Archive for August, 2010

Welcome Ruby and Bear … and Kazumi, 8-Ball, Lipton, and Peep-Peeps!

You’ve heard about people who hoard animals. It’s a terrible syndrome. Cats living in cardboard boxes, houses that smell so bad you can’t go in them, hoarders who think they are the only people in the world who can do right by their 67 dogs. Ugh.

Hopefully people won’t start thinking of us that way, but we have just added a few newbies to our animal family out here in the desert of Northern New Mexico. Warning: If you don’t enjoy looking at pictures of animals, stop reading here.


First came Bear in early July, a year-old female Great Pyrenees from the animal shelter. Now I already had five dogs, right? So why add a sixth? Because my two

Sabrina, Our Social Director

beloved old girls, Sabrina and Rose, are way up there in years, each with serious health problems, so they are under careful house and yard supervision and, sadly, probably won’t be with us too many more years.

Rose, Queen of My Heart

Tucker on the left, Frida on the right, and Yours Truly, hovering adoringly!

Two others are quite small, Frida less than 5 lbs., Tucker only 18. Granted they are fierce, but can do little to keep the coyote packs off our property and out of the horse corrals — in fact they would just be a snack for those guys.

And then there’s Charlie, possibly the ‘World’s Greatest Dog of All Time’. Charlie is large, 60 lbs. or so, but is so utterly sweet that a good protection dog he is not. He does chase coyotes away, but only when he feels like it and has the energy.

Charlie, 'World's Greatest Dog of All Time'

Enter Bear, the Great Pyrenees muppet.

Charlie and Bear at their 'Meet and Greet" day at the shelter.

She’s a grinnin’ fool, and loves people, but no one is going to get on this property or in my house without her fierce warning. To say she is vigilant is putting it mildly when describing Bear’s protective instincts. She towers over Charlie and, true to her breed, feels it is her duty to check on and protect her entire “flock” regularly. I’ve had her only six weeks, but she goes out with me at horse feeding or gardening times and makes a huge circuit, doing the rounds, checking her property, marking every so often here, there, and yonder. When she is satisfied she comes bounding back with a big self-satisfied smile on her doofy face.

I have not seen one coyote anywhere near here since Bear’s arrival.

Next came Ruby, two weeks ago during a tumultuous and muddy monsoon evening. Ruby is a Quarter Horse mare.

Ruby and yup, Yours Truly again.

Now why in the world would I want to add another horse when I’ve just gotten down to two, Bella and Copper,

Copper, in my front yard. Obviously, he rules the roost!

so our horse care regimen has become easy as pie? Because Copper, our old man who is 34, is showing his frailty more and more, and old horses can go down very suddenly. Horses being the herd animals they are, are very dependent on their equine companions, and Bella just lost her favorite one last November and grieved hard for weeks. So I knew if something happened to Copper, and Bella didn’t have another friend, she would really, really have a hard go of it. And besides, having another good riding horse would be ideal for us, which was what we got in Ruby. She is as gentle as they come and anyone can ride her, she’s the  same age as Bella, and they bonded instantly and are very best friends.

Ruby and Bella, bonding on their first day together.

So all’s well that ends well. But whoops, we’re not quite finished. So as not to leave anybody out, here are the rest of our animal crew.

Lily, the only cat in my six-dog household. She takes care of them all!

Lipton, Kazumi, and 8-Ball, the three Ragdoll cats rescued by my daughter and son-in-law just after Ruby's arrival -- happily ensconced in our casita, their new home, on James' and Hannah's bed.

A sampling of our chicken population here at Sol y Cielo.

I don’t think I’ve left anyone out. And in case you can’t tell, we are one HUGE family of happy campers on this big zoo-like compound.

And no one is living in a cardboard box!



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A Metal Horse Gets a New Job … and a New Lease On Life!

Lopeh the day I brought her home, November 1, 2009. She was so mistrusting I had to keep a light 'catch string' around her neck for weeks in order to get a hold of her.

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may remember a bit about the little Quarter Horse mare I rescued back last November. We called her Lopeh. She came out of years of running pretty wild in a breeding herd, and she was only 8 years old. She had had at least 3 babies and supposedly had been ridden somewhere in her distant past. She was the only horse in her herd nobody wanted, and if I hadn’t taken her she probably would have ended up at the slaughter house in Mexico. You can read more about Lopeh HERE and HERE.

