Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Gracie...and Laura...

From Jim: Gracie is a senior miniature horse. She's white with blue eyes, a flowing mane and tail, and the cutest tiny ears you've ever seen. She was placed at the sanctuary with her full sized stablemate-Lexi, who has since gotten her wings. Gracie had been badly abused and was rescued by her loving owner, who has seen to her retirement here. Why anyone would abuse a mini is beyond me, but I guess bad behavior is without limits. Anyway, Gracie has overcome her fear and mistrust of our kind and is a loving sweet girl. How sweet? Well, she has been certified as a therapy/companion animal and will be visiting hospitals and rest homes, rehabilitation facilities and schools, and anywhere else she can share her love and peace. Our faithful volunteer, Laura, has been the driving force in Gracie's new role. Laura is one of those undeniable quiet powerhouses that just gets it done. She was the person that willed old Sparkle to hang in when he arrived nearly starved to death. Laura is much too humble to let the compelling story of her own life get in the way of her good works. There will blogs and stories, probably some media stuff about these two-Gracie and Laura. The first page of the first chapter begins this Saturday at Camelot; then next Saturday another debut at Tractor Supply in Oroville. After these events, the real work, seeing and comforting those in need will truly begin. I think it's pretty awesome.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Talking With The Animals

Hurray!! Pictures are back. Don't know where they were or how they got here, but HURRAY!!!! Will see if I can add new ones now.
Animals are quite verbal and the blog should have been titled Talking to People. The critters here are a talkative bunch. Dunny, Dancing Drum and Star let us know when they feel we have waited too long to feed, pet or otherwise neglected them. Dancer, especially, verbalizes her displeasure with our failings. This winsome trio is always ready to share their love and feelings.

The goats are always talking. Hello. Pet the goat. Feed the goat. Play with the goat. What are you doing? Can I help? What's in your pocket? Can I have some? Where you been? You get the idea. They always have input. They talk to the horses, dogs and cats, too. The chickens who live next door are ignored.

Bucky the clubbed footed pony talks to everyone. In fact, Bucky is everyone. Sometimes he races around with Teddy the Thoroughbred, encouraging the bigger boy to hurry it up. Sometimes, he's a mule, though he has not perfected his bray yet. Sometimes he's a hinny and spends his day communing with Posey. They scratch backs, nibble and generally have a long ears conversation.

Rosie and Teddy are inseparable. Teddy had been bonded with Tess. When we had to give Tess her wings we let Teddy say good-bye. He spent about 20 minutes sniffing and just being with her. When he was through he snorted, then went to Rosie and she comforted him. They have been together ever since. If she strays too far he calls to her and they reunite. Their communication is one of love and trust.

They do not limit themselves just to each other though. Rosie is quite fond of the tractor when it is full of hay and she often lets me know I can stop and let her nibble while I'm trying to feed. Teddy visits with everyone. The other day when we had company and the men were standing by the fence chatting, big ole Teddy walked over and said, Hey, guys, I'm here, let's talk about me. He is a big love.

Feeding time elicits the most equine to human conversations. The lights come on in the house in the morning and the long ear chorus begins. Jessie donkey has been practicing and she has the most pitiful warble in her voice. She inhales with a squeak, then exhales with a vibration that lets you know she is within minutes of starving to death.
Jenny joins her as do Dobbin and Jonathan. Since Jonathan and Dobbin are in their 40's their voices have the old man sound- a little raspy and breathless. Of course, Love dog views the donkey serenade as an invitation to a sing along. What a ruckus.

The chickens and guineas have already greeted the sun, or the moon, or the clouds or whatever they feel needs a Good Morning. When dainty Breeze Bay the Arabian sees us she lets out a lusty whinny while her pal huge Cash gives barely a whisper nicker.

Probably, the most verbal of the horses is Frankie. He's always making noises. In fact he reminds me of kids I had in class who always had to be making sounds. Frankie flaps his lips, nickers greeting, moan when he goes to the bathroom and really carries on when he's rolling. What a character.

Of course, this says nothing about the other silent more serious communications we have with the animals. They talk to us when they are frightened, confused, hurting, lonesome and when they are ready to get their wings. They talk to us about their love, trust, forgiveness, and caring. They listen when we are trying to help them. Our communications can be verbal, physical (pets, massages, hands on) or they can be spiritual. On many occasion's we only have to think about what we want them to do and they do it. They only have to think about what they want us to do and we do it.
Yesterday was a good example. Posey the mini hinny (who was in the auction yard with a full grown man riding her whipping her in the face with a coiled rope so she would spin) and who does not allow anyone to touch her was in the turnout with the calves, Kim, Aurora, Chardonnay and Sunny. She sneaked in when we were fence mending. She spent the day with them but was anxious to return to her own herd. I fed the others, opened the gate and told her I was going to walk behind her so she could get out. She had a moment of panic when I got near, then looked at me with the I got it look and trotted over to the gate and out she went.

The animals will talk to you if you listen. They don't always do it in the same ways and like people they don't always talk when you want them to. We spend a lot of time with our beloved friends and we are amazed at what we can learn from them.

Bo the Clydesdale mustang cross and his ladies are wild, but they greet us and know we will care for them. They don't have to be ridden, nor showed, nor bred nor anything. They can just be and be loved. We love and respect them and they thank us.
The dogs, cats, goats and equines have given us a gift that we treasure. We go out each day wondering what we will learn and who has the lesson for us. We are so lucky.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Calves and Goats...

From Jim: We have two calves and four goats. The calves and three of the goats were "by-products" of the dairy industry. They were taken from their mothers without the benefits of any feedings, wet and weak, and hauled to an auction. Their chances of survival were less than 20%. The colostrum that would have upped their chances was stripped from the mothers and thrown away. It is too much trouble to give these male babies a few days with their moms. The dairy farmers maintain it's too hard to do that. At a lot of dairies, the babies are just thrown in a dumpster. There is no euthanasia. Again, the milk and cheese producers say that would be too difficult for them. Worse, some are used for veal. This is the cruelest of all. Locked in tiny pens and, if they survive for a week or so, they are slaughtered. Goats at least escape that fate. I sometimes really wonder what is wrong with our kind. How did we become so callous to life? How can anyone enjoy eating babies? We've had folks that visit the sanctuary complain that now that they know, they won't want to eat veal. Good, I say! To enrich those that cause suffering is be a party to it. Some dairies get it right. Not many, but some. We can promote them and avoid the inhumane abusers. I guess it will take strong legislation with really harsh penalties to bring about meaningful change. It's hard to believe that greed is so deeply embedded in our culture. Very sad. Try eggplant as a veal substitute. Check out your local dairies' practices with their calves and kids. Evil prevails when good people do nothing. You don't have to be an animal rights wingnut to insist on humane and appropriate treatment for them. We are supposed to have dominion (i.e., stewardship) of all creatures. That's a pretty big responsibility. Life is precious.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Guides and Blinds...

From Jim: Over the years, we've had a number of blind horses. Currently, Daisy, a beautiful Appy mare, is our blind resident. Others, that have since gotten their wings were Happy, Charlie, and Blue. Each of these animals had a guide horse, or in Charlie's case, mule. Happy was led by Breeze Bay, our beautiful Arabian. Charlie had Belle, a wonderful white mule. Blue was guided by Chelsea, a granddaughter of Secretariat. Daisey has Levi, a massive Quarterhorse. Breed or gender is not the critical attribute for guiding. Willingness is. Not every horse is ready for the demanding, unrelenting responsibility of a blind horse as a partner. When we receive a blind, it can take a little while for us to find the right animal to be their guide. It's trial and error. We have to be very watchful so that no one gets hurt. When the correct match is found, it's magic. The guide understands the other's blindness, accepts it, and takes on a lifetime obligation. The bonding-guide to blind-blind to guide- is profound. They become completely inseparable. The loyalty and devotion that is a daily practice couldn't be a stronger model for our kind. Blinds and guides live a happy and rewarding life. The capacity to adapt and accept and lead and follow and love and learn is humbling to see. It's very special to have the opportunity to be a small part of such a wonderful thing!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take a Chance...

