Mustang Progress II


Valentine

My sweet, sweet Valentine . . . that horse just loves me! When she arrived, I was told she was six months old, but at her height that would top her out around 18-19 hands, so no. She had all her incisors, too, and came with her sister—they have to be, they’re joined at the hip and look almost exactly alike. Val has two more white socks and a slightly larger star, and is clearly younger, but that’s it.

My estimate was 18 months, which made her a two-year-old in August. Her current height is 14.2 and she has impossibly long legs.

When she first arrived, on Valentine’s Day, she hid behind her sister almost all the time. She was interested in grain right off the bat, and would come up to the fence to her bucket while I stood there, but no touching was allowed. Believe me, I tried! Just one finger on her shoulder would send her launching up in the air, all four feet, and she’d slowly come back to the fence . . .

In addition, she looked like a baby moose—very awkward, not-too-pretty a face, and her feet were long and in bad shape.

Fast forward six or so months, and she’s beautiful, gentle, and smart. Her feet are perfect, no farrier needed. She halters, leads, and loves to be brushed and have her mane and tail worked on. She follows me. She follows hand signals. She proudly will carry a saddle pad or my English saddle.

She’s also barn trained. I can open the gate, and she’ll walk straight in, make a precise right turn, and go into her stall.

Everyone laughs when I say I might teach her to jump. I don’t have to worry about her going over the pasture fences—when she wanted out, twice now, she simply pushed off the middle board, stepped over the bottom one and under the top, and she was out.

Told you she was smart. Didn’t even go far, and came right in for a bucket.

Unfortunately, she may be pregnant. Gained a bit of weight suddenly, and the vet noticed her shape the other day. We’ll see . . . she’s awfully young. That’s Val on the left.

Nickel

Nickel is Val’s sister. I’ve been saying 3-4 years old, not 18 months like her papers stated, but I think I’ll split the difference and go with 3 ½. If these two are sisters, that makes more sense. She’s much more physically mature than Val, and bossy and a little pushy. They arrived late at night, and the very next morning she came right up to me. A ringer, for sure!

Never had an issue approaching Nick, obviously. She, too, halters and leads and likes to be brushed. She’s the only one who seems to like fly spray—anywhere, any time. Smart girl, with a gorgeous head and perfect little feet.

She also never looked particularly rough. Seemed as though she’d had enough to eat. In fact, I was concerned about pregnancy so we did a blood test. Yes, pregnant, but in mid-July this particular test said she was at least 120 days in—that’s out of an average of 340, so her due date could be any time between now and mid-February.

Her last possible breeding date would be mid-February, so that barely narrows it down to no later than mid-January. Unless, of course, that aforementioned circus with Cavalry is going to make him a teenage dad! Now, I thought I saw foal movement the other day, which puts her at about 8 months on average, but her back end started to get squishy in August, so . . . It’s enough to drive a human crazy! (Nicky is on the right)

Charm

In early August, I heard about a failed adoption here in Missouri. Since she was from the same herd as Nicky and Valentine, and after seeing pictures of her looking so sad, I offered to take her.

She had a brand on her neck, and after some research and phone calls, I discovered that she was 20 years old and had been rounded up at the age of four; she was first sent to the Sioux reservation in South Dakota for six years, then to ISPMB where she was rescued with all the others over this past year.

I won’t go into the circumstances of her initial adoption, but when she arrived here her feet were in terrible shape and she’d been fed junk food—oats only—along with some pasture and hay. I know they’d put a halter on her and brushed her a little. And I was told she was a kicker, along with a few other things. She was kept mostly in a low-ceilinged barn and she was alone.

Charm is a pretty good-sized mare—15 hands, and well-built. Beautiful head and absolutely lovely face in spite of a large dent near her right eye, which I assume she’s had for many years. I couldn’t touch her at first, and I didn’t really try.

We removed the halter as soon as she was in the paddock, and by late afternoon I let the others come in to meet her. They all did wonderfully. Cody made sure the new arrival knew that SHE was in charge, and, no, there was no touching reunion with Nicky and Val—I was kind of hoping maybe she was their long-lost mom. They both seemed slightly terrified of her. Cavalry doesn’t know a strange horse, little dickens, and he loved his Auntie Charm from the start—in fact, right now he’s in the nursery with her, recovering from his surgery.

