Tag Archives: keeping horses

A dismantling of sorts

Life is never stagnant. And while that is often a good thing, it also means that we must be amenable to change, even unwelcome change.

shadow front

Just delighted with the new yeguita, Shadow.

My husband had been complaining for 6 months or so about the cost and effort required to maintain our two horses, Joey and Shadow. He had opted not to plant anything this past year, and alfalfa was mighty expensive. He was especially irate about feeding Shadow, my son’s horse. I don’t know why as she didn’t eat any more than Joey, but we all knew that Joey was my husband’s consentido (favorite). He was constantly yammering at my son to contribute something towards Shadow’s feed. My son had no job. He’s 14 years old. He often took care of the horses when my husband was working or otherwise unavailable. There was no reason that he should have to pay for Shadow’s food in my opinion. It caused a decided rift in our home.

Beauty and Joey

Beauty and Joey

In the meantime, I sold Myrtle, which was registered in my name, without his explicit written permission, although I told him about the transaction. Then, my husband pulled out his trump card. The horses, Shadow and Joey, were both registered in his name since my son is a minor. He, therefore, could sell them without our permission. He started offering Shadow to various people he knew. On several occasions, someone would come by the house when he wasn’t home and I sent the prospective buyer away with a tick in his ear.

kissing horse

Then the day arrived when a serious buyer came and we were all present. My husband gave my son the final say in the matter. Tired of fighting about it, he agreed to sell Shadow. The deal was made. My husband kept 500 pesos for his commission and 500 more for the cow barn guy’s commission in making the deal but gave the rest to my son. He suggested that my son buy a motorcycle with the proceeds, but I vetoed that. No 14 year old needs a motorcycle. I took the money and hid it from the both of them. My son wanted to use some of it to buy school supplies, but I said I would pay for all of those. If there is something my son wants, and it is deemed worthy by mamush (me), he can spend the money. Otherwise, it’s to be saved for future needs.

shadow

Beauty and Shadow and proud Poppa!

That night I cried. We had known Shadow since she was born. She was a lovable, gentle mare. And now that chapter of our La Yacata adventure was done.

posing with Joey

My husband also decided to sell Joey a few weeks later. I had no issues with that. Joey had always been more temperamental. My son and I had often fantasized his sale. Now the horses are gone.

My husband used the money from Joey’s sale on new tires for the truck. He redesigned Shadow’s stall to accommodate the goats. Joey’s stall, with its new roof, will eventually be a new chicken coop. At the moment it is being used to store construction material for a job he has building a house in La Yacata.

Moving on.

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Joey el potrillo

Beauty and Joey

Beauty and Joey

The last few weeks, my husband has been calculating and recalculating Beauty’s due date and examining her girth for clues as to the gender of the expected foal. He estimated that since Shadow was born August 28 last year and he echó el caballo (brought the horse for stud service) 3 times the week after delivery, the last day being September 9, to take advantage of the “foal heat”, the new potrillo (foal) should be born July 7 since horse gestation is 11 months. And he also took the odds that since the last 2 foals were girls, certainly, this time it should be a boy.

However, this weekend, Beauty seemed quite ready to give birth, dates or no dates. We decided to place a friendly family wager on the birth date. I picked Tuesday. My husband picked Sunday the 6th since he had done his calculations, by golly. And my son went with the middle ground by choosing Friday.

Much to my husband’s astonishment, had Beauty waited just 3 hours more, I would have won the bet. Just as we were finishing up dinner on Monday, Chokis started barking and barking. We thought he and Chivo Pestoso (Stinky Goat) were having yet another manly contest. Chivo hits the door, and Chokis barks him down, which angers Chivo, and he hits the door again, which…well you get the idea. But then we heard Beauty chuff, and we were out the door running.

My husband went out the front door and my son and I out the back. I coaxed Chokis into the back yard and closed the door to keep him from more agitated barking and upsetting Beauty during delivery. My husband was yelling for the flashlight, which I had in my hand. I arrived seconds later to perform my vital role of lamppost.

My son’s job was to distract an agitated Shadow in the next stall. He threw some paca (alfalfa bale) in her dish with a mix of corn pieces and tied her next to her trough. She didn’t even lift her head from her meal until the corn ran out.

My husband had planned to modify Beauty’s stall for delivery but thought he had a few more days. Beauty is a big horse, and although her stall is a good size, a laboring horse needs room to lie down and get up as she needs. By the time we arrived, she had already lain down to deliver, and there was no moving her into the open.

The foal’s head and forefeet had already presented, but as Beauty took up so much space, the baby was squashed against the wall and unable to get the placenta off its nose. My husband dove in and tore the sac off its face, trying to convince Beauty to move just a little bit so the baby could come free.

