Tag Archives: raising horses

A Horse’s Best Friend

I thought I’d continue my little rant on friendship and Mexico with this touching story of equine friendship…

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Red has been quite the handful these past three months since he’s joined the Flores homestead. He isn’t contrary like Spirit or Joey were but he isn’t as friendly as Shadow was. He does what he wants and really doesn’t have a care in the world.

He and Lady have become bosom buddies. Yeah, he likes mom to be in his sights, but when Lady goes for a ride with my husband, he carries on until she returns. This past Sunday, my husband had the idea to take Lady on the yearly cabalgata (horse ride) to El Ojo de Agua en Medio a nearby town. Red was having none of that. It took nearly 20 minutes for my husband to sneak off. 

The friendship between the two is reciprocated by Lady as well. She is only just over two years old, so a relatively young mare. She doesn’t seem to mind when Red bugs her to have his back scratched or races around while she’s eating. 

The other night Lady was fussing in her stall so much that I got up to see what the issue was. I shined the lamp down onto the animal area from the front porch and saw her circling her stall in agitation. The goats believed that the sudden glow of the lamp was the circus spotlight and immediately began running in circles, jumping off the walls doing mid-air twists and generally making quite a show. 

Lady continued her anxiety until Red popped his head over the wall in the stall he shares with his mom Cookie to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as Lady saw Red, she calmed right down. 

My husband has been talking about selling one of our mares. Really, three horses are too many for the space constraints we have. He hasn’t decided whether Cookie or Lady will go. I think Red just might be more devastated at losing Lady then his mom after he’s been weaned. So perhaps he’s made the decision for us.

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Hold Your Horses

So our neighbor up the hill, the chicken feather guy, has begun his let the animals out to forage during growing season rigamarole. The cows, pitiful scrawny creatures, are set free at night. And the horses, during the day. 

The chicken feather guy’s yegua (mare) has a colt who reportedly is 5 months old. This poor undernourished foal is only half the size of Red, who is just 2 months old. The other horse he has is a black and white stallion, which would be absolutely stunning if he weren’t in such poor health. 

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Unbeknownst to us, Cookie, Red’s mom, has gone into heat. This has made the stallion go completely nuts. He’s down by our horses every single minute. Of course, he isn’t strong enough to get the mating act done. His legs are too weak from hunger. So that just further frustrates him.

He also seems to think Red is a threat. Granted, Red is a male horse and he does still nurse which of course is an intrusion into what this love-struck stallion believes is his. So he kicks out at Red, who doesn’t understand and doesn’t go far from mom, which results in more kicks. 

The other day, B.W. Stallion (black and white) was giving the horses such a hard time that I went out to try and separate them. Well, that was a disaster. Lady was running up and down in hysterics. Red was getting hurt. And the dogs were chasing Stallion up and around. Stallion just wouldn’t give up even when I tried to shoo him off, mindful of not getting too close to those hooves.

My father-in-law happened by and tried to help. We decided the best thing would be to put the ladies and Red in. Wouldn’t you know it, the stallion decided he was coming home for supper too and marched himself right into the stall. It took some doing to get him out. 

About then, my son came home too which was a good thing because some of the little chivitos (goats) had escaped while we were trying to get the horses in. The dogs were still chasing Stallion around the house. It took another 30 minutes or so to get everyone, including the dogs, back inside and calmed down. 

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Stallion decided he’d wait at the door for a while. He did finally head home. We certainly got our exercise that morning! When my son went to complain to the chicken feather guy about the free horse, his response was “se me escapó.” (he escaped). It isn’t true. The walls around the chicken feather guys’ compound are 12 feet high. Nobody escaping from there. AND there’s the fact that this happens EVERY day. Se me escapó my ass. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Beauty’s babies–A horse of a different color

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After Red disappeared, we were left with an increasingly pregnant Beauty. She couldn’t be ridden, her belly was so wide that it was nearly like doing a split to sit on top. She couldn’t be worked, the plow wouldn’t fit around her middle anymore. So she ate and ate.

I admit, we neglected our animals a bit during the hospitalization and subsequent funeral and novena of my mother-in-law (see on life and libertymass and burial Mexican style, El velorio viewing and wake and la novena). We barely had time to throw some food and water at them and then run up the hill to do the same for my father-in-law’s animals, before we headed back to town to attend to all that was involved. During one of these lapses, Beauty somehow got tangled up in her lead line and fell. We untangled her, and she seemed no worse for wear, but surprised us the next morning with a new potrilla (colt) which we are pretty sure came at least 2 weeks early. She was quite a handful, this little filly and we named her Spirit. She often reared up on her hind legs when approached and even knocked over both my husband and my moto with her frenzies.

