Kathy B. is always asking after the burros, and they appreciate having advocates... this post is dedicated to her. I reveled in my fall break last week, and the culmination was driving across the central valley early Saturday morning to our friends Dave and Ginny Freeman's place in Artois for the first ever Little Equine Festival sponsored by our casual organization, the EARs club. Faithful readers will recall that DH and I and other EARs members marched on our state capitol last spring to protest (successfully, I might add) the targeted closure of numerous state historic parks. Mostly, though, we get together to have fun with our longeared friends.
This event got started about a month ago, when Dave Freeman offered to hold a hoof-trimming clinic for members, since farriers aren't always receptive to donkeys and mules, sometimes even thinking of them as the lesser cousins of horses. The event began to grow when Erika Williamson, who has been coming up from Grass Valley regularly with hubby Keith Craven to trim my animals, offered to demonstrate using the grinder, the method she has been training on, which works like an automated nail file and buffer for big toes.
Dave's wife Ginny added in a tack swap meet and potluck lunch, and a few more people came out of the woodwork to offer other demonstrations, and soon the original clinic idea had grown into a small festival, which ended up drawing a good-sized crowd.
Erika indicates a measurement for angle of hoof trim, while squeezing the on-off button on the grinder to desensitize this horse to its odd sound... other common household items that you can use to get them to stand quietly while hearing a disturbing buzzing include the hairdryer and screwgun.
That's Erika's head, just peeking over the top of Lady Jo.... she's even shorter than me. Erika has a BLM-adopted mustang, two BLM burros, and a mammoth donkey, but still thought about trying to sneak home one or two of Ginny's large collection of burros and mustangs. Ginny runs a rescue, The Hole In The Head Gang, helping wild ones get less so, and finding them good homes.
Next, Sally Hugg, a farrier from the north valley, talked about the benefits of barefoot trimming (this means not wearing horseshoes all the time) and using boots when riding in rough terrain or on pavement. This is not a big concern for the burro owner, as their feet are smaller and tougher, but I listened with interest as Sally was a lively and entertaining lecturer.
Sally has been a pioneer in testing out these boots, and had funny accounts of early versions and their headaches. Her long-time buddy is now 22 years old, and was a patient model as she showed how to put various models on.
Next came two training demonstrations in Ginny's large round pen. Tara Flewelling, who is the Freemans' next-door neighbor, showed how to use the target method (also called 'clicker' - based on response, noise, reward to condition behavior) with her Tennessee Walking Horse, Champaign Perfect Melody, who will touch just about anything at Tara's request, knowing there will be a cookie for her if she complies.
Tara grew up in the era of the Lone Ranger and Silver, so she has even trained Mel to stand up on her hind legs to touch Tara's whip (couldn't get it fast enough with my camera), as well as desensitized her to dozens of weird things that could pop up on a ride and scare then injure both horse and rider, including a flag (think parades, and you will have a whole new respect for those mounted units), and a string of rattly empty plastic waterbottles.
Mel demonstrated how to play 'fetch the cone' with plastic cones, and while that might seem like a silly game at first, it shows just how much she trusts her owner's leadership.
Susie Mabe also did a demonstration with Bordeaux, the 'wild' mustang that she has been training for her friend, the owner. She discussed many good points about getting an animal's confidence in you, being aware of their needs and limitations and helping them grow into a safe and fun companion. I didn't get any good photos of her demo, but DH and I both really appreciated her grounded and humble approach to working with critters. Plus, she was just good fun and laughed a lot, especially at herself, so I loved her immediately.
We all gathered for a mid-afternoon feast, with the best of everyones' cooking, and had more time to visit. Dave and Glenn discussed California history, their mutual favorite, as well as equine camps and trails in the Sierras, and made plans for a future gathering at our place in Forest City next spring. We headed back home in the rapidly dwindling light, with bugs courtesy of Sacramento Valley's agriculture cluttering our windshield, and of course were inspired to strive harder as equine owners.
Here, Assteroid mugs for the camera (or maybe it was the carrot).
He and buddy Abraham took a walk through the neighborhood with us, as well as helping out with garden clean-up. We also came home realizing how lucky we are to get to share our lives with burros and know such talented people.