Friday, February 29, 2008

Non-Dissolving Staples

"I wish they made dissolving staples," said Dr. Grant Miller wistfully this morning, as he gathered his supplies. He is not looking forward to the experience of sedating needle-phobic Argus in order to remove the staples in Arg's head.

Still, Dr. Miller marches valiantly into the paddock, greeting Argus like an old friend. Argus peers at him suspiciously, yet with a warm look of recognition in his eyes.

Poor Dr. Miller. He is like two different people to Argus.

Person number one is "Dr. Miller," who dispenses advice and drugs and carries a pocketful of scary things like needles and forehead staplers. Whereas most horses submit to the routine of IV injection without fuss, Argus hates having his neck speared more than anything on Earth.

Person number two is Argus' friend Grant, a nice guy who swings by the barn when he's in the neighborhood to feed Argus cookies, brush him and snuggle. He is trying to show Argus that even vets are people, too. Grant reports that Argus is blissfully happy during these moments where they are fast friends.

Dr. Miller walks a fine line. One minute he's the scary vet, the next he's a friend bearing treats. Argus is figuring it out. Today, we had only a half-rodeo at sedation time. We were pleased. Dr. Miller cheerfully removed the staples in Argies' head (the cut has healed nicely), then cuddled with the big white horse. Argus, although sedated and woozy, was making mental notes: "Maybe this guy isn't so bad, after all?"


Dr. Miller just posted more current photos of Cowboy, plus a video montage (scroll down and see the photos dated 2/20 --- they show significant weight gain) Also see UTube video link! To check out Cowboy's amazing progress, go to:
Change - Coins to Help Abandoned and NeGlected Equines
Look at how much weight Cowboy gained in just ONE WEEK.

Photos of Argus this weekend ---- PROMISE. My camera battery died, and I have misplaced the charger.

Meanwhile, wouldn't it be fun to look at some photos side by side? Here we go:

GROUND ZERO, NOVEMBER 2007: Argus in his pen of 16 years:

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DAY TWO: DECEMBER 9TH, 2007 at Watermark Farm. The woman in red is a friend who does some amazing animal communication work. She had a good chat with Argus. Soon after, we cut off the horrible Howard Hughes mane. Argus was very happy. I saved the mane, which filled a huge ziplock bag.

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FEBRUARY, 2008: BODYCLIPPING. Argus snoozes (sedated) while his foster mom gets some heavy winter hair off. He seemed proud of his sporthorse haircut the next day, proudly showing it to the other bodyclipped horses.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

A Plug For Cowboy

This is Cowboy. He was rescued two weeks ago near death from starvation. He was given only a very slim chance of surviving his first few days of re-feeding. His body score was .5 on a scale of 1-9. He was at the stage of emaciation where the internal organs begin to shut down. Cowboy's pasture mate did not survive.

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Cowboy is a 5-year old Thoroughbred who was on the racetrack until August 2007. When he was rescued in early February, he was still wearing his racing plates. To look at his photos now, it is hard to imagine that only 5 1/2 months ago, this horse was in good condition.

Cowboy is another horse who, like Argus, is being helped by the Sonoma CHANGE Program and Dr. Grant Miller. And Cowboy, like Argus, now has his own BLOG! Please join me in sending thoughts of support to Cowboy and his foster care team as he continues on the path to recovery.


Argus is out enjoying the sunshine today! On Sunday, Demi and I gave him a thorough grooming and "beauty treatment," which he enjoyed. Argus was a champ about letting me hose and wash his legs, and spray Show Sheen in his tail. I was so proud of him, as both of these things (hoses, baths, and spray bottles) are new to him.

We walked around in front of the barn, but it was too much for him. He started to shake badly. I stood with him for a while, letting him settle. It is really amazing how hard he shakes when he is frightened.

Afterward, I turned Argus out in the arena. Wow! After warming up, Argus proceeded to RUN FAST around the arena. This boy can GO! I have never seen him run so fast ---- you can definitely see that he is bred for racing. But....after our fence-crashing incident, I was leery. Although he respectfully slid to a halt just before the arena fence, I watched him closely. Argus also bucked over and over. He felt good, and it is really astonishing to see him developing these natural abilities --- running and bucking. I remember the very first time I turned him out into a small paddock, he tried to pick up the canter, his hind end weakly slid out from under him, and he ended up sitting like a dog on the ground, looking confused.

No more. Argus is getting strong. When you place your hands on his rump now, on either side of his tail, his muscles now feel like muscles. When he first arrived, they felt like soft bread dough.

