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Roll was devastated at the loss of Rock on December 27, 2011. He really didn’t know how lucky he was to be in our loving care at the time, however continuing his well established maintenance and training routine gave him some solace and in two weeks he began to reciprocate our unconditional affection for him. We moved him into Rock’s stall which also gave him a sense of security. He seemed to find comfort in Rock’s scent.
Like Rock, Roll spent many lessons on the lead rope doing his core muscle exercises and measured time in the round pen for further strengthening in hopes of re-balancing his body enough to do some light driving and riding. In March, he was doing so well I figured it was time to mount him and start doing balancing exercises from the saddle. We had our vet come out and x-ray his feet to make sure he would be sound enough for those kinds of activities. He had not exhibited any lameness in the year and a half he had been with us.
We were all surprised when we discovered that he not only had side bones in the right hind as we had palpated, but in all four feet! As if that wasn’t enough, he also had some traces of upper and lower ringbone. The vet agreed that with his core muscle and balance training he had not aggravated the conditions in his feet and that was why he never exhibited any lameness…only a slight twisting in the right hind. When I asked about riding him, my vet agreed with me that he could probably carry my weight safely at walk and trot, but that the canter could pose problems. He also agreed that light driving after his new posture had been more securely established by riding that he would be able to do some light driving while hitched to my Meadowbrook cart.
Roll had 3 weeks off after the x-rays and that turned out to be a bad decision. He lost some conditioning and got a little depressed because now the other mules were not turned out next to him anymore. So, we resumed his regular activities and allowed him turnout in the lane between the two spring turnout pens. He could have walked right through the low plastic gate, but never offered to do so. He was just happy to be near his new friends.
On Wednesday May 9, Roll seemed ready to be mounted and ridden for the first time. I carefully reviewed all his pre-riding lessons: grooming, tacking up while standing stock still, mounting in the tack barn, asking him to take the oats from both sides, repeated the same in the round pen after I ground drove him through the pattern I would ride with my assistant nearby mirroring his movements…
and then brought in the mounting block.
I then asked him to bring his head around to acknowledge that I was now on his back.
Roll was all business and absolutely perfect! He walked quietly tracking right for one rotation around the round pen, did a perfect reverse…
and tracked two more rotations to the left. He knew what to expect and responded accordingly right down to the rein back at the end of the lesson!
I told him it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to take treks with me around the farm fields like the other mules. He just beamed with pride and enthusiasm! It’s wonderful to see him truly happy again!
It surely cannot be easy these days being Joan Guilfoyle, the (relatively) new director of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. On the one hand she works for a federal agency, the Interior Department, which is largely beholden to the powerful industries it is supposed to regulate. And on the other hand, she is responsible, under federal law and policy, for ensuring the survival and management of the nation’s wild horses at a time when relentless political and economic forces threaten to decimate the herds.
“It’s tricky, and it’s hard,” Guilfoyle said last fall in an interview shortly after she assumed her post. “There are a lot of emotions around it, a lot of different opinions.” Indeed, there are. The ranchers and farmers and miners and oilmen see the wild horses as feral pests that should be gone from public and private land. Wild horse advocates see the herds as victims of faulty science, special interests, and spineless federal and state officials. There is, they say, plenty of public land out West where the horses could freely, and safely, roam.
Read the rest of this story here.