Life By The Drop

Driving up the winding road to the Plateau I wondered what the heck I was doing. My horses need to be worked, and my mind isn’t in the right place to work them. I’m misplacing everything, tripping over things that aren’t there, and find my brain zoning out more times than I can count. My mind is a scattered mess, yet here I am driving up this ridiculously long hill. Take Dulce for a walk my friend said.

Dulce is a high energy horse, and if I don’t work him, he turns his energy towards my other two in annoying ways. Before Mojo passed, I took Dulce up top for a few walks to introduce him to the smells and challenges of riding through the forest. I like to walk my horses in the beginning, so I can see what spooks them or if they eye something for too long. This way it allows me to identify what to work with them on at home, and I can work with them in the moment on the ground. I think this helps them develop courage to explore, but it also shows them that I won’t ask them to do something that I’m not willing to do with them. It builds trust between us. The only thing that seems to bother Dulce is bodies of water. I think it’s more the smells of all the wild animals around the water that gets to him. I knew the perfect place to go, so taking my friend’s advice, here I am driving up the hill to take Dulce for a walk.

My hands grip the steering wheel tight causing my fingers to tingle. I want to turn around and go home. What if something goes wrong with the other two while we’re gone? I’m not ready for this, but there is no place to turn around easily with a horse trailer. I keep going. I hit the dirt; the road is rough rattling my nerves to all new highs. I put on Bluesville, and Howling Wolf is belting out Backdoor Man.

“You men eat your dinner, eat your pork and beans
I eat more chicken than any man ever seen, yeah, yeah
I’m a back door man”

 I sing along when I hit washboard in the hairpin turns. Are you kidding me? They were fixing these a couple of weeks ago. I have much further to go, but the forest is beautiful today. I don’t have to do the whole walk I tell myself. We can do a small portion of it and then go home. At least I got us both out. It’s a step

Oh man, this can not be happening! I come up behind the grater that supposedly fixes all the washboard roads. There is a huge pile of dirt down the middle of the road as far as the eye can see, so I can’t pass him without possibly flipping the horse trailer on its side. He is going two miles an hour. John Lee Hooker is singing House Rent Boogie.

“I’m tired of keepin’ this movin’ every night
I can’t hold out much longer
Now I got this rent, now let’s get together, y’all
Let’s have a ball”

We crawl up towards the Divide Road, and at this pace it will take me forever to get to our spot. I give up and pull off at this a spot that I always want to go. There is a nice trail across the road, but since I have the dogs with me, that option is out. Cars drive too fast on this section of road.  I figure I’ll walk him around this one little spot, and then we’ll load up for home.

By this time, my nerves are fried, and Dulce needs me to be calm for him. I am anything but. I unload him, get the dogs out, and focus on my breath to try and slow it and my mind down. Usually, within the first five minutes of each ride Dulce has a spazz out moment where he lets out his stress/excitement before he settles down and focuses on the work at hand. I waited for it, and waited, and waited, and it never comes. In fact, we walked together on a loose rein immediately. He gave me time to spazz out and calm down. We reversed roles.

What I thought was a small path along a private fence turned out to be a big path deep into the forest. I never knew this existed, and it is the perfect path for a horse beginning to learn how to trail ride in the forest. The only challenge is that it’s at 9,200 feet, which is 3,200 feet higher than our home. I know this will challenge his lungs a bit. We take breaks as we walked along the path lined by Spruce’s and Aspens to give his lungs a chance to adjust. The air is heavy with the scent of forest. Each breath melts away my accumulated stress from the drive. I get a cellphone signal. I check my cameras, and Chaco and Harley are fine grazing away together.

Dulce took everything in with ease. We went off the trail and pushed through brush and over all size logs. He never hesitated at anything. He is so athletic and brave. We wind in between and around trees ducking under low branches, and he pushes through all of it gracefully. We get back on the trail and head further up. We could have headed back to the trailer, but now my curiosity is peaked. What is it like ahead?

We meandered on and off the trail exploring all sorts of obstacles. All we hear are birds calling out to one another from tree to tree. The wind is absent today as the light shimmers through the aspen leaves. Dulce and I walk side by side with one another when I realize how he is taking care of me. I’m part of his herd. I watched my horses take in Mojo on his terms willingly. They knew he struggled, and they accepted him and that struggle. When he died, they mourned him even though he was with us for a short time. I watched those three amigos take care of one another through it in all sorts of ways. Today I thought I was taking care of Dulce, but he is taking care of me. He’s allowing me to be where I need to be with him on my terms not asking for it to be any other way. Each time we venture out together, he amazes me. He is the most amazing being, and every moment with him is a blessing and a lesson in something. And people wonder why us horse people think horses are so amazing.

After walking three miles, I let him graze while the dogs explore an interesting scent. I look around in awe of the beauty shining through. Dulce rubs his head along my leg, and we head back. I see a man-made obstacle off the path, which usually can make a horse nervous. Horses know that man made stuff don’t belong in the forest. Dulce could care less about it. We walk around it in both directions. Nothing. He looks at me as if to say, “Seriously? This is all you’ve got?”

He easily loads into the trailer. “Okay, who are you? Where is Dulce?” I ask him as he takes a big bite of hay out of his feeder. Driving back home is easier and a bit faster. Stevie Ray Vaughan is singing Life By The Drop.

