Friday, June 22, 2012

Between Two Worlds

Luke is back in lock-down. He now only has a 24 x 24 enclosure since we gave his old place to Rowdy. He did have a 24 x 24 enclosure plus a 12 x 12 indoor stall, so he lost 144 square feet of living space. Mariah is standing along the barnyard fence to keep Luke company. Little by little his band of mares are rejoining the main herd.

Luke is one of those lost souls that is caught between two worlds but doesn't fit in to either one. He is not really a stallion but then again, he is not really a gelding. He is not really a wild horse but then again he is not really a domestic horse. It may be genetic, maybe he hears the Wild Ones whisper in his ear telling him to live by the old ways like those magnificent herd stallions which fight to the death to claim the herd as their own while running wild and free across the prairie without intervention from human beings.  Try as we may to share the joy and sorrow from our little corner of the equine rescue world, it is impossible to document all the day to day events of life here at the Triple O. Our supporters are aware that we spend all of our time, energy and money into our mission to make the world a better horse at a time. We make the horses priority number one and get extremely distressed when a  horse is living in less than ideal circumstances. Just being a horse, living among their own kind, spending their time on their own schedule is our idea of a perfect horse life....Luke has not had that luxury. After many trials and tribulations, we tried again to allow Luke the freedom of living in the main pasture with the main herd which consist of 18 horses. Here's a link to Luke's story!/notes/triple-o-ranch-equine-sanctuary/the-story-of-luke-a-blm-mustang/219570844743589. Luke's freedom lasted for only 15 days until the decision was made to put him back into lock down. We had big hopes that he would be able to live among the main herd. He's older and more mature now, so we had hoped that things would work out but that was not the case. The blame can not be placed solely on Luke's behavior. Even when he is minding his own business, the mares seek him out. Luke, in many ways, is like a rock  matter where he goes, he is recognized, he draws the attention of the girls....they follow him around like groupies backstage, trailing him no matter how fast he goes, they are right behind him and gaining on him with every urgent step.

Initially, Luke fought with Samson and attempted to steal his mares. This went on for hours until both of them were exhausted. Finally, Samson took his favorite mares and left the main herd behind to choose for themselves who they would have for a leader. One by one, most of them rejoined Samson. Luke was able to steal Jewel, Cinda, Cherokee and Bella. At that point it looked like things would settle down. By the next day, Luke was fighting with Phoenix and trying to steal Glory from him. Luke was successful in taking Glory into his new herd. Before long he started stalking Mariah, who wanted nothing to due with him. He's very persistent, so he pursued her day and night until he was able to force her into submission. It was pure chaos here at the ranch for the entire 15 days that Luke was in the main pasture. This video shows Luke's behavior while trying to dominate the herd!/permalink.php?story_fbid=385116008211210&id=158998754134132&notif_t=share_comment 

Watching the previously calm herd live in chaos has been hard for us to do. Risking the well being of the entire herd for the benefit of one horse is something that we find difficult to justify. In our minds, this really was Luke's last chance to live in the main pasture, so we gritted our teeth and held our breath. Day after day, we'd take inventory of our situation, seeing some slight improvements but still worried about the outcome of this experiment. Every horse in the main pasture was paying a price for Luke's freedom. While some kick and bite marks are normal for horses living in a herd, these horses were getting an excessive amount of kick and bite marks as well as some cuts and scrapes. Luke, himself was taking a beating as well. Physical exhaustion was not a deterrent to stop his stallion like behavior. He was like a soldier in a war zone.....on guard 24/7/365, standing at attention and focused on every move made by his potential enemies. He had to stop and check every manure pile. He had to smell it and stomp it and then he would leave his own scent, marking his territory with either manure or urine. Even during the calm before the storm, Luke found conflict every where he went. Some of the geldings wanted to graze with Luke and his band, but being so territorial, Luke would have to chase them away. Even some of the mares that originally paid no attention to him would seek Luke out and play the flirt-squeal-chase-run game with him, which infuriated Luke's mares and caused more fighting. This type of chaos went on across 132 acres day and night. It was terrifying to hear them fight and run in the darkness. We could not see what was happening and were helpless knowing that serious injuries were likely and we wouldn't be able to intervene.

