February 15, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Baby

Let me tell you these past few days at home have been marvelous. They usually are. The first two days, me and the girls were home alone, as Malcolm left the morning after we got home to go to his parents ranch. After running some errands, and getting a few things done (like laundry so I'd have something to wear), the girls and I threw our things in the car and took a girls only road trip on Sunday morning. Our destination was the same as Malcolm's earlier one. And a little after noon, we arrived at the ranch, much to the girls relief and delight, and mine too!

I had big plans for my time here. I usually do. And according to tradition, most of my big plans did not pan out. "Things" always come up and get in the way, though they are hardly ever unpleasant "things." My intent was to come over here and along with getting in some serious quality time with my in-laws, I was going to spend a little time with my colt, Sky, each day we were here, getting in at least 4 days of work on him and hopefully ending with a halter on his head!

BUT shortly after I arrived, Malcolm's sister and her husband came down from town for a birthday dinner for their mom, and I spent the afternoon and evening visiting.

And then yesterday the four of us went to Rapid City for the day to get some supplies for the remodeling job going on in the basement as we speak. And then this morning I had to get up and take the girls to town for their vet appointment. So...not getting in the 4 days of good work with the colt.

I did get one thing accomplished though. At ten months old, it was time for Momma to say goodbye to baby!

First I had to get outfitted for the job. It has warmed up considerably here! Its AMAZING! I had gotten myself some Carhart coveralls, just in case it was miserable cold, but I didn't even need them. They'll come in handy later. But muck boots were a MUST!
If I wasn't standing in slushy now or packed ice (I'll confess here that I did land on my rear rather unexpectedly as I was coming out of the barn, but no one saw it so don't tell), then I was slopping through about 4-5 inches of oozing mud. Oh the joys of a Montana thaw! I've had muck boots for a couple years now. They live at my in-laws where I need them most.

Fully outfitted and with halters, brushes, and horse cookies retrieved from the barn, I made my way (after I picked myself up off the ice) to the corral to retrieve the mare and colt.

Obstacle #1: Lots of snow has created lots of LARGE drifts around here. Even with the thaw, many of the gates were blocked and un-usable.

My idea here was to get the horses from the lot, which is to the far right,lead them through that gate, and take them into the horse barn which is to the far left, just out of the picture, where I'd get the colt in one of the calving pens, and then take care of the mare.

Obstacle #2: He was NOT supposed to be standing there!
The horses were in with the bulls, but every time I've been down to say "hi" the bulls were all in the big lot and easily avoided. Of course today HE decided to take a sun bath in the smaller corral. HE and I had a conversation across the gate where I nicely explained to him that he simply had to move over into the other lot so that I could feel at ease getting this job done. HE didn't give a dang what I wanted and stayed put.

Not to be deterred I went in by another gate, and with great ease caught and haltered the mare. Its amazing what a bucket with some cookies can accomplish!

Wouldn't you know, during the time I spent visiting the herd and haltering the mare, a second bull decided to join the first in the my little corral? I was peeved! But I was NOT going to let this day be wasted! So, I took a deep breath, said a prayer that those two were the more laid back ones and not the bullies in the group of bulls, and marched myself, with Dawn (the mare) in tow, into my little corral, walked around behind the bull and into the horse barn. I had hoped the bulls would be less interested in me if I was with a horse. It seems to have worked. And to my great delight, Sky (my colt) followed us right into the barn, just as I had hoped! He ran back out of course, but then after a few minutes and some coaxing from momma, he came back.

All the excitement had the other three all curious, and they climbed into the bleachers for a better view.

With a little fancy maneuvering, I managed to contain Sky in a calving pen, and Dawn and I set out for our afternoon stroll.

Its a half mile from the house and barns out to the field where the cows are being fed this winter. I figured I'd just put her in with them for company. She was...not real impressed with my idea. There was a bit of conversation going on between her and the others left behind. But overall it went well, and we only tried to turn around maybe 4 times, doing a tight little spin and then proceeding on our way.

And about half way there, she forgot about the herd behind us and took notice of the herd up ahead.

She spent the second half of our walk calling greetings to the cows, who rudely would not answer. And now instead of keeping her moving forward, it was more a matter of keeping her moving forward at a reasonable pace, one I could keep up with.

Arriving at our destination, Dawn and I had a little conversation during which I gently broke the news to her that Sky no longer needs her. How he's a big boy now who can take care of himself, and that Dandy (the gelding) will watch over him, and besides she'll have a new little one here in a few more months.
I promised her I'd make sure he was taken care of and that she should enjoy this little break, make friends with the cows, maybe think of it as a vacation, and wasn't it nice to be out of the lot and back in a field where there was grass, if you could find it under the snow.
Hey look! The inside of her nostril matches her halter!
In the picture above I thought she was telling me that she understood and that she didn't really like the idea, but that she reconned she could finish the winter out here with the cows and it did smell like they had nice hay, and though she'd miss her little boy, she was sure he was in good hands.

