Riding Griton

July 25, 2006

 I posted this in my personal blog and it was such a special moment I felt it was appropriate to share here as well…

 The best photo ever.

You might think I’ve lost my mind when you see the photo I’m referring to so let me tell you a story about a horse who was born wild and happy in Wyoming. When he was two years old, he was gathered up with his family and friends by the Bureau of Land Management and taken to an adoption in New Mexico. He was adopted right away but he wasn’t too lucky about who adopted him. Based on the scars on his body, he was ridden hard when he was way too young and with a saddle that didn’t fit him.

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When you adopt a horse from the BLM, you don’t legally own the horse and can’t sell them until you have had the horse for one year and receive a title for him. This horse was taken to a sale as soon as his adopters had the title from the BLM. He turned out to be a lot more lucky than many horses. He was being led to be loaded on a truck headed for the slaughter plant in Texas when a woman saw him and bought him before they could load him up. When she got him home, she discovered he had horribly infected feet from thrush and he was terrified of having a saddle put on his back or to let a person get on him.

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She got his feet well and tried for a year to help him but still couldn’t get on him. Because she needed a horse for her daughter to ride in 4H, she decided she had to sell him. That’s when this horse got lucky the second time because I only had to look once in those sweet soft eyes and the checkbook jumped out of my purse and he came home with us.

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On the trip home Mike and I had been talking about different names for our new horse and when he got home, he named himself – Griton. He was so happy to see other mustangs again he galloped around calling to them all so loud Mike said let’s call him Griton which is a Spanish nickname for someone who shouts a lot. The funny thing about this is after that first night, he has been the most quiet of all of our horses.

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After he got settled in, we started working with Griton to heal his fears about humans. He very quickly got over his fear of the saddle because we used a light one that fit him well and we only went as fast as he was ready to manage. He still could jump twenty feet sideways if you thought about getting on him though. We were making steady progress with that when he hurt both of his stifles (mechanically the same as a human’s knees) while he was playing. For the last year, Griton has been healing his injury, playing with the other horses, and learning to trust humans again.

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About a month ago I decided it was time to start thinking about getting on Griton’s back again. I wanted to make it completely different from any of his early experiences so I decided to not use a saddle at all and from the beginning I said he would never have a bit in his mouth again. So almost everyday I went out and first just stood next to him on a mounting block and gave him lots of praise and rewards when he would relax. Each day I went a tiny bit farther…leaning my weight over him, bringing my leg up on his back, until last night I was standing on the mounting block with one leg and the other was all the way over on his back. We both took a big breath and I sat down. My sweet, sweet, sweet Griton never moved a muscle or a foot, just wanted to know from which side I was going to lean down and give him a cookie.

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So that is why this is the best photo I’ve ever taken. I had brought the camera up there with me and held it out as far as I could, just hoping I would manage to get something. And here we are, me and Griton, on the first day of the rest of our adventures together!

Corazon Diet Update

July 22, 2006

We have had so much going on here I’ve not been good about making entries lately but will try to catch up with several. First, Corazon is doing incredibly well on his diet. The turning point was when our local drought forced us to bring in grass hay from Kansas. I haven’t had it tested yet, but I believe it will test low for NSCs based on Corazon’s response to it. He is losing weight at a steady rate now and getting more animated all the time. Just for a refresher, here is what he looked like at the start of the diet:

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And here is how he looked at the two month mark:

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And here he is today, working hard coming up from the bottom of the arroyo:

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It is pretty amazing to me to see how effectively we can regulate metabolism through diet and exercise in these easy keeper horses who are prone to developing insulin resistance. Trucking hay in from another state was a community effort and I realize it probably wouldn’t be an option for most people. From what I can see, each of our horses has benefited from the diet changes – Valeroso was showing signs of gaining too much weight and he has lost the extra pounds; Llego is growing and filling out; Griton has remained the same in spite of receiving less forage. Once we removed the forage causing the problem, the horses with normal metabolisms remained stable and the others have become more regular in body weight. 

A Hard Rain

July 6, 2006

On June 25th huge black and green tinged clouds moved in over the peak above us, a sure sign we would be getting rain. The clouds were slow moving and ominous but very welcome after an exceptionally dry winter and hot dry spring. I expected a drenching, but did not expect three inches of hail and rain over a one hour period.  

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We found early on that our formerly wild horses don’t care much about going indoors during storms. After we moved them here to our own land, we allowed them to use natural shelter which is what they are accustomed to. They have the windbreak of granite bluffs and plenty of stands of trees to take shelter under. hailhorses1.jpg

Valeroso, Llego, Griton and Corazon

As Mike and I stood in the yurt watching the hail which ranged from pea to nickel-sized pile up, I worried about how the horses were handling this cold and unexpected storm. The temperature dropped twenty degrees very quickly from mid-eighties to mid-sixties. As soon as there was a small break, I put on a hat and jacket and grabbed the camera to see how they were doing out there. As expected, the boys had settled down in a group with their rumps pointed into the storm and heads low to allow moisture to run off. You could tell the hail made them uncomfortable, but it was not something that in any way frightened them.

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Valeroso, Llego, Corazon and Griton

With an 8,300′ peak above us and two arroyos to carry runoff down the mountain, this kind of storm can quickly cause flash floods. As soon as the arroyo behind the house began to run, our little New Mexico mustang Valeroso went on alert. This boy is from an area of New Mexico where flash floods happen anytime it rains at all. Normally, the other horses pay very little attention to Valeroso who is the low horse of the group. I was really surprised to see them all quickly follow him to the top of the property at a fast trot and canter. I followed far enough to be sure they were all safe and could just see them bunched together under a thick stand of trees and certainly safe from flooding.

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Valeroso, Llego, Corazon and Griton

Runoff passes quickly here and in less than an hour the arroyo was back down to a trickle. It was about time for the evening feeding and this time Griton led the group back down the mountain with all of them moving carefully over slick pine thatch.

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Griton, Corazon, Llego and Valeroso

When the boys saw me taking their photos, they knew I could be convinced to feed them a bit early and came across the arroyo and up the grade at a full gallop on their beautiful bare feet.

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Corazon, Llego and Griton