Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ivan's Story

I wish this was an easier post to write.  I wish I could say I got this great little mustang pony who is well trained and happy.  I wish I could say he has had a good life and has always been well taken care of.  I wish I could say I wasn't angry, SO angry, at the system that has been put in place for these mustangs that are deemed "unadoptable" for one reason or another... But I can't say any of these things.  My heart breaks for my little pony, Ivan.  I wish I could erase every bad thing that had ever happened to him and fill his life with so much good from here on out that the only thing he ever worried about in life was whether or not I just gave the last carrot in my pocket to Marley (yes, I'm pretty sure they are keeping track, little stinkers).  Unfortunately for Ivan, his life has been so much more difficult than it would have been if he had just been left on the range to endure harsh winters and dry summers.  Ivan's scars are deep, and they are all human inflicted. This is Ivan's story, as much as I have learned of it.  The good (yes, thankfully there has been some good), the bad, and the horrific.

Ivan was born in the Nightingale Mountains of Nevada in 2005.  His time as wild horse on the range with his herd was short lived however, as less than 5 months after his birth he was rounded up along with the other members of his band.  He was separated from his mom, placed with the other foals, and left in a long term holding facility until someone would adopt him.  But no one adopted him.  After being offered for adoption several times in two years, he was deemed unadoptable and branded a second time and placed into the sale authority program.  For those of you who don't know, the sale authority horses are sold for $25 and titles are immediately granted to the buyers, making these horses prime targets for kill buyers and all around bad situations.  I realize the need to make room in long term holding, but in my opinion this program stinks.  No one asked me though, so I digress...

At auction Ivan was sold to a "horse sanctuary" called Three Strikes Ranch.  If this sounds familiar to you, it should.  For almost two years Ivan lived along side of at least 211 other horses in filth and crowded conditions, often going without food and water.  The owner of the ranch, Jason Meduna, took donations as a non-profit organization, and clearly didn't pass those donation dollars on to the care of the horses, until a helicopter flying overhead reported the poor conditions of the ranch to the humane society in 2009.  The Humane Society stepped in, in what would be the worst case of horse neglect and abuse in Nevada History, and confiscated all of the living horses.  Unfortunately, help came too late for 74 of the horses who had died from starvation and dehydration.

Video by HSUS

The remaining emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated horses were placed in temporary holding at the Morril County Fair Grounds as rescue organizations from all over the US scrambled to find placement for them. The biggest obstacle, other than their sheer numbers, was that many of these horses, including Ivan, had never even been halter broke.  Transporting and placing them into homes was going to be much more difficult because of this.  Ivan was shuffled around until his salvation came and was sent to the Grace Foundation in Northern California, where he would begin the road to recovery and adoption.

In 2010 things looked up for Ivan as he was adopted by a trainer in Northern California. She trained him for a national 60 day mustang challenge, though not many records can be found of the competition, he placed 3rd. From what I can tell, he had a good foundation and caring home with his trainer, but unfortunately immediately after the challenge he was sold to a school barn outside of Los Angeles. Can you imagine having a life like Ivan's?  How confusing it would be to finally find a home where you were cared for and had gentle handling, only to be sold and ridden by beginners shortly thereafter?  As you can imagine, things for Ivan spiraled out of control.

Without going into too much detail, Ivan started out ok here.  He was confused and deemed a more "challenging" school horse. He steadily deteriorated and started bucking kids off, until a particularly bad accident occurred and he was written off as dangerous.  He was once again abandoned and nearly put on feed lot truck when his savior found him and felt he deserved a chance at a better life.  When Kerin (the woman who I got Ivan from) brought him to the barn where I keep Marley near Ojai, he had been rounded up us a foal, starved and malnourished, trained, sold, flipped over at least once, beaten into a trailer (he is TERRIFIED of trailers, it took her hours to get him to our barn) and was fearful and "unrideable".  When the barn manager who was working with him left, Kerin was desperate for someone to work with him.  Her heart is so so big, but she is a beginner and can be as fearful as Ivan is at times when he isn't at his best.  I was given the opportunity to meet and work with little Ivan (the horse formerly known as Cowboy, by the way) and while I didn't know his entire story at the time, I knew he needed an experienced rider and gentle handling.

