Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fun In The Sun

Yesterday, it rained off and on all day. Arena turnout time for Argus happened in fits and starts. Ten minutes here and there. He loves to go out. When I approach him with the halter & lead, his eyes light up and he walks toward me, eagerly placing his nose in the halter.

I find myself running out to the barn to squeeze in a 3-minute handwalk, or a quick loop around the barn. I can't wait for spring, when the pasture will be dry enough for Argus to safely have his first real taste of being a horse. He will be ready then.

Argus can only be turned out when I am at home and can watch him closely. He, like so many horses who have lived in total confinement, hasn't quite figured out how to be in a large space without getting stressed. When Argus is upset, he runs the fence line frantically, with occasional breaks for wild-eyed weaving, both of which are hard on him, hard on my arena, and only reinforce behaviors we are trying to minimize.

So I usually turn him out with a buddy, and thankfully, we have a bunch of good-natured geldings who all seem to know that Argus is learning. Yesterday, Argus enjoyed a pleasant 45 minutes out with Buster, a 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding and one of our boarders.

Here Argus is proudly showing off his "muscles." He is especially proud of his forearm and gaskin areas (forearm is above the knee, gaskin is above the hock, which is like the hind knee).

You can see the sores I have been battling on the front of his fetlocks (the big knobby joint above the hoof). They are called "bed sores" and Argus has some very old, established ones from his life in a hard pen. They have gotten worse since he arrived, presumably because he collapses at times due to lack of REM sleep, and still rarely uses the soft stall to lay down. He wears upside-down bell boots most of the time to protect this area. Yesterday, I attempted to hose his legs for the very first time. He stood quietly while I took a cold hose to him. It was amazing. I doubt he has ever been bathed before. He is very trusting.

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Compare with this photo of Argus on the day he was liberated, December 8th, 2007. I wish I had taken more photos of him when he arrived. Everyone who saw him comments on how "stick like" his legs were.

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Back to present day. After a good roll (undoing his hour-long grooming session courtesy of Hannah, who comes here every Tuesday to brush him. Argus LOVES it when Hannah arrives), Argus stands thoughtfully.

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Walking around, warming up. That's a marking on the left side of his neck. I have never seen a gray horse with such a large dark marking. (And yes, that's a safety halter he's wearing!)

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Argus is a beautiful mover. He has a wonderful trot with tons of suspension.

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Argus, with his odd, over-developed ability to look at things in the distance, stops often to stare at things which catch his eye.

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He's worked hard to be able to canter. Here he has all four feet off the ground. He is flying!

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Playing "chase me!' with Buster, who is only too happy to comply.

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Finally warmed up, Argus runs across the arena. His posture speaks volumes about how racked his body is. He can't really lift and bend his back, or get his hind end up under him,
but he's making progress.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ground Zero

"Perhaps it's best I don't see it."
"It's only a 20 minute drive, but I am really busy today."
"If I go, maybe I will end up smelling like it, and that will upset Argus."
"Why would I subject myself to that? What would it accomplish?"

These are the excuses that swirled around in my head each time I contemplated making the short drive to Hell: the place where Argus spent his life in prison.

The address is written on a beat-up pad that sits in my car. I look at it every day. "Heck, you don't even need the address," someone told me, "you will know when you drive by which place it is."


It's true, when I drive by, I cannot help but gasp and say "Oh, my God." I am stunned into silence. The mare motel where Argus lived is in plain view. It sits only 50 feet from the road, and about 20 feet from a private driveway. I am not only able to get a close look, I am able to see everything.

It's about 4pm when I arrive, and feeding time has just taken place. The four horses left on the property are each in a 12 x 16 covered paddock. Loaves of bread are scattered everywhere. A bay horse contentedly munches from a pile of iceburg lettuce.

There is a stack of hay, and it's neatly tarped. Sealed, almost.

I can see two bay horses and a gray. I am not sure the color of the fourth horse. They all have long, badly matted manes. One looks very thin, the others are in decent weight. They are all matted and filthy, just like Argus was.

