Tag Archive | horses

Circus Trip 2018: Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS

Day 7, Sunday, July 22, 2018

Near Deer Lodge, Montana, there are a lot of working cattle ranches.  There is also the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, a working cattle ranch that dates back to 1857, and is now a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Johnny Grant came out west and began grazing cattle here in 1857, decided to stay permanently in 1859, and built a home in 1862.  Despite that “permanent” intention, Grant found that once gold miners arrived in the area, life became a lot more difficult for him because he spoke French and the miners spoke English.  He decided to sell the ranch in 1866 to Conrad Kohrs and head back to Canada.

Kohrs was born in Germany, moved to the United States at the age of 22 and earned his wealth following the gold rush to different areas and selling beef to the miners.  Back then, cattle were grazed on the open range, but the winter of 1886-1887 was devastating to cattle ranches across the west, as the brutal cold and storms killed off more than 50% of all of the free range cattle.  Many ranchers went bankrupt, but Kohrs was able to secure a bank loan to keep him afloat.  He modernized his ranch, building fencing to contain the cattle and growing hay and other fodder to feed the cattle during the cold winters.  These changes meant success for the ranch and he was able to pay off the $100,000 loan in less than four years.

Kohrs also modernized and added onto the house that Grant originally built.  Kohrs added a large wing in 1890 and built many outbuildings, including a bunk house, blacksmith shop, horse barns, etc.  In 1970, descendents of Conrad Kohrs were still running the ranch, and struck an agreement with the Park Service to sell the ranch, provided that it remained a working cattle ranch.  The site was opened to visitors in 1977, and 17,095 people visited in 2012.

The ranch is free to visit and you can sign up for a ranger-led tour of the ranch house – there are no self-guided tours.  From the outside, the home looks simple and unadorned, but I would certainly recommend the tour, as the home is lavish inside!  Conrad Kohrs had the finest of furniture and housewares shipped to Montana for his wife, and no expense was spared.  When the home was no longer being lived in as the children and grandchildren wanted something more modern, all the furniture was left inside and sold to the Park Service with the ranch.  You can see exactly how the Kohrs lived!  The home had all the modern amenities of the time, including electric lighting and indoor plumbing, and beautiful Victorian furniture.  I really enjoyed the tour, but sadly, no photographs are permitted in the house.

 

You can also wander the grounds at your leisure, and taste cowboy coffee at the chuck wagon.  I enjoyed talking to the woman at the chuck wagon, and she was very interested in hearing about the details of my trip.  The coffee was actually pretty decent too, but leave the last swig in the bottom of the cup, because it can have coffee grounds in it!  The method of making cowboy coffee is interesting.  You boil the water, and add the ground coffee directly to the kettle, then use cold water and/or eggshells to get the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom after it steeps.  You don’t strain the grounds out, so you have to be careful about pouring the coffee to make sure you don’t end up with grounds in the cup.  It was interesting to see and taste!

Chuck wagon and cowboy coffee

I saw the blacksmith shop, and the horse barn where they have a collection of historic carriages and wagons.  Mrs. Kohrs also kept a beautiful garden, which has been restored and maintained.  I saw Texas Longhorn cattle, horses and chickens; the ranch has many more cattle out on the 1200 acres of the ranch.  When you visit, you may see the ranch hands hard at work, doing things the way they did in the late 1800s; harvesting hay, feeding cattle, rounding up cattle, branding them, or taking care of the other animals.  I didn’t see much activity when I was there, but I’m sure spring and fall are busier times.

 

 

 

 

 

At first I didn’t know what I was looking at, but after talking to someone, I learned that the ranch used (and still uses) a beaverslide to stack hay.  The beaverslide was invented in Montana, and allowed ranchers to stack hay up to 30 feet tall.  In this arid climate, hay could be stored outside in the weather, without having to worry about it getting too wet and rotting.  I had never seen a beaverslide before; what an interesting invention!

Beaverslide

It was a great visit, but I still had more sightseeing to do that day!

 

Book Review: The Perfect Horse

Back at Christmas time, I finished The Perfect Horse, by Elizabeth Letts.