Photos to come!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Not far from Watermark Farm is a town called Calistoga, famous for its mud baths. Legend has it that in the late 1800s, a rather drunken entrepreneur stood in front of an enthusiastic crowd, pronouncing this California town "the Calistoga of Sarafornia!" What he meant, of course, was "the Saratoga of California," but the name stuck.

Clearly, someone has recently informed Argus of the medicinal benefits of mud, and Argus is intent on having his own Calistoga mud bath. This morning, I cradled a hot cup of coffee while performing my morning routine of peering at the horses from the house. This is the one thing I dreamed about back in the days when "horse property" was something I could only pine for. "I just want to be able to wake up," I told my long-suffering husband many years ago, "and drink a cup of coffee and see my horses out the window."

My husband was far less dreamy about Typical man, he said: I just want to be able to wake up and go pee outside without any neighbors being able to see me.


I am standing at the family room window, which faces the barn, staring out at the two white horses standing side-by-side in their paddocks. Except that one isn't white at all. He's, uh, DISGUSTING. And so is his blanket.

Every week something different. We say that all the time now about Argus, for each week is a lifetime to him, full of incredible adventures, terrifying mishaps, and poignant moments that slip by nearly unnoticed. This week Argus has discovered MUD. Not only has he discovered that it feels incredibly good to roll someplace wet and sticky, but he has ventured even further out into his mini-pasture to discover something even better: the drainage ditch.

Bordering our 5 acres is a shallow, wide swale that catches our runoff and diverts it off the property. For the most part, the horses leave it alone. It's muddy and cold, and although it's shallow enough to be safe, most horses are dignified enough to avoid standing in it.

This morning, Argus not only played in the ditch with great enthusiasm, he actually rolled in it! Which meant that his blanket also played and rolled in the ditch. Both of them emerged from the pasture looking rather sheepish, and drippy, and completely brown. Argus had water in his ears, and soupy tan mud pressed into just about every inch of his body.

This is a horse who is drinking up every moment of his life. Every single moment. This morning, when I went to the barn to see him up close in all his muddy finery, he gave me the most comical look, as if to say "Did you have any idea we had this fun mud to roll in? Any idea at all? Why didn't you tell me about this?"

I am in my pajamas, tall mud boots, and the famous thrift store orange down coat. Argus has no idea that we both look ridiculous. Argus holds still, even without a halter, for me to peel off that soaking wet blanket, almost as of the weight of it --- the mud, water, and goo --- has grounded him in a way that only an early morning mud bath can do.


Argus is doing well! He is none the worse for wear since his accident last weekend! He does not allow me to touch the stapled cut easily, but occasionally I can wipe some ointment on it if I act casual and mesmerize him with my forehead-scratching talents.

His neck is still very sore and he'll get another chiropractic adjustment when Dr. Miller comes out next week to remove the staples. Thank you to everyone for your good wishes!

And yes, this is the Watermark Farm in Fulton...

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Mother's Instincts

This will be a quick update, as it's a President's Day holiday, and the four school-free Watermark Farm children are roaming the house with great enthusiasm, looking for trouble.

Argus had one hell of a hangover on Sunday. His forehead was puffy, and he moved around like an old man. His entire body is very sore. Still, he ate his grain with enthusiasm, and wandered around his little pasture happily. I am relieved he is OK. We were lucky.

Not so lucky was another horse who attempted to jump a gate on Sunday night. Not here, but at a friend's nearby barn. Beautiful Betrys, a rescued warmblood PMU mare, could not be saved. Rest in peace, sweet girl. I send my deepest condolences to her owner, Lou and her boarding stable caretaker, Michelle.


The other night, when Dr. Miller and I were discussing Argus and his troubling crash through the pipe panel gate (it was the second time in 48 hours he had "challenged" fencing), he expressed concern that I might cater too much to Argus' strange quirks without realizing it, perhaps partly because I am a mother, and mothers want their children to be happy.

I thought a lot about that comment. It was an interesting correlation.

For my children, it is my deepest desire and goal to help them become secure, well adjusted human beings who can transition into the world as independent, decent adults with a strong sense of character and responsibility. Catering to them only for the moment --- and enabling them to make unreasonable demands on the world --- does not serve them. At the same time, my expectations of them must be age appropriate, and fair. A parent is a teacher, after all, bringing children along in much the same way as we bring a young horse along, incrementally, sensibly, with kindness and boundaries.

