MAY 22 - On Saturday Lynn helped our new neighbor, John Miller, work on water troughs on the low range pasture, cleaning out the spring boxes so there would be more flow into the troughs.
Lynn and I put up an electric wire along both sides of the fence between Dottie and Sprout. Even though the fence between them is 6 feet tall, they try to fight each other, rearing up and trying to strike and bite over the fence. The hot wire will keep them more civilized!
Emily helped me clean house and Sunday evening we had our family all together for dinner—Michael and Carolyn and kids, and Andrea and kids. This was a group birthday celebration for all of Michael’s family (birthdays in April) and for Lynn and Andrea (birthdays May 17 and 21).
Today Andrea and I rode for nearly 5 hours on Sprout and Ed, checking the fence around the middle range pasture, fixing some broken wires where the elk went through, and shutting gates. There were a few places where new posts are needed, and those will have to wait until we have more help.
MAY 28 – On Thursday we had a little rain, and new snow on the mountains. I put new front shoes on Ed; her feet are getting long (stumbling) and the shoes are worn out. Then Andrea and I rode to check more fences and fix a range gate, and went through the road pasture on the upper place where Michael and Carolyn’s cattle are grazing. One of their calves (Popsicle—the one that Carolyn and Andrea rescued in January when it was stuck on it’s back and freezing to death) was lame with a swollen front leg. It looked like a rattlesnake bite. We’ve seen a lot of snakes already this spring. After we fixed the gate and checked several water troughs we hurried home so Andrea could go to town and pick up the kids; it was their last day of school and they got out early.
Our new neighbor, John Miller, put his cows out on the low range pasture that afternoon and took them to Baker Creek. They are pasture cattle and have never been on the range before, so they tried to go back home. They were all ganged up along the fence the next morning—hungry and thirsty. Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed and moved them back to Baker Creek, where they all drank and then went to grazing. We left them spread out over that area and continued our ride up into the middle range to check a few more water troughs to see which ones need worked on.
Saturday we rode with John to show him the middle range and where all the troughs are located. He was delayed awhile because one of his neighbor’s cows had come into his place that morning and had a broken leg—and the neighbor asked him to butcher the cow and hang it in a friend’s cooler. While we waited for John to ride over here, we got our horses ready and picked more than 100 ticks off the two of them. Riding through the sagebrush this spring we’ve gotten a lot of ticks, on ourselves and our horses. We keep picking them off the horses every time we ride.
We showed John the middle range and troughs that need fixed, closed another gate that had been left open all winter, and showed him the collapsed braces where we need to build a new gate between the high range and middle range. He was hoping he could remember the names and locations of all the troughs, so I told him I would make him a map of all the range pastures.
Sunday afternoon we took Sam and Dani for their first ride this summer on 27-year-old Veggie and Ed.
Andrea rode Breezy and I rode 26-year-old Rubbie. I trimmed Veggie’s and Rubbie’s feet just before we rode. Then we made a short ride over the low range and got back just ahead of a thunderstorm. We got the horses put away before it started raining hard.
Today I made enlarged copies of an old topography map of our area, so I can make the range map for John, drawing in the fences, gates, troughs and other important landmarks. This afternoon we vaccinated some of the horses with their annual boosters for West Nile Virus, encephalomyelitis, tetanus, influenza and rhinopneumonitis.
JUNE 4 – Wednesday Lynn, Andrea and one of Emily’s friends made a new gate in the middle range/low range fence. The old gate in the corner of the low range pasture was eliminated when the neighboring rancher put his property fence on line, moving it up the slope several hundred feet. This created a major obstacle for moving range cattle from pasture to pasture, so we built a new gate farther back along the range fence, on grade with the new fence corner, so the cattle can travel around that corner without having to climb straight up the steep mountainside.