There's fresh shavings in the pens, which surprises me. She knows people are watching now.

It's a beautiful neighborhood dotted with farmhouses and quaint million-dollar horse setups. People obviously care about their horses here. Clean white board fencing, swaying pine trees, emerald green pastures dotted with fuzzy sheep and cozy blanketed quarter horses. It's a happy place to be.

All except Hell. Hell is a filthy place with trash banked against the house's walls. The house is an old farmhouse, and you can tell that once upon a time, it was pretty, and someone loved it. Now, it's rotting at every corner. You try to imagine what the inside must look like, but you can't.

There are rusty pipe panels stacked haphazardly, or zig-zagging in crazy lines around the perimeter of the property. The wooden roof supports of the mare motel are so badly dry rotted, they look like they will collapse in a good strong wind. Metal t-posts stick out of the ground, like dangerous swords poised to sink into a horse's chest. I can't imagine Argus being safely turned out here.

There is pasture, a couple of acres of it. But it is empty.

I hear rustling in the bushes. Nearby, a large black dog slinks up the driveway, heading west, a huge loaf of french bread in his mouth.

Such misery. And all within view of the thousands of cars that travel this country road, every day. How did it go on for so long? How were we so complacent?

I sit in my car for a long time, glaring at the house, imagining that she is watching me through a window. I am not afraid. I am making plans.

I glance around the neighborhood and see what Argus looked at all those years. He had a nice view. The property sits on the slope of a little valley, and to the east, and north, and south are many things to see. I can understand why his ability to stand and study things in the distance is so keenly developed, because he had many things to observe. It's what kept him from losing his mind.

There is something familiar about the neighborhood; it takes me a moment to figure out what. I've been here before, several years ago. Ironically, just a few doors down, there is a house that was the center of an Extreme Home Makeover project for television. The neighborhood was filled with workers, trucks, television trailers, equipment and people. It was busy and exciting. It must have been the highlight of Argus' life, to watch the steady stream of people who filed by his paddock on foot.

The thought of it makes me weep.

Everyone wants to know what is happening with Argus' half sister. She, and the other three horses are still in the hands of their owner. Good people are working hard to get them out of there.

They will not be forgotten.

We are watching you, crazy lady. Your time has come.

Psychiatric Times -- Animal Hoarding

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where To Send Donations

This morning, a number of emails came in from people who are inspired by Argus' story and would like to help with a donation. For those who asked, donations may be sent to CHANGE, the program started by Dr. Grant Miller (the kind vet who helped get Argus out of hell).

Please specify that your donation be used toward "Argus." Every little bit helps!

Their 501(c)3 status is pending, so as soon as a federal tax ID number is granted, it will be sent to you for deduction purposes.

CHANGE Program
1120 Industrial Avenue, Suite 13-14
Petaluma, CA 94952

The website is

Feel free to email me directly with questions, or if you might be interested in being Argus' lifetime home. He is located in Santa Rosa, CA, and needs to be placed within easy driving distance. My email is, or you may phone me at 707-544-7584.


This is a short update, as duty calls and I must get the children off to school.

It's been raining cats and dogs around here, so Argus has spent a lot of time in the barn. His right front knee is slightly arthritic, and gets stiff, so gentle hand walks are in order. This can be difficult, as he is afraid sometimes of my rain gear, so I end up walking him, in the rain, while I am wearing my funny old puffy down coat. He is wet, I am wet. We laugh at each other.

On Saturday, Argus and his friend Ridge took advantage of a break in the rain to have some turnout in the arena. It is a good things I booted them up fully! They started out calm and easy, but started cantering a bit too much ---- a surprise since this has NEVER happened like this before!! We had a hard time catching them once they got going, and for a moment, I was afraid one or both would go sailing right over the 5 foot arena fence. Imagine, two leggy grey Thoroughbreds careening at break-neck speed around a large arena, their frantic "mom" yelling "WHOA! WHOA!" and yelling for the kids to bring a bucket of grain.