The proverbial "last-straw" was when the fighting escalated. The equine war took on characteristics of guerrilla warfare. Luke and another horse would engage in a fuss which usually escalated into a fight which lead to them giving up fighting an running from Luke. Luke doesn't chase someone in the traditional "domestic" horse way, which is ears pinned back and taking a few running steps toward them and then quitting. Luke pins his ears back, lowers his head and attacks. The others began to run from him. He'd chase them from the west pasture, to the south meadow, to the middle pasture and then on to the far east pasture. Because Luke doesn't give up, the chase would last for what seemed forever. The last straw came when the horses being chased began running into the woods. This behavior is dangerous enough in open areas, but running full blast on narrow trails through the woods compounds the dangers exponentially. We've never even seen all this land and have no idea how many dangers lurk in the darkness of the forest. Without doubt there are deep holes from dead trees and long forgotten wire from fence lines we've never discovered. These high speed chases didn't last for just a few minutes, they went on for hours/ Watching them disappear into the dark regions of deep forest made us so apprehensive and waiting and worrying for them to reappear into the open seemed like forever. On the fifteenth day of Luke's freedom he and Cheyenne became embroiled into a challenge which did not subside. He chased and chased her.....they disappeared into the forest and did not come back out for quite some time. We went to find them and as we headed to the edge of the woods, Cheyenne came flying out of the forest with Luke still in hot pursuit. I yelled at him and he stopped in his tracks. I approached him and he was drenched in sweat, foamy and steam rising from his body. He had large round sweat circles around both eyes and fresh blood oozing from his front lower leg. It was just a scrape and fortunately not a serious injury. We decided that the price of Luke's freedom was too high and that a serious injury or death was imminent unless we intervened. MyHoney came out with a halter and lead rope and lead Luke back to the barnyard. He was so wound up and out of control. You could feel the heat radiating from his body and see the sweat literally dripping from him. He look physically and emotionally exhausted but still not ready to give up. I ran ahead of them to get the heavy duty enclosure opened up for him to enter back into lock up. I hated the idea of him loosing his freedom again but couldn't allow the equine version of Russian Roulette to continue. It was just a matter of time until someone would be seriously injured and the price of freedom was getting just too high.

As soon as Luke realized he was trapped, he went ballistic. The sounds of his cries were deafening and heartbreaking all at the same time. He challenged the fencing over and over. Luke reared up and got his front legs over the 6 ft enclosure time and time again but much to his dismay, the panel did not bend to allow him to escape. Knowing if he were to get his leg caught in the rails and lose his balance he could easily break a leg, it was hard to watch him in his desperate attempt to break free from captivity. The first day or two since he returned to lock down, some of his mares stayed close by the barnyard fence line. Little by little they began wandering further and further away to rejoin the main herd. The further away they moved the more distressed he became. He spend half his time with his front legs over the top rail and the other half of the time trying to figure out how to get a better run at the rails to get over the top. He'd back up 5-10 steps and take a run at the fence. He even stood with his head down, looking behind him and using his back legs to kick at the bottom rails. He pawed the ground and stomped his feet but all to no avail. Today is his third day back in lock down and he's finally calming down somewhat. He still cries out to the main herd. He still watches their every move with extreme concentration, without batting an eye, but finally is starting to spend more time with all four hooves on the ground. He's spending more time eating hay and drinking water, which he barely did at all the first few days. We felt we had no other choice, it is our job to be the caretakers of this herd and to ensure their safety. With Luke in the main herd, every single horse here was in harm's way. The constant fighting was even putting the other horses in danger. They'd run along behind the Blind Horse Habitat and spook the blind horses which was likely to cause injuries among the blind ones as well. Luke is very people oriented, so it's doubtful that he could go back to living wild among other mustangs.. He's too wild with domestic horses to be safe in a herd.  Luke is one of those lost souls stuck in between two different worlds. He's not a wild mustang but he isn't a domestic horse either......the dilemma continues.
One of Luke's many attempts to escape from lock-down :(

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sleepless Nights and False Alarms

