Tag Archives: raising 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.

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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.

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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Beauty’s babies–A horse of a different color

beauty and spirit

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.

holding back spirit

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.

red rag

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!

shadow

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.

shadow front

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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A horse is a horse is a horse–or not

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My husband got it into his head awhile ago that he must have a horse. After all, as a youth in Cerano, he was never without his horse. Not long into his search, he found one that the owner was willing to barter for 5 goats and 3000 pesos. Deal done lickety split. Red was a quiet gelding, not much trouble at all at the beginning. He altered his pace to accommodate his rider. For my husband, he did handsprings and danced. For my son, slow and steady up and down the road. And for me, little a pony trot around the block. Everybody was pleased.

However, owning a horse was not without problems. First, there were mounting expenses. A horse needed a bridle, reins, a saddle and new shoes.

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My husband on Red.

Then having acquired a horse, my husband went in search of his lost youth. This caused some problems because he was now a married man with responsibilities, not a charro prancing about for the young ladies to admire. These solitary rides irked my son and I since he left us to do the other chores around the house and we never got a chance to ride.

My husband’s solution to this second problem was to get a second horse. Without ready cash, the problem was how. He heard about herds of wild horses in Los Amoles, and he and my son spent more than a week on daily treks looking for them. They did stumble across a small herd one day, after crossing a lagoon on the motorcycle, water up to their waists, but couldn’t get near enough to catch one, although they felt that the glimpse was well worth the adventure and the dip in the water.

A neighbor heard about my husband’s quest and took him to see an acquaintance who was selling his horse in Salvatierra. My husband was twitterpated with his first sight of Black Beauty. We didn’t have any money, but my husband scrounged and saved and sold his tools and the toolbox to come up with a deposit. That just goes to prove that anything can be bought on layaway. Two weeks later, Beauty was home and in season.

beauty

Our own Black Beauty.

And it couldn’t just be any stallion for Beauty. My husband went hither and yon and found one to his liking that also fit the budget. Stud fees vary on the quality of the stallion and the owner’s whim. But having obtained one, all the men in La Yacata came to watch the maquila (breeding). Then there were the endless discussions on whether the stallion ejaculated and whether Beauty was pregnant afterward. Honestly, not something I spend my afternoons discussing, but hey, whatever floats your boat I suppose.

So then there was the stud service fee, new shoes and, of course, a second saddle and bridle even though we hadn’t finished paying for the set for Red yet. At first, expenses did not include food as it was the rainy season and there was free grass aplenty for fodder. However, it’s a horse of another color during the dry season. Horses eat like, well, horses and now we had two.

But, to our delight, now with two horses, we could go riding as a family. My husband on Beauty, me on Red and my son changing out between us.

Riding about was not without perils. There are the low hanging branches of the thorny mesquite trees to look out for and hidden craters that may have been dug out ages ago for someone’s ajibe (dry well) that may cause a horse to stumble and throw the rider. Then the horse may decide that he or she is a racehorse and that turbo speed is called for to win this imaginary race and the rider (namely me) finds it hard to decelerate while ducking branches and hanging on for dear life.

My husband and son have a natural seat on horseback that I seem to lack. They slouch a bit and sit low in the saddle and actually look like they had been born to it. And I so wanted to look like an elegant English miss, complete with a blue velvet riding habit on the back of the horse. However, the horrible truth was that I looked as elegant as a frog on a log floating downstream. Oh well, I suppose someone had to eat the flies, and it might as well be me.

kids and red

Red and the summer class. He had such a friendly disposition in the beginning.

The word caballero, which is translated as gentleman in English, literally means one who owns a horse. Horses were a status symbol, as only the wealthy could afford their upkeep. Regular folks made do with donkeys or mules. As we hardly qualify as wealthy, Red had to work to earn his keep. My husband worked with my father-in-law and son to till about an acre of land near our house to plant corn, both for our own larder and then later to feed the horses during the winter months when grass is hard to come by.

plowing with red

Red the plow horse.

For a time, this worked out well. Then Red became persnickety. He didn’t want to plow. He reared up when I was on his back. He nearly kicked my son. We couldn’t figure out what got into him. My husband thought that he might have been improperly castrated and a neighboring mare in season was causing his bad behavior. So he had a neighbor sedate Red and check. Nope. That wasn’t the cause.

Then, the second theory was that he was too well fed and, therefore, didn’t want to work. It’s true that he filled out while living with us. His coat was not as shaggy but glowed. So what’s the solution for overfeeding? My husband tried tying Red to a tree in the afternoons so he couldn’t graze, but his ornery disposition didn’t improve.

So he was sold to B, my husband’s brother. B would ride hell bent for leather, up and down the ravined roads in La Yacata, late at night. I was sure he would be thrown and break his neck, but he didn’t. That lasted about 3 months, then Red disappeared. We have many theories, but no trace has been found.

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