His pleas must have worked because suddenly Beauty stood up and as my husband had hold of the front legs, out popped this incredibly long legged foal. He shouted for a knife to cut the cord, but it had already detached when the colt fell out.

My husband immediately slid the baby out from under Beauty’s hooves and checked the gender. ALL RIGHTY! It was a boy. He checked again just to make sure and did a little happy dance.

bit wobbly

Joey at 12 hours old

This was the first birth we were present at with Beauty (See Beauty’s Babies), and it wasn’t anything compared to goat births. The placenta was so thick it seemed like a white plastic bag, and there was so much of it. My son said he felt a little woozy, although there was very little blood. But he manfully sucked it up and wouldn’t leave the area for any little stomach flutters. I reassured my son saying that his dad was woozy at his birth too, so it was ok.

We were concerned that the foal seemed weak. We stayed with mother and baby while she cleaned and bonded with her new son and watched his first attempts to stand. Again, the cramped quarters were a problem. The foal’s legs were so long (so much longer than Spirit or Shadow’s had been) that he didn’t seem to have the room or coordination to untangle them in order to get up. We waited about 40 minutes, but he wasn’t able to stand.

We thought perhaps we should give him some more time and went inside to finish dinner. My husband went out again and stayed with the pair until after midnight, making sure the foal did get up to nurse before he came back in.

We were all out at the crack of dawn to get a good look at our new addition and debate a name. Two of his hooves were white, one was black, and one was half and half like painted fingernails much like Shadow has. Spirit had 3 white “socks” instead. He had a star on his head about the size of mark Spirit has and bigger than Shadow’s mark. My husband was puzzled at these coloring anomalies because the father had none of these marks. I suspect these are genetic markings from Beauty since all 3 babies had them. The foal’s fur was a dark brown, but the edges of his tail and around his mouth he was almost yellow. We think that eventually, his fur will be more yellow than brown since the father was a mustard color. None of these physical characteristics helped us decide on a name, though.

curious

Curious about the world around him.

So we tried looking for signs of his character. Spirit was incorrigible from the get-go and we had no trouble naming her. The foal still seemed weak and wobbly in the morning. He wasn’t much into whinnying either. He stayed very close to Beauty, although he was curious about his surroundings, especially when we brought the pair out of the corral to pasture. He liked being outdoors so much that he refused to come back in, much to Beauty’s consternation. We finally decided that his name would be Joey, from the movie,. War Horse We kept an eye on both Beauty and Joey. Beauty seemed exhausted and would lay down and get up like she couldn’t get comfortable. Joey was definitely eating but still seemed so thin. My husband was positive that the thinness was because he was more than a week early according to his calculations. I countered that with the size of him, especially his incredibly long legs, there just wasn’t room in the womb for him to wait another week, dates or no dates.

Chivo and Joey

Curious fellows

In the late afternoon, we took them out again, along with Shadow and the goats. Chivo Pestoso was very curious as to the nature of Joey but decided he wasn’t a threat and went to eat. Shadow wanted to be right next to her mother just like Joey, but Beauty wasn’t having any of that. She chased Shadow away, and we had to finally tie Shadow so that none of the horses would be accidentally hurt.

little horse family

Shadow, Beauty, and Joey

The scene reminded me of the day Spirit, who doesn’t live with us, but does live near us, escaped from her enclosure and came for a visit. Beauty recognized Spirit as she didn’t kick up a fuss when Spirit came right to the gate. The mother and daughter touched noses. Then Beauty turned her head to look at Shadow, then back at Spirit. She turned completely around and kicked the gate, basically telling Spirit to move on, which she did.
posing with Joey

Joey being a boy will eventually be an issue for us. We are already cramped for space. Shadow has her own stall and Beauty is sharing with Joey for now, but poor Fiona the donkey doesn’t have a place to call her own and is more often than not tied under the mesquite tree for the night. With 2 female horses and 1 female donkey all capable of going into heat, Joey will have to have a stall apart. It would have been just the thing had we been able to purchase that lot next door to adequately house our larger animals. (See Buying a piece of Heaven) Sigh! Well, we just will see what happens down the road.

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Animal Doctoring

Having as many animals as we do guarantees that some will fall sick on occasion, no matter how attentive we try to be.

For instance, there was that horrible week when the hens would get the hiccups then fall over dead, and we had no idea what to do.  It did eventually run its course, but we lost 5 chickens.

Then there was the sad event when our new puppy somehow managed to get on the other side of the wall and was accidentally stepped on by Beauty.  Sometimes the only thing to do is to sit by an animal’s side.

But in other instances, the illness or injury is completely treatable, if you know how.  My husband often calls me to “traer el libro” (bring the book) for me to do some on the spot research on a new symptom of one or more of our animals.