We got them calmed down, finally. Sweaty, shaking, happy and tired. After a long cool-down walk, I tucked Argus in bed. He looked at me for a long moment before he dug into his hay. I could tell he was content.

The vet comes out next week. We will inject Argus' bum knee, hoping to make him more comfortable. When Argus is sedated, the vet will adjust his poll (very painful misalignment) and I will give Argus a trace clip.

Argus next lesson: lungeing. It's time for some controlled exercise. This boy is getting more fit!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Images From HELL

People often ask me about the conditions in which Argus was being kept. Here are photos of Argus as well as Bobby, the other Thoroughbred gelding involved in this case.

Both horses were kept for nearly 16 years in the mare motel pens you see. They belonged to a hoarder. The property is in deplorable condition. Their pens were never cleaned, their water tubs were never cleaned. Look at the photo of Bobby, and you can see pieces of bread on the ground. The green feed cart in the background is filled with loaves of bread. These horses existed on bread and rotting produce for most of their lives.

Those who have been to the property say that the one thing photos cannot capture is the sickening smell. Rats were crawling all over the horses' feed. Outside the pens, 32 bales of hay stands neatly stacked and tarped --- and unused.

Argus and Bobby were stabled across from each other, so that they could see each other, but could never touch.

"Bobby" --- Teenage Thoroughbred gelding is currently in foster care in Sonoma County, CA. Bobby is sweet and gentle, and was on the track in his youth. He is available for adoption through the Sonoma CHANGE Program.

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Of course, here is our Argus. This is where he spent his entire life. The mud you see caked on him was like cement, and took many hours of gentle currying, combined with vaseline and warm water, to remove. His mane was over 30 inches long and horribly matted. Argus' tail was removed at some point by the owner due to his legs being so badly tangled in the matted tail.

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For more information on adopting either Bobby or Argus, contact them at or contact me regarding Argus at

CHANGE relies on donations in order to provide care to the horses in its program. Donations to the CHANGE program can be sent to:

CHANGE Program
1120 Industrial Avenue, Suite 13-14
Petaluma, CA 94952
(As soon as the IRS grants a tax ID number, it will be sent to you for deduction purposes)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Follow You, Follow Me

"Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

--Christopher Robin to Pooh

Someone posted this in the comments section. I thought it was perfect for Argus.

Argus is getting stronger, and can now trot and canter easily in his arena turnout. I ride his friend, Ridge, in the arena while Argus is turned out. Argus follows us around. This helps prepare Argus for a time when I will pony him (lead him) off of Ridge. Argus seems to enjoy following Ridge and I, and he gets a mini workout.

Yesterday, I saw just a tiny bit developing in his back! Wow! These photos are a bit blurry. It was getting dark when my daughter took them:

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Here is young Hannah. She is our first Argus Grooming Volunteer. She came out yesterday to spend an hour brushing Argus....who was, well, in HEAVEN. Argus loves being groomed more than just about any other horse I've known. Hannah is only 12 years old but has a lot of horse experience. I felt completely comfortable letting her handle and groom Argus (that's how sweet he is):

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Yesterday, the local Press Democrat ran a story about horse neglect in this county. I was interviewed about Argus for the article. Here are links to both articles that ran:

A tough time for horses | Santa Rosa Press Democrat // News for California's North Bay and Redwood Empire

Local vet builds network to help horses survive | Santa Rosa Press Democrat // News for California's North Bay and Redwood Empire

An interesting phone call was the result. It was from a family member of Argus' former owner, who confirmed that Argus has spent his entire life in a pen, that everything really was as bad as we thought. Possibly worse. This person halterbroke Argus when he was 6 years old, and handled him, as he was nearly wild at that point. That is the "old" training I keep coming across. Thank goodness, because Argus remembered enough that I was able to re-halter train him, and he now picks up his feet easily. He really has lived in hell his entire life.

