poco 3 years before.  Poco had been for sale online and was just about to be put up as an item in her owner's yard sale if I hadn't bought her first. (Her story is also told in my book "Brand Name.")  This new horse, "Sis" was described as a Haflinger who had some driving experience, pulling carts and sleds and hauling firewood out of the forest at her original home in Wyoming. She had gone through 2 owners since and the newest owner had bought her for her daughter as recently as February of this year.  But Sis was proving unsuitable. She was a bit spooky and unpredictable and not the best choice for an 11-year-old just learning to ride. I made an enquiry but soon was sidetracked when one of my mustangs, Suerte, got bitten by a rattlesnake.
      I dropped any idea of taking on a new horse while Suerte struggled with his snake bite. He is an extremely spooky mustang and goes nuts when cornered and so I couldn't help him because I didn't want to stress him out when he could barely breathe (he had a severely swollen face.) I had almost lost him in a chute when I first adopted him from the BLM (that whole story is also told in "Brand Name,") and so I had a real fear of putting him in a chute again. So followed several days of monitoring him and helplessly watching him cope with not being able to eat or drink. Mercifully he recovered without intervention, (it took about 2-3 days,) but it was touch and go. I swore then to buy and master a dart gun so that I could administer drugs to horses that could not be safely cornered and doctored.... (the dart gun arrived last week!)
     As Suerte improved I told myself never to tempt fate again. I would not be looking for any new horses, I would focus on the ones I already had. Just then though the lady who owned Sis, (her name is Jane,) contacted me and asked me if she could just 'donate' Sis to me. She was overwhelmed with developments in her own life and wanted Sis to have a good home. Selling her was not a priority. How could I say no? It felt meant-to-be. 
    Without making a story endless, Sis came to live with me a week later. Jane even delivered her to my door although I went down to Edgewood to help her load. Sis (I now call her Sissy) is 9-years-old. She is a pretty little mare but definitely not a beginner horse. So much for bomb proof! She does jump and spook easily but that seems to settle with training and interaction. She was hard to catch when she first came but now stands and waits for the halter. All this in just 2 weeks. (She came here 2 weeks ago today.) I have no experience with driving wagons but she does, although I am sure it has been a while. I am starting from scratch, if not for her benefit but for mine. It also gives us both a chance to learn about each other. I do feel Sissy is a 'one-person-horse' and you have to earn her trust.
      There was something sad about Sissy. She had gone through 2 owners in less than a year and she seemed dejected. She does have a clubbed foot in one of her hind legs and there is a whispery whistle in her breathing when she breathes hard. That breathing thing may not be a good sign but if she doesn't have to run or work at full throttle, I think she is OK. Jane had basically been ripped off when she bought Sissy. Not only is she not a child's beginner horse (as she had been advertised) she also has the above mentioned medical issues. Jane wanted to be rid of Sissy so badly (and the board she was paying at a fancy barn) that she had even offered her to other horse rescues. It made me sad to think of Sissy being in such a situation and so it felt good to take her in even though she isn't a mustang. I truly feel that  I came along at just the right time. I hope we will both be a good fit for one another. 
      (Knock wood,) Suerte has made a full recovery too. I hope all of my horses will avoid any more rattlesnakes but if it happens again, to a horse that goes ballistic when cornered, I will learn to be proficient enough with my new dart gun to intervene safely!

Suerte grazing among the wildflowers after his ordeal
with the rattlesnake bite.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The training begins.

Riding my mustang Pistol... we are both a bit rusty and so we'll be
 easing into it slowly!

And so finally, after much talk, I started my 'training' last month. Mostly that means just getting in the saddle and seeing if all of my joints fall apart. Luckily, even after a long hiatus, both Pistol (one of my mustangs) and I did OK. Little by little we will get in shape. Pistol was originally rounded up in Nevada (his story is featured in my book "Brand Name.") He was used by the man I got him from to teach students from the United World College in Las Vegas, NM ("UWC of the American West") about horsemanship and how to ride. It is a wonderful 'full circle' for me as I attended the UWC of South-East Asia in Singapore in the early 80s. It was a great school and the only one I thrived at. I loved my time there and still have many friends around the world who I stay in touch with. The UWC at Las Vegas (New Mexico... not the one in Nevada!) is only 20 miles from where I now live which is one of those serendipitous coincidences... especially when you see how remote and rough-around-the-edges the NM Las Vegas is! It is still very much the Wild West out here and it makes you wonder how and why they chose to locate this international school (one of several around the world) here. I often imagine some of those students arriving at their new school for the first time, wondering what happened to all of the casinos they had envisioned when they had started their journeys to the famed Las Vegas! There must be at least one or two each year who are shocked when they arrive at this small city, perched where the the Sangre de Cristo Mountains meet the plains in dusty New Mexico.

Las Vegas is featured, past and present, in my book "Into the Shadowlands." Its history is very colorful, scene of much murder and mayhem. To find out more about this infamous town, you can read the book "Wildest of the Wild West" by Howard Bryan. It is fascinating and hard to put down, a whose who of many famous names of the old West.   

At this point I am not sure which horse(s) will be a part of the ride this fall. Only riding them will reveal who is most suitable and who is still sound!.... Hopefully that doesn't apply to me too!

My dad standing outside the United World College in Las Vegas, NM.