From Jim: Horse Plus, formerly NorCal Equine Rescue, has been closely associated with Home At Last for quite awhile. Over half of our herd is from there. Because Tawnee and Jason will take horses that are truly without any other options-save for us-we try to accommodate them . Chance is a OTT (off the track) Thoroughbred. He was raced as a baby, like they all are and his left knee fractured under the strain. He was sent to the killer/buyer pen at the age of two. The "trainer" wrote on his papers that he showed "no talent for racing". Tawnee saved him and we took him. He is about as sweet a horse as you would ever want to meet. The vet has OK'ed him for light to moderate work after two years of layup and growing time. He grew to be beautiful and strong. Besides his knee injury, his hind hooves had been worn to the quick. No sole, no frog, pink white line, he had less than half of normal hoof length. He has since grown new foot and is sound. Took over a year. His teeth had required attention. They were somewhat too sharp and causing him painful cheek abscesses. This happens to T-breds. Poor feet and teeth issues are a by-product of the "breed for speed" obsession of the racing industry. Chance will live out his life with us-probably beyond us-but with Home At Last. There is a lifetime of needs and care that follow the "rescue". That's what we're here for. For those animals that can't be rehomed, that aren't able to compete in an overcrowded market for a forever home that requires unrestricted capacity for work or completed training, or blemish free appearance, Home At Last offers sanctuary. Your support of what we do makes all of the difference. It gives Chance and his herd mates a chance at life. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dear sweet Jonathan...

From Jim: Jonathan is a donkey. He's 45 years old. He was horribly abused by some morons who used him as a roping target and broke his neck. He can't lift his head, has a very crooked arthritic right front leg-also a roping injury-and is covered with the scars of old rope burns. When we got him for Horse Plus Humane Society, he didn't like people. Well, Duh! When he lays his tired old body down for a rest, he can't get up without help. His broken neck, which healed and fused, won't let him leverage up on his sternum. Our vet had one heck of a time floating his teeth, and vets are not his favorite even now. One of our first morning tasks is to locate Jonathan and make sure he's up and about. If not, we go give him a gentle hand arising. He is now a big love. He toddles over for pets and a neck massage, waits impatiently for his senior equine food, and hangs out with the other donkeys. Because of his twisted and stiff neck, he looks up into your eyes and turns his body to face you. His life is a precious gift and a cause to celebrate. How many times, when in pain, and being tortured by the "cowboy idiots" did he face giving up? How did he find the heart and will to forgive our kind and become the loving pet he is today? Jonathan is a icon for what Home At Last is about. He loves life and enjoys the peace and quiet of retirement. We feel a joy and satisfaction seeing Jonathan doze in the warm sun and know that he is loved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To shoe or not to shoe?

From Jim: Horses have had metallic shoes fastened to their hooves since the time of the Greek civilization, maybe even before. One assumes this was the result of horses becoming lame from hoof wall damage and the loss of their services during inopportune moments-like wars and stuff. "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" "For the want of a Shoe, the horse was lost. For the want of horse the battle was lost... " So shoes are really important, Right? Well, sometimes. Because our animals are on a sanctuary and not working, shoes are used correctively or to protect damaged hooves-founder, defects, and so on. Our goal is to return the animal to a natural foot whenever possible. The horse's hoof is a complex structure which functions best and stays more healthy when unrestricted by an iron shoe. It flexes and actually "pumps" or stimulates circulation in the foot. Lower leg and foot circulation is not overwhelming in equines. The sole and frog of the hoof are shock absorbing in nature and help protect the bony part of the foot from stress damage. The growth and develop of new hoof tissues is promoted by natural ground contact. So we should only use "natural hoof care", Right? Not so much. As with all other care, the ultimate welfare of the animal is the driving factor in any decision. A great farrier (shoer) can be critical to the recovery and ongoing health of a horse, donkey, or mule. A bad shoer, incompetent or worse, can be a disaster. If you have any doubts, get references from trusted horse people, trainers, and of course, the vet. Watch the shoer at work. Observe your horse. Walk them out and see how they travel. Learn what a normal pace looks like and compare what you're seeing. It takes about a year for a horse to grow a new hoof. That can be a long layup if their foot care goes wrong. The old saying,"No foot, No horse", is so true!

