Last week I set up a challenge for the next band of wild horses that were brought in. I told Anthony and Bob that if they would leave them alone and not herd them, brand them, castrate them, etc., I would have them ready to be freeze branded like a domestic horse on a lead rope in 15 days. Bob just totally doesn’t think its possible and Anthony is merely dubious. They don’t understand the power of “Yes!”.
The challenge on Day One is to get them eating out of my hand. We started our work with breakfast. So far the stallion has taken hay from me twice and the black colt once. They will all eat hay from near my feet. This is quite an accomplishment for a band caught less than 48 hours ago. I had help from the Model Mustang brigade. I tied some halter broke horses to the fence around the new herd’s pen and just went around and fed the role models. I let hay fall through the fence and I offered it over the backs of the models. Mustangs are smart. If I was a horse predator as they had suspected initially, I would eat the mustangs on the fence, not feed them. Hmmmm… they were eating at our feet in no time. Barb, who wants to adopt the black colt, was helping me. We made it a point to chat and focus on the Models not the wild ones. This method really broke down the barriers to them accepting humans quicker than normal.
I wrote that at midday, now it’s late at night and I have just come in from the last feeding of the day. At lunch, they would eat from just across the fence from me and now they readily take food from out of my hand except for the one I call Grandma. The others don’t let her join them at the feeding frenzy and she is pretty shy anyway. I am not sure what to do about her as she is not getting much food. Might have to figure out how to get her in a separate pen tomorrow. As if the Forest Service would provide me panels to make a separate pen.
The USFS is not totally on top of their mustang program. Moldy hay, no personnel to take care of them specifically, a lack of pens. Many of the horses are sick with a respiratory infection (probably caused by the hay) but there is no one trying to medicate them – you have to feed them the drug with their grain, but they won’t eat grain. The recently cut geldings need some exercise, but Anthony just makes them run fast around the roundpen for a few minutes and destroys any trust we had created in them. I gave back the night feeding chores to Anthony yesterday, but he must have forgotten it’s his job tonight… don’t worry I fed them all. The USFS is supposed to get some contracts awarded for the facility, some new hay, and a stall cleaner/feeder, but the contracting officer is ignoring the situation. I requested some training pens and Anthony told me that the contract for gentling doesn’t mandate provision of pens. Hmmmm…. odd, where are we supposed to train?