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Who is Brawn, you say?
Brawn is a BLM (that's Bureau of Land Management) mustang gelding I won at auction in 2003, in Lynden, WA, the first mustang 'adoption event' held in Northwest Washington. He's from the Sheepshead Management Area in eastern Oregon, just a stone's throw from the Kiger Management Area. He's named for a Transformer, who's also small but tough!
Brawn, the day after adoption, at his first home, Papetti Lane Equestrian Center. Not exactly his best picture day.
While I used to work with horses, mainly racehorses, he's the first one I've ever owned, and quite frankly, it was a crazy thing to do.
I went to the 'adoption event' to just look at the horses - REALLY! Spectator type, ya know? I had just recently been retired from federal service, and my income was okay, but not great, so I had no plans to adopt. 'Cause logically it was an idiotic thing to do. But ya know that little voice inside you that says 'get your butt out there' (but isn't the one that you always want to listen to), that's the Creator talking to you. I didn't know why, but He said to go, so I went. I looked, and looked and looked...like several hundred other goombahs who probably shouldn't be logically owning horses either, especially not wild ones. I seemed to have a leg up on most of them, tho - like the half dozen or so ACTUAL horsepeople I saw in the crowd there, I wasn't one who assumed that the horses were tame! I swear, I saw half a dozen people try to reach in and pet them, making kissy noises - like a wild horse who's been dodging rattlesnakes and wolves their entire life is gonna think that's a pleasant noise! Needless to say, most of the horses spent the entire time as far from people as they could get, which wasn't too far in the small holding pens.
I saw a few I liked, checked out how the whole thing is run by the BLM, checked out their maps and stuff that they had displayed of all the management areas in Oregon, as these particular animals came from there. They didn't have any mustangs from the Kiger management area, tho, which I was a little disappointed about. Then I drove toward home.
And started being driven insane by not being able to get them out of my head.
This, I knew from working with a medicine man friend of mine, is the Creator saying "YOU! Pay Attention! This is something you're supposed to do!"
So I says to God "Okay, God, please - I need it to be REALLY OBVIOUS that this is what You want me to do. 'Cause, You know, I'm human, and we're stupid. So, if You really mean for me to have one, I'll stop by Papetti's and they'll not only have the facilities (as there are specific things that the BLM requires as far as housing the horses and burros which are more than most people have: such as 6 foot board fences, no barbed wire, etc.), but they'll be willing to take one." And I drove to Papetti's, which is one of the oldest public stables in Whatcom County, which I'd rode at while in Pony Club many years earlier...
...and lo and behold, they not only had the facilities, but they'd just been bought by a lady of Native American descent who had 40 years of experience dealing with wild and problem horses! They were even willing to convert one of the outside paddocks to BLM specs, by 10 am the next morning! But then they decided to go ahead and let me have one of the stalls with a paddock that was originally going to belong to one of the stallions they brought with them from California, a setup that actually exceeded BLM specs, with an actual stall and 8 foot fencing.
I got my REALLY OBVIOUS.
My head swimming a bit, I put down the required deposit, and drove back to the auction. 'Cause the problem now was...which one??? The whole bit about having to be able to afford to keep one I had to leave up to the Creator at that point. He wants you to do something, He will provide the means. I had about 4 horses in mind, all geldings. I didn't want a mare as most are pregnant, which would have meant supporting TWO horses! One I had in mind was a bay with a square star, one was a cute little dun two year old, another was a palomino...and at this time I don't remember what the fourth one looked like, a roan I think. I couldn't make up my mind, so as I drove, I talked to God again, and asked Him to have the one He wanted me to adopt approach me when I stuck my hand in the gelding pens.
None of the four did. A plain bay, #4129 his tag said, just like all the other plain ol' bays and browns the BLM complains about having left over at every adoption, did.
He was the ONLY one who did.
Because stupid human me wouldn't have otherwise looked at him.
He came to about 10 inches away from my hand. And as I looked at him, I noticed how nicely he was put together, and a pretty solid horse. So he was in a plain, brown (or rather, bay) wrapper. Oh well, he was the one!
And he's the horse I won the next morning, for $310. The starting adoption price for horses is $125, but they do competitive bidding in case there's more than one person interested in a horse. I was bidding against an old man, probably in his 60's or 70's, who finally just let me have him. I was so excited I immediately ran right out to do the paperwork and get a halter and lead rope!! The man approached me later and told me I got a good horse - he was gonna turn him into a cow pony, but let me have him 'cause I was so excited about it! :) Plus, he had won two or three other horses, including a gorgeous black mare from the same management area, possibly even his half sister. A nice gentleman also at the adoption agreed to trailer him the few miles to Papetti's, and after a very long wait while the wranglers tried to halter a very fractious filly, a very-sedate-by-comparison horse #4129 walked quietly through the chute and into the trailer. Then half an hour later, he did the same thing, with loose gates being substituted for the BLM's pipe fence chute. Leading at this point is a no-no...'cause you can't even touch 'em!
I didn't tell my family because it was a crazy thing to do, and I didn't want to hear 'Sell the horse' every time I got into a little bit of trouble - this was gonna be stressful enough. And I wasn't entirely sure I could do it even tho the Creator obviously was gonna provide, so I decided to wait until I had his title in hand a year later - because this would prove to me and to everyone I could take care of my horse. The BLM asks for vet inspections at the anniversary point, so I knew if I could do this that long and pass a vet's inspection, then I really was a competent horse person.
For the first few weeks, he was confined to his stall, and I went out there three times a day and sat, his hay in my lap. In a few days I was able to touch him, and by the end of those few weeks, we were leading around in the stall, and I was able to take his halter on and off and touch him everywhere. After that, he got to go out in his paddock when I let him out.