I learned that Argus' mother was a big, tank-like TB mare, very kind. Argus has a living half sister, too. She is still living in hell, with the original owner.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Letters To Argus & Visits With Strangers

Every day, I receive a phone call or e-mail regarding Argus.

(Several people have mentioned to me that they are unable
to post comments on
Argus' blog because they cannot make
a Google identity. When you go to post
a comment, click on
the "Anonymous" button, and you can post your comment


Here is a letter from a woman in California, received today:

"....I have been following with
interest and gratitude the story of your Argus....

This story fills me with anguish, joy and hope, as I'm
sure it does you. Why in the world people deal with
creatures as Argus was dealt with I cannot fathom, but
thank goodness that you and your family were there to
give Argus a real home, and a chance to be a horse. He
certainly is a brave and resilient fellow, isn't he?
And how wonderful of you all, including your horses,
to make him part of the family.

I think you were very wise and kind to preserve his
original name. Since he had no real associations with
it before coming to you, it seems good to let him keep
it. It is, after all, HIS, one of the only things left
to him after his imprisonment. I looked it up in the
dictionary of names, and it is Greek in origin,
meaning "watchful or observant." Given his tendency to
keep an eye on things, it seems appropriate, don't you
think? I am sure that you are correct in saying that
his habits of gazing were born of a need to occupy his
mind and preserve his sanity, but still, it fits.

I appreciate more than I can say what you are doing,
and your generosity in sharing it with us. Have a
wonderful Saturday, and please give Argus a hug from
me and my family, and tell your family how much we
admire what they - and you, of course! - are doing.

J.L, California


Argus is meeting lots of new people, and this is good.

I want him to get to know the world,
and all of the good people in it. The other day, Argus
met a local horsewoman, Cynthia, who has followed
his blog. He greeted her with warmth and eagerness,
and allowed her to pet him. He was NOT shaking,
NOT nervous, NOT afraid.

I was so proud of him. He is such a remarkable horse.

Later that day, Argus met our farrier. Argus has only
had his feettrimmed a handful of times in his life, the
most recent being in December, under heavy sedation.
I have been working with Argus, and he can now pick
up all four feet nicely,but having a farrier handle and
trim him will likely produce lots of nervousness. So the
other day, our farrier, Mare (yes, Mare) was here shoeing
horses. I asked her to go in and visit with Argus, feed him
some cookies, and just allow him to smell her. Argus was
great! Friendly and curios. Mare petted him gently and
gave him cookies. Then he allowed her to pick up each of
his front feet, and pick them!! He was relaxed
and happy. This is a great start for a horse who was
terrified of people not that long ago.

Many people write and ask if I will be "keeping" Argus.
In truth, I would love to, but I have 8 horses here, mostly
old rescues with special needs, to support----and I want to
open my barn again to a horse in need. Argus will
remain in foster care here with me until a perfect home
is found. He will be placed locally, so that I can monitor him.
Please let me know if you live within a hour of Santa Rosa
and have time, love, experience and the facility to house
Argus in comfort for the rest of his life!! He will be
available for adoption this Spring. He is a nice horse,
easy to manage, and gets along well
with other horses.

My email is

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Argus Wakes Up

You know your life is boring when a horse starts getting more e-mail than you.

Argus, it seems, is starting to enjoy a bit of local ---- and not so local ---- fame.

Yesterday, a reporter from the local paper called. He wants to know about Argus. Why would someone lock up a horse like that? For non-horse-people, what would be the equivalent of that?

I had to think fast on my feet, no small feat for a housewife who mostly occupies her mind with important topics like "When should I drive to the feed store for more straw?" and "Did I get ALL the beds made this morning?" and "Are we all out of milk" and "How close is it to 2:15? I have to leave to pick up the kids."

Living in a 12 x 16 pen for nearly 16 years. What's the equivalent of that?

So I blurt out something to satisfy the reporter. "It's like taking a toddler and locking him in a closet until high school."