For those of you that haven't been following our Facebook page for the Triple O......let me introduce you to Sage. She arrived to the Triple O in November 2011. We intervened on her behalf because she was at risk for being sent to slaughter. Since over 100,000 American horses are shipped to slaughter across our borders north and south each year, you might be wondering why we intervened for this particular horse. Sage is a BLM mustang who was born wild and free in Wyoming. She lost her family, her friends and her freedom when the human factor entered into her life. We don't know her history yet. We don't know how many hands she's passed through since she left the wild. We don't know what types of people she has been exposed to in her "reportedly" fourteen years of life. We don't know why "someone" allowed her to be bred when she herself didn't even have a permanent home and so many horses in this country are displaced and disgraced daily. What we did know is that she was located within a hour of the ranch and she needed to be taken out of harms way and given sanctuary to spend her pregnancy. She needed somewhere safe to have her baby and be a mom. That place became the Triple O. When we learned of her dilemma, we asked our FB friends "who would or could help us help her?". That question was answered within minutes by two FB friends that spoke up and put their money where their mouth is. The sent donations that day via Pay Pal to buy Sage's ticket to safety. Dave and Karen don't know each other and they live different lives in different parts of the county. What they have in common is they want to make a difference in the lives of the precious needy ones. They took action to make things better for this wayward soul that we named Sage, for her wise all-knowing eyes and as a Mustang we wanted a name to honor her Native American background. Since sage is very important in many Native American ceremonies, the name seemed perfect for her. Dave volunteered to be Sage's sponsor until her baby is born. He sends a generous donation every month to help us give Sage everything she needs to have a comfortable pregnancy and a healthy delivery. We were told she'd have her baby in February, then February and March came and went. Now it's April and we're certain she'll be having an April baby. As rescuers we'll never breed horses so this will be the very first baby foal born at the Triple O. The excitement level is high around here with anticipation of the pitter-patter of little feet on this piece of land. We've been watching her very closely and watch for any minute change down to the smallest detail.

For the past week, I've been doing a midnight run to the barn to check on her. To scratch her chin and to watch her breathe. Yesterday we notice some subtle changes. She was a bit restless. Every once in a while she'd look back toward her flank. Her breathing was different. She wasn't in distress but she was different. She has been making a bit of a milk bag but no signs of waxing yet. I've read that only 50% of mares exhibit that sign prior to delivery, I realize that is not a fool-proof way of predicting the impending arrival of this bundle of joy. We don't want to miss the grand entrance of this precious new life and hope to be present for the birth. I said I'd go back out to the barn and sit with her. I took the midnight to 4 a.m. shift. It was a starry starry night and I put my lawn chair next to the turn out area which attaches to her stall. I thought even if it's not her time yet, it would be a good trial run to get her accustomed to having visitors in the middle of the night. I took a few fotos and visited with her. She showed every sign that I was more than welcome to spend the night with her. If I walked away, she'd follow me along the fence line and stay as close to me as space would permit. It was a still night, so quiet that you could hear your own heart beat if you listened. You would expect it to be quiet if you knew how far out in the woods we live. What you might now expect is all the "goings-ons. I had sevral feline companions but Della Rose won the spot in my lap for her nap. Mr. Bojangles, senior member of the the herd (born 5-19-1980) honored me with the job of protector while he stretched out flat on the ground and took a nap just a few feet from my chair. The coyotes were terrorizing our valley with their night run and spine-tingling serenade. At one point they were east and west of the barn at the same time. My companions didn't seem worried so I wasn't either. Lance and Luna squealed at each other from their adjoining stalls if either one of them wandered too far away. Owls hooted, frogs croaked and crickets chirped. Quiet isn't always so quiet. At 2 a.m. MyHoney came out to check on us and said he'd set his alarm for 4 a.m. to take over. I'd dosed off and when he came out a 4 a.m., my head was drowsy and full of horsey dreams. I noticed some thunder and lightening as I headed for the house to get some much needed sleep.

MyHoney's shift was from 4 a.m. til 8 a.m. As luck would have it, storms moved in and torrential rain, wind, thunder, lightening and small hail ensued. Due to the weather, he had to move the lawn chair inside the barn. He set up camp but had to move when he found that he'd parked himself under a drip in our 75 yr old barn's roof. The had to add a paper feed sack to sit on because the wind had gotten cold and unrelenting. He too had several feline companions while he was on duty. By 8 a.m. there was standing water everywhere and  it was the beginning of a dark and stormy day. Sage's mild and barely noticeable "symptoms" did not intensify or diminish, so no baby yet but it will be sometime soon. She's glad we decided to camp out with her. She's glad for the extra one-on-one attention and especially glad for the extra flakes of hay throughout the night. Today she's standing in the doorway of her stall watching the rain fall. We're tired and sleepy but very excited that soon this baby will arrive no matter how many sleepless nights and false alarms occur.It was a good practice run for the real deal and now we do know that our presence is a comfort to her and that she will welcome us as overnight guests in her stall anytime.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Musical Horses

Follow this link to more fotos of Moving Day @ The North 40

Today we spent the first day of the new year playing musical horses. It is not our favorite thing to do but in our world, it is necessary. While we have 132 acres of land, we only have two barns plus a number of paddocks and turn out areas. We have a large barnyard and a round pen as well. The majority of our acreage is not divided and the majority of the Triple O horses live as horses should to roam and graze as a family unit.

