Horse survives 6 Weeks in Wyoming Winter

Valentine survives six weeks of Wyoming Winter
Valentine was found 6 weeks after she collapsed on the trail and was left behind.

Valentine, a six year old horse, collapsed on a 16-mile trek off a mountain last fall. Wranglers from Swift Creek Outfitters were leading a train of horses out of a base camp for hunting and fishing excursions, racing against a winter storm. When the mare lay down and couldn’t get up, they left her there in order to get the other horses down. When the owner, B.J. Hill, went back for her the next day, she was gone. They searched for several days but she had vanished. After the snow began to fall there was no way to trace her.

Valentine being led home via snow mobile
Valentine was found by a park worker and led home through the deep snow by her owner, using a snow mobile.

Six weeks later, Valentine was spotted by a worker grooming snow trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest spotted Valentine and called the U.S. Forest Service. Hill, his son and a park worker were able to lead Valentine home through the deep snow, using a snowmobile — it took 9 hours to bring her out.

Valentine came through the ordeal just fine. She didn’t even need veterinary care. But her story has sparked a lot of debate. Some people feel that not enough was done to find her. Some people think that she should have been humanely destroyed when she collapsed — although Hill said the men leading the horse train had no fire arms — rather than be left to deal with the harsh conditions and the predators. Swift Creek Outfitters is now being investigated for the incident, although there has never been a complaint against them in the past for the care of their horses.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else they could have done. Since there was no obvious cause for the mare’s collapse, euthanizing her (even if they had the means to do so) seems an extreme response. I also understand why they left. Certainly, putting the rest of the horses at risk (and the wranglers) would have been a worse choice.

The fact that Valentine came through the tough winter conditions in such good shape reminds me that horses are pretty good at dealing with winter conditions. Just because my horses are wrapped up in blankets when it snows doesn’t mean that they would freeze to death without one.

What do you think was the right thing to do in this situation?

 

 

 

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Don’t Feed the Horses Babies

Don't feed babies to horses
The Onion nailed it on this one! People just don’t understand the risks they take when they let their children feed other people’s horses.

I’ve had to put up a second fence line and signs to keep people away from Zelda and Curly and the owner of my barn has found families standing inside her run-in shed, having climbed over a stone wall and through a wooden fence. Another friend found a toddler standing in her field with their arms around the neck of her pony . . . only to have the pony latch onto the kid’s ear!

 

91st Chincoteague Pony Swim a Success

pony swim3
About 200 ponies and foals made the swim this morning during the 91st Chincoteague Pony Swim. The herd was rounded up on Sunday.

This morning at 10:18 the famous Chincoteague ponies embarked on the annual swim from Assateague Island. The swim always takes place at on the last Wednesday of July at “slack” tide (when there is no current); the annual foal auction will take place tomorrow, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Emerging from the water
I was able to watch some of the swim on a live video feed. None of the horses or foals looked to be in distress.

I’ve always wanted to watch the swim, and this year I managed to come across a live feed of the event. It wasn’t as much fun as being there but I probably got a better view since the event draws tens of thousands of spectators. Not to mention the heat index was 104 when the ponies started their eighth of a mile swim.

This year approximately 200 ponies made the swim and none had any issues, even some of the smaller foals. Once they emerged, there were a few tussles among the stallions and some frantic mares looking for foals, but soon the herd settled down and I saw a few bystanders stroking ponies over the fence.

Chincoteague pony swim
After they’ve rested, the ponies are herded down the main street by the “Salt Water Cowboys” in preparation for tomorrow’s auction.

The annual pony swim became famous in 1947 with the publication of Marguerite Henry’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague. Certainly, it was one of my favorite books as a child and I spent many months dreaming of owning my own Chincoteague pony.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Sun on the wall
Riding on a summer evening when the light is magical.

Today is the longest day of the year. In some ways it’s shocking; summer is only just beginning and yet starting tomorrow our days will get (marginally) shorter every day. But this is a special summer solstice because it’s also a full moon. And not just any moon; it’s a strawberry moon, so named by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested.

Loop ride
This ride kept us cool in the woods and took us down one of the historic colonial-era roads.

What better way to celebrate than by an evening ride? Zelda and I had a lovely, long ride this evening. We took a six mile loop that took us down historic the historic Estabrook Road trail (with a distance marker to the Old North Bridge), through the woods to come out at Hutchins Pond.

It was a warm evening, and yet cool in the woods. Surprisingly, because these trails are usually well used, it was empty tonight. The only people I saw were three mountain bikers, who surprised us deep in the woods but were kind enough to pull over to the side of the trail while Zelda snorted her disapproval.

I made one wrong turn out in the woods. It’s funny how well Zelda knows her way around and she pointed like a dog in the right direction. Honestly, at dusk, most of those wooded trails look the same and if it wasn’t for the touches of history — the old foundations, the lime kilns, and the stone walls — it would be easy to lose your way without the uncanny directional sense of my partner in crime.

Hutchins Pond
A glimpse of Hutchins Pond, which appears at the end of a the East Hubbard Tral

When I arrived back at the barn around 8:15, the sunset still painted the sky orange and it was pleasantly light.

Friends

I understand why some people want their horses in individual turnouts — they are afraid they will get hurt. Freedom is always covered with scrapes, cuts and bite marks. It’s not from meanness. He plays hard. And often. Luckily, Willow seems to enjoy the game as much as he does. And even if he does look scruffy, I’m glad he has so much fun. When I first got him, he didn’t have a lot of experience playing well with others. I think he’s figured it out.

Thanks, Lindsay for catching the two in action!