We hit it off and all was going really well.  He had the occasional buck, but the biggest thing about him is that he would spook. A LOT.  Everyone said "oh he is a mustang", but no... Marley isn't terrified of life, and he is a Mustang, so I wasn't sure it was simply a learned behavior to get out of work... It seemed so much more like a defense mechanism.  I also saw sides of him that made me worry, he would go from fine to aggressive in an instant when pushed, and there were days where he would have his ears pinned, all the time and looked generally unhappy.  I never knew which Ivan I was going to get on any given day, and I felt like there might be something more to what I had known about him.  These things didn't seem normal, they seemed like defense mechanisms from some deeply rooted issues.

Here is where things got crazy.  I skeptically contacted an animal communicator here in Ojai and she spoke with both Ivan and Marley.  She didn't know they were mustangs, she knew nothing about me or either of them, all she knew was that Ivan had just recently joined our family.  While I am not going to share word for word our conversation, Laura absolutely blew my mind.  Whether you believe it or not is fine, I'm not sure if I even did, but she knew things about Marley that I don't even think anyone at the barn would know.  Things about riding lessons I had been giving Mike, and some other funny, sweet things that Marley requested.  The most interesting thing was that Marley (who was at this point living directly next to Ivan in a stall with a run until they could be turned out together) wanted to only talk about Ivan and had to be coaxed to talk about anything else... He was so worried, that this horse was hurting. He told her that Ivan was afraid to flip and that he was fearful and his body hurt and was therefore dangerous.  He was happy we had gotten him, and he says we saved him (yes we, as in Marley, Mike and I) he just wanted me to be careful and he wanted Ivan to feel good in his body before we did anything else.  (Mind you, I knew very little of Ivan's history before this conversation...) When she spoke with Ivan he opened up about having problems, that he gets tunnel vision and feels scared.  Parts of his body didn't feel right, and he always had chills.  While he knew we were friends, he didn't know how to feel normal.  She kept telling me he was afraid of being on his back and being flipped over.  I had no idea this had ever even happened to him.

In the end, I was in tears.  I immediately got to work trying to find out if what she had told me was true.  And I will be damned if not every last thing she told me that had happened to him, actually did.  I contacted Kerin and his old trainer, the rescues who had been at three strikes ranch, and the BLM.  I immediately stopped riding Ivan and had him seen by the vet for a full physical.  He got a chiropractic adjustment and I can't believe how many audible "POPs" there were!  We are going on walks and spending a lot of time bonding and exploring.  Almost overnight, Marley and Ivan bonded and now frantically call for one another anytime the other is out if sight.  They have moved back out in the paddocks together with absolutely zero aggression or fighting.  I couldn't be more elated about this, I hate keeping them in stalls.  I take them on walks together and Ivan moves as close to Marley as he can, Marley has turned into Ivan's safety blanket.  And honestly, I'm ok with that.  I bought some essential oils to use with Ivan, they certainly can't hurt.  He has so much amazing potential.  He is the cutest little mover, soft, has good conformation, and is very athletic. It breaks my heart and makes me SO MAD that Ivan is how he is because humans have failed him, time and time again.

So this is Ivan's story.  At least the beginning of it.  My hopes are that the rest of the chapters are happy and beautiful for him.  We aren't in a hurry, we don't have any training deadline, and the only thing that matters now for Ivan is that he no longer has to be afraid.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Adventures

Marley is back under saddle, but it took all summer.  The hematoma, while not painful, went back almost to where the girth hit between his two front legs.  Because of this, I didn't want to put a saddle on him for fear of making it worse.  Also it seemed like any time he ran around and played hard it would aggravate the injury and fill with fluid, so much to my dismay, we spent our whole summer walking and if I did ride, it was bareback.  While I had originally planned on having a dressage filled summer and lots of training, the town time with the big guy reminded me just how special he was.  I haven't ever had a horse that could sit on stall rest (especially when he was used to pasture living!) that I could hop on bareback and go for a long walk without any incident whatsoever.  He is such a special boy.