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Spirit was quite a handful!

A few months later, my husband decided he couldn’t care for the horses anymore and sold both Beauty and Spirit. Beauty was pregnant again, so the new owner felt like he got quite a bargain. For a time, we were horseless. The new owner sold Spirit but kept Beauty, and as he housed her in La Yacata, we often saw her. She seemed sad and underfed. Then, some months later, hoping to receive his U.S. visa permit, the new owner sold his vehicles and livestock. My husband was all in a lather to get Beauty back.

Again, he made payments and scrimped and saved, and bought Beauty a second time. We were back to one horse, and pregnant.

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A red cloth is tied in a mare’s mane to ward off the chance of miscarriage during eclipses.

My husband immediately made her a better corral next to the house, set about fattening her up on the lush green grass of the rainy season and tied a red rag in her mane. When I asked about that, he told me that the red cloth was to protect the pregnant mare from eclipses. As near as I can figure, it’s a practice meant to guard the fetus against being aborted during certain “dangerous” times of the lunar cycle. Cows are also subject to the changes of the moon, and pregnant heifers are adorned with a red cloth tied to their tails. Goats and donkeys, as their value is less, apparently do not need this extra talisman, since the owner would lose less in case of miscarriage.

Then the waiting began. A mare has a gestation period of 340 days, about 11 months. My husband hadn’t marked the date of the maquila (impregnation) and now was all afire with impatience for the birth. June passed, and Beauty’s belly was enormous, but her udder hadn’t swollen yet. My husband, son and I took bets on whether the colt would arrive the 13th (me) the 14th (my son) or the 15th of July (my husband). Well, the 16th came and went and no caballito. Everybody in the neighborhood had an opinion of when the blessed day would arrive. Some said it depended on the moon. A new moon or full moon would bring on labor. Some said it was exactly 11 months and 2 weeks from time of conception. Some said if it were a boy, it would take a few days longer. There was even some speculation on twins based on the size of Beauty’s belly, although twinning in horses is extremely rare.

My husband had me consult the horse reference book, but it didn’t give the magical day. Every day, he checked her udder for ripeness. But Beauty wasn’t about to be rushed. It wasn’t until July 28th at 10:30 at night that the new colt made her appearance. And my husband wasn’t even home!

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Beauty and Shadow and proud Poppa!

My son and I ran out in our PJs to get the first glimpse. It wasn’t much of a glimpse because the colt was all black, as is Beauty and the sun had already set, but it was enough for us to see that the little one was healthy, alert and well formed. In the morning, we all gathered around and commentated on her size, she seemed smaller than Spirit had been, about her color, all black with a small white marking on her forehead and two little heels of white, and her disposition, she was very friendly and not at all skittish as had been her elder sister. We named her Shadow.

My husband was a bit disappointed she wasn’t a little stallion, but honestly, I think for us it is better to have all females and rent-a-stud when necessary, rather than have a fully hormonal male on premises.

All that next day, my husband, as proud poppa, received visitors, mostly the same men that had gathered to watch the breeding process. They came to look the colt over and make commentary. The previous owner came and nearly cried when he saw Shadow–regretting he had sold his livestock for a visa that was never given. The man who wanted to trade 10 borregas (sheep) for Beauty came to negotiate–but my husband decided he wasn’t interested in selling anymore. Several men who own stallions-to-rent for the maquila (breeding) came to see if my husband was interested in their services (mares will go into season about a week after they give birth, so he had a small window to find a stallion he liked and that was affordable–most maquilas are between $800 and $1500 pesos for 2 visits.) The visitors came from morning until early evening. By then, my husband had gotten over his disappointment and had begun building castles in the air with his future animal kingdom.

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Just delighted with the new yeguita, Shadow.

My son was also pleased as punch. He stood sentinel by Beauty and Shadow most of the afternoon. He has claimed ownership of Shadow and determined that she shall not be sold. We wonder about her final color. As Beauty is black and the stallion was black, we thought perhaps she would remain dark. However the fur in her ears is a dark chocolate brown, and we think that perhaps when her baby hair falls out, she will be dark brown and not black. Only time will tell.

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