Sprout was dull and lethargic for a few days after her vaccination, probably running a low-grade fever. Ed showed no ill effects from her shots, possibly because I’ve been giving her a small dose of “bute” every day to alleviate lameness from her old hock injury and her front foot soreness that has been getting worse the last couple of years. The “bute” is a good anti-inflammatory, similar to aspirin or ibuprofen and it probably minimized any fever or discomfort she might have had from vaccination.
Michael worked for a couple days hauling more dirt away from the back side of Andrea’s house, making more room for vehicles, and backsloping the hill so it won’t topple down or be dangerous for the children to fall down it. He hauled the dirt to our barnyard to cover the big rocks he put as a base in the lane to prevent trucks and tractors getting stuck during wet weather. Now there’s a good rock base but a smooth surface so we don’t keep stumbling over the big rocks!
On Friday we took Sam and Dani for another short ride on Veggie and Ed, and I put front shoes on Rubbie when we got home. That night it got cold again, down to 30 degrees, and froze our tomato plants in the back of the jeep. We’ll have to get some more from our neighbor’s greenhouse!
Saturday Andrea and I rode to check more of the range and then gave Sam and Dani a ride on Veg and Ed when we got home, and Emily rode Sprout—now that Sprout has settled down and become more dependable again. She no longer tries to buck.
Yesterday Andrea, Carolyn, young Heather and I helped John Miller and his family, and our other neighbor Alfonzo gather the cows off the low range and move them to the middle pasture.
Today Carolyn and Heather brought their two old horses, Molly (age 30) and Chance (in his late 20’s) down to Andrea’s house to let them graze around her place to eat down the grass and weeds. They’ve run out of pasture around their barnyard, and those old horses do better eating grass with their bad teeth than eating hay. Young Heather will be coming down each morning to feed them their “mash” of moistened pellets (easy to chew) and change the fly mask on Chance. The face flies bother him a lot, so the fly mask keeps them away from his eyes and he’s a lot more comfortable.
Lynn and I used a step-ladder in Dottie’s pen to trim the elm tree branches while I had her tied in the calving pen for a tying lesson. The branches have grown a lot this summer and are hanging down to where she can reach them. She’s been eating the leaves and branches and they’re not very good for her.
This afternoon we vaccinated Dottie and Willow. This evening just before we went to bed I looked out the window and noticed that Dottie was uncomfortable, alternately picking up all four feet, treading in place. I went out there, brought her out of her pen so she could eat a little grass (to distract her during her first experience with a rectal thermometer) and took her temperature. She was uncomfortable and trembling in pain, and kept her tail clamped down, but I kept rubbing alongside it—a place horse’s like to be rubbed because that’s hard place to reach for itching. Eventually she relaxed and lifted her tail so I could slip the thermometer into her rectum.
Her temperature was 102.4 degrees, which was definitely above normal (a horse’s normal temperature ranges from 99 to 100.5 degrees). She was probably having a reaction to the vaccination. I gave her an injection of Banamine to ease the fever and discomfort. When I put her back in her pen I turned on the yard light that illuminates that pen and the calving pen, so I could watch her during the night, checking on her periodically from the house windows.
JUNE 10 – The day after we vaccinated the fillies Dottie seemed ok (after the Banamine that night) and her temperature was normal. Nick and young Heather came down to our place early that morning and helped us get our cows and calves in from the field and sort off the calves. We vaccinated the cows, vaccinated and tagged the yearling heifers, then branded and vaccinated the calves. It was nice having the grandkids helping; they are a lot stronger than we are! We also vaccinated the three yearling bulls we’ve been feeding for Michael here in our corral.
Dani and Charlie came down to watch the branding. Afterward, they all had lunch at our house. Then the little kids went back to Andrea’s house to help Heather feed the old horses, and Dani went with Heather for the rest of the afternoon—to watch her working with some of the young horses she’s training. This summer she is training several horses again for various people.
