Tag Archives: horses

Winter At Medicine Spirit Ranch

The work changes with the seasons at Medicine Spirit Ranch. In many ways winter is the busiest time of year because we must keep the animals supplied with hay and supplemental protein.

Also we carry out tasks more suited for winter months. For example, the small evergreen juniper saplings, referred to locally as “cedar”, visually contrast better in winter from the tall brown grass. This makes it easier to find the cedar in winter and to apply a set of loppers to the task. The cedar is most unwelcome on ranches, because it demands huge amounts of water and competes with the various grasses needed for our grazing animals.

Also we repair fences during the winter. The fences become stretched from cows leaning over them and deer jumping through them. Also feral hogs have made their unwelcome appearance and will likely create still more fencing problems. Ugh!

We horses need our protein pellets every day. Now don’t be late!

We work on equipment during the winter that typically is in heavy use during the warmer parts of the year. We cut dead trees and clear drainage pipes under ranch roads. The daily cattle feeding is greater during the winter than during the remainder of the year as we keep them supplied with hay in the form of giant (900 pound) bales. We also feed the cattle range cubes on a daily basis to supplement their protein needs.

The horses on the other hand receove their protein containing feed every day year round whereas the cattle don’t during the non-winter months. Given the excitement and jousting for the range cubes by the cattle, we refer to it as “cow candy.”

So why do the horses get supplemental feed every day of the year and we don’t?

This past week we’ve been repairing a well in one of our pastures. This job proved arduous, as we had to dig up a 45-gallon container that was buried in the ground. The container stores water and moves it to a nearby water trough. We found a leek at the connection that fed into the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately after replacing the pump motor, replacing the water container and some  PVC connections,  and then reburying the tank, we sprung yet another leak. It seems the large water container sank deeper into the hole, re-breaking the PVC pipe. A second attempt at this fix hopefully has addressed the problem. We’ll see. So far, so good.

Curious how the cattle stood around the developing pond resulting from the leak and gawked at our inability to fix their water trough. I am pretty sure Number 36, a.k.a. “the Tongue” was chuckling. Cheeky cow! She is my nemesis.

We continue to vaccinate calves for black leg (a bacterial infection) and periodically take a load of yearlings to market. Six calves have been born within the last week or so. They are so cute at this age. See their pics below.

We never seem run out of tasks on the ranch despite the season. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait for Spring to arrive.

A Dandy Addition To Our Ranch

Dandy, newly arrived roan gelