Tag Archives: Quarter Horses

‘Hanna Ranch’ Wrangles With Environmental Issues

Currently, I am wrestling with water restrictions imposed by Barton Water Cooperative. My area is in a drought. Yet, so, I have green grass in all my fields for I have not allowed over-grazing by neither horses nor cattle.

Kirk Hanna sought to employ a holistic environmental approach to cattle ranching. His struggles are detailed in this documentary, “Hanna Ranch.” See also the link within the article to the Holistic Resource Management site, originating on the savannas of Africa.

“This Colorado cattle rancher — a featured personality in Eric Schlosser’s 2001 best seller “Fast Food Nation” — was a forward-thinking cowboy who embraced Holistic Resource Management, a fruitful approach that, among other things, encourages herding methods less stressful to cattle and a more frequent rotation of livestock through pastures. Mr. Hanna used earth-friendly natural fertilizer; to attack weeds, he employed hungry goats.”

See more on the New York Times link.

‘Hanna Ranch’ Wrangles With Environmental Issues – NYTimes.com.

A scene from

Kirk Hanna

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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

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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Holiday wishes from Sage to Meadow and field notes

Shiney galloping to the corral during winter. No fear of the sun disappearing here.

A holiday greeting…

The sun in the northern hemisphere is at its lowest points this time of the year.  I do not think ancient and prehistoric people feared the sun would continue to sink towards the south and disappear forever — at least in southern latitudes of the northern hemisphere.  There was and is sufficient overlap of folk knowledge and tribal elder history to instruct the young and anxious that nature’s cycle continues her circle of cold to warm to hot, hot to warm to cold.

Christmas Eve and Day are here.  I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

* * *

Update on Lilly and Star…

Lilly, our oldest mare, is holding her own at 25 years of age.  She moves between the Well House Corral and the pasture, indicating a good level of energy and health.  Her feed consists of all the alfalfa she wants, Equine Senior Purina grain and 1 – 2 grams of bute (painkiller for horses) a day.  To husband animals rewards the steward: nickers and whinnies of recognition and impatience, warmth of animal in cold weather, riding for fun (both rider and horse can enjoy if accomplished properly) and work, and the sheer companionship and friendship of the horse.  One of my pleasures of having horses is hiking in the woods and having Star follow me like a hiking friend.  Star will go up and down creek bank, push aside brush to continue the hike and rest with me beside a fallen log.  If I wish to walk alone, I have to close the gate to the woods.  Most of the time, I want him with me.

Star is confined to the first corral.  He is overweight and feed intake must be limited.  He has all the coastal bermuda hay he can eat and some painkiller for his front legs.  His confinement lasts one week.  I have had to separate him from Lilly since she has alfalfa, he must have coastal.  Star is not pleased, but he adjusts.

* * *

A field post about bird songs on winter mornings…

December 16, 2010, 7:05 a.m.

Within the last two weeks I have noted birds about the barn and stables sing profusely only in the morning during the winter and are relatively quiet for the rest of the day.  I have not spent the day about the barn and stables to confirm unequivocally this observation (I’ll probably regret having brought this up in the first place), but it seems a sound observation.  During the day when I do chores and in the evening when I feed the horses and spend a hour or so in the barn area, I hear no birds or few birds.  In the morning, birds chatter and tweet, but do not break into long melodious fugues.

Our small ranch is located in North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.  Mesquite trees, live oak trees, elm and underbrush comprise the habitat for birds.

Among singing birds I see in the morning are redbird (just tweets), titmouse, chickadee, wrentit, wren, red-headed woodpecker, white-crowned sparrow, house sparrow, dove and a couple of other species I have yet to identify.  They browse in trees, on the ground and in the underbrush.  If I remain motionless in the corral after disturbing them, they resume their chattering and calls in a few minutes.  When the sun reaches a point in the sky at approximately 10:00 a.m. or so, songs and calls diminish.  I see birds for the remainder of the day, though not quite as frequent as the first two or three hours in the morning.  I hear during the day the quacks of ducks on stock ponds and crows on the fly.

