Palaver from Persimmon Crossingwith Warren Faulk
From sometime in the distant past I remember a story that began "Are you sure you can afford those 10 free chickens?" The setting is a feed store where biddies are being given away free. All you have to do is buy a 50 pound bag of feed which you will need anyway to feed the birds. What goes unstated is that the chicks are all roosters from egg laying breeds. No eggs and little meat. No value to the hatchery. You, on the other hand, can purchase feed for them for years and listen to them crow.
We are now several paragraphs into the equine version of the above story. We were given two beautiful pinto/paint ponies. How could we possibly go wrong ...
To begin with, these two mares were in a fairly large enclosure and didn't want to be caught. They are a mother daughter pair, but they hate each other to the point of fighting over food and sometimes just to be fighting. Just the electricity, or bad will, passing between them raises goose bumps on my skin. But family is family and both contest, violently, anything you try to do to either of them separately.
After much sweat and a few bruises I caught them and had to walk them home individually. No way they were going in a trailer while they had breath to resist. No way they were going to "follow" my lead either. Instead each had to be fooled into thinking she was in charge on the mile walk home. Round and round.
Once home they were placed in a pen with arrangements to trap them for handling and training without all the rodeo stuff. Betsy, the 12 year old mare, smaller than her daughter, seemed the most screwed up of the two, so I began the next morning to try to settle her down. I took her out on the town with a long, strong lead rope, letting her see people and cars at a distance. Kept her out for an hour or so. After awhile she stopped jerking me around and began to calm down. I put her back in her corral and released her. So far so good. That afternoon I decided to see if we had made any real progress. I caught her and lead her out with no difficulty. She stood still while I turned to latch the gate. Needing two hands, I put my foot on her lead rope. That was the break she was waiting for. She stripped that 50 feet of rope out from under, faster than a whale can take out a harpoon line. She didn't look back until she was a half mile deep into a neighboring farm.
It had been a long time since I had walked five hours in the Georgia sun, trying to wear down a horse and this was my last time I can assure you. Late in the day I caught up the second pony and tried to use her as a lure. I tied her to a fence in the field where her mother and I were having this test of wills. Mother went right to daughter. Daughter got so excited that she broke a snap. A snap that would easily hold 500 pounds of dead weight. Now they both were loose. ... and dangerous as they were in position to cross and recross a busy highway at will. If you think hitting a deer (common in our neighborhood) is bad, try a 500 pound horse. My homeowner's insurance doesn't cover such things either.
I finally got the message and called in some professional help. Since pony number one was still trailing a long rope it was decided to follow her with a pickup truck and try to stop on the rope. This worked the first try. No big deal until we got out of the truck and then she went into orbit ... and her lead snap broke. Two in one afternoon after a lifetime of never having broken a single snap.
We called in the reserves. Two ropers on horseback then spent four more hours trying to catch her. At ten that night we were rinsing the sweat off these very tired mounts. Pony still had her tail up and was running free, none the worse for wear. The only bright spot in all of this was that the younger pony came up to be caught with no difficulty. Back in her corral, she served as an anchor to keep her mother hanging around in the neighborhood. I tracked mom down on foot, everyday for three days, just to keep tabs on her. Finally a neighbor, working patiently with a four wheeler, crowded her into a three acre field and from there into a barn where he got a rope on her. This"free" pony will never live closer than 20 miles from me henceforth. I haven't got the bill yet.
The daughter, Baby, a mare coming eight years old, settled right down. I decided to breed her to a jack donkey, hoping to produce a pinto mule. I began walking her to a neighbor's jack every couple days, hoping to catch her in season for breeding. The fifth trip she was in a roaring heat and very agreeable but the jack wouldn't have anything to do with her. It happens. For the record, this took 12 hours of leading with 25 miles traversed.
In between times I found a beautiful pinto jack offered at stud by artificial insemination in Washington state. Couple e-mails and a brochure established that I am not in that league. Too expensive, complicated and iffy.
Yesterday was spent prospecting for a stud HORSE to breed her to. We first saw a curly baskhir stud, investigated two other sightings that turned out to be mares and then found a pretty pinto stallion that is in reach and affordable ... whatever that turns out to mean.
-- Warren Faulk
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