Dottie seemed a little dull again by afternoon so I took her temperature and it was very high—105.5 degrees. So I gave her another injection of Banamine. Then Andrea and I rode Ed and Sprout for several hours to check the cows on the middle range. I gave Dottie a partial dose of Banamine just before we went to bed that night (even though her temp had come back down to normal) so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to give her another dose. The next day she seemed ok and her temperature stayed normal.
On Thursday the little kids had another riding lesson with their big cousin. Emily and a friend put up a fake electric fence (baling twine) along Andrea’s driveway, so the 2 old horses could graze it and mow down the grass on the edge that we can’t cut for hay. Andrea and I rode and checked the range cows; some are too high (eating the short grass at the higher elevation before it has a chance to grow) and some of John’s cows are grouped too much in a canyon in the lower part where there isn’t enough water for that many cows. So on Friday we moved those cows to better grass and spread them out in a couple of draws where there is plenty of water. It will take them awhile to learn how to use the range.
I’ve been giving Dottie tying lessons the last several mornings and she’s learning to be more patient instead of pawing at the fence, and yesterday I trimmed her feet.
Michael and Carolyn branded and vaccinated their calves yesterday and took their herd up to the 320 acre mountain pasture. Four of their cows haven’t calved yet, so they will brand and vaccinate those calves later this summer.
Lynn made a new pipe to go through the culvert under the road (our old one disappeared) so we can pump water for the cows on the hill pasture. Emily and her friend Noah helped Lynn take water troughs and the pump and hoses up to the culvert under the road by heifer hill, and helped him pump. Today we moved our cows from the field below the lane and took them to the hill pasture, then Andrea and I continued riding up to the middle range. We found too many cows in the first canyon, without water. So we gathered them out of the brush and moved them to the 2nd and 3rd draws. It was stormy that evening, but Michael came down and put new shoes on Sprout. He was just finishing when Carolyn came down on her 4-wheeler to tell him that Heather had discovered a young calf hiding in the sagebrush by their upper corral. He was bawling and very hungry. Heather grabbed him and got him into the corral.
Apparently one of the pregnant cows calved a few days before the branding, and didn’t have her calf with her when they gathered the group to take to the corral. Like a deer, cows hide their babies (to be safe from predators while mama goes to graze) and come back to the hiding place to nurse the baby, until he’s several days old and more mobile. This young calf had been without his mama for 36 hours; she’d been taken with the herd up to the 320-acre mountain pasture.
So Michael quickly finished shoeing Sprout and went to help Carolyn and Heather take the calf back to its mama before dark. He drove their little truck up the mountain, with Carolyn and Heather holding onto the calf in the back of the truck. The cow was bawling at the gate, and baby answered her. When they let him out of the truck he ran to her and started nursing, just as a hailstorm hit. It was a downpour, and made the jeep track so slippery that Michael was barely able to drive back along the jeep track without getting stuck or sliding off the mountain.
JUNE 20 – Michael got all of Heather’s trainees shod, reshod Breezy for me and put new shoes on Ed’s hind feet before he went back to North Dakota to his truck-driving job. Heather started working with Dottie every day when she comes down to feed the old horses their pellet “mush” and change Chance’s fly mask. It took a couple days of persistent work to get Dottie over her saddle phobia. When we bought Dottie last fall she’d been halter trained (to lead and tie) and her former owner said that she’d been saddled (but not ridden yet). Something must have happened that scared her during saddling, because she was very skittish about having the saddle put on her from the left (traditional) side, but had no fear of it being put on from the other side.
She kept jumping and spinning away from the lightweight training saddle as Heather tried to desensitize her with it (and nearly work out Heather’s arm with all the repetition, trying to show her it wasn’t going to hurt her). Heather finally put her in a corner where she couldn’t move away from it, and Dottie eventually resigned herself to having it swung up onto her back.
Heather works with Dottie in the mornings while she’s here taking care of Molly and Chance, then spends the rest of the day working with the other horses she’s training. She works them in her round corral, and in the new arena (not fenced yet, but created with dirt that Michael hauled in and smoothed/leveled). As they progress she takes them out on the range, leading them from another horse, or riding one and leading another, then switches and rides the other one on the way home.
A week ago Andrea and I made a long ride in the rain to check cows, fences and fix another gate. The cows were spread out better in the cool weather and we didn’t have to move any that day. We spent more time checking fences and gates.
But when we got to the 3rd canyon our horses started snorting and didn’t want to cross the little creek. I made it across with Ed, and Andrea was just starting to take Sprout along the sidehill to the upper crossing when Sprout spooked at something and whirled around and tried to bolt out of there. It’s a good thing she’s very strong and agile and had brand-new shoes on, with good traction (toe and heel calks) or she would have fallen down on that steep, slippery hill and rolled to the bottom.
Andrea got her stopped and finally got her across on the lower crossing where it wasn’t so steep. We saw a lone black critter lying in the sagebrush along the trail ahead of us, and it looked dead. As we got closer we saw that it was indeed dead—one of John’s bulls. We found out later that the bull died in the creek the day before. John and his boys brought their team of draft horses out there to pull the body up the bank and out of the creek area. Our horses were spooking when they smelled the trail left from dragging the dead bull.
On Friday Andrea made a fast ride on Breezy to check the cows. Heather started longeing Dottie with the saddle on, getting her used to its feel and sound, and flopping stirrups.
Then she spent a couple days playing with a tarp, letting Dottie walk on it, paw it, and get used to it being put over her back, over her head, etc. She’s not a bit afraid of new things, so we realize that her saddle phobia must have been caused by something that really scared her when she was being saddled. Sammy and Dani “helped” her work with Dottie a couple days, playing with the tarp and longeing Dottie with it draped over her.
Then Heather got on Dottie for the first time and I led her around the pen, to get her used to the feeling of someone on her back. She’s coming along nicely in her training.
The little kids are also enjoying their occasional lessons up at Heather’s arena, riding Gus, Captain and some of the other horses. Heather enjoys teaching young kids and young horses.
On Sunday afternoon Andrea and I rode through the highest part of the middle range and found that lots of cows already using that area, eating the short grass (hardly any grass left up there). We spent an hour patching a big hole in the fence where a huge fir tree blew down over it, wiping out several posts. We used a lot of baling twine (which I always carry in pommel bags on my saddle) and tied a bunch of big branches together to make a barrier that the cows can’t go through—to keep them from going into the high range pasture too soon.
On Tuesday Andrea rode Sprout out on the range to check cows by herself, and ended up chasing a huge mob of cows down out of the high country. They are out of feed up there and wanting to go into the high pasture.
Yesterday was windy and stormy so we skipped Dottie’s lesson. Heather (riding a young mare she trained, named Lacey) rode with Andrea and me to chase more of the high cows down to better grass.
We rode up into the 320 pasture on our way, and a thunderstorm hit—so we waited it out for nearly an hour in the canyon as the lightning cracked all around us. Heather’s dogs were trying to hide under the horses. Lacey and Ed didn’t mind the dogs but Sprout didn’t like them and acted like she would kick them, so we made sure the dogs stayed away from her.
The pelting rain turned to hail and we would have been thoroughly soaked if we hadn’t been wearing chinks (to protect our legs) and good coats. When the worst of the lightning had passed, we continued on, and gathered a bunch of cows out of the high country and took them down to better grass. It was a bit challenging on the slippery wet hillsides, but it didn’t start raining again until we were done chasing the cows and started home again. Lynn had started a fire in our wood stove and it felt really good to come into a warm house and hang our wet coats by the stove to dry.
Today Andrea and I rode Sprout and Ed again and moved some of John’s cows that were grouped in the lower end of Baker Creek with too many for the water supply, and spread them out over the middle area of that range, where there’s a lot more grass--and access to several water troughs.