Tag Archives: American Paint Horse Association

Rosemary and Star

IMG_3308Here in central Texas, Erath County, we remain in a drought.  Since Christmas, however, rain has fallen and we do not have to boil our water before drinking.  The date for near-complete water extinction has been extended into the future.  No specific date for extinction has been given, but the February 15th date for extinction is no longer in effect.

In the photograph above, I hold a rosemary blossom, indicative of moisture in the air and soil about the large rosemary bush on the west side of the ranch house.  The scent of rosemary lingers on my fingers as I type.  I use the rosemary for several recipes, but I favor its use when I prepare a sauce for steaks or lamb chops.

* * *

Before Christmas, my good horse Star died of colic.  The old boy was fourteen years old and in his becoming ill, the first veterinary I called to the ranch said he was a strong, stoical horse in that he did not lash out at us, his handlers.  Star was diagnosed at six in the evening and had to be put down at two o’clock the next morning at the Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery compound in Weatherford, Texas, where he was surrounded by three female veterinarians who took control and managed his passing.  Without being sentimental, I still look out my porch windows, even today, to see where Star is in the pasture.  Is he loafing under the mesquites?  I know he is not there, but I still look.

Star

Star Bars Moore will be just fine.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.

Star Bars Moore APHA 808164, loafing in arena pasture under mesquites.

 

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Winter lingers

In the late fall, my whole front field appeared as snow with these flowers.

In the late fall, my whole front field appeared as snow with these flowers.

Winter lingers in north Erath County, Texas.  Grasses remain brown, although buffalo grass emerges through dead grass of the late fall freeze.  My paint gelding, Star, has lost weight and his laminitis has remitted completely.

New neighbors, the Stroebels, have moved onto the land to the southeast.  The husband is an English teacher.  The wife is an engineer, originally from eastern Europe.  At the first instance, I like them.  They purchased the five acres mainly for the new stone house.

By my stated goal a few months ago, I have only a month or so before my photographing all flowers on my place comes to an end.  I know I have missed some flowers over the last eleven months, but I think I have captured many.  Some flowers, like the wine cup, did not unfold last spring so they fell outside my range, but not my thoughts.

 

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Star with water

Star with water sprinkler in Broke Tree Corral (June 28, 2012)

Hot weather pervades my place, but it also falls across so many regions this summer.  Colorado suffers this season with wildfires close to Colorado Springs.

My gelding, Star, sweats in temperatures during the day that come in at 100, 102, 108 deg.  Rains have fallen this spring so there is green and wildfires are negligible.  But, Star got water spray today.  After an hour of his nuzzling the spray and standing over the water, I shut it off.

His hooves were trimmed yesterday and like cutting our fingernails close to the quick, he was stiff today in walking to the hay bin, so, I turned the sprinkler on to cool him and to soften the earth upon which he walks.  My water comes from a water cooperative, the Barton Creek Cooperative.  I’ll spend a few more dollars this summer and turn the sprinkler on for Star.

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Broke Tree Corral antics and Flowers of Flying Hat (9): Blueish Ground plum

At the beginning of this Spring Break I set out to accomplish several chores:  Construct dirt foundation for alleyway and stalls, change tire on flatbed trailer so I can haul tractor to repair shop, take tractor to repair shop and return, shred mesquite sprouts and replace rain gauge.  The list changed.  No surprise there.

Putting more of a fine gravel foundation is delayed because stalls and the alleyway are still wet.  I have changed the tire on the flatbed trailer and will load the tractor later today.  Before I can hitch up the shredder, the linkage to the power train operation must be repaired.  So, the list has changed and I have conducted manure management tasks before I take the tractor to Stephenville — muckraking with tractor.

As I worked on cleaning the corrals, I let my gelding, Star, out for a browsing and to visit his friends over the fence, like neighbors chatting across the hedge in suburbia. When I went to halter him and bring him back after two hours of browsing, he bucked and snorted on halter like a rodeo horse. He wanted to remain out and become satiated with grass to a point of sleepiness. I can’t let him do that since he is laminitis prone, a condition that requires close monitoring of green grass consumption. Star entered Broke Tree Corral and continued to act horsey with bucking and running. What a day he was having!  Here is Star munching on grass about an hour before the rodeo began.