7:35 a.m.

I have returned from the barn and stable area and this post is taking a curious turn.

A cold front moved in last night and the temperature is 40 deg. F.  The sun is not shining and clouds completely obscure the sky.  On point, birds are quiet, not even a peep, casting a different observation and bringing to light variables I had not considered: temperature, sunshine, clouds.

With the temperature in the 40s and no sunshine, I hear no birds.

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Christmas Eve Music in Old California

This post was published Christmas 2009.  I have added some photographs to the original for this 2010 Christmas.  I find “Christmas Eve music in Old California” poignant with the cultural interaction.

 

Christmas in California before the Americans came [1840s] was a season when all the grown people had as much fun as the children do now.  And the children had so much fun that they never got over it and ever after loved play and presents more than work and hard bargaining….

One Christmas Eve, I remember best, there was a full moon.  Over all the ground there was a glittering frost, just enough to whiten everything, yet not enough to even nip the orange trees which at this season of the year hang full of fruit and blossom both….

We had much music–guitars of the Mexican and Spanish type, made with twelve strings of wire, and mandolins.  After supper there was dancing in the patio, coffee and cigaritos on the veranda, and singing everywhere.  Someone said it was a beautiful night for a horseback ride over the valley to the Mission Santa Clara.  The horses in the corral were soon saddled.  There were twenty-five or thirty of us young men and women.  Our horses were the best of the big herds that were attached to every rancho….The saddles, bridles and spurs were heavily covered with silver bullion ornaments, as in those times we put silver on our horses instead of on our dining tables; for Spaniards…live on horseback, and they eat but to live, instead of living to eat.

Riding out of the patio gate it was like a scene from the time of the Moors in Spain.  As our horses snorted in the cold air they spun the rollers in their bits, making music that only the Spanish horse knows [1].

______________________________

Notes:

[1]  José Ramon Pico, “Before the Gringo Came,” San Francisco Call, December 1899.  From Sam Travers, Christmas in the Old West:  A Historical Scrapbook, pp. 171-174.

Mission Santa Clara Asís established in 1777, was located a few miles south of San Francisco.  This mission and adjacent Indian pueblo eventually grew into Santa Clara and San Jose.  The mission is now located on the campus of  Santa Clara University.

Frank Principe, silversmith from Lindell Beach, British Columbia, writes that many of the old California-type bits, such as the Santa Barbara, were designed with Islamic religious symbols.  The symbols included seven buttons, half moons, and starts.  This is traceable to Moorish occupation of Spain until the 1490s, the Cortez expedition to Mexico, and other adventures.  He writes, “For the last one hundred years or so most North American bit makers have been using these designs without realizing their historical significance.”

Sweet Hija (Spanish for “daughter”), my black mare, has King Ranch breeding.  Even today, King Ranch provides ranch horses for Mexican ranches.  Of all my horses, Sweet Hija is the fastest and most energetic.  After saddling Hija, I must run her about the round pen to work off her energy before she is ridden.  She is the most alert and sensitive to her surroundings, spotting deer a half a mile away.  I have to use binoculars to see what she sees.

Spanish Mustang Research Facility.

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Creatures of Dusty Blu

I work with a horseman, Dusty Blu Cooksey, at the college where I teach in Abilene, Texas.  Today he told me of animals besides his horses that envelop his life on his ranch northwest of Abilene.

First, Blu has dogs and horses, even a dog that cannot hear, but watches for hand commands and other para-linguistic signs from Blu.  His horses compete in shows all over the Southwest, and early in his horse career, Blu had two world champion quarter horses.  That was in the 1980s.

Nowadays, the creatures of Dusty Blu include an armadillo, coyote, raccoon and cats.

The armadillo was brought up to the stables by his dogs several years ago.  It was a baby armadillo and the little guy was carried gently in the mouth of his Blue Heeler, placed upon the ground in front of Blu and his workers, as if, “Here’s a little guy that needs help.  Take care of him.”  They put him in a stall since he was small and let him grow and eat dog chow.  After the armadillo grew to a juvenile, Blu let him or her out, but the armadillo stayed about the corrals, never venturing far, and tunneled into alfalfa haystacks to sleep during the day and roam at night.  The dogs consider him one of them and let the armadillo browse and eat with them at supper time.

