So. I took a break from frantically wrapping presents on the Thursday before Christmas and read my email. I had a note from a person who knew a friend who knew a friend . . . Anyhow, she needed someone to trailer four mustang “babies” from Auburn back to Larkin Valley on Sunday, the day after Christmas, and hadn’t had any luck finding anyone willing to do it. I wasn’t busy, so I said I would.
The woman’s name is Lynn Hummer and she runs Pregnant Mare Rescue, although she doesn’t limit her rescues to mares; she pretty much takes any horse that needs a hand. In this case, as I understand it, there was a roundup of mustangs on the Paiute Reservation in Nevada, and these babies had been separated from their mothers and sold to speculators who buy for meat packers in Canada and Mexico.
Fortunately for the foals, people were on hand to offer the buyers slightly more money, and start the foals in rescue/adoption process. Twenty foals were transported to Auburn and, from there, would be distributed to different horse rescue facilities around the state, including Lynn’s place. Lynn’s job, once she had the foals, will be to handle them and gentle them enough to get basic veterinary work done, then continue their educations until they’re at the point where they can be adopted out. Anyhow.
I picked up Lynn and her right-hand volunteer, Betty, on Sunday AM, and made it to the place where the foals were kept in the early afternoon. I spent most of the drive trying to visualize getting mustang foals to step into a trailer, particularly after having ridden in one from Nevada. Then I tried to figure out if four horses, even babies, could fit in my two-horse trailer. As it happened, neither was a problem.
The facility had a huge barn, with a “runway” from the pastures through the barn to the parking area. When we got there, I was directed to back the trailer through the door, so it was positioned at the end of the runway and blocked access to the parking lot. Backing the trailer in turned out to be the hardest part of the whole thing – these people had *clearly* done this before! There were two pastures with the foals in them; Lynn had told the woman who owned the facility that we were using a two-horse trailer, so she had separated out the six smallest foals into the pasture that bordered on the barn.
The foals moved as a group – if one moved, they all pretty much moved. Several of us got lightweight poles and the owner got an older mare. The mare was positioned at the entrance to the barn, and those of us with poles held them horizontally, and sort of walked slowly toward the group of foals, making a continuously smaller circle for them. As it got tight, they just calmly followed the mare into the barn. As the group passed a stall, one of the foals was peeled off into a stall – leaving five.
Before we started herding the foals, I had put down a bag of shavings, and ripped up a flake of alfalfa and distributed it around the trailer. When the foals got close, one of them peered into the trailer, discovered the food and hopped in, followed by the rest – it took about . . . 30 seconds.
Unfortunately, there were five foals in the trailer, not the four we needed, so we had to get at least one of them out of the trailer, which none of them was interested in doing, as long as there was food in there. One of the women finally went back to the head-side windows on the trailer and leaned in and started waving her hand, which finally got them to step out of the trailer. We moved the group back down to where the other foal had been put in a stall and another one was cut out and detoured into the stall, leaving us with our four foals. We walked behind the group toward the trailer, and they just stepped right in and settled down. We closed the doors and took off for home.
The trip home was uneventful, with very light traffic because of the holiday, I guess. The only interesting event was when we stopped for gas, Lynn and Betty had me look in the trailer – one of the foals was laid out on the floor of the trailer, sleeping!
When we got to Lynn’s, the plan was that we would back the trailer up to a pasture gate, open the gate, open the trailer doors and the foals would step out of the trailer into the pasture. Unfortunately, the ground around the pasture was way too wet, soft and slick to back the trailer in, so Lynn and Betty had to figure a way to safely move the foals the 50 yards from the trailer to the pasture.
Lynn went up and got two pipe corral-type fence panels, a mature horse, and her husband, Dave, and his friend, Scot. We set up the fence panels on either side of the trailer, Lynn held the horse in front of the trailer, and I opened the doors. Again, the foals wouldn’t get out, so I had to go pat one of the butt in order to get them to move, but ultimately, they calmly stepped out of the trailer. Lynn led the mature horse toward the pasture, and the foals followed. Betty and I walked one fence panel along with them as they moved, and Dave and Scot walked the other panel along on the other side, giving the impression of a fence to guide them – although I’m not sure they were necessary. The foals gave the impression that they would have followed the Big Horse anywhere. Anyhow, they followed him into the pasture, and by the time we got the pasture gate closed, they were all happily grazing.
Cory and I visited the next day, and they were settling in and Lynn was starting the process of gentling them by sitting in the pasture with them with a flake of hay in her lap, waiting for them to approach her. They had come close enough so that Lynn had been able to check out what teeth were in – from that, she figures that the babies are about 16 weeks old. What a great ending to what could have been an ugly story for those foals.
The photos in this post were taken at the original facility – it was way too dark to take any pictures by the time we got back to Lynn’s. Here is a link to the website for Lynn’s organization: Pregnant Mare Rescue If you feel like volunteering, or want to make a contribution to an operation that does good on a shoestring, this might be the place.