My morning had a few Kodak moments — no more Kodachrome, I know.  Digital rules.  The Bluebell bell flowers opened up with the few minutes of sun this morning and I brought the camera down to the pasture before I started cleaning the corrals.  Bluebell flowers erupt all over the two front pastures.  Where I had one patch of bell flowers a couple of days ago, now the flowering occurs in multiple patches.

The final photo in my continuing year-long goal of photographing the different species of flowering plants on the ranchito is another Ground plum or milkvetch, but with a different color, a more blueish hue to the blossom. I’ll go ahead and give it a different number because of the definitive difference in color.

9. Ground plum, milkvetch (blueish-violet blossom), Astragalus crassicarpus?

I will take some photographs of the namesakes of the corrals. I have had to give them names because Corral No. 1, Corral No. 2 get lost in the process of giving directions to cowboys and haulers.  I end up saying, Put the horse in the corral with the broken tree in it!  I have no signage for the place, just naming with visible, easily identifiable attributes (broken tree, well house, pecan tree). Nothing like trying to identify a sparrow these days, a process we are all still involved in as the attributes continue to be noted.

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Lilly’s* cairn

Rock cairn of Ima Lil Moore, September 25, 2011.

This summer I constructed a rock cairn to stack sandstone and petrified wood on the ranchito. A few feet up from the cairn in the photograph, I smoothed the soil with a hand rake. The smooth soil and the cairn mark the spot that Lilly*, known also by her registered name, Ima Lil Moore (APHA 111214), lies buried, six feet beneath the surface in a grave dug by the backhoe of a Stephenville, Texas, contractor. The cairn is about four feet in height and I pile smaller stones within the hollow of the cairn as I work through the day.

Cairns are built on top of mountains and within them sometimes a tin box is placed so that mountaineers may log themselves in and make a few comments about the climb to the top. I’ve done that with Mt. Taylor and Pedernal in New Mexico, climbs that I remember vividly and relive in my mind as I grow old. I shall not stop climbing. I don’t have a mountain to climb now as a goal, but the South Truchas peak in New Mexico is the only one of the Truchas peaks I have not assailed.  I will find the South Truchas cairn and write of my climb some day.

Lilly’s cairn contains no tin box, but as I look at it during the day I etch comments about her in a notebook that never fades or tears. She was my first and original teacher of horse behavior. I learned the difference between a kick of aggression and a kick of delight. Lilly never bit or kicked in aggression. She suffered to stand in her last days, allowing me to put a sling on the tractor and hoist her up by the neck, whereupon she shook herself and proceeded to the hay bin as if nothing had happened. To her last days, feeble as she was, the powerful King Ranch mare of mine who stood two hands above her always moved aside in respect for Lilly so that she could eat where she wanted. Lilly was alpha among the remuda.

I have thought of writing a post about putting Lilly down, and I will some day, but for now, I fill her cairn with rocks she galloped upon, throwing stones in her run to green pastures and fresh water.  I know those stones and pick them up for her cairn.  And in my dreams, Lilly walks beside me on a trail to the top of a unknown mountain, and she fills my night with peace.

Lilly (1985-2011)

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Notes, corrections and additions:

*The spelling of Lilly is “Lilly.”  It is a nickname that originated with my mother.  The flower, “lily,” is spelled with one “l,” but this horse has always had it spelled with two “l’s”.  Call it quaint Texas spelling.  The spelling of names on birth certificates is always interesting.  And, unfortunately, sometimes confusing.

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If she isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, I’ll give her to you!

Wild Flower Gal with verbena (north Erath County, Texas, late winter, 2007).

Four winters ago, my neighbor, Jerry Wood who lives two miles south of me on County Road 114 stopped at my mailbox as I retrieved letters one morning.  We chatted for a few minutes as he kept his diesel truck running and as we closed our conversation he said, “I have a horse, Jack, [words unintelligible over the engine noise] I’ll give her to you!”