During World War II, Europe was being decimated by both the Allies and the Axis powers.  Civilians were caught in the middle.  Even if you have read or watched a lot on World War II, one of the things you might not necessarily consider is the absolute upheaval that war brings.

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria had been breeding the prized Lipizzaner stallions for hundreds of years and training them in the highly elaborate art of classical riding.  The bloodlines were exquisite, and the training was exacting and took years to achieve.  During the war, the horses were prized by the Germans, not for their talent, but as breeding stock. The Germans wanted to create the perfect war horse and were willing to breed for the characteristics that they were looking for.  Given how many generations it takes to breed consistent traits into a horse, it becomes clear that the Germans believe the Third Reich would be around for a while…

As the Austrian managers ran from the destruction of the war with hundreds of prized horses, it became clear that desperate times were going to require desperate measures.  They reached out to the Americans, hoping to ensure the horses’ safety.  They knew that without the assistance of the soon-to-be victors, these beautiful animals would either be shelled to death somewhere, starve to death somewhere or be confiscated by the Germans who were by now desperate for livestock to pull equipment, and for food…

In a hugely lucky twist of fate, the man the Austrian contacted was an American officer who was deeply devoted to horses, having served in the Army Cavalry.  Hank Reed was able to secure permission for the mission from none other than George Patton himself.  It became a race against time to smuggle these gorgeous animals into Allied controlled territory, across Europe, eventually to the United States, and finally safety.

The book is impeccably researched and very well written, keeping me interested from cover to cover.  Admittedly, I do love horses, and the obscure topic of the book might be considered dry by many readers.  I thought it was fascinating though, and well worth the read.

5 stars.

 

Road Trip Photo Faves: Horses

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

It was cold, rainy, and oh-so-muddy (you can see a couple of errant rain drops on my camera lens) when I took this photograph of horses huddled outside the barn in the Fruita Rural Historic District, in Capitol Reef National Park.  I want to get back there on a better day for hiking.  And that pie, of course!

My 30 Year Old Miracle

So this post is a little different than my typical posts on wine and travel. I’ll warn you now – this post is full of gore and tragedy, so if you have a weak stomach, you might not want to keep reading.  Trust me though – it ends well!

Today is April Fool’s Day, which ever since 1992 has been a different type of anniversary for me. On April 1, 1992, my beloved 4 year old quarter horse gelding Biz, tried to run through or jump the electric wire fence in his field – I will never really know what happened. Upon finding him standing in shock in a pool of blood, I stumbled back to the barn to get help. Friends later told me they thought I was playing a practical joke, until they saw that all the blood had drained out of my face. The vet was called, and he received a police escort to the farm when a Sheriff’s Deputy friend heard the call come out over the radio. Friends at the stable tried to stop the bleeding, and one friend held Biz’s head up and out of the way for 6 hours while the vets stitched and stitched to try to close the wounds (a second vet had arrived about an hour later when he finished up another call). Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a sudden onset migraine headache (Dad, I’m still sorry I threw up in your 1968 Cougar). When the vets finally finished up that first night, after 10 pm, Biz had over 1000 stitches in his front legs, and fractures in his knees, over his eye, and across the bridge of his nose. They estimate he had lost about 4 gallons of blood.

Biz was so badly injured that our veterinarian did not think he would live. At the time, the prognosis was that he had a 5 – 10% chance of surviving the accident, and if he did, he only had a 5 – 10% chance of being anything more than a big, expensive, lawn ornament. The only thing going for him was that although he had cut himself so badly he had exposed bone, nerves and did extreme damage to the muscle, he narrowly avoided cutting any of his tendons. For a horse, severing a tendon would have been a death sentence, because it would mean he would lose the use of the leg.

So, being the stubborn, foolish teenager that I was, I decided to give him a chance. For the next 5 months, extensive wound care, hand walking, and trying to keep him from re-injuring himself became my before and after school job. As the damaged tissue died, he smelled like death. As the skin around the wound died, the stitches pulled out, leaving holes in his legs that were 5 inches deep. For the first several days, he couldn’t move his legs forward very well, so he shuffled from side to side. The fracture over his eye caused blood to pool in the white of his eye, and looking at him broke my heart. The risk of infection was ever present, especially since the wounds were so large. I breathed a huge sigh of relief each day that infection didn’t set in. Sometimes, when cleaning the wound, I accidentally touched the exposed nerve bundle, causing him excruciating pain. When he got bored, confined to his stall for days, he tried to knock me over with his head while I knelt next to him.