The dogs brought a baby coyote to the stables, like the armadillo, and laid him down gently.  The dogs seem to know rescue quite well.  Blu fed the coyote pup and neutered him when he grew of age.  Wiley is the coyote’s name and he attends the ranch, never venturing far from his home he knew as a pup.  The dogs consider him one of them and let Wiley alone.  At times, he howls, but not out of loneliness.

A raccoon habits the place and washes his food in pools of water.  The creatures of Dusty Blu seem content.  Within the past few days, Blu tells me that an unusual cat, calico and tabby combined with two different-colored eyes, meandered into the mix.  A kit of small size, Blu will take him to the vet for neutering and care.  Nurture surrounds the kit and the void disappears.  When Blu told me today of these things, I laughed at the complex of animals with him and how his horses tolerate the menagerie.

Deep down, past laughter, I looked at Blu as he walked away to teach.  He’s a tall man and dresses western all of the time.  I saw wings and his hat was rimmed in gold.

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The Horses of Flying Hat

I thought I would put in one post a photograph of each of the horses I work with on a daily basis here at our place, Flying Hat.  All of these photographs can be enlarged by clicking on the photograph. By enlarging the photograph, if you have a moment, will reveal a lot of detail, as these photographs are usually 2.0 plus in megabytes.  I like to take photographs using the most detailed mode (within reason, of course) I can.  You can always lessen the detail in a photograph, but never add detail to it.

Shiners Fannin Peppy

This is Shiners Fannin Peppy or “Fanny.”  Fanny has been in training — elementary school — for a hundred days with Duncan Steele-Park at the GCH Land & Cattle Company of Weatherford, Texas.  Fanny is a daughter of Sweet Hija below.  Fanny is quite vocal.  She will begin to nicker once she knows that I am going to feed.  It is a vocalization that is more of a chortle, kind of a gargle, deep-down in her throat.  Fanny will continue to nicker-chortle every fifteen seconds or so until I put feed in her bin.  Translation to English:  “Oh, boy, I can’t wait, can’t wait for my grain.  Oh, boy, oh boy.”

Sweet Hija

This is Sweet Hija or “Hija,” as we like to call her.  I purchased her in 2003, from King Ranch.  She starred in a King Ranch video for marketing before the auction at Kingsville.  She cut cattle with J. R. Ramirez, her trainer, in front of two-hundred prospective buyers.  I bought her at the King Ranch Legacy Auction in 2003, in front of  2,000 spectators — really stressful, but fun.  When I walked to the stables to view Hija after purchase, two stalls down from her was her grandfather, Peppy San Badger.  He was looking over the crowd and his granddaughter.  Peppy San Badger was nearing the end of his days, but he was still eager to see people and his progeny — be around the excitement.  I am sorry to say that I did not appreciate his background and heritage that day as I was just beginning to understand the quarter horse culture.  Peppy San Badger, Hija’s grandsire, was one of the greatest quarter horses ever to have lived: he rewrote performance records and records in the show pen.  He died in 2005, less than two years after he saw Hija load up into our horse trailer and come to Hannibal.  I have a photograph that shows Peppy in the background, Hija in the fore.  I’ll try and retrieve it for you some day.

When I saddle and ride Hija, I have to give her a run around the round pen before I mount (it’s been a while, however, since I’ve ridden) because she has that spirit of Peppy San Badger.  He would give a little buck when you first mounted him, but not a mean buck, just an energetic buck that he was happy to be alive — so also, his granddaughter.

Ima Lil Moore

This is Lilly, the oldest mare in the remuda.  I inherited Lilly and her son, Star, upon the settlement of my parents’ estate in 2003.  Lilly is the alpha mare of the remuda.  She is challenged by Fanny for placement at the food trough.  Lilly likes to take her good time these days to come to the stall.  I favor her and let her use the alleyway to get into her stall (see the alleyway above) rather than have her walk a longer distance.  You can also see in the photograph above, the barn cat, Paint or Little Paint.  Odd, but he has the same markings of Lilly.

