Today, it’s all about Cody and Cavalry:
One year ago today, December 13, I was bouncing off the walls while waiting for Jerry Watkins of Pegasus Equine to arrive with my horses. Texts were exchanged, a couple phone calls, and I tried to take a nap ‘cause I knew I’d be up late. Long drive from Wisconsin to Missouri. At this point, I’d been waiting a few weeks from the time I’d applied to adopt these two. We were in the homestretch!
It was a dark and stormy night . . .
Just kidding, it WAS dark, but clear. And cold. Very cold.
Around 10:00 p.m., this huge rig pulled in. Six-horse trailer with living quarters. Had a little maneuvering to do to back it up to the gate, but Jerry is a pro. First, he had to off-load—and I’m NOT kidding here—a black Arabian stallion. My dream horse. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay, but he was a bit interested in the mares across the road; they were pretty wound up too!
Jerry brought out a gray gelding next; I’m sure he was a very nice horse, but I confess I didn’t pay much attention to him because MY horses were next!
And just like that, there they were. First Cody, a gorgeous paint mare, followed quickly by her colt, Cavalry. Neither of them took off, neither acted crazy; both trotted down the paddock and started grazing.
I brought them a water bucket—no trough up there at the time—and some hay. We still had grass then, so they were doing just fine. Wouldn’t come over to me, and I was hesitant about approaching them; they needed to decompress after that long drive and get a gander at their new home without me interfering.
I did call to them a few times, but mostly watched. And took some pretty awful pictures in the dark, but at least I could see them—between Cody’s paint markings and Cav’s four socks and a blaze, they couldn’t exactly hide.
Chestnut was visiting at the time, so the next morning I opened the gate and they all got to meet each other. There were no issues at all. Chestnut, of course, went back home some six weeks later, and Cav and Cody had some time to themselves before the girls arrived in February.
But, in the meantime, my new babies were underweight, scruffy, and wormy. Cav, at about six months, was still nursing a few times or so a day, briefly, but after a couple weeks, I introduced them to a high-protein feed twice a day, along with their hay.
I started with just a handful. It took Cav less than a week to decide this was pretty good stuff, so I gradually increased his feed. A year later, he eats seven pounds a day. Cody is up to 10 pounds now, but it took nearly two weeks for her to make up her mind about eating this unfamiliar food; guess who insists now on being the first to get her bucket?
After they started eating grain regularly, I added Safeguard worming pellets to their buckets. Five days, then repeated it again in two weeks. That perked them up! Of course, they got dosed again in late February when the girls moved in.
Feet were another issue. Until I could halter-break and handle them, no farrier would come within a mile. Thankfully, Cav’s hooves were perfect and after a month or so on our hard, rocky ground, Cody’s feet self-trimmed and now look great. Good thing, too, since she’s still completely opposed to a human’s touch.
Cav, on the other hand, let me approach and pet and groom him about a month after his arrival. A couple months later, I was haltering and leading him. He still cracks me up—put on his halter and he goes straight into his Eeyore routine . . .
He’s also learned a lot about things like Jolly Balls, tarps, loud noises, Cavaletti, and flags. He’s still not a fan of a water hose, or, for that matter, water running into the trough.
The worst reaction, though, was when I brought out the Giant Blue Ball of OMG. I set that thing down and crawled through the fence; the horses were at the other end of the paddocks. That ball rolled all the way across the south section before I could catch it—and Cody went nuts. She bucked, she reared, she raced in circles. She was convinced it was going to eat her. Cav went right along with her, of course.
I felt horrible, really, and put it away. Oh, it’s been out since. The second reaction was milder, but still pretty frantic. The last time it came out, one of the girls picked it up and carried it around. And now it’s rather flat . . .
And of course, Cav is also the World’s Biggest Troublemaker. He tried to play with Mama a lot, of course, and sometimes with me. That’s when we had to have the Come to Jesus Talk about how humans are not horse playmates . . . When the girls arrived in February, Cav kicked it up a notch, pardon the pun.
