Monday, May 31, 2010

Horseback in the Park

Happy Memorial Day! I hope everyone gets the chance to remember those who fought for America’s freedom and safety.
This past week was the first time I rode my horses in the park. On Wednesday, I rode Colonel out to find Copper, Brutus and Embers. It was pretty spooky as the stallions knew that my horse was a stallion. In fact, Coal (a black bachelor) came over to my trailer while Colonel was still in it! I drove up the Bicourt to park and we went out for our ride. My horse was fresh as he too could sense the excitement in the air. I was able to do my observations and keep Colonel out of sight from the bands but on my way back to the trailer, someone followed me. It was Silver. He left his mares on the hill to come check us out. Just
as I got to the trailer to tie up Colonel, he let out a big whinny and Silver got very excited. He began to approach the trailer at a trot and I started to wonder how this was going to turn out…..was I going to have to yell and spook him away or should I quickly get out a rope to deter him from coming any closer? Just as I had put down my camera getting ready to do something, another horse popped over the hill. It was Mystery! He had left his band way below the Biocourt to see what all the whinnying was about. It was perfect timing as he distracted Silver and the two of them had some words right on the road. I loaded my horse and watched the two of them duke it out. I don’t think I will be taking Colonel to the Park anymore to look for wild horses …kind of spooky.
On Thursday, Al (the range rider) and I were going to ride together. When I told him about the day prior he said you have to have a lot of guts to ride a stud out here….the horses can smell him and if left alone, they’ll chew him up. Al was right. It wasn’t a smart idea to begin with and I kind of knew that before….I gues
s I wanted to see what would happen and now I know. Anyway, I brought Cache that day. It was slick; the rain had made all the gumbo buttes greasy. When wet, the bentonite clay is just a mess and makes traveling the trails really tough. We rode 15 miles that day looking for Blaze and never found him. Oh it was frustrating but I told Al that I would rather be riding than hiking and not find a horse. Al agreed and said, “you’ll get those colts broke this summer…that’s for sure” Cache did great that day! I was so happy with how he handled the conditions and length of day. He learned how to use his butt sliding down those buttes with me on his back. It was a great ride
On Friday, Al and I went out again. This time I brought JJ a
s Cache seemed pooped from the day prior. We had a shorter day and finally found Blaze over in Lindo flats. I had never loped JJ before so I figured this was good a place as any. He did fine and overall I was pleased with is confidence and ability to ride out in front and away from Al. We ended the day with my first rattle snake finding!! Al’s horse almost stepped on it. The ground was wet and when it’s damp, they can’t shake their rattles. Luckily he just slithered on his way, never coiling up or striking. I wish I could put a scratch and sniff on the blog so you could smell the sage after the rain. Natures’ aromatherapy at it’s best!

Guitar - my favorite colt...should be a blue roan

Orphan Blue with her colt, "Stetson"

Friendly "Sidekick" came over to say hello. One of the best tempered stallions in the park.

Al looking for Blaze off Buck Hill on a foggy day.

Mystery's group taking a morning snooze:)

Lacey and foal.

So peaceful!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Branding

The Branding last Saturday went well. Ted and Kay were kind enough to let me rope and we finished before dark. Kay and I had moved the cattle a few days prior so they were close to the branding corrals and the gather only lasted an hour. We had 270 calves in this bunch. After roping a few, I vaccinated, gave implants and even castrated some bull calves. It was a day. After the work was done we all headed to the main house for dinner and some brews. There were 40 people who showed up...most neighbors, just coming to lend a helping hand and recruiting others for their own brandings. I've got another tomorrow to go to. This one is going to be an all dayer....we start gathering at 7am.
It's neat to be a part of this community. Everyone helps each other and takes care of one another. One of our neighbors to the south had a heart attack 2 weeks ago and already everyone is talking of how they are going to get cattle taken care of and moved for him this summer. These are good people here and I am learning a lot from them.
Alanna (my roomate and first year vet student)on right,!, and local vet (Marnie) on left

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Ranch

Today it's raining. My Grandpa has come out to visit so I am meeting him and Lois in town so we can explore all the touristy stuff together. We might go check out the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame and all the little shops around town. I hope the weather clears this afternoon so I can show them the Park but we will see what mother nature decided to do. The branding is tomorrow and it would be nice if we wer'nt out wrestling calves in the mud.

Anyway, here are some pics of the ranch. The old barn is made out of huge railroad ties and seems like it will last forever. The ranch brand is two half circles as seen on the hide above. After spending the day in the park, I enjoy coming home and working horses. Cache and JJ are two peas in a pod while Colonel has a bit more serious understanding of why he is here. Two nights ago moved the cows and calves into the pasture where we are going to brand. I think that he really enjoys having a job. The rain is really starting to come down as I write this. Luckily I am safe and sound in the pickup....the fresh smell of sage after a storm is what I look forward to today. My good friend in Fort Collins gave me a book to read while I'm here called "Dakota Cowboy". Each night I try to get through a few pages before drifting off. It's a wonderful escape into this land 120 years ago. The book tells of true accounts of open range grazing, cattle companies, the railroad and movement west. Even then, the bison where gone but what a life that must have been. TR always said that it was here that began the romance of his life.