Amazingly, he never fought against his treatment. He took it all in stride. He was as content as ever, with a hearty appetite and a devious twinkle in his eye. When I took him out for a walk, he wanted so much to run and play. He didn’t act like he was as badly injured as he was. It was a struggle to keep him from tearing the lead rope out of my hands, which would have meant a serious risk of re-injury. Fortunately, he managed to avoid hurting himself again. When spring gave way to summer, the risk of infection came again, in the form of flies who wanted to constantly land on his wounds. Fortunately, Biz dodged that bullet too. Every day, the wounds closed a little bit. Every day, a little more fresh, pink skin closed in around those gaping holes in his legs.

It took more than 5 months for the wounds to finally close. Biz defied the odds, and he can do most things other horses can do, although he isn’t the most coordinated guy. But then again, he never was. The vet recommended I start riding again at a walk, a month after the accident, because he had so much energy it was getting tough to control him from the ground. We slowly worked back up to normal capacity. If you didn’t know Biz before the accident, you might not notice the hitch he has in his stride, because those front legs just don’t move quite right now. He has extensive scarring across his front legs, where no hair grows. If you look carefully, his chest is still marked with 5 thin, hairless scars, one for each of the 5 strands of that electric wire fence. The bridge of his nose has a bump, and his back legs are dotted with scars too.

I would like to say Biz grew smarter and more cautious after that, but he didn’t, and he has continued to have a talent for rare and creative injuries and illnesses. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of what makes Biz, Biz. He is 30 now, certainly slowing down. For the most part, his flesh tearing injuries have given way to fungal skin infections and the degenerative processes of age. He only has 3 of his original 12 front teeth. Arthritis makes it difficult for him to get up after he lays down to roll – but once he’s up, he still sometimes runs and plays like a young man.

At the time, it seemed unreal to believe that there was any way Biz could have made it through. But now, I still think about that day, 26 years ago.  All my friend’s horses that were his age have long passed over the rainbow bridge – who would have ever thought he would still be here…

2016 Philomath Frolic

Back in July (I know, it seems like forever ago to me too, but it’s been a very long several months) I took a long weekend and went down to Oregon to spend some time with my family. My Aunt and Uncle were visiting Oregon from Michigan, because my cousin and his daughter live there.  They invited me down for a couple of days of fun activities.

First up – a rodeo in my cousin’s small town. I was about to experience my first-ever Philomath Frolic. It had been ages since I’d been to a rodeo, so I was excited to go. I know that not everybody agrees with rodeos, but I grew up riding horses, and running barrels and cattle penning for fun.  I even used to try to rope, but I was never talented enough…

The weather wasn’t great – it rained a good portion of the day, but it at least wasn’t too cold.  And we were in the covered grandstand.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

The Drill Team – the Frolic had a drill team – a group of horses and riders who do a synchronized pattern on their horses.  It’s kind of like synchronized swimming.

grand-parade

First up in the competitive rodeo events was Saddle Bronc Riding.  The goal is to stay on for 8 seconds.  Your free hand can’t hold on!

saddle-bronc-riding-1

 

saddle-bronc-3

 

saddle-bronc-2

 

Next came Calf Roping – you have to rope the calf and lay him on the ground.  Best time wins.

calf-roping-1

 

This is breakaway roping.  The rider ropes the calf, but immediately lets go.  Best time wins here too.

calf-roping-2

 

In Team Roping, you have a Header and a Heeler.  It’s like it sounds, the Header ropes the head and the Heeler ropes the back legs.  There is a 5 second penalty if the Heeler only catches one back leg.

team-roping

 

Donkey Racing – this event is just for fun.  One person rides the donkey down the length of the arena and around a barrel.  The other person rides back!  Or as you can see, sometimes “riding” is a bit of a stretch.

donkey-race

 

This baby donkey was just born the night before!  He’s so cute!

donkey-foal

 

Barrel Racing – the rider and the horse execute a pattern of running around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.  Fastest time wins, with a 5 second penalty for knocking over barrels.

barrel-racing2

 

barrel-racing

 

Bull Riding is easily the most dangerous sport for the rodeo rider.  The goal is to stay on for 8 seconds.  It is hard to do!  I wish the first photo below was a little more clear, but I couldn’t resist posting it because it is such an awesome photo!