That being said, he is finally better and the hematoma is completely gone! We are doing some light riding, and in some exciting news Mike got his first pair of riding boots! I have started giving him lessons on Marley, and they hope to be able to go out for trail rides soon.  They seem to really enjoy their time together, and when Marley isn't sure what Mike is asking, he just stops and stands there.  It's really cute and I can't wait to see how they progress together!

We recently had a fantastic trail ride with Marley's friend and old paddock mate, Tyson and his mom Val.  It was a hot day, but the trail was shaded and it was nice to get out on the trails with someone else for a change.  Marley no longer lives with Tyson, but any time he sees him he nickers and I think he misses his company.

The biggest news we have is that we unexpectedly were adopted by another mustang.  We have named him Ivan, he is a 13.2 hand solid bay pony who is also from Nevada, but he was rounded up when he was a foal and after failing to be adopted multiple times, was placed in the sale authority program.  He has had multiple homes and has a foundation of training in dressage and jumping.  I will talk more about his history in future posts, but after a lot of reflection and searching for answers to some issues that he has, I have decided to completely start over with him from the ground up.  He has been learning the clicker and seems to really like it, and while I have ridden him quite a bit, I have decided that I am not going to be riding him for at least the next few weeks until he has had a chiropractic adjustment and a blood panel run.  I just want to rule out any pain as being an underlying source of his behavior.  I can't wait to share more about him, he is a really really cool pony with a lot of potential!  Marley and Ivan have been getting to know each other and will hopefully be pasture mates soon.  I hope Marley and I can show Ivan how to relax and trust.  We shall see.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Waiting Game

I wanted to post a quick update on Marley, as we are still not back in work yet.  The hematoma, while getting better, is basically doing what hematomas do and taking forever to heal.  I'm trying hard to avoid having it drained, as that can lead to a whole new set of issues, including infection.  I am letting Marley loose into the arena for light exercise, but I don't want to make it worse so we have been taking it pretty easy.  Our days are consisting of cold-hosing, grooming, long walks, and some clicker trick training sessions.  We are brushing up on our old tricks, and have some new ones on our to do list, so stay tuned for some of those.  I'll most likely have the vet take a look at him at the end of this week again, just to be sure everything is healing like it should.  Sighhhhhh.... Never a single injury and as soon as I am ready to ride, train, and write, we are all laid up.  Isn't that the way it goes with horses?  Sorry for the very short post, but hopefully I'll have more for you soon!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

Of course I would publish a post telling you all about Marley and how we would once again be talking training... Well I spoke to soon.  I went to the barn on Saturday morning only to find that Marley had a big hematoma on his chest that hung down between his two front legs.  I recently moved Marley from the wild pasture into a pen for the summer since there are longer hours of daylight and I can spend more time at the barn.  Also, he was getting pretty fat on all of that grass, so it was win win for me to have him in.  I suspect that the new gang was figuring out their pecking order because it looks to me like Marley was kicked in the chest. 

Sigh.... I poked and prodded and while there is a little heat in the area, he doesn't seem to be sensitive.  I cold-hosed the area on Saturday and Sunday, and worked him lightly in the round pen or on a lunge line so he would at least move around and not get stiff.  Even though he doesn't seem to be sore, I'm going to give him a few days of light ground work because the swelling is too close to the girth for me to feel comfortable putting a saddle on him.  I don't want to inadvertently make it worse, plus he is a tough cookie and he might be a little sore but just isn't showing it. 
Saturday - Hematoma on chest & between legs
Saturday - Comes almost all the way to the girth area

Being goofy after cold-hosing

Some light work on Saturday and Sunday, just to keep moving.
 On Sunday it looked and felt a little better, the right side of it (looking directly at his chest) has seemed to go down a little bit.  He also really seems to like the cold-hosing, and hopefully it is helping.
Sunday progress

I wish I had more for you! Horses will be horses, hopefully in a few days Marley will be feeling better and we can get some riding in! For now, we will probably take lots of walks, do some pampering, and take lots of pictures. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

We are back!!