Lopeh had a nice soft eye, and she always seemed to want attention, but for at least the first few weeks she just couldn’t let herself relax or trust enough to really fit in and often turned her butt to us, flattened her ears,  and let us know she didn’t want to have anything to do with us. She was pissy with the other horses, kicked my mare Bella who is twice her size hard in the stifle once, and was horribly bossy and intimidating to our 34-year-old gelding, Copper.

I was eager to get some insight into Lopeh’s personality so applied Dr. Madalyn Ward’s Horse Harmony typing system — a test by which one can pretty much nail their horse’s temperament and therefore his dietary and training needs, plus much, much more. But I didn’t really know Lopeh well enough to take the test. The only thing I knew was that she would stand on her head for food, a typical Earth Horse trait, so I thought she was an Earth type. (In hindsight, I figure Lopeh’s fixation on food was probably because she had had to fight for her share in the herd, plus from being depleted from cranking out one baby after another.)

So I contacted Madalyn. From all I told her, Madalyn kept saying she thought Lopeh was a Metal. Metals are very tough horses who love to have a job and a routine. They like to know what to expect. They are not the fastest learners so need patient repetition during training, but once they get it they will perform consistently and well. They aren’t cuddlebugs so don’t crave affection or attention like some other types. Because of all these traits, you find a lot of Metals among good ranch horses.

Sure enough, Lopeh was of the best old King Ranch cow horse stock you can get — bred and built for working on the ranch. You can’t get a finer horse, but they are of a certain type and are definitley tough.

To make a long story kind of short: after six months with me, Lopeh had

Lopeh and me in January. With a slow, gentle approach, she loved learning and working.

softened tremendously.  She became much easier to catch and handle and was at her best any time I really worked with her. But I didn’t have much time for that and certainly not in the way she needed.  Plus she had shown signs that she might buck under saddle, and I’m too old to go flying!

In May I took Lopeh to a trainer for two weeks. Someone I trusted to get her attention and really test her out . . .  because I had decided to go ahead and sell her. I had finally figured out that she was not cut out to be the low-key pleasure horse I needed for myself and my friends, many of whom are horse novices. I still wasn’t sure what personality type she was, but she sure wasn’t a mellow, laid-back Earth horse.

She did well at the trainer’s and I lucked out, I thought, and sold her to an experienced young horse-woman who had wanted her for months. It sounded like a good fit but turned out to be a disaster. Lopeh basically got NO attention (OR decent nutrition) there due to difficulties the family was having, so she took out her frustrations and unhappiness by beating up the other two horses on the property.

When I was informed she wasn’t working out in her new home, I momentarily panicked. But then I remembered that Carlos LoPopolo had wanted her a while back for his non-profit New Mexico Wild Horse Project. Unfortunately, I had just sold Lopeh when I found that out, but I contacted him again and he was still in need of an additional work horse to help manage the Mustangs he oversees on several preserves, ride the fences, and do whatever’s needed via horseback.

The transfer was made, and the very first day Lopeh was ponied out to get the lay of the land and was then ridden bareback every day for the first few days. She never even offered to buck. Carlos was so thrilled with her temperament, her sturdy and cowey conformation, and her progress that he chose her for his personal horse, and within a week they were already at work together.

Carlos and Lopeh out on the range. After just one week, I'd say this looks like one solid Metal horse happy to be doing her job with someone who finally understands her.

Apparently Lopeh is now as happy as can be, has a daily job she was custom-built for,  is no longer bored, and no longer has to take out her emotional frustrations via irritability and general pissiness. Her story is an example of the success that can be achieved when a horse’s personality is perfectly matched with his or her home and job.

I just KNEW Lopeh had it in her and never gave up on her, even though the ranch hands had warned me as I was leading her to the trailer last November: “You better watch that one. You better do some goooood ground work with her before you try anything.”

I wanted to say, Oh go fly a kite!!!! I knew we could make a good horse out of Lopeh. It was just a matter of figuring out who she was and what she needed.


Thanks to Carlos and his wrangler Donna for providing the perfect home for this throwaway horse. Carlos manages the largest herd of wild Spanish Mustangs in the United States, all DNA-proven to be direct descendants of the original Spanish stock. It is Carlos’ mission not to let this line die out, as it represents one of the finest traditions and bloodlines in horse history.  Check out his project at Wild Horses of the West.

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