So Charm became Cody’s second-in-command. Nicky was pretty miffed at being bumped down to Number 3, but in the last couple weeks I’ve seen them grooming each other. Valentine came around too and often eats dinner right next to Charm.

She’s been here two months now, and her baby is due any day. She’ll walk right up to me in the paddock and has started taking treats right from my hand. I could touch her shoulder within a few days, but she was still pretty jumpy—now I can scratch her cheeks and rub her ears, all down her neck and forelegs. She’s still not a fan of a hand on her nose, but in the last week I’ve been able to pet her forehead and all the way down her face. She comes when I call her name, too, and will follow me around the paddock.

Mustang Progress


Cody

Well, well, well. Cody. She’s one tough nut to crack. Still, after TEN MONTHS, of which I remind her almost daily, I cannot simply walk up to her, let alone touch her. She came to ISPMB in the fall of 2004, from the Sheldon Mountains in Nevada; I estimated her age to be about 16, which means she ran free for about four years before going to the sanctuary where she was never gentled or worked.

After several consultations, I think she may well be 20 years old or so, which means she had about eight years on the open range. Either way, she’s pretty much set on not trusting humans very much.

However, she had no real issues during transport, and while she initially spent a great deal of time gazing over the fence, she never tried to jump it and never acted crazy; just wary. And she never had a problem with me working with or approaching her colt, Cavalry.

She does answer when I whistle; she waits at the fence for me at feeding time and is not shy about hollering if I’m running a few minutes late. You could say she can tell time . . . at least twice a day!

I can walk up to her within about two feet before she moves away—she doesn’t bolt, just steps back a bit. I’ve touched her nose a few times. Surprised us both! And now, she often takes cookies from my hand but she’s an expert at NOT TOUCHING THAT HAND. She’ll also eat a bit from a bucket that I’m holding, as long as I don’t try to touch her. And she’ll often approach me, only to within maybe four feet or so—but that’s her limit.

And she’ll go in the barn, into her own stall. She won’t stay long, we’re still working on that, and she prefers having an escape route, either with the stall door mostly open or an open gate into the pasture.

Many mares from this rescue were pregnant, and I was sure that Cody was. So sure, that I stayed up nights checking on her, took endless numbers of pictures, and did a lot of research. At this point, and given her age, I really don’t think we’ll have another Catnip foal; Cavalry was probably her last.

On the other hand, she does look pregnant from the back, but not really from the side or any other place. If she does have a foal, it should be in the next month or so, but I’m not holding my breath.

Cavalry

Best guess, Cavalry was born around July 1st of last year, meaning he’s just over a year old. I based this on many factors, including his appearance when he arrived, when his third incisors broke through, and his studly behavior in February.

That behavior, by the way, continued until recently when he was gelded. Man, I sure hated to do that, but I’m not running a stud farm here after all, and I’ve definitely reached my limit on horses—more on that later! If I’d also had a Catnip mare that wasn’t his mother, I might have held off a bit longer. But it wasn’t fair to make him live alone, essentially, and even though he’s pretty sweet most of the time, that could change with all that extra testosterone running amok. And, well, if I were 20 or so years younger, that might have made a difference too!

Cav will stand still to be brushed and he’ll tolerate fly wipe and sometimes even fly spray. He’ll halter and lead. He knows “whoa” and “back.” He’ll give kisses and he’s absolutely a treat hog. He also—until hopefully now, loves the ladies. He and Nick had quite a circus act going on for a while, but Val will kick the snot out of him if he tries anything.

He’s a good boy most of the time and sometimes really feels his oats in the mornings when it’s cool. He can buck and run and play with the best of him and never takes a tumble. And even when the girls escaped not long ago, he stayed in the fence. He also knows which stall is his and goes right in when I open the gate.

He did give me a nasty bruise a month ago—my fault, really. I had a cookie in my hand and was approaching Cody, not paying enough attention, and he sneaked up behind me and chomped on my arm. Brat. Of course I tapped his nose and told him, “NO!” but that was all. He hasn’t tried anything since . . .