Shiners Fannin Pepto

Here is “Shiney.”  He is all-boy, a colt and a peppy one at that.  He is the son of Sweet Hija.  This is the guy I am having so much fun with these days.  He is an intact male and I have him for sale, but Brenda and I have talked about keeping him — me more than her — but it would require the construction of a stallion run.  Shiney is such a fine boy.  I really like working with him.

Stars Bars Moore

Star is a gelding and the baby-sitter for Shiney.  Star and Shiney inhabit the large outdoor arena and are given to playing many games of “Gotcha,” a variation of tag.  Star is a large horse.  I often refer to him with affection: The Beer Wagon Horse.  Star is the son of Lilly.  Star is known far and wide as the levitating horse of Flying Hat — check a previous post this winter on the blog.

A friend of mine at the college, Roland Stroebel, says to me almost daily, “I’m homesick, Jack.”  By that he means that he wants to go back to his farm south of Cisco, Texas, and work with the land and his cattle.  He misses his farm — homesick.  When Roland’s work is done at the college, he leaves and I can see him working with his fine Angus cattle into the evening darkness.

When I am away from all of the horses and land upon which they trod, I am homesick for their companionship, their warm breath and smell.  It is said:  “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a person.”  I believe that with all my heart.

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Filed under Duncan Steele-Park, Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Lilly, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny), Shiney (Shiners Fannin Pepto), Star, Sweet Hija

Field Log 3/11/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

5:00 p.m.  Elm tree shows first green leaves on Gibson place, two miles to the north on SH 108.  This elm tends to be the first tree showing leaves in the immediate area as it lies in a shallow draw.

Horses, Hija and Lilly, have been in Poprock pasture for two days without coming back to corral for grain, browsing on newly-emerging grasses.

Two large coyotes, off-whitish to a Charlois color, sighted near Poprock pond, trotting southwest across top of dam.  Trot in single file.  Large tails.  Horses ignore them.  Coyotes paused, then traversed down into Grove, I think.   Will check for track in the morning.

Rain and thunderstorms this afternoon.  Cooling off to lower 50s F.

Rosemary bush blooms.

Dove calls more prominent.  Type Dove.

Star’s feet less tender today from farrier trimming on Monday.

Order native grass seed tomorrow.

Turkey Creek Quad, Texas, Field Log Area, Exact Center is Flying Hat Ranch (click to enlage for fine detail)

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The Day After the Poly Survey

Poly Cemetery, September 2002, Archeological Surface Survey for Texas Wesleyan University

In September 2002, I managed an archeological surface survey of Poly Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Poly Cemetery Association and their descendants.  The History Club at Texas Wesleyan University assisted in the fieldwork.  The next day after conducting the survey, my mother called and said my step-father was diagnosed with leukemia and his prognosis was grim.  My wife and I canceled our trip to France.  Lufthansa gave us a full refund when my step-father’s doctor sent them a letter.  He died in December 2002, and mother in April 2003.  I was not able to complete the report of the surface survey analysis until 2006, and then in 2008, the State of Texas awarded a Historical Survey Marker for the cemetery, the 1,000th cemetery marker for the state.

I was proud of the work we had accomplished as a survey crew that September day in 2002, but the photographs and field notes I inscribed always remind me of  how my life was changed the day after the survey.  Within a week after the Poly survey, I began to manage, among several things, two horses:  Lilly and Star.  After I settled the estate of my parents, I purchased another horse, a mare, Sweet Hija, a legacy horse of King Ranch.

Shiners Fannin Peppy and Sweet Hija, March 2008

From Sweet Hija came Shiners Fannin Peppy or “Fanny” as she is affectionately named.  Several posts have been centered around Fanny’s training with Duncan Steele-Park over at the GCH Land & Cattle Co. near Weatherford, Texas.  Life changed, and the good and bad were different from 2002.  Overall, this time, good came about.