Oh my God, will CPS be knocking at my door later on? "Are you the sicko who thinks about locking toddlers in closets?" they will demand. I will explain. I was making a comparison with this abused horse I am fostering. They will laugh, and we will drink tea and talk about kids and horses.

How did Argus survive the madness of confinement, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year?

Clues lie in some of his odd behavior, like the long staring spells (discussed a few days ago) and his little "weaving dance."

Imagine a kind of desperation so intense that you pass the hours rocking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Did Argus dream of a day when he might leave the pen? Had he forgotten that life even existed outside his prison? Did he accept his situation?

Argus seems to have drifted through many stages while in foster care here at Watermark Farm. He arrived December 8th, 2007. It is now January 17th. He has been here for about 5 weeks.

At first, shock. Total disconnection. Anger, perhaps. We had taken him away from everything he had ever known.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct sensation that Argus was not sure if all of this was really real. Would he wake up? Was he imagining it? Should he enjoy this new life? Had he died? Was he sleeping, dreaming a dream he would eventually wake up from?

I could only touch him and reassure him that yes, it was real. No, you are not dreaming.

Every day, something changes. Over this past week, I believe Argus has transitioned into yet another phase: Acceptance. He has become more grounded, friendlier, more accepting of everything. He moves with confidence, less pain. He shakes his head with annoyance when I am late with the grain. He still flinches at the blanket, yet stands with his eyes half-closed while I buckle it on, obviously enjoying the warmth.

I think he knows now. The food, the pasture, the blanket, the Food Lady who comes three times a day, rain or shine, to feed him and clean his stall and spend long minutes just touching him. The much-anticipated tub of feed (and just about every supplement on the planet) every evening. The joyous turnout sessions in the arena with friends. Playing with the mule, obeying his mentor, Ridge. It's all real. It's not a dream.

"You can believe now," I whisper into his ear, and tuck him in for the night.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tasting Freedom

It's taken nearly a week for Argus to figure out that he can exit his own paddock and enter his "private pasture." Private mud-hole is more like it, but in January at WATERmark Farm, we do our best to deliver.

This morning, he was covered with mud (a sure and blessed sign that he is going out there to lay down). This afternoon, he looked me in the eye and then marched out through the gate, glancing back to make sure I was watching. I clapped and cheered as he paraded on out toward the vineyard. He seems fairly relaxed, and curious, and is eating tidbits of grass and looking like a regular horse!

This photo shows you how we've set up "Argus' Pasture." I cordoned off an area approximately 40 feet by 200 feet using portable electric fencing. It lies directly at the back of Argus' stall/paddock area, so he can enter his little pasture 24 hours a day, then return back to his "safe haven" at any time. He is most sensible in the mud and deep footing (he saves his bucks and gallops for his turnout time in the all-weather arena):

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A happy eye:

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A happily muddy boy:

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Friday, January 11, 2008


Argus spends a great deal of his time looking at things in the distance. When he first arrived, I assumed it was because he was looking at all the things he'd never seen. He stands very still, head up high, and kind of stares at something far away. For a long, long time.

The other day, it hit me: This is how Argus passed the hours in prison. It's how he survived, kept from going mad. He just watched the world around him coming and going, changing with the seasons. It was all he had.

It's funny that it took a month of living with Argus to come to this realization. My other horses do not stand, high-headed, and stare for long periods at far-away hills or fields. They do this on occasion, when something in the distance captures their attention. Then they return to what is close at hand.

Argus, on the other hand, probably spends hours every day just staring.
Yesterday, Argus was turned out in the arena. Now that he doesn't wear a halter all the time, we can barely tell Argus and Ridge apart. They look more and more like twins.

My daughter, Demi, appeared at the barn entrance with a mellow white horse. "Oh, thanks for bringing Ridge in, sweetie, I'll go get Argus now," I said.

Demi laughed. "Mom, this IS Argus!" she said proudly. My very capable 12-year-old daughter had easily haltered Argus and brought him in from turnout.