Oh my gosh you have no idea how hard I've been trying to sign back into this blogger account.  After Mike and I got married I changed my email address and my poor blog disappeared into oblivion.  It was still available to view, but no email, new or old, would log me in to edit and update it.  I gave up for a while and forgot about it, but lately I have been trying to gain access again.  After calls and emails and countless attempts at logging in with every email address I have ever owned.... We are reunited and it feels so good. 

Hello everyone! How have you been?  Wow do I have a lot of updating to do.  It has been about two years (how is that even possible!?!?) since I updated you on our adventures through life with the little (now much bigger) mustang, Marley.  I guess I should give you all a condensed recap before we go forward and talk training?? Here goes!

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
The last time we spoke we were packing up for Colorado to get MARRIED!!! Wow it doesn't seem like that long ago, but it will be two years on Monday (June 23rd) that Mike and I said I DO!  It was such an incredible week, filled with family and friends, fun games, and gorgeous mountain scenery.  We were married in Durango, Colorado surrounded by so many people who we love.  It really couldn't have been more perfect.  Katherine Payne, who had taken so many gorgeous pictures of Marley was of course our wedding photographer.  We can't thank her enough for her generosity, all of these photos are hers.

After our incredible whirlwind wedding, we had our honeymoon to look forward to.  Instead of setting up a traditional wedding registry, Mike and I registered for our honeymoon.  We were so lucky to be able to spend 3 1/2 weeks in Portugal exploring the entire mainland and even spending a week at the end of our trip on Madeira island.  It was a once in a lifetime trip and it was absolutely incredible.  We met so many amazing people on our adventure, got to see where Mike's family used to live, and had enough cheese and wine to last a century.  We couldn't have dreamed up a better way to kick off married life together.  It was the best trip I've ever been on, hands down.

Eventually though, it was back to real life for us.  We had just spent over a month away from work, our dogs, and Marley.  This was the first time I hadn't seen Marley in more than 3 days... I was worried he was going to think we abandoned him! 

In good old Marley fashion though, I showed up at the barn and he ran to the gate, nickering and probably asking me where I had been.  He forgave me immediately and we went on a nice trail ride.  It was great to be back, but now we had to figure out WHAT we were going to do and WHERE we were going to go.  The job/school/life hunt began.

Eventually, we wound up in Southern California.  Before moving from the Bay Area in October 2012, we lost my sweet heart of a Labrador, Chance.  He was just short of 17 years old, and I still miss him today.  He had been through every major life event with me so far, and I couldn't imagine our life without him in our new home.  There will never be another Chance.
Chance only a couple of days before we had to say goodbye to him
After the heartbreaking loss of our Chance, I threw myself into the move, decorating, and job hunting.  I found an amazing barn for Marley very close to our house where he could live in a HUGE wild pasture.  The horse who once afraid of other horses and seemed to be such a loner ended up being the leader of his small herd. 
Marley after moving in to his new home.  Bath Time!
No matter where Marley is in the pasture, when we call him he comes right in!
Alister visiting Marley and his buddies
Ali feeding Marley carrots.  He loves our little nieces

Taking our Christmas photos

So, long story short, we arrive to today! Marley is doing great, and the blogging of our adventures finally continues.  Recently, we have started training again (not just trail riding and hiking) and are working our way back to where we left off over jumps and in the dressage arena.  Keep checking back to find out what Marley is up to, and I promise, now that I'm FINALLY back into the blog, I wont wait two years to update you.  <3