Road in Grove, November 2008

Since 2002, one good emerging  is this road and where it takes me.  This is the road from the ranch house through the grove and down the creek bed and up onto Pecan Tree Pasture adjacent to the Bryant place.  The road must be maintained.  Erosion from rain, not wind, force me to grade the road by blade or allow erosion to continue.  The road is passable by tractor most of the time.  When it is graded, car and pickup can travel the road.  We take picnic baskets with red-checkered tablecloths and have a feast in the shade of the tree, usually on the tailgate of the pickup.  In Novembers, we drink Beaujolais Nouveau beneath the pecan tree with our picnic of french bread, meats, cheeses, pates and tapenade.  The new wine is not as robust as we like, but it is the new crop of vino. The horses will stand off and graze if they are in the pasture, looking up occasionally when they detect a rapid motion under the tree, a flapping of the tablecloth.  In parking, we angle our pickup so that we can look in the direction that has no power lines, no buildings in view, only trees and ridge line.  The direction is West.  We spill some wine on the ground, a Lakota custom we have adopted in honor of the departed ones, and we talk about our family and of things to come, the days after the Poly Survey.

Pecan Tree, November 2008

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Fanny with Duncan Steele-Park

Shiners Fannin Peppy with Duncan Steele-Park

I went to see Fanny Wednesday morning after classes.  Duncan Steele-Park took her through her paces, circles and stops.  It was a cold morning and Fanny and Duncan followed one calf in the large indoor arena to accustom her to cattle.  At times, I saw her breath as a small cloud, rise softly, then evaporate.  Fanny has been around cattle all her short life, but having a rider to give her commands was different.  Duncan gave me a critique of her behavior in the workout and she stops really well.  Her work on right-hand circles is testing her, although her left-hand circles are good.  Fanny has about two more weeks with Duncan before we make a decision on her future.  She is out of kindergarten, Duncan says, and in elementary school.

On the one hand, with progressive improvement, Fanny can stay in school and in another year become a futurity prospect in a crop of 750 cutting horses.  Then, on the other hand, Fanny can have a good education at the hands of Duncan for a few more weeks and come back home to our place to be a good companion and safe horse for human beings.  Duncan has stated that there could be reasons to bring her out of his training and put her on a decent, average road for horses that will not be a prospect for the Fort Worth futurity, but will give her experience for a comfortable, safe life with human beings.  And, they with Fanny.

I do wish all of you could see Duncan and Fanny working together.  He lets her be free in learning.  By that I mean, he lets her be a force for herself, not him, not Duncan.  He will start every session with turning her head with the rein and hackamore (no snaffle, no bit) to the left, then to the right.  When he changes the gait in her circles, there is no overt spurring or talk, just a few clucks or pressure with his legs, and she adjusts.  I could not see the cue Duncan was applying to get her to stop.  Maybe there was a slight pressure from the hackamore for Fanny to whoa, but I could not see his cue for her to halt.  And, she stops quickly.

So, I asked Duncan, What is the cue you give Fanny to whoa?  As he was riding by on Fanny, Duncan said, Look at my leg and boot.  I looked and when Duncan takes his boot and leg away from her flank, just slightly, she stops.  All he does is take off leg and boot pressure about her flanks and she halts.  Dead so, doesn’t move.  Stays immobile, stopped.  I thought: That’s why I pay tuition.

Fanny is fortunate.  Fanny is under a stoa, a porch, of ancient pedagogy, a place with a teacher that doesn’t use a cudgel to beat the cursive into the student, but a stoa-arena that allows her to draw out of herself a strength and performance that instills confidence that she will possess, whether she is futurity bound or is ridden by a young, blondhaired lass in the greenest of nature’s pastures, enjoying the wind on her face and the gentle pressure of rider around her soft, sorrel flanks.  Go, my darling, Fanny, go.  I have given you the best I could.

Fanny and Duncan Under the Stoa (Click image for enlargement.)

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