As you know, earlier this week, we picked up four horse that were seized by local law enforcement. Two of them are thin and two of them are emaciated. The two year old bay was a stallion and was gelded the day we went to pick him up. He is a wee bit stand-offish but not wild. He is also the one with the best body weight and his hair is in good condition. The person that had him said he is ride able.  The small bay, with the white blaze is a young stud colt, who is probably less than an old. He has some issues. He has a old knee wound. His knee is enlarged and the hair is gone off of the knee cap. We have no idea what happened to him. One of his rear hooves is very abnormally shaped. He walks on the heel and drags the toe a bit. Both of them are thin but not super skinny. The sorrel is the only mare in the group. She ranks a 2 on the body condition chart. Our vet estimated her age as being between 12-14 years old. She has a sweet personality and is very cooperative. The black gelding is a 1 on the body scale chart. He is in horrible condition and he is absolutely terrified. The was the sole survivor of a herd on 16 horses. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, there were 11 carcasses on the ground and 5 live horses. The authorities said that they had to "put down" the others except for this poor scared boy. He was seized on 12-14-2011 and we picked him up two weeks later after being request to do so by the sheriff's department. The other three came from a separate neglect case. We were offered a seven acre pasture by our neighbors as a overflow area. We are calling it the North40.  That is where we took these four horse when we picked them up on 12-28-2011. We've been going there to feed them and have allowed them a three day retreat from the stressful environment they have been in recently. For three days, the only humans they saw were us when we went to feed them and worked on getting the pens cleared out and ready to use.

Now for the game of musical horses I mentioned earlier, it is much like musical chairs, without the music or the chairs. We have to move horses around from one pen, paddock or stall to accommodate the individual needs of each one of them. The ones that are healthy can live free in the main pasture. The ones that have some kind of impairment must be managed differently. They fall into several categories, such as old, sick, lame, emaciated and blind. They require an area in which to live that meets their needs. With our numerous horses and limited's like a game of musical horses.....moving them from one place to another.

Remember Cindarella, a starvation case from August 2011 ? She's been rehabbed and is happy and healthy now. She's grown several inches taller as well. Cinda needed a friend so we have had the blue eyed pony, Cherokee be her stable mate. Today we loaded both of them into the trailer and drove them a quarter mile to the neighbor's 7 acre pasture. It was a scary thing for Cinda as she's not been trailered much but she was a brave girl. When we loaded her in August, she was so weak and near death that she just folded up as the deputy pushed her up into the trailer. Today she was spooky and sassy but trusted us enough to comply to our request. Cherokee loaded fairly easily as well but is not an experienced traveler either, so she had doubts about the whole process but gave in when she saw we had plenty of time and patience to accommodate her issues. We set them up in the enclosures to let them settle in and tomorrow we will release them on the 7 acres along with the two young bays. Tonight they are munching hay together and getting acquainted through the fence. Tomorrow Cinda and Cherokee start their new adventure of having a whole pasture to explore and making friends with the two young bays.

Next, I went to the back of the pasture to catch the black gelding. He's still very scared but now trusts me and was cooperative about being lead up the hill and loaded into the trailer. His eyes were as big as silver dollars and he was so scared. He would stand still completely still but was trembling so much that it was obvious from a distance. We went up to the north side of the pasture to collect the sorrel mare. She lead and loaded without a problem. It was the shortest horse transport we've ever done since it's almost right on ranch.

Arriving here, the demeanor of both horse perked up considerably once we pulled in the driveway. Almost as if sad, sick, scared horses immediately sense the presence of happy healthy horses and it cheers them up. Tonight the black gelding and the sorrel mare are in the stalls that previously belonged to Cinda and Cherokee. They have their own hay manger that is stuffed with good quality hay and their own water bucket with fresh water. Their only job is to eat drink and be merry. Watch for updates on these springtime they should look stunning.