Our library is small and consists of Barnyard in your Backyard and Keeping Livestock Healthy, but for the most part, that’s enough.

barnyardlivestock

When our rabbits kept getting sore hocks, we changed the entire way we kept rabbits, from caged to free range, well, within our yard range anyway based on a section of the Barnyard book.  When the chickens looked droopy, my husband cut a hole in the wall so that they could forage in the goat and horse poop while those animals were grazing, and sure enough, the extra vitamins did a world of good, all based on the Healthy Livestock book.  When one of our nanny goats developed mastitis, we checked the books to see what we could do and did what we could to ease her agony until the infection cleared up.

In addition to our resource books, there are local folklore methods concerning the care of animals. Fortunately, my husband is not one of those men afraid to ask for directions, when it comes to the welfare of his animals that is.  Some of the information he gets seems to be a bit hokey at times, so we cross reference with our books.  If the treatment appears to have some sort of valid basis and not entirely dependent on the warts of a frog during the lunar eclipse, he often gives it a try.

My husband has treated swollen eyes with a spit of salt water.  The first patient was Duchess, the goat, who was accidentally hit by a slingshot stone. (Apparently, there was a passing squirrel my son was aiming at.)  A spit of water and the swelling was completely gone within the hour.  The second patient, Shadow the yeguita (female colt) also was struck by a misdirected stone thrown to scare her back from jumping a fence that was much too high for her young legs.  Again, the spit of salt water, my husband actually spits into the eye, and the swelling went down.

The most recent examples of this folklore animal medicine can be illustrated with the unfortunate injuries sustained by our horses, Beauty and Shadow.

beauty's leg

Beauty came up lame one day and what appeared to be a superficial cut above her front hoof became a gaping hole overnight.  My husband thinks that she opened it with her own hoof while dancing. Yes, she actually dances continuously in her stall at night.  As it was on the bend of her foot, it could not be sewn up. He was, at first, dismayed and unsure how to help in the healing since she opened it anew every time she went out to graze.  He asked around.  One person told him to echar aqua de la mata de toro (bull’s weed water).  Another told him to cover the wound with hoja de sábila (aloe leaves).

mata de toro

mata de toro

Now, I had never heard of mata de toro (bull’s weed), so I couldn’t be too sure of its effectiveness. However, aloe is a herb that I know to have soothing qualities for burns and endorsed its use.  Beauty’s treatment ended up being a periodic dash of Azul (Blue) for infection, a daily wash with boiled mata de toro (bull’s weed) and an overnight bandage of sábila (aloe).  The Azul we purchased at a local vet place, but the other two herbs grew wild in La Yacata, and it was just a matter of harvesting. Her wound is slowly healing, and we hope she will be back up to her regular dance routine soon.

shadow

Little Shadow

Shadow also recently sustained an injury.  One day, she wandered a bit from where her mother was grazing and tried to leap a barbed wire fence.  She’s only 6 months old, so she really didn’t know any better.  A good section of her skin on her underbelly was ripped open, the fur hanging off in one big sheet.  Poor thing.  My husband called in a more experienced horse keeper for advice.  He brought a needle and thread to sew her up.  Of course, she wasn’t too keen on this procedure, so she had to be lightly sedated.  Even under anesthesia, she kicked out several times and had to be held down to get the stitches in.   This was quite a group project.  In attendance in the operating theater, a.k.a. Shadow’s stall, was the tailor, my husband and his father for front and back leg holding, my son, for head holding and nerve soothing, and my sister-in-law, the light holder.  I stood outside the stall and ran for things like clean water to wash with, alcohol to sterilize the needle, rags for blotting, etc.  Beauty, the anxious mother, was behind me looking on and expressed her emotions noisily every few minutes. It was over in about 30 minutes and took another 30 minutes or so for Shadow to recover from the sedative.

aloe

Warming aloe vera to make a poultice

In the morning, my husband made a dressing from hoja de sábila and fashioned a bandage out of a costal (feed bag).  He heated the aloe leaves on the comal (tortilla pan) so that the juices would run well.  Then he cut the sharp edges off the leaves and sliced them down the middle.  The inner sides he placed up so as to be the part that touches the wound and tied on the bandage.  We also have been using periodic treatment with the Azul, which is an animal antiseptic, although it is more purple than blue and a round of penicillin and tetanus shots just to be on the safe side.  We are all hoping for a quick recovery for our little lady.

bandage

Attaching the bandage with the aloe vera poultice

I won’t say that we know everything about healing animals and we may yet discover that what we do on these occasions is not the best way to treat injuries, but we do what we can with what we have and have found that the natural remedies offered in our area often outdistance any man-made chemical when it comes to effectiveness.

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