“I’ll give her to you?”  I had three horses at this time, two tobiano black paints and one quarter horse, Sweet Hija, and another horse added to the remuda would not be a problem to train and feed.  But, a gift horse?  I thought as Jerry drove off that he must be terminally ill or something drastic was going on like divorce or bankruptcy.  I immediately decided that if the horse was sound, I would take her off Jerry’s hands and ease his problem — whatever it was.

Within the week, I drove down to Jerry’s with my trailer hitched up, pulled into his corrals and saw Wild Flower Gal, a sorrel tobiano paint that was drop-dead gorgeous.  “Why would he even want to get rid of this beautiful creature?” I quietly thought.  In any case, he took her through her paces, showed that she was healthy and halter-trained and I liked her behavior so she would fit in after getting to know my other three horses.

After seeing her training, paces and overall friendliness, I asked Jerry, “Are you sure you want to give this beautiful horse to me, Jerry?”  I thought he was making a big mistake to give Wild Flower Away and I did not want to exploit Jerry’s problem — whatever the heck it was — in his hour of crisis.

“What?” he said.

“You did say, didn’t you, Jerry, that you were giving this horse to me?”  This was quickly going in a perplexing direction I did not like.

“Oh, no!” he quickly replied.  “I said, ‘If she isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, I’ll give her to you.'”

“Oh, you did?”  This was definitely in embarrassing territory.  “How much do you want for her?”

“One-thousand dollars,” he replied.

I became a tad dizzy in my thinking at that point, but my mind quickly cleared the confusion:  Jerry’s diesel engine had blocked out his words, “If she isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen…”  And I had slammed his statement into, “I have a horse to give you, Jack.”

What to do?  Buy the horse and lighten my bank account?  Probably the best exit strategy.  If I did not buy Wild Flower Gal, I would probably be the center of an oft-told tale at the Hannibal Country Store concerning my over-eagerness to gainsay another yegua for free.  I did not want that circulating around the cracker barrel.

So, I bought Wild Flower Gal, loaded her up and brought her to my stables.  Jerry signed over the pedigree, pocketing a thousand.

Wild Flower Gal was pretty, but not the prettiest gal I had ever seen.  But, pretty enough to buy and train and sever any anecdote about my confusion.  Several months later I snapped the photograph of her in late winter browsing through the wild verbena.  It was fitting, this photograph, because she was in a pasture of wild flowers that reflected her namesake.  I sold her a year later for a thousand dollars to a family near Abilene, Texas, that showed her at halter and loved her well.

A lot of lessons emerge from this story.  Verify and clarify conversations of commercial intercourse.  Cut your engines when conversing.  Above all, there’s no such thing as a free horse.

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Lilly’s Mound: early Winter morning

 

Lilly's Mound in an early Winter morning at Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011 (click to enlarge)

In the far background are the Twin Mountains of north Erath County, Texas, 1,400 feet. Ducks swim and feed upon and beneath the pond in the middle of the photograph even in this cold weather.  The gate opens into the arena pasture.  The small mound with cedar posts upon it, to the far, far left in the photograph (you may have to enlarge), is Lilly’s Mound, 1,065 feet.  The mound is small and does not stand out in the photograph — in fact, hardly noticeable — , but it is a meaningful part of this good earth to me and Brenda and Star.

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Filed under Cedar, Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Juniper, Lilly, Star

Winter day of my content

Duck flight, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011

The temperatures rose to 35 degrees and the sun came out, melting the snow about the place.  Corrals turned to mud.  Meadow Lark, White-crowned Sparrow, and Chickadee scattered away from their emergency ration station in the barn alleyway and I turned Star out so that he could run about the pastures and go to the county road to visit his friends at the Nowack place.  I saw deer track along the grove lane and vowed to throw corn near the salt block tomorrow.

Star galloped through snow and mud to the pond and as we both made our way towards the barn, ducks flew upward from their browsing, but circled back to the pond, dousing their beaks, grasping algae and minnow.  A west wind blew across the snow and I wore sunglasses to reduce the glare of the sun.  After I fed Star, I walked up the hill to the house, strongly striding because cold air filled my lungs and I was content with Winter.