She put him away and gave him some cookies and a pat. "You know, mom," she said, "Argus is getting to be just like a normal horse now."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shots, REM Sleep, and His Very Own Mini Pasture

Argus saw Dr. Miller, last week. After a month of good feed and TLC, it seemed time for Argus to have his first vaccination. Perhaps the first he's ever had. Argus is not a big fan of shots, nor, frankly, of Dr. Miller (Argus thinks Dr. Miller has needles in his fingers). Dr. Miller spent some time visiting with Argus, who eventually stood, brave and still, for his shots.

Argus just keeps blooming; he is turning into such a nice, gentle horse. Every day something new. When he arrived four weeks ago, I could hardly touch him. A few days ago, I removed the safety halter that he's worn 24/7. I had been working on haltering Argus over the safety halter (as if it were not there). He flipped his head and snorted nervously at first. As the days passed, haltering him became just another thing we do. The other night, I looked at Argus, all tucked in for the night, and realized it was time to remove the halter. He no longer needed to wear it all the time.

So now I walk in with halter and lead in my hands, and Argus doesn't move away from me. Instead, he looks at me with happy, eager eyes, and moves toward me. I hold out the halter, and he puts his nose in it. He wants me to touch and pet him. He likes it!

Amazing how far he's come in a month.

I can lead him all over the farm. I have even caught myself leading him casually, one handed, as one might do with an seasoned old horse. Yes, he still spooks, and yes, he still shakes. But he literally follows my lead, and trusts me to take him to safe places.

Just like a regular horse.

One of the things Dr. Miller and I discussed at our recent appointment is the troubling fact that Argus never sleeps. I hadn't quite realized this until just last week. I had noticed that he was developing "bed sores"on the front of his fetlocks, big ugly sores from laying down in the hard paddock. I figured he was sleeping outside, afraid to lay down in the stall. I put upside-down bell boots on him to protect his fetlocks.

Then one day, when I was grooming him, it hit me: he is never dirty in the morning. He is NOT laying down. How is he getting these sores, then?

I know that Argus is capable of getting down and up quite easily. I've seen him rolls dozens of times in the arena.

Then one day, last week, I looked out the window, just in time to see a dozing Argus come crashing, momentarily, to his knees. He had literally collapsed from exhaustion.

Dr. Miller says that horses do this when they are extremely sleep-deprived. Horses need something like 30-45 minutes per day of REM sleep ---- deep, rapid-eye-movement sleep which can only be achieved laying down, eyes closed. They can go without REM sleep for a number of days ---- but a month? Not without problems.

So the fetlock sores were an indication of a serious problem: Argus, for many reasons, was so hypervigilant that he could not go to sleep. I began to worry.

Sunday night, we filled Argus' stall with more straw than we've ever seen stuffed into a 12x12 box stall. He stood outside, in the paddock, watching me and my two daughters spread two huge bales of straw, banking it so high against the walls that the stall looked like a cradle.

Then, with Argus still watching, we all three lay down in it. "We want you to do this tonight, Argus!" we all told him. "You are very tired; you need to lay down. It's safe to do that in the stall."

We laughed, and went in to dinner.

Monday morning, Demi, my 12-year-old, rushes in from the barn. She had a triumphant look on her face. "Mom," she yells, "It's Argus! He has STRAW in his tail, and on his blanket!!!"

Sure enough, when I went out to feed, Argus looked rested. A tad proud, perhaps? Had he watched us putting down straw, then laying in it ourselves, and really truly figured out what we were trying to tell him?
Yesterday, I blanketed Argus. Normally, blanketing Argus is a rather exciting affair, with me holding his halter, and Argus lurching forward, and me s-l-o-w-l-y unfolding the blanket over his back. We stop often for praise and pets. He is basically very nice about it all, just afraid. I have learned to blanket him only when I am not in a hurry.