The same is true with Argus. He, an equine toddler, is learning the ways of the world. I must protect him while slowly giving him chances to learn in a safe way. It's a tricky balancing act, especially when that toddler weighs in at 1,000 pounds. I cannot protect him from himself.

This comment came from a woman named Barbara. I shared it with Dr. Miller, who enjoyed it, too. We both agreed that it put into words something neither of us have been able to articulate:

"Meaning well counts for nothing in this world. DOING WELL, creating a positive result, counts for EVERYTHING. I believe man's ability to do something positive, to take action, is one of the reasons God created us, and our basic purpose for living. When we do actual good, create a positive outcome, we receive a gift of fulfillment or happiness that no purchased thing or momentary "fun" could match.
It takes risking our comfort zones, our security, and the possibility of failure, to adopt a neglected or abused 1,000 pound animal that may live to be 30, may never be servicable, and has issues to work through simply to handle him for his own safety and care. For 16 years other people watched, and did not approve, but did not act. You took that risk, and I can tell from your posts, you are already experiencing some of the rewards. More will come, from the most unexpected quarters.
I am confident that at the right time the right person will find your Argus, and give him a new life that will also make you happy. It may be days, it may be years, but the next Katie will come. Argus, too, has found a purpose. To be an inspiration, to set an example that when we have been confined for a lifetime in a physical or mental prison, all hope is not lost, and we may yet be redeemed. God bless you, and thank you, for doing good."

- Barbara

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our Crazy Saturday

Today, Argus decided that he was not satisfied with his pipe paddock as it was. "What this place needs is....some remodeling," he mused to himself as he strode around his mini pasture. "I think I will run into it at full speed and see what happens."


So that's what happened today, making today, which was supposed to be a blissfully quiet day of me schooling horses and mowing grass, and my husband enjoying his 46th birthday, feel more like "Survivor: Horse Property."

Argus exited his paddock and happily nosed around his little private pasture, while I absentmindedly closed his paddock gate while I cleaned. Bad idea, especially if you are the caretaker of one slightly agoraphobic gelding who panics at the thought of not getting back into your "safe zone."

Before I knew what was happening, Argus turned back toward "his" paddock, picked up a canter, and plowed full-steam-ahead into his pipe panel gate. It was a wild few moments, with me reaching for my cell phone, imagining the call: "Uh, Dr. Miller, Argus has broken his leg. Please come put him down."

I watched in frozen disbelief as Argus extricated himself from the wreckage of the pipe panels, then hopped away on three legs. I was horrified, but resigned. The racked fencing seemed to smile at me, as if to say: "I win."

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Throughout all of this, something someone once said to me kept running through my mind: "Horses are born to commit suicide." In this case, it seems we had come close.

Time passed. I checked Argus out. All seemed well, although I was already reaching for my trusty tub of bute, knowing that this Saturday madness would ease into one crippled Sunday morning. Ken, my husband, rolled his eyes, saying things like "What the hell was this horse thinking?" and "He was trying to do WHAT?"

To my GREAT relief, he did not utter the dreaded "Where did we get this horse, anyway?" or even the equally frightening "When is this horse leaving?" Ken is not a horseperson, and even after 16 years with me, he still cannot believe how capable horses are of destroying things. Still, he is there --- as always --- with his tools, scratching his head and methodically disassembling the panels. I am lucky to be married to this guy. He simply never complains.

A visitor drives up. In the excitement, I have forgotten a 3pm appointment. It is an old friend of Argus', a woman who has known him since he was born. She is a relative of Argus' former owner, and for years she tried in vain to help the horses at Argus' farm. This is the same person who halter broke a very wild Argus more than 10 years ago. I learn more about her today. She is a former Pony Clubber and competent horsewoman. I feel lucky that she is here. Today, of all days, I really need some support.

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This gal is a stranger to us, yet she rolls up her sleeves and stumbles alongside us as we lower pipe panels down to the ground for a session with Ken's sledgehammer (we are trying to straighten them out). She grabs the wheelbarrow and finishes cleaning stalls for me, and even though she tells me she hasn't kept horses in a very long time, I can tell by the confident way she handles a wheelbarrow and rake that she's cleaned many stalls. We talk about our lives, finding out we have much in common. She tells me about Argus, about teaching him lead, and pick up his feet. About all the weekends she came to clean up after him, and give him some care.

Ken is fixing fences, and we are grunting and shoving pipe panels, occasionally exchanging polite yet terse words. We start to notice a troubling thing with Argus: There is blood dripping down his face.