Star galloping, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011

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The eve of a new year on the ranch

Pigeons flying towards a new year above the Santa Fe plaza.

We make resolutions and there’s nothing wrong in doing so.  We plan to do better, give more and finish the big chores we have had on our list for months, maybe even curtail or give up our vices.  Well, maybe not completely give them up, but back off bad habits.

I work with students, horses and the land.  I work in order to live, not live in order to work.  That’s a big, big difference.  Working with students this last year has been more rewarding than ever before in my professional career.  I attribute that to my nearing retirement and wanting to give what I think is of value to the student before I put the chalk in the tray and walk away.  Time is fleeting and I don’t have time to cover all the points, just the most significant.  So, for this next year, I resolve to cut the excess from the lectures and discussions and get right to the core: finding your voice, writing down your voice and tending to your own garden (Voltaire, Gilgamesh, Trilling).

For my life with horses, it’s a sadder year coming.  We are selling Sweet Hija who is pregnant with a female and Shiners Fannin Peppy, the first foal out of Sweet Hija.  Brenda and I will be left with our two paints, Star and Lilly, both having their share of health problems these days.  In January, we are going to Oklahoma City for the Mixed Winter Sale at Heritage Place.  Market forces beyond my control have cut through our ranch operations with a vengeance and the cost of horse breeding and market conditions force my hand.  What Brenda and I are trying to do, in taking Hija and Fanny to the sale in Oklahoma, is to put these fine horses in the best sale around so that they will have good homes or ranches to live out their days.  So, for this next year, I resolve to focus on Star and Lilly, build some good, strong pens in the Pecan Tree Pasture for their safety.  I resolve not to think too much about our loss of Hija and Fanny and the little one — difficult to push that resolution through next year, I guarantee.

And, finally with the land, I resolve to set up brush piles for the little critters, deer and birds about the place, not shredding every single bush like some of my neighbors.  Further, I want to learn the name of every tree species on Flying Hat Ranch, or at least make a major dent in nomenclature.  I will also continue to plant native grasses about the pastures.

The eve of 2011 is here.  I toast to love, health and fortune to be found among horses and land, family and students — yours as well as mine.

Sweet Hija at full gallop in winter snow (2010).

Fanny strutting in the grove with Shiney (summer 2009).

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Willful Lilly

Willful Lilly walks to Well House Corral (December 27, 2010).

In the ongoing story of Lilly (Ima Lil Moore), she is a willful horse.  The above photograph shows her this morning, after browsing a few minutes in the front pasture, walking intently to the fence panels of the Well House Corral.

Lilly had spent the night in the stables underneath a 150 watt light bulb.  When I went down this morning to feed her, she was up and moving and whinnying for her breakfast, even pinning her ears back slightly when I entered her stall.  After she finished her grain, I put out two blocks of green alfalfa for her to munch on.

And, this is point of the story, she turned away from the hay rack and deliberately walked out of the corral and into the pasture with a determination of a yearling.  She’s twenty-five years old, for goodness sakes!  Then, after a bit of browsing, I shot the above photograph of Lilly.

She’s going to die — we’re all headed that way, for sure — within who-knows-how-long?  Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year?  Jim Scroggins is coming out to the ranch with his back hoe in the morning to dig a grave pit for Lilly.  Don’t be sad.  I’ll set up panels around it so that no one will wander into it.  It’s a preparation, sort of like making a will or planning a funeral with your favorite mortician.  (My political mentor when I was young was Groner Pitts of Brownwood, Texas, a funeral director.)  If Lilly makes it through the winter and I and the vet think she will, I’ll fill up the pit with water and maybe ducks will swim in it.  It is there, however, just in case.

But, for now, Lilly is a willful mare, stubborn in her habits, sleeping longer than usual and limping a little with arthritis.  Kinda like your grandfather or grandmother.  She has her life today and she willfully directs herself to green winter grass, lying down in the sun and drinking from the stock pond with ducks swimming about her.  It’s a good day to live.

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