“Hello there my old friend
Not so long ago it was till the end
We played outside in the pourin’ rain
On our way up the road we started over again”

When we finally head down the road to our home, when I’m coming down the hill, Harley spots my truck and comes running to the top part of the paddock nickering at Dulce welcoming him home. Chaco acts aloof, but the moment I drop Dulce’s window, he’s all happy. I unload Dulce and walk him in. I take off his halter to turn him loose. I expected him to run off to join them, but instead he lingers with me dropping his head into my chest. I hug his head in my arms kissing his poll. He lifts his head, looks me in the eyes, and makes his “Weeeeee” sound before he runs off to join Chaco and Harley.

Vallier Found Me

Rarely do I even bother to look at Twitter when I wake up, but for some reason this past Sunday morning I did. I was scrolling through posts retweeting a few when I came across this horse in desperate need of a rescue. He was in a kill pen. I wrote to Ann to ask where the kill pen was. and from there my day became about rescuing a horse named Vallier.

I often donate what I can to horses needing to be bailed out. I know the whole debate about not doing this, because it keeps the kill pens in business…how they hold the horse’s hostage, etc. How do you turn your back? What these horses go through in these pens and then when they go to the slaughterhouses is ungodly. They live in a hell that I can’t even imagine mentally and emotionally, let alone physically, surviving.

For some reason this horse named Vallier stopped me in tracks. My heart froze, and I looked at my husband saying, “We need to get him out of there.” I felt this horse’s panic, and I felt the same way about him as I did Dulce; I needed to get him here.

How did he get into the kill pen? I guess he was abandoned in a field by someone, picked up, and shipped to the kill pen. I’m not sure how long he was there, but I think it was for a decent amount of time.

After a whirlwind of events and five hours after posting a GoFundMe, I started working out the details with the kill pen. I sent them the money, arranged to have him shipped here (I don’t think I could have handled going to a kill pen and leaving with just one horse.) , and we finalized the details of the sale and paperwork. The following morning Brandon picked him up, and Vallier was on his way to Colorado. The next morning at 9:30am we loaded him into my trailer and we headed here.

My friend on Facebook and from back home, Mary Anewalt-Perrine asked me what Vallier is like. I decided to answer her in this blog. When we first met, he was very timid. He loaded up easily, and he immediately began eating the hay I put in his bucket. When I got him home, he was pretty scared….not spooky, but scared about what was about to happen to him. I took him to his corral, and he immediately grazed. I got him some hay, and he stopped grazing and dove into the hay. He really had no interest in me; just the hay, which was perfectly fine with me.

He likes to have his ears scratched, his jaw rubbed and his neck stroked. The first day he seemed very beaten down, tired, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I’d lie if I said I didn’t cry more than a few tears watching him. I will never understand how people can toss away a life like this. Personally, I think if an owner wants to send their horse off to slaughter, they should be the ones to haul that beautiful being to Mexico or Canada. They need to see what they are about to do.

By the evening, I saw a little bit of his personality. He likes to nicker at me as I walk towards him; especially when he knows I’m bringing fresh hay. He finally took a couple of Standley hay cookies from me, and he quickly realized they weren’t too bad. This is when he started to let his guard down for a bit, and he let me love on him. Before long though, he went back to being aloof. I respected that and gave him his space.

The next morning I noticed he liked watching these two calves play in the neighbor’s field to the west of us. He was paying more attention to his environment. Despite being totally exhausted and eating all night long, he continued to chew on his hay as his head bobbed trying to give in yet fight off sleep. He ate the entire night through, and I never saw him lie down. When I came back from the vet, he no longer could fight it off. He was down and out for about thirty minutes.

When he woke up, he was more sociable. He followed me around a bit in the pen. He rested his head on my shoulder for fifteen minutes. He rested his cheek on the back of my neck, and then he put his nose to my cheek breathing, resting, sighing…..

He should be aggressive. He should be mean and angry. He is none of these things. You can tell that he was loved throughout his life until he ended up in the wrong hands of someone. He is very gentle. He wants to have a relationship, which is such a lesson in itself about forgiveness. He shouldn’t want a relationship with any human being, but here is reaching out to me when he can.

He is sweet, and he loves it when I blow into his nostrils. He likes it when I play with his upper lip, and he likes to lick my hand. When my friend Jessica and her nephew came to visit him, he was timid. It will take some time for him to trust people walking up to him. He comes out of hiding and then brings the guard back to duty. However, I got to see more of him on his second day here.

This morning was a very different day. He was pacing and nickering for me wanting his bucket of feed. He ate it all down in fifteen minutes. He then nickered away at me for his fresh hay. When I was done with all of my chores, I went in with him, and the guard wasn’t on duty. He was lovey, wanted me to pet him, followed me around, and his ears were up in a different way. They stood up in curiosity, his eyes seemed clearer…..that fog from the past few days wasn’t so visible anymore, and he was awake. He finally is feeling safe enough to sleep.

He likes it when I brush him. He lets me run my hands all over him. I’ve never worried about standing behind him. I can tell that he was hit on the left side of his face. He flinches if I move my hand too fast, which he doesn’t do on the right side. He acts as if he thinks I may hit him. I spent a lot of time moving my hands all around his face and petting, scratching or massaging him letting him know that my touch isn’t going to be a hit or a slap.

His ears are always on me, and the sweetness that emerged yesterday stayed out today. He also began grazing as well as eating the hay, and he cleaned his bucket three times. When I walked out to him this evening, he once again nickered to me. I noticed how different he was standing. He was standing like a horse. He was standing as if he knew all of that other stuff was behind him. He was tall instead of sagging and beaten down. His spirit is rising and healing. We have a long ways to go, but this evening I saw his desire to get there.