But yesterday, in keeping with this new sense of "groundedness" that Argus is displaying, blanketing was just another horsey chore. I held the lead rope loosely. Patted him, showed him the blanket, rubbed it against his chest like we always do. And slowly laid it over his withers, folded. He stood still. He sighed deeply. He does love his blanket. Buckled it around his chest. No problem. Straightened it across his back, no movement. Pulled the tail flap down over his tail, a little jump forward as the tail rope gooses him a bit. But that was it. I hugged him and told him what a fine boy he was. Buckled the belly straps and took off his halter.

I am amazed, sometimes, how patient and forgiving and sweet and kind and valiant Argus is. I guess that's why he survived for so long.

People ask me this often: "HOW did he survive for nearly 16 years in a paddock, without good feed,worming, foot care?" After all, we work hard to keep our horses healthy.

I think it's just this: Argus is a special old soul. He is different from most horses.


Our stall/paddocks have gates at the end that open into a 3 acre pasture. This makes for easy turnout.

The other day, we erected an electric cross fence and created a 36 x 200 "mini pasture" behind Argus' gate. After a month of handwalking, and turnout in various small paddocks and the arena, it's high time for Argus to have more room.

This is a hard time of year for turnout, and our place is wet and muddy. But I know Argus well enough now to know that he is not the reckless type, and he will not tear around. He seems to know the arena is the place for this.

So today, Argus now has a muddy, wonderful, grassy, exciting pasture of his very own. He can go out in it any time he wants. But he doesn't. He is afraid, and must be coaxed and led out into the mud, for this kind of mud is new to him, and wide open spaces are new to him. But still, I think he likes knowing, as he stands in his paddock, weaving nervously in front of the open gate, that freedom is there. All he has to do is cross the threshold.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It's Called WATERmark Farm For A Reason...

Greetings from wild, wet and wooly Sonoma County. Argus is snugly tucked into his fancy new storm blanket, which was kindly donated by Saddles To Boots tack shop. He comes into his stall to eat, but prefers to stand outside most of the time:

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We called our farm Watermark Farm because, when we purchased it in 2000, we knew we were in a low-lying area prone to flooding. Our barns and arena are build on thick pads of baserock, and they stay high and dry, but, despite our various attempts to fill and grade the pastures, they tend to flood during heavy storms like this one. Here is a view of the corner of our (thankfully) engineered all-weather arena, built in 2006. Despite the fact that it is almost completely surrounded by flood waters, the arena is ready for action (which means that Argus doesn't miss his precious turnout time):

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A view of the North Pasture....errr....North Lake:

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A photo from the other day. Argus and his pal Ridge (left) enjoy time together in the sun:

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Galloping Into The New Year

Things seem to happen overnight with Argus. I'll bet he feels the same way. One day he was sitting in prison, the next he was a guest at a farm.

On New Year's Eve, Argus was turned out into the arena, as usual, with his mentor and fellow grey Thoroughbred, Ridge. They did their usual games of "I'll look scary while you walk away fast" and "Let's stick our heads through the fence and look for grass." All was well.

It was getting late, time to put two sleepy horses to bed. My daughter brought Ridge in first.

Argus did not like that.

Without a sign of panic, rather exuberance, Argus calmly turned away from the arena gate and took off, trotting. I'm OK with that, movement is good for him, and I've learned by now that Argus is sensible and doesn't generally move more than his body can take.

He gained speed, breaking into a canter. I stopped and watched the canter become a very sensible gallop. Again, not worried.

Argus methodically hand galloped TWICE around our large arena. I was speechless!! I have only seen him canter a few strides on occasion, as his knee is arthritic and painful. But this time, he looked good, comfortable, in control. The muscles and ligaments and tendons are starting to remember a life from long ago.

After the second loop, Argus dramatically slid to a stop at the arena gate, spraying me with footing. He stood nervously, weaving wildly. He wanted back in the barn with Ridge.

I congratulated him. His eyes were happy. He was breathing like a chain smoker. He held out his head for me to snap the lead rope onto his halter, and calmly walked with me from the arena back to the barn.