And so we said our goodbyes and I took the halter off and gave her a pat on the neck and told her she was a good girl.

And she proceeded to take off at a fast run down the fence line.

And then she came back, stopping along the way to check out my husband coming to pick me up in his jeep so I wouldn't have to walk the half mile back.
(wasn't that thoughtful of him? His idea, not mine.)

I stayed a bit longer to watch her and she was coming over to say a second goodbye, but instead, at the last minute, she bypassed me...
...walked up onto the road, paused to take a look, and then very gracefully JUMPED the auto gate and high tailed it back to the barns.

I did NOT see that coming. Never crossed my mind. But looking back...it should have been obvious! And I was so surprised that it never occured to me to get the camera out, even though I it seemed to be happening in slow motion. It would have been a beautiful picture.

So...I got in the jeep with Malcolm both of us laughing, and of course he said something to the effect that he hadn't thought this was going to work (grrr), and we drove back to the house, watching Dawns rear end with tail in the air all the way.

This is where I found her.

Malcolm and his Dad suggested that I just leave her as is. She was still seperated from the colt and there's lots of grass in the pastures around the house. So, I went back to the barn and to Sky to see how he was handling things.

He was less than thrilled with the arrangment, as you can imagine.

And I was expecting him to be feeling that way. In fact I figured he'd be so wound up and upset that it'd not even be worth trying to fool with him. I did offer him a cookie, which he at first pretended to ignore...

...for about 2 seconds. The male members of all species are similar across the board. Food...one of the best bribes to get what you want!

So I proceeded to have a similar pep talk with Sky, like I'd had with his momma, about how he was a big boy now and didn't need her anymore, at least not for nourishment, and that it was time for him to start learning how to fend for himself, and that uncle Dandy would help him learn the ropes from here on out.

He was a little distracted...

...by Momma circling the barn.

I was impressed with him though, because even with her there, he still stood and visited with me and let me scratch his neck and his back and rub my hands down his hips a little.

Or perhaps he was so distracted he didn't even realize what was going on. But I like to think its the first explanation.

Still not too big on being touched on his face, but consider he's not had any official lessons or handling...he's going to be a good horse!

After a little visiting, I turned him loose back into the lot with the others, minus mamma.
And went back out to see if Dawn could be soothed a bit.

Turns out, as upset as she was, she too could not turn down a cookie!

So I guess I'm not an evil bad aweful human after all. I'm glad to know that!

When I left to go back to the  house, it was a cozy scene of comraderie...

We'll just call it a compromise between Dawn and me. Sky still gets weaned this way, but she gets to stay with her herd and baby...sort of. I guess it still accomplishes my main purpose though its not exactly what I had in mind. But perhaps she knows better than me. I'm much more comfortable with her here, standing across a gate from Sky, than out there a half mile from the house, running the fenceline.
Whether she likes it or not, though, she's still going to have to say goodbye to baby, one way or another.


Farmgirl_dk: said...

Wow - great story. Loved that shot of when Sky is distracted by his mama running around the barn and, sure enough, there she goes. Funny! Both Dawn and Sky are exceptionally beautiful. wow.
Looks like you got some lovely sun, despite the snow and ice on the ground. The scenery in your pictures make me feel very peaceful. What a gorgeous place.

Jennifer said...

What a Beautiful Horse! I can't wait to meet Sky this summer!

Dreaming said...

I can't believe she jumped the gate and ran back home! That mother-son connection is mighty strong. It always makes me sad to witness weaning, even though I know it has to happen.

SunnySD said...

Too funny - glad she made it over the gate okay!

We weaned successfully across a fence for a number of years. But the first year things didn't go so well, until we figured out that one of the mares would let any of the babies nurse, and would stand at the fence for them to do so. Finally ended up putting sheep panels up against the sucker rod where the lots adjoined so that little noses wouldn't fit through. After that things went much better.

Shirley said...

Even though it wasn't what you planned, it looks like things worked out pretty good. Sometimes there is less stress if they can see each other. Dawn will be pretty uncomfortable as her udder fills up, but in a couple of days she'll be fine. Sky seems friendly, hope your next trip there you get to spend more time with him.

small farm girl said...

Are you sure your not telling a story of my life? Sounds like what would happen here with OUR horses and cows. hehehehe. Great post!