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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine • Since 1993
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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine
Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies Since 1993

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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Dog Hair & Mule Sweat

with Natalie Riehl

editor@rockymountainrider.com

 

April 2010 Issue

 

     Every year, we mark the return of spring by noting which birds have returned from their winter migration. We look for robins, meadowlarks, and redwing blackbirds… and this year, the ravens.

     A pair made its nest in the neighbor’s tall spruce tree last year, and they drank from our water troughs before the ditch was running. They had the curious habit of washing their food, which reminded us of raccoons, and we found bits of flesh, a small skull, and a muskrat tail in the bottom of the tank.

     After almost a week of working on building their nest, flying from the nest to a source of sticks and straight back to the spruce-top, they are resting up for the hatching season. This morning, the pair of big, blue-black ravens were cuddling on the power pole near my house, cooing to each other with deep gurgling sounds and grooming each other.

     The ravens (and magpies, of course) make quick work of old food we put out for them, like bread, chicken skin and guts, and restaurant leftovers which we brought home but never got around to eating.

     The magpies are fearless, quick and agile when they come in for food, while the ravens carefully approach and hover fifteen feet over the food and slowly descend with the terrific control of their powerful wings.

     Last week, I put out eight hot dog buns that had lived too long on the kitchen counter. I watched a raven descend upon the bun and carry it off, swooping across the pasture.

     That evening, I went out to feed the critters and check their water. Gasp! Something large and white was floating in the horses’ tank, submerged just below the surface of the water! What type of road kill had they lost in the tank?

     I was feeling creeped-out, as I went to scoop out the unknown object, but quickly relaxed when I realized it was an entire hot dog bun. It disintegrated in my hand, and its body parts continued to float in the water! I laughed at the raven’s tactic gone awry.

     What a luxury my mule Petunia is. I’ve had her for 19 years, and she and I know each other well. Her lower lip has started sagging, as lips on many older equines tend to do, but she still has plenty of spark for a 23-year-old. She has way more energy than I have!

     If I lead a younger horse while riding her, she will really walk out. In fact, she walks at such a fast clip, the younger animal usually jogs to keep up. Still her long ears will flop back and forth, flinging sweat back to my smiling face, a sign to me that she is relaxed and content.

     In spite of her age, she’s always a tiny bit cold-backed when I mount, but I know that after riding 50 feet, she will relax. She’s a hard worker, and has never been lazy.

     Every spring, I first scissor off the four inches of upright mane, and then use the clippers to produce a neat, roached neck. I know she will object to the clippers between her ears, because she has never recovered from some trauma she experienced to her forelock — top-knot — before I owned her.

     The luxury for me is that I feel relaxed when working with her, and that she makes me smile with her good nature and dependability. She isn’t pushy about getting a hay cube for a treat, but as I groom her, I often give her a few, which she greatly enjoys.

     But, in the words of an old mule-man, who gave me great advice before I ever owned a mule: “Never forget that a mule is a mule.”

     To me, that has always meant that I should never be too relaxed and take for granted that the mule will never spook. And I would extend that sentiment to horses, as well. Something can startle even an old horse, and the person on the ground or on his back, should always be aware of that.

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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