Cache during a hobble lesson

JJ standing quietly after a lesson in the arena.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Horses

So, the moment we have all been waiting for is finally here! First off, I just want to thank my Dad for driving out with me, my wonderful mom and sister for packing me delicious food for the summer, and my Uncle Bri and Aunt Kim for the awesome camera that is allowing me to share this experience with you all.
Below are some great photos (just a few of the 300+ I have taken in the last three days). I have been so busy since things got started here that it's been hard to find time to get to free wireless Internet in town. I found a spot here under the pizza parlor and next to the Dakota Cyclery that's in the shade and has a pretty strong signal. The town of Medora is just starting to come alive as all the seasonals start to move in their temporary summer spots. The church opened last week and the buzz of lawn mowers fill the early mornings. I have only been here a few days yet I've seen over 100 horses , been to 2 brandings, moved yearlings at the ranch, hunted for sheds and seen the world's largest dairy cow:) Yes, that would be Salem Sue in Salem, ND and I DO have a picture that I will post at another time.
The horses are very photogenic and differ in color, size, and stature. It's interesting that you see the variation despite the low genetic pool. Today we have been doing some training with good ol folks from Fort Collins on data collection and sampling. Tomorrow we will be doing the same. I feel that even though it's only been a few days, I am getting the hang of it and starting to remember the horses. I think after the week is done, I'll be confident to go out on my own to find the more aloof bands. WE haven't seen blaze yet or WindCanyon II. I've heard they are beautiful horses so I can't wait to meet them. Well, I'm just about out of battery...better post, be on my way home to ride the colts.

Dad with Flica and Cloud

The double band up Coal Vein Road

New Baby I think out of Molly

Granite's Boy (bachelor) fighting Gray Ghost with Satellite watching from a far and the ladies in the back watching

Sweet faced Flicka

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm Here!

After finishing finals, packing my horse trailer plum full and driving 11 hours north....I am finally here. My Dad made the drive with me and we have had a wonderful last two days. The horses are all well and officially road warriors. Our drive started Friday morning at 10am as we pulled chalks and got comfy for our trip. Eastern Wyoming was beautiful along the South Dakota border. The road was littered with cattle companies signs and BIG ranches. After traversing through a tip of the Black Hills, we finally came to the flat full of antelope, turkeys, pheasants and black cattle. Buffalo started to appear out the right side of the window, then elk and then the Bad Lands. It was amazing, like a piece of Utah got dropped in the middle of nowhere North Dakota.

You drive up on the edge and then it drops out from underneath you into this cavernous place. How fortunate we were coming in at the time we did. Animals were everywhere starting to graze and suddenly I was rejuvenated from the 10 hour haul. We pulled in Medora around 8pm ....note to self, the gas station in town closes at 8PM!! We lucked out and the kind lady turned the pump back on for us. The ranch was still 15 miles off West River Road ... 11 cattle guards later, we were there.

Ted and Kay met us outside to help unload horses and after getting them all settled in , we went in for a beer and a quick chat. They took us over to the cabin and it wasn't long before the lights were out. Next morning, all I could think about were the horses. I got up and went out side only to be yelled at by a turkey! They are everywhere on the ranch and bigger than I ever remembered a turkey to be. Pretty wild. My Dad and I unloaded all our goods into the cabin and went over to check on the ponies before heading into town. After making the relentless trip to the Dickenson Walmart (1 hours away) we came back to Medora to check out the little town where Teddy Roosevelt once ranched. Mike, the wildlife biologist I will be working under, met us at the park office to visit and gave me a few maps of the area. We ate at Boots Bar before heading to the park for a drive. Pictures below speak for themselves.

Things are just starting to green up. By June, this place will be green with new growth. Last night we made it back to the ranch around 7pm and took a drive with the Teschers to go check some cows. Ted had found a dead one earlier with a bellowing calf at her side. The four of us tried to catch the 3 week old calf but he was too quick so we let him be for the night. They then took us up to the plateau where you could see chimney bute to the north. With the 4 of us squeezed in the frount seat of their single cab, Ted told stories of ranching, growing up rodeoing, and raising kids in the country. Dusk was painting the badlands - it was a beautiful and memorable way to end our first day in North Dakota.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Research Project

Horay! I finally have permission to post info about what I will be doing this summer. Where do I start???? Well, let me begin by saying that I am taking part in an amazing study whose goal in mind is to help solve one of the largest problem/issue facing the management of wild horses in this country. Over time I will explain how the project will do this.

Over the course of this blog I hope to share with you my many experiences, the people I will meet and the horses I will follow. In less than two weeks I will be heading to Medora, ND to track wild horses in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). The purpose of following these horses is to document their reproductive behavior and seek the environmental impacts of a immunocontraceptive vaccine called GonaCon. The hopeful out come is that mares who were vaccinated last fall will not show signs of heat nor cycle this breeding season. Yes, you got it's birth control for horses. This vaccine has been used in elk up at Rocky Mountain National Park and several other species in captivity. The efficacy of this vaccine is +/- 4 years which could be useful to prevent the births of unwanted horses on federal/public lands and reduce the number of "round-ups" needed to decrease their numbers.

In anticipation of working on this project I applied for Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) Scholarship for Veterinary students doing research. I was chosen to represent CSU in my category of applicants and I am totally excited to present on this topic at their convention in Atlanta,GA next year.

Here is a pic of my dwelling for the summer! I am living on a ranch about 15 miles south of TRNP in this hunting cabin. Just looking at it makes me smile:) During the days I'm not in the park, I will be helping AI cows, riding my colts, and hopefully enjoying the peace and serenity of a cell phone-less land. Thanks for reading and I'll have more info to come. So Stay Tuned!