 

bull-riding2

 

bull-riding

 

So that was my Philomath Frolic experience.  I hope you enjoyed it!  Have you ever been to a rodeo?

SW National Parks Trip: Wild Horses

I am a horse lover.  I got the fever when I was a very young child, when I went on a trail ride with my family – I think I was four.  The fever just got worse when my parents asked if I wanted to go to Pony Camp.  A whole week of riding – for 3 hours a day!

So, when I heard there are wild horses in Mesa Verde National Park, I knew I wanted to see them.  However, the 100-150 horses there are persona non-grata, according to the Park Service.  They have resided in the area for over a hundred years, thought to be escapees from the nearby Ute tribal lands, but they can be very destructive.  They have trampled fragile archeological sites, destroyed water lines near the visitor areas in search of water, and been aggressive towards both employees and visitors.  Plus, they compete with the native deer and elk for water and food sources.

I wanted to see them anyway.  There has to be a way to manage them so they can coexist…

We had been at Mesa Verde all day.  We had seen Cliff Palace and Hemenway House from the overlooks, we had toured Balcony House and Spruce Tree House, and we had visited the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum.  We were just wrapping up our day, cold from the chilly temperatures and the biting wind, but happy.

As we drove along the flat top of the mesa, heading back towards the entrance, Jon saw them.  A flea-bitten grulla and a black.  Just two.  The grulla ran away immediately, but I was able to get a few photos of the black horse.  Just two horses.  But that was enough.

Mesa-Verde-Horse (640x618)

 

The Horse Tooth Fairy, Times 3

On Wednesday, Biz and I went for a ride up to the vet clinic to play out a story that is becoming a spring ritual – x-rays and having a tooth pulled.  We are becoming veterans at this.

In case you don’t know the story, Biz has EOTRH, short for Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis, a degenerative disease where the teeth gradually break down on the inside.  I give a better description in my post from a few years back.

This year’s surgery was the easiest ever, as my vet found the perfect tool last year for separating the tooth from the gum and the periodontal ligament that holds it in.  We also learned from our experience last year that we shouldn’t close the front of the stanchion while Biz is sedated, so he doesn’t faint and fall down.

The tooth clearly needed to go, as there was a little pocket of infection in the gum below the tooth creating a fissure, and once we got his mouth propped open we could see that the back of the tooth had a black, decayed part.  Once the tooth was out, the vets packed off the hole with an antibiotic capsule, sterile gauze and plaster of Paris.  Apparently some vets are now recommending to just let the wound stay open, but this system has worked for us so far, so we decided to stick with it.

Biz got topped off with a tetanus shot while he was still sleepy, and then we hung out for awhile waiting for him to wake up.  Once he was awake and steady on his feet, he got to come home.  He was on a restricted diet Wednesday night and Thursday because he had an episode of colic last year after he was sedated for his x-rays.  Better safe than sorry.

Once we got home, Biz walked himself around the arena while I watched; him restlessly walking is a symptom of the sedation – on a normal day he would roll, run around maniacally for a few minutes and then stop and look at himself in the mirror (he’s vain…).  During his restless wanderings the other evening, he was probably silently cursing me for not giving him much dinner.  After 24 years together, I know the look.  But it couldn’t be helped.  I love this old boy too much to feed him.

Yesterday I started flushing the wound with salt water and a syringe – preventing infection is the key now.  I’ll be doing that until the wound closes, however long that takes.  He doesn’t mind – it’s our thing…

If only the tooth fairy would drop some cash by to help pay the vet bill.  I know I’m not the only one with a million dollar animal – what’s your story?