Monday, October 6, 2014

The last days at Mustang Camp and then...

Ricky and Sundance caught kissing!

Nadine and  Maurine enter the final stages of saddle training with Mrs Potts.
Nadine and Mrs. Potts go for a ride!
 And there you have it.  A saddle trained Mustang!  It was a great experience for Mrs. Potts, Nadine, Maurine, Pat and me!

There are always good byes when leaving.  My buddy Annie and I took walks around the country of Mustang Camp.  She was a cross between something golden and a coyote.   She of course doesn't know what good bye is, but maybe she missed me the afternoon I left.

And then, after we left.... 

Pat arranged for us to go to Acacia Riding Adventures  about 60 miles south of Albuquerque.  Dacodah has put together what he calls "The ride of your life.  Well he was right!

We were there two days.  I don't have pix of the first day's ride in the canyon country near Dacodah's place, but on the 2nd day  we headed for White Sands (NM) and it was an amazing ride!

We cantered up and down the dunes! See my Adventuress T shirt?

- well we didn't canter down the dunes - it was way too steep.  In fact you couldn't see the bottom until you came over the crest. 

 It was a wonderful way to end the trip. (Not counting the 2,100 mile drive back to Port Townsend.)  Words just don't do justice to the experience with Dacodah .  The pictures come close.

There will be more pix coming up - including some videos.  So stay tuned.
In the mean time I'm enjoying being back in Port Townsend where Fall has arrived in the land of the pointy trees.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week Two at Mustang Camp

Today was a day off.  So Nadine,  Maurine and I headed to the Chaco Culture National Park.  Pat recommended we go.  She said that it's just the next valley over but to drive it was about 70 miles, 40 of it on very tough dirt roads.  Didn't need the 4x4 but I was sure glad I brought the truck.  If it had rained we'd been in trouble even with the 4x4.


On the way we went through some beautiful country.

And guess what?  We saw a band of wild Mustangs.  You can imagine our excitement seeing them!

We arrived at Chaco.  It of course is an amazing place.  Some time ago I watched a PBS show about Chaco and the significance of it - how it was laid out with astronomical significances.  Actually since today is the equinox the Park Service was having a special program at sunset.  

This is Pueblo Bonito, perhaps the largest of the Pueblos in the park. 

There are many round structures or rooms called Kivas.  This is a "great" one which was used for religious worship, dance, prayer vigils, public gatherings and other activites.

This beautiful pattern is seen through out Chaco Culture

There are still roofs on some of the buildings.

A raven finds the remains of a sloppy tourist's lunch.  Good for the raven at least.  Of course raven plays an important roll in most Native American cultures.  I wonder if he was a spirit of an inhabitant of Pueblo Bonito.

Back at the ranch the week was full of video!

Our week was busy. I started my week meeting some of the resident stars.

Here I meet two colts about 3 months old.  They are so cute.  Of course their mom's are here too.

Who says a Zebra can't be tamed?   Pat's trained Spot to be friendly and they even dance together.  He's also going to be a proud papa.  He has a harem of three mustang mares!

We spend lots of time in pre-production this week and that's paying great dividends.  Pat, Nadine, Maurine and I review the days activities after we feed the horses, muck out and have breakfast.  This meeting also includes discussion on on going training they all three are doing.  This weeks meetings have also have set our shooting goals for the day.

Pat's goal is to document her steps in taking an already gentled mustang to a ride-able horse.  We shot over half of these steps this last week and will finish in the next few days.  Then the editing will begin.

Maurine and Nadine have saddled Sidney and Nadine prepares to ride him in the round corral.  This is all done with positive reinforcement.

 Pat's shooting too, here doing some of the "aerial" shots.

Part of the training takes the Mustang into the surrounding countryside.  This insures the horse is comfortable with the training where ever they are.

And it's all in the beautiful and remote Largo Canyon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Returning to Mustang Camp

After four years I'm back up Largo Canyon in New Mexico where Patricia Irick and her husband John run Mustang Camp.  I have kept in touch with them and I'm very glad to be back.