Monday, October 24, 2011


From Jim: A horse's disposition or temperament is a significant part of it's personality. It's hard to parse out the complexities of individual identities, but certainly there are some clear components. Intelligence, sociability, sensitivity, dominance, aggression, affection, and so on add up to disposition. Not all horses are alike. Their differences can be significant. Some breeds are, in my opinion, incorrectly labeled as "high strung". I prefer to think of them as more sensitive. Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and some Appaloosas come to mind. These animals react quickly and strongly to stimuli, but they are not neurotic drama queens or spoiled sillies. Many of the mustangs, Kigers in particular, and most Quarterhorses are peaceful quiet beings with a generally easy-going way about them. Drafts are not called gentle giants by mistake. Shetlands can be ornery and Hackneys are lovers. Tennessee Walkers, as with most gaited horses, are tractable and willing. Horses, regardless of breed, that are bred to race tend towards greater emotional sensitivity. Working stock animals tend to be calmer and more passive. Eventing horses, Warmbloods and the like, seem to have a little of each. Our Franky, an Oldenberg, is a calm guy 95% of the time and a complete handful the other 5%. We find that endearing. The differences between individual horses and between breed characteristics require that we adapt our approaches to accommodate for the horse. A very quiet and gentle hand gets you much further with a sensitive animal. Clear and unmistakable cues help with a big old Draft. Strong leadership works well with all of them. Mules and Donkeys are an entirely different story and will have to be addressed at another time. I have always said that my favorite color for a horse is a good disposition. I still feel that way. I've just developed a broader definition for what a good disposition is. We are careful at Home At Last not bring dangerous animals to the sanctuary. Unfortunately, some equines are not suited for our abilities and capacities. We urge all but the most skilled and experienced horse people to avoid taking on a ill-tempered and violent animal. Their behaviors may not be their fault, but will kill or injure you nonetheless. The ability to judge a horse's disposition takes time to develop. When in doubt, consult with others and, certainly, have the issue examined by a competent horse vet or trainer. Take some time to love on your horse! It will be good for your disposition!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

24: The Equine Version.

From Jim: Have you ever spent 24 full consecutive hours observing a healthy horse? Have you ever spent 24 consecutive hours with your horse? Can you describe their average daily activities? Here's some general information. Horses sleep about two and half to three hours in a 24 hour period. They will get off their feet several times-around four or five laydowns, rests and rolls. They will poop around a dozen times and urinate around the same. The majority of their time is spent grazing if on pasture. They will ingest 3 or 4 flakes of hay, and drink 10 to 15 gallons of water, depending on the temperature and work load. They will stay closely associated with their herd mates and will will move about the equivalent of 10 or so miles. They are given to moments of playfulness and may have a crabby few minutes. They will respond the their "heat cycle" about every 28 days. Even geldings will display the Fleyman reaction to a mare's pheromones. Mares may be more aggressive and can be cranky with others. Stallions can become dangerously single minded when exposed to an in-season mare. Stallions may fight. If you interact with horses during their day, consider the actual time as a fraction of their waking hours. Unlike us, their "day" is 20 or so hours long. They are awake and wary of predators all of this time. When asleep, they prefer to have another horse "stand guard". I urge every horse person to spend long uninterrupted periods of passive observation of their horse(s). We can become much better horse people by spending our time with them as learners instead of trainers. To fail to take this time is to deny ourselves the full measure of joy having horses in our lives can bring!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

They're just horses ...