Now the little stinker had GIRLFRIENDS. Oh, boy. Nicky, naturally, took right to him. They’re such a cute couple, but only time will tell if we have Teen Dad: Mustang Edition here on the farm. Val, on the other hand, spent a great deal of time avoiding his advances. Today, they’re just as cute roughhousing and racing each other—but Val still won’t allow any funny business.
At just over 16 months, Cav was gelded. It was pretty traumatic for both of us, me less so because I found it all quite fascinating. I’d planned to do it sooner, but first it was horribly muddy, then we had hordes of flies, and really, I kind of didn’t want to do it.
He was fine, down and out and done and up within 45 minutes. He reached his 30-minute stall limit and so I led him out and to the north paddock to recuperate with Charm, who was awaiting Trinket’s arrival. They get along well, and he had the run-in shed if he needed it. He did swell up a bit late the next day, but had zero complications. Thank goodness! And it took him a few weeks or so to realize he’s NOT a studly little man-colt anymore. ☹
Speaking of stall time, he’s also learned to go into the barn, directly to his own stall, and eat his feed. He’s pretty pokey, so he’ll stay in there for half an hour without wanting out. The first time, of course, he scared the crud out of me—went straight up and, even at his height then, I was afraid he’d get stuck on the bars. All went well, but it was nerve-wracking for us both.
I still call him my baby boy, and he’ll walk right up to me in the paddocks to see what I’m doing. And to see if I brought any treats. Cody, too, is finally, yes, a year later, starting to do that . . .
And what else has she been up to? Well, as lead mare, it’s her job to make sure everyone is taken care of and protected. Big job, considering all the new stuff she’s had to deal with. And she has to keep tabs on Cav, Nicky, and Val, and now Charm and Trinket. Trink’ll run you ragged on a good day . . .
But Cody has also learned that a run-in shed is a good thing; she’s learned that treats are tasty—she’s taken them from my hand a few times, but prefers not to. She’s very interested in watching the kids being groomed and petted, but not quite ready to commit to that for herself; from the start, she put Cav in between us.
She’s been in the barn too, in her own stall. I was surprised the first time we opened it up to them, in early March. She walked in slowly, but no hesitation or bolting, smelled and looked at everything . . . the next time, with her stall door open, she went inside and ate breakfast. She was wary—the slightest noise would make her jump and often head back through the gate into the paddock. But she quickly got used to the barn, as long as we don’t close her stall door all the way. And that’s fine for now.
She knows that “let’s go” means it’s time to move from one section to another. And, believe it or not, if I’m having trouble getting anyone else to go through a gate to switch sections, I’ll call to her and she’ll see to it that they move whether they want to or not. Truly. A quick, “Cody, a little help here?” and she’s on the job. Unless there’s a bucket involved. They’re all pretty territorial about food.
Once, she and a couple others got out and I figured I’d never see her again. Until I brought out her bucket. Right back into the paddock, zero issues.
A few weeks ago, when I went up to feed, I was missing a horse. There was Cody, down in the corner, standing and looking interested, but not moving. Then she took a few steps and limped badly. I took her bucket to her, and walked around her to see if I could find the problem. There was a lot of swelling and a little drainage from her hock, probably from a well-placed kick.
I was pretty worried, since I can’t med a horse I can’t touch, so I kept an eye on her all day. I moved them all from the south to the north section so I could clean up the paddock, and she stopped on the opposite side of the gate and waited. It was a great opportunity for me to get close, without touching and without potentially getting kicked in the head. So I did.
I’ll be darned if that horse didn’t stand quietly for nearly ten minutes, occasionally turning her head, ears up, as if to ask, “Will I be okay? Is everything alright?” When I stood up, she calmly walked over to the others.
And, by the next day, the swelling was down, the drainage and all but stopped, and she wasn’t limping.
So we shall see. I’ve tried everything trick in the book, and even made up a few. When they told me it would “take time” to gentle my mustangs, I surely didn’t think it would be over a year. But she’s at least 20 years old, and I’m positive there’s a lot to overcome. She’s not crazy, I don’t think she’d do anything to me on purpose, and she’s very curious about everything. Just not, so far, being touched.