He will have absolutely nothing of my attempts to brush his forelock aside to see the trouble. I wait, hoping for a minor cut.

But two hours later, the mystery cut is still dribbling, so Dr. Miller (who is blessedly on call this weekend) is summoned. I am embarassed, thinking that perhaps I am asking the vet out for a superficial scrape. He is goodnatured, saying "Oh, I will just come up and see."

Argus is glad to see Dr. Miller. They are becoming friends, and Argus is learning to trust Dr. Miller to do pleasant things to him. This time, Argus stands nicely for sedation (a real shift from the rodeo-like scenes in weeks past), and Dr. Miller gently parts his forelock. All I need to hear is Dr. Miller uttering a "Oh!" and I know that my call to him was not in vain.

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Argus has a gash under his forelock. There is very little flesh in this area, so exposed beneath is his skull. It is one of those injuries that make you feel just a wee bit funky when you look at it. It is a good thing Dr. Miller is here to help.

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A handful of staples later (no, I didn't take pictures of that), the sedated Argus receives another chiropractic adjustment. He has plowed head-first into the pipe gate, and has really messed up his poll and neck.

Two steps forward, 15 steps back.

In a funny way, the whole scene is comforting. I am struck by just how "normal" it all feels, that Argus finally has the freedom to do stupid things like blow through fencing, and get a big gash, and have his mom call out the vet on a Saturday night for stitches.

This is normal horse stuff, good or bad. And Argus, for all his quirks and challenges, is learning how it is to be just like everyone else.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Argus Toes The Line

Today Argus received his second-ever hoof trim. He was a good boy, trusting CHANGE program volunteer, barefoot trimmer Linda Cowles, to go slow and easy. He was quite suspicious at first, but horses like Linda and try their best for her.

Our goal was to get Argus to let Linda pick up all four feet. We did better than that! Argus trusted Linda so much, he fell asleep while she picked up his feet. She was able to rasp all four feet ---- not a complete trim, but a great start that lays the foundation for good farrier skills for Argus.

For more information on barefoot trimming, and Linda Cowles, please visit her website at

Argus is a bit standoffish at first, taking cookies from me, but ignoring Linda.
You can tell by the look on his face that he is not too sure about this!
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Here he is softening a bit and does not move away when Linda touches him.
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Argus relaxes, taking a few deep breaths. At first, he was starting to hold his breath, getting ready to flee. He even gave thought to rearing a bit, but Linda kept her smiley demeanor, and Argus soon melted.
She is avoiding looking directly into his eyes, which he might perceive as a threat.
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Argus is now comfortable and trusts Linda, a total stranger, to pick up his feet and hold them. Odie the mule provides moral support just inches away.
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Argus begins to consider napping while having his pedicure. He held each foot up for Linda like he had been doing this all his life!
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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Spring Fever

Sunny skies and warm breezes have come to Northern California for a brief visit, giving us a reprieve from the cold, rainy weather (21 days straight if you listen to the news) and depressing, gray skies. Today the thermometer peaked out at an impressive 70 degrees. It is only February 9th.

This happens every year in February. Nature, as if sensing our desperation, serves us a tiny slice of spring. We peel off our sweaters and put on short sleeves, feeling smug as we stroll around the farm, unable to complete even the simplest chores, adrift like an abandoned ship under an intoxicating blue sky.

Secretly, we hope that our Michigan relatives will call, so that we can say, when they invariably ask about the weather, something with feigned casualness: "Oh, sunny, nice, 'bout 70 degees. And you?"

Argus has no relatives in Michigan, but if he did, this is what he would say: "YIPPEEEEE!!!!"

It seems that Argus, and the eight other equine residents of Watermark Farm, have a raging case of spring fever today. There is running and dancing and cavorting, even amongst those who are too crippled now to run. The old mare snorts wildly, eyes wide, enciting the geldings across the fence to passage elegantly through the muck.

Sadly, the mud and the slippery ground have yet to catch up with the dry skies above, so turnouts must still happen with the greatest of care (Just this week, my dressage horse Ridge slipped and fell in turnout, pulling a muscle and winning a short vacation from work), and the pasture horses must have the "edge" taken off them with arena turnout and regular riding and lungeing.

For Argus, spring fever has hit him with a kind of delicious frenzy, for he is waking up from the winter of his life --- 16 years of sunless days.

It all started on Tuesday. Argus began to use, all on his own accord, and all by himself, the mini pasture we set up for him behind his paddock. Previously, he would not go out there unless accompanied by a person, and for short periods only.