From Jim: At Home at Last we don't label our critters as rescues or with any other victim laden description. Their stories are heartbreaking and they've been through absolutely terrible abuse and neglect and injury. But that was then and now they are able to be horses, donkeys, and mules, living at peace with as much quality as we can provide. We try to avoid any mind set that might get in the way of their full recovery. To constantly paint them as less than fully functional because of their past experiences closes off some of our appreciation for how resilient and brave and noble they are. We spend almost no time being angry or resentful about the misbehavior and cruelty and ignorance of the people who mistreated these great animals. They aren't worth the time or emotional investment. We are strong advocates of enforcement of animal cruelty laws. We promote animal care and treatment education. We have the greatest appreciation for our supporters, volunteers, and fellow rescues and sanctuaries. I guess we just prefer the positive consequences of our lifestyle and accept the fact that there are ugly, terrible, and evil things to struggle against. We have come to know really remarkable people, who humble us with their strength and skill and commitment. We have seen the very best from young people who already know they must serve a cause beyond themselves. We have gained a much deeper love and respect for life and the courage of other beings. The work we have before us is not glamorous or high speed/low drag. We plod along, feeding and medicating, fixing and repairing, scrounging and salvaging, fund raising and sharing. Yesterday, Jaun, our ancient mule with the damaged hind foot, took a break from eating dinner so that I could pet him and hold his head against my chest and rub his beautiful face. He shared his peace and joy of life with me, no questions asked. I hope I can learn to do that for others before my time here is over.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Home is where the hay is...

From Jim: Horses eat hay. That is not a news flash, but a very important fact. A good quality of grass or grain hay, properly baled is the foundation for the nutritional needs of equines. The hay should be free of weeds, refuse, or any mold or mildew. Hay that is acceptable for cattle is not necessarily OK for horses. The digestive system of ruminants is very different from the equine gut. There are mixed feeling regarding alfalfa as a base food for horses. Alfalfa is a legume that was intended as cattle feed. There's strong evidence the the constant feeding to horses, Arabians in particular, can cause the formation of gut stones or enteriths. This often results in a blockage which requires surgery and can cause death. There is also the potential for behavioral issues, as alfalfa is considered to be a "hot" feed. As a supplement, alfalfa can help a "hard keeper" gain or maintain weight and may useful for horses that are engaged in hard work or training. Still, the wise horse person will bear in mind the suspected risks. Hay is not forever. Two years seems to be the upper limit for properly stored hay. We believe in checking the quality and condition of our hay at every feeding. Our grower Lyle is the best, but every now and then the baler will pick up something not OK, or a bale will draw up ground moisture, or rodents or ants will have spoiled part of a bale. Horses are a demanding and specialized pet. Meeting their nutritional needs is critical to having the best experience with them. Because hay prices can fluctuate a lot, prices don't always guarantee quality. A feeding error can be catastrophic. Never settle for inferior hay. If necessary use a sack replacement pelleted or cubed feed or shredded beet pulp. The exact amount to feed, hay or replacement, is quite variable. Doesn't hurt at all to check with the vet if the animal is not flourishing or if you're in doubt. We try to feel enough that there is hay left on the ground after the initial binge of eating. Gives them something to do besides break the fences or get into trouble and reassures us that their bellies are full. Bon Appetite!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sleepless Nights

From Donna: What does one do on a sleepless night? There is always the old hot chocolate stand-by or a dull book. But when you live with 70+ horses, donkeys and mules you can always alphabetize them. Oh yes. However, that is not sleep inducing. It just causes stress when you realize you have forgotten someone and you wonder if you have forgotten any one else. If I spent time doing this you have to spend time reading the list-so here goes. Donkeys, mules, horses, ponies in alphabetical order (I think. It was late after all). Amira, AnnaBelle, Aurora, Babe, Big Red, Bill, Bo, Bobbie, Bonita, Brandy, Breeze Bay, Bucky, Cash, Chad, Chance, Chardonnay, Charity, Cricket, Dancing Drum, Dobbin, Dunny, Frankie, Ginger, Gracie, Harmony, Jake, Jenny, Jesse, Jessie, Jet, Jimmy, Jonathan, Juan, Kim, Kitty, Lacey, Lady Bug, Leeso, Levi, Little Dog, Lucky, Maggie, Marnie, Molly, Moon Dancer, Navajo, Pearl, Pedro, Posey, Promise, Quest, Quincy, Rico, Rosie, Ruby, Skittles, Smoke, Smokey, Sparkle, Star, Stoney, Stuart, Sugar, Sugar Pie, Sunny, Sweetie Pie, Tango, Tawny, Teddy, Tiger Lily, Toby, Tucker. 37 mares 34 geldings 1 cryptorchid stallion 4 donkeys, 11 mules 10 ponies 1 mini horse 1 blind 4 one-eyed Did I forget anyone?
Thank you to all our generous donors-Jec B, Naomi J, Ruth C, Dina F, Linda K, Carla G , Eileen G , Debra C.
It's raining. No complaints from us, but the critters are protesting en masse.
Time to don my green rain suit and mush in the goo. Love it!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Be a Voice for Horses...