*****Word of Caution for Those Thinking of Adopting and Boarding Their Wild Horse at a Public Stable Like I Did: I found out that a lot of people, even those who've owned horses for a while, can be just kinda clueless that not every horse in a barn is domesticated, and can't be approached and treated like a domestic horse. I had to be on guard all the time to make sure no one else got hurt, especially children who like to run around in barns. A wild horse will bolt or kick quicker than a domestic will, and with more deadly force, and for reasons that a domestic horse wouldn't bat an eye - like someone suddenly walking by an entrance, talking to a friend or something. It can be very trying for the owner, trying to get your horse used to everything and at the same time trying to make sure myriad people who are all paying attention to someone or something else don't get hurt if something should happen. And usually it will be the clueless that cross your path, run up to your horse to pet it, slam car doors behind you, duck around and pat your horse on the butt...(I actually had one girl who walked up from behind my horse while he was in the crossties, carrying a broom, and planted her hand in his flank. If he'd been a meaner horse she'd have had several broken bones and a missing spleen. As it was, he jumped sideways into me and stood there shaking.)
Unfortunately this made it difficult to do some things, and pretty much impossible to do others - for instance, the round pen was on the other side of the barns AND the arena from where he was stabled, so I had to be able to lead him through the parking lot and the other barn, full of students and families, past the arena where people were riding...this took about 6 months do be able to do, so his round pen work was sorely lacking. It was, however, a good place to get him used to buildings, and being around other horses and people, and cars and machinery.*****
It was also during this initial training time that I began to notice something. I taught him to lead from both sides while we were still completely in the stall, and when I was on his right side his shoulder would constantly bump me. I would, of course, answer with a shove and tell him 'Get off me!'. This wasn't a problem on the other side, no matter which way we turned. He began to get increasingly frustrated, until one day he pinned his ears, and, yanking the lead rope away spun his butt around to kick me. I jumped out the door, but went right back in and smacked his butt with another lead rope, yelling of course because I couldn't let him get away with that. He spun back around, and we made up, but I stepped back and thought about what had brought it to that. He wasn't bumping me on purpose, his frustration and lack of bumping on the other side told me that...so there had to be another reason. I remembered when he and the other horses in his pen had been run into the auction pen...and that he'd been bumped on that side like he hadn't seen the other horses coming. He also had trouble figuring out where walls were on that side, and would bump them, and would bump the doorway when being led out into his paddock. I'd also been able to, the third day, cover up his right eye with my hand with no reaction from him whatsoever.
He was partially blind on the right side.
It wasn't entirely *gone*, mostly it was toward his rear quarter his vision was so blurry as to be useless... but bad enough that I had to adjust my training of him to favor that side. Once I figured that out, I was able to do things like place my fingers under his halter along his cheek to let him know the spacing between us, so he could use what vision he had to learn how far to be from me. And I led almost exclusively from that side, too, to build his confidence. Now I can lead him equally fine from both sides without guiding with my hand, but I still make sure that if he's nervous I'm on the right. And instead of introducing new things to his left side first, I introduce them to his right side.
The first year I didn't get as far in his training as I would have liked, as in, I never got on his back like all the mustang stories you read...but it was because of me, not him. But the BLM didn't mind...in fact, they wound up doing the inspections themselves of the horses adopted in the county when they came up the next year. It lasted all of 5 minutes and we passed with FLYING COLORS!!!!! :) :) :)
Some of the other horses weren't so lucky - by the time the BLM people had gotten to us, they'd already had to confiscate two horses. Fortunately, tho, another boarding stable that had had some mustangs and neglected them pretty badly had no mustangs anymore - their owners had managed to find good places for them. But the BLM people appreciated knowing that that stable was bad news.
In the meantime, I'd gotten a great offer from a friend to move to her farm in Eastern Washington and help take care of her American Bashkir Curlies in exchange for room and board for my horse. So I gave the BLM my new address, and they sent his title there the next week, about the same time we packed up and hauled out. :)
Now we're in Eastern Washington, up around Kettle Falls, up in the mountains! I've made progress on his training, actually got up and leaned over his back on the third week of August, and hope to be finally riding soon!
Taken 31 Aug 2004. He's 5 years old and a heck of a lot chunkier than in his first few pics!
Why yes, that IS baling twine! We use only the best materials here for tying up jury-rigged fence! Fortunately, Brawn is neither a chewer or a fence-tester.
I took this picture from an adjoining paddock with rival horses, which he didn't seem to be too happy about. There's good reasons he's alone, tho.
There is apparently some Morgan in his background somewhere...he's got the look of a half-bred and smooth, high action, to boot. Sheepshead mustangs are known to be good quality horses.
See Brawn in his new pen.
See Brawn in his new pen all by himself because Brawn was a bad boy by domestic horse standards.
But Brawn was a good boy by wild horse standards.
Brawn had a buddy.
Brawn's buddy was a 25 year old Arab named Moe.
Brawn decided Moe was too old and was gonna die soon anyway, so Brawn took all his food.
Brawn also decided Moe needed an aerobic conditioning program, just in case of coyotes.
Moe now gets to eat all his own food, and doesn't have to run in circles.
Brawn is now in a pen with half a dozen weanlings, a two year old filly, a three year old gelding, and this bozo - Curly Joe...an American Bashkir Curly/Arab cross gelding, who may or may not be 5 years old. Brawn has been teaching the weanlings a thing or two about life, but has liked having someone near his age to play with.
Brawn got the blanket for Christmas from my parents, and this was the first day he got to wear it.
I'm sure it won't be so nice and clean for long. Fortunately, its Scotchguarded.
(click to enlarge)
2 Jun 2005
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