On Tuesday, he spent the entire day out there, rolling his snowy white frame in soothing mud and dining on tender green grass.

On Wednesday, after he woke from his party with Dr. Miller, he quickly returned to his pasture, spending long moments smelling and sniffing and exploring every corner. He blinked happily at me at day's end, gazing at me for a long time with his wise old eyes. He practically oozed happiness. I cried for what seemed like the thousandth time out in my barn as I stood with him, feeling the enormity of what we have done for this horse.

On Thursday, Argus pushed impatiently on his stall door, imploring me to turn him out with a friend. I complied instantly, of course. How can you say no to someone who has done without for so long? He was proud, too, of his "sporthorse haircut" --- the tiny bit of bodyclipping I had done the day before. I swear it, he was proud. He ran madly around the arena to show me how nice it was to not have a sweaty chest.

On Friday, Argus spent the entire day in his pasture, covered in mud and looking like a happy, normal horse. His mane is caked with mud, his legs are caked with mud, and each cheek on his face looks to have been pressed lovingly into the soil.

Now, Saturday, I gobble down a post-Pony Club turkey sandwich while typing this entry. I can see Argus from my window, and I occasionally glance out to see him trot merrily across the arena as he plays with his friend Buster. He stops from time to time to gaze longingly at the pasture, for this is where he really wants to be ---- ambling lazily in the company of similarly dirty friends.

"Soon, Argus," I think to myself, dreaming of a time not far from now when the ground will be dry enough to introduce Argus to pasture life, and a freedom he has never known.

For a moment, I linger over the last of my lunch and contemplate this rich experience that we call "Saving Argus." A plump tear makes its way down my cheek, is temporarily detoured by the wide grin I am wearing, and drops unceremoniously from my chin, onto the keyboard.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dr. Miller Visits Argus

Today Argus saw his friend, Dr. Grant Miller. Argus may not know it, but he has Dr. Miller to thank for saving him from prison.

Dr. Miller is a large animal veterinarian in private practice, but he also provides veterinary services to local Animal Control agencies who are investigating abuse and neglect. He sees heartwrenching cases that make Argus' former life look idyllic.

Anyone who meets Dr. Miller senses his deep love of horses (he is a dressage rider and former Pony Clubber) and passion for justice. He started the non-profit (pending) organization CHANGE, which stands for Coins Helping Abused & NeGlected Equines just last summer, after euthanizing a badly abused older horse who was left tied to a fence in 100+ degree heat. Here is the mission statement:

The CHANGE Program is designed to be a community based, not for profit support network for the Sonoma County Animal Control department to call on during horse abuse, abandonment, or neglect cases. The program seeks to provide ancillary support services such as horse transportation, foster housing and care, veterinary work, farrier work, rehab and permanent adoption. Officers can call on the program 24 hours a day to step in and help with horse cases, and provide the funding needed to see to it that these horses get a fighting chance.

Argus is one of the first horses to enter foster care through the CHANGE program. Because of Dr. Miller's efforts, and the efforts of many other volunteers, Argus is getting his "fighting chance" here at Watermark Farm.

Today we wrapped up the last of Argus' routine veterinary work with Dr. Miller (who donates his time to horses in CHANGE foster care). He is now current on dental work, vaccines, and worming. In addition, Argus was sedated and had his right knee injected with medication that will help him regain better mobility and comfort in this joint (it is moderately arthritic) so that he can continue on with the wonderful progress he is making in his rehabilitation plan.

While Argus was sedated, Dr. Miller (who has training in equine chiropractic) adjusted his poll area, or "atlas." This area tends to be very painfully "out" for Argus. An adjustment works wonders.

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The sedation still in effect, I took advantage of my "drunk" friend Argus to bodyclip him a little bit. His heavy coat combined with some busy turnout sessions often leaves me with a sweaty, hairy horse --- tough to cool down for the day:

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Many people want to know if I will "keep" Argus.

Every year, I foster, rehabilitate and adopt out 1-2 horses. I do this because I love horses and feel that I owe them this for all they have given me. They do not leave my farm unless I feel they are going into a better situation than I can offer them. I simply cannot keep every horse I foster (or I would soon be a hoarder myself!).

I love Argus very much, more perhaps than any other horse I have fostered. At times my heart is heavy at the thought of placing him. But I know that somewhere out there is a wonderful lifetime home for him. My job now is to find that home. Argus is very friendly with other people, and he enjoys (more than most horses) interacting with new people. I feel confident that he will be able to transition into life with his new person eventually. We will be here to help him do that.