A couple colts, about 4 months old welcome me! 
Oh, yeah, their moms are here too.
Pat continues to gentle wild mustangs that have been brought in off the range. (I think she's up to over 300 horses!)  Gentling has a specific meaning to her clients, the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.  The horse has to be comfortable being handled, can be lead with a led rope and halter, respond to basic word commands and be trailer-able. Pat adds additional skills to the list.  And she is constantly honing her techniques.  She continues to have helpers from around the world (like me.) There are two German girls here now, Maurin and Nadine.  They are very good with the horses really helpful and have learned a lot working with Pat (as do I.)
Maurine help's Nadine mount Sydney

Pat's has expanded her training to include saddle training.  Most Mustangs can be brought to being comfortable with a rider quite quickly.  She's developed a step by step method which can help those who have adopted a "gentled" mustang bring them to saddle.  Maurin and Nadine demonstrate this for the video.

And my "job" while I'm here is to prepare that video of this new part of Pat's mustang training - training mustangs to work under saddle. We've already have a good start.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 - The First Week

I’m volunteering at a mustang training ranch called The Yr OKAY Corral located in the northwest corner of New Mexico. The ranch is close to Four Corners. The closest town is Farnington.

Meet a mustang...Loren

I’m working for Patricia and John Irick, mostly for Pat. She takes in mustangs fresh off the range and trains them for adoption. I’ll talk more about this arrangement in a subsequent blog.

Some of the ranch buildings

The ranch house is actually an old school building from the 50’s which was built when El Paso Natural Gas had fairly large crews in the area. It was closed in the '70s. Pat and John bought it about 15 years ago and Pat started her mustang training. The location is spectacular…right out of a Tony Hillerman novel, even with pictographs just half a mile from the ranch. If you want to see where it is, the coordinates are 36° 28.765'N 107° 31.614'W.

My first the ranch, on a hinny and on Crackers. A hinny is a mule
with a donkey for a mother and a horse for a father.

Crackers dashboard

On the trail with Babe

Petroglyphs just a half mile from the ranch

Pat and John are great people and this is a tremendous learning opportunity for me. I’ve only seen mustangs and of course never worked with then. Now already I’m working with four horses that just came off the range and three more that have been here about two weeks.

Loren gets adopted and meets his new owner.
Pat is teaching him some of her unique training techniques.

The goal of the training is to have the horse comfortable enough with humans that they can be handled by them. Petting all over their bodies, allowing the picking up of their hoofs, willing to be haltered and led and respond to basic commands like “walk on”, "whoa" and "back." This can be accomplished in as little as three or four weeks.

Pat is teaching me some hand and voice commands. Here I work with the horse Cisco with commands for him to go forward, turn around, trot and stop.

People who adopt them then can start the process of training them to be ridden. (I carefully avoid the word break here, al la Monty Roberts.)

Meeting Prince Albert. He is a beautiful horse that's been
here only two weeks and is already "finished" his basic training.
He is already spoken for. What a horse!

I’ve never trained a horse from scratch, let along worked with a horse that just weeks before was wild. I can’t think of another animal where this is possible. We start with hand feeding the new horses. They learn very quickly. Soon you can touch them in the feeding process and then you can ask them to do something, like touching their nose to two extended fingers and reward that action with a handful of hay.

Here I meet Phillip and halter him.
Phillip has only been here for a little over two weeks.
He is a very fast learner.

Pat takes the training further than the minimum requirements and includes handling of the hoofs, knowing some word commands and even trailer loading...It all very, very exciting!

"Jumping" with Phillip.

The horses that have been here for about two weeks are beautiful. The cutest one is a little horse named Phillip (above), probably only 13 hands tall but young enough to grow some. He’s a bay with a beautiful blaze. I worked with him today and he already knows how to be lead and respond to verbal commands. He’s also very affectionate.

Me and my buddy, Phillip

Four horses arrived the same day I did and Pat asked me to name them (a privilege of a volunteer.) They are Little Star, Champi, Victoria and Blazette. Champi left eye was injured and has swollen almost closed. Even though this horse was in the wild just weeks ago, Pat, with her knowledge of how horses think was able to medicate the horse (with a little help from me.) The swelling is already going down.