From Jim: Our society has become increasingly urban and citified. If you were to ask the residents of the suburbs or cities how often they thought about equines you could expect an answer of ZERO. Horses are important to horse people. They are usually seen in movies, at theme parks, or race tracks or the occasional rodeo. They are not a part of the average person's landscape. Most folks think of them as farm or ranch animals, not pets. The idea of public horse shelters is not even considered. There's some romance about mustangs, but the level of commitment outside of horse circles is pretty low. Horses, donkeys, and mules exist is large numbers which exceed the available number of owners by a bunch-thus, unwanted animals and no social safety net. Horse ownership is a declining aspiration amongst younger folks. The more urban, the less likely. Our government has historically been anti-horse. They're classed as pets more for tax reasons than any appreciation of their nature. The BLM is iconic in representing our government's view. The recurring efforts in some states to resurrect horse slaughter simply another example. Most county animal control facilities have little or no capacity for large animals. Rescues and sanctuaries are primarily 501c3 charities. There is no governmental support-NONE. We have 75 permanent resident equines. Most would be dead now if not for the sanctuary and it's loyal and generous supporters. Society's general responsibility to care for animals in a humane manner falls on a very special few. Irresponsible owners and breeders face little or no consequences for their behavior and our beleaguered legal system is unlikely to ever step-up in a meaningful way. What this means is if you are part of the few, you have a duty to speak up. The notion that for evil to prevail only requires that good people do nothing is certainly true with this issue. There is a deadly quiet at work here and that needs to change. Raise up voice for those that have none!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Will It Float? Equine Dental Care...

From Jim: As horses age, their teeth require care. The improvements in health care, better nutrition, and wiser overall care have extended horses' life spans. Their teeth came along for the ride. Without the abrasive grit from constant grazing, the grinding surfaces can and do become uneven, wavy, hooked, or misaligned. This makes chewing inefficient and the digestive process less able to maintain the animal's needs. Weight loss, less energy, and discomfort from "cudding" and unchewed hay accumulating in the cheeks all start occurring. Without dental care, eventually the combined results end with an ill horse, and may lead to death. Dental care includes examining the condition of the teeth and checking for broken or abscessed teeth which might need extraction. The cheeks are checked for abrasion or abscesses from sharp teeth (hooks). The overall health of the oral cavity is evaluated. Floating, an art all of it's own, is accomplished with rasps or grinding tools which flatten and smooth the the chewing surfaces for the correct amount of chewing contour. The equines' teeth are layered vertically with dentin and enamel. The softer material wears, leaving ridges of harder enamel to grind and breakdown the cellulose vegetable matter horses eat. When floated properly, you can hear the healthy chewing process when you manually move the horse's jaw in a chewing motion. We've all enjoyed the peaceful and relaxing sound of our horse busy with eating. How often should a horse's teeth be floated? Depends on the horse. A dental exam should be part of the annual vet check every horse, mule, or donkey needs. With geldings, it's also a perfect time for a sheath cleaning, as a thorough dental exam will generally require sedation. We've had 2 year olds with sharp teeth and 25 year olds with no issues. Age is not a reliable guideline. The old saying of never looking a gift horse in the mouth, comes from aging horses based on a groove on their incisors. With practice, you can get pretty good at it. The savings in wasted food and supplements, and the overall well-being of the horse more than offset the cost of proper dental care. A mixed blessing is that now horses live long enough to finally just wear out their teeth. When worn to the gum line there's not much to be done. The upside is that the horse and owner have had many more years together than was possible in the past. I can't find a way to put a dollar sign on that.