There are more horses out there who need my help. They are counting on me to keep that "foster" spot open for them.

What kind of person might adopt Argus? Here is my wish list:

  1. Someone with extensive horse experience -- a "lifer" who can continue Argus' rehab and training and who feels confident with larger sporthorses like Argus (someone with TB experience would be ideal)
  2. Own your own horse property with pasture and shelter and other equines in Northern California
  3. Be able to demonstrate a solid track record of stability with job, property ownership, etc.
  4. Can show a history of responsible, long-term horse ownership
  5. Have glowing veterinarian and farrier references, and then some...
  6. Have the time, desire, and compassion to love and maintain a retired horse in comfort
Could you be that person? We are actively looking for home possibilities for Argus. He should be ready to find his forever home later this spring. If you are interested, please contact Katie at for details.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Argus Learns About Herd Dynamics

On Friday, Argus had his first "group turnout" experience. It was full of surprises.

Ridge, who has previously liked and tolerated Argus (and has been his #1 turnout buddy), decided that he would protect Odie The Mule from the intruder, Argus. Ridge can be very bossy with Argus, which is good. He is teaching him The Rules.

Odie, who loves everyone equally and just wants to have fun, was 100% focused on important things like rolling and playing and sniffing. He and Argus have been turned out together in the arena many times. Argus likes Odie because he is playful and not too bossy.

Argus was confused. Why was his friend keeping him away from the mule? Weren't they impressed by his lucky bloody shoulder??

What followed was a safe and positive lesson in herd behavior, taught by Professor Ridge.

Experiences like this help prepare Argus for springtime, when he will join the geldings for turnout in the pasture. Although he is 16 years old, it is believed that he has never experienced living in a group. Despite this, he has surprisingly good social skills and reads the body language of other horses well.

Here, while first turned out, Argus reads Ridge's body language, which clearly says:
"Stay away! This is MY mule!" He is keeping himself between Argus and Odie,
much the way a stallion (or a gelding) would protect a mare.
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Argus studies the situation for a while. Odie, as ususual, is rolling,
oblivious to the drama unfolding.
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Argus decides to approach. Ridge communicates clearly with teeth flashing: STAY AWAY.
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Argus experiments, running rather playfully toward Ridge. He seems to be trying to figure out how to join this group. I was impressed by how the three horses worked this all out.
I was not worried about any of them getting hurt,
although I stood with halters ready just in case.
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Argus gets too close again. Odie rolls. He is clearly frightened and on high alert... ;)
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Ridge continues to keep himself between Odie and Argus,
although Argus keeps trying to move closer.
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Finally, an agreement of sorts is reached. Ridge moves to the other side of Odie, allowing Argus to be near him. He does this off and on for the rest of the time they are turned out together, each time allowing Argus to move closer to Odie.
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Friday, February 1, 2008

Sweet Nothings

I was thinking about how with Argus, as well as in life, victories and triumphs are sometimes small and barely noticeable, but important nonetheless.

Last night I trudged out to feed the horses later than usual, and by the time I pulled on my funny old orange down coat (the one Argus likes), it was dark and strangely quiet outside. Even the frogs were taking a break from their usual evening chorus.

Standing for a moment in the unlit barn, I paused to let the darkness envelop me. A quiet symphony of horse sounds greeted me, from the soft grunting of our food-oriented mule to the rustling of hooves in straw. Here and there, I could hear the rhythmic crunch-crunch-crunch of horses munching soft piles of grass hay.

I stood there, eyes closed, letting the sounds and smells of horses surround me.

Out of the darkness, and barely audible, an unsure nicker floated toward me. A throaty, low, raspy sound, unfamiliar to me, coming from the second stall on the right. A smile crept across my face.


He has been here for nearly two months now, and I've heard him whinny at other horses, but never at people or even the approaching green feed cart, whose promising squeaks make most horses weak in the knees.

I stood quietly for another moment, hoping to hear that blessed sound again. But as quickly as it floated down the barn aisle to me, it was gone.

The moment over, the lights on. I am standing in front of Argus' stall. He is looking at me impatiently, merrily.

"What?" I ask, "What do you want, Argies? Your food?"

He blinks solemnly, surveying me. I turn and walk into the feed room. Then it comes again, almost like a whisper: Argus' first attempt to nicker to me. I grin from ear to ear, big tears pooling in my eyes, and start to mix grain.