I’m sure there will be lots more to tell as my relatively short time here progresses.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 2

It's all about horses...and politics.

I decided to make this blog about mustangs and how they are controlled by the government.  There’s a lot of misinformation about the current government policies dealing with mustangs.

If you find this boring I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures.   And by the way, there is a video of me working with a mustang.  Click here to see it on YouTube.

Wild mustangs date back to horses that came from Europe starting with the Spanish invasion.  Some scholars also feel there may have been an indigenous strain that was here before the white man.  These horses are quite small and have a link to small horses still found in Greece.  By the time the West was being first explored and settled, wild horses roamed throughout North America.  Some Indian tribes were very dependent on horses and had deep respect for them.
The dry riverbed near the ranch.

As North America became settled in the 18th and 19th century, wild horses lost much of their range land.  By the 20th century there were more horses than the range land could support.  Different reactions to this problem came to pass which has led to the current wild horse management which is under the National Forest Service (NFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and to a degree the National Park Service and some state agencies. These agencies work based on guidelines established in1971.  Mustang herds were defined at that time and are protected by law.

The herds are located in Herd Management Areas (HMA) and have an ideal population which that land can environmentally support.  When the population exceeds this number horses are gathered.  Each land management group has their own way to gather excess horses.

Mucking out goes with horses...half a wheelbarrow per horse.
And with about 20 horses, mules and in the heavy equipment.
You gotta look close but that's me in the loader!
My boss Pat works with the National Forest Service.  The NFS contracts with trappers who gather individual bands of horses.  A band of horses can be as little as 3 horses, with a stallion, a mare and a foal to as many as 12 to 14 horses with a dominant male, lieutenant males, a matriarch mare, other mares and foals.  There are also stallion bands made up of younger male horses.  NFS gathers horses on trapping a complete band.  In our district they are taken to Farmington’s Short Term Holding Facility.

Phillip running in the yard.  What a beautiful horse.
Saturday he's going to an adoption fair.
I'll be so sad to say good-by. 

In Farmington, the horses are examined, wormed, aged by looking at their teeth and checked for disease; the male horses are gelded.   At this point any of the horses can be adopted, but usually the horses are put into training with private trainers like Pat.  She will take four horses at a time and have as many as 12 horses in various stages of training.  USFS training goals are that they are pettable, halter trained and leadable.  Pat adds her own goals which include responding to basic voice commands like “whoa”, “walk on” and “back”, allow for the lifting of both front and rear hooves for cleaning, and trailer loading. A horse might be in training with Pat for as little as two weeks. 

Blazette arrived the same day I did.  Her training is going well. 
She's a very pretty horse too.

Once trained, the horses are advertised for adoption.  Horses may be adopted right out of Pat’s ranch or out of the USFS facility in Farmington.  To adopt a horse you have to have a suitable place for that horse…no barbed wire, appropriate fence height which may have to be 7 feet for the wilder ones, and the agencies would like to know that you have basic understanding of horse care.  The cost (in 2010) is $125.00 for horses under 10 years old and $25.00 for horses 10 and over.

The USFS pays the trapper about $750.00 for each horse, $250.00 to the trainers (like Pat) and about $200.00 for veterinarian services.  Obviously the government isn’t in this for the money.

The BLM uses a helicopter contractor to round up mustangs. The result of this is that the horses they catch may or may not be from the same band as they are pushed along. The horses run a great distance and many, especially young foals, appear to suffer injury from the process. It is this helicopter gathering that so enrages the wild horse advocates.

While in the past, surplus mustangs have been sent to slaughter houses I have found no evidence that this practice still occurs in the federally controlled herds. Some states are still sending horses to slaughter.

Evening clouds tell of rain to come...

I’ve been busy this week.  Just keeping up with my chores…my part of mucking out and feeding…learning new training techniques and putting together videos of Pat’s techniques.
Shooting the opening of the videos
It’s lots of work and lots of fun.  Pat and John are fun to work with and Pat’s mom Audrie joined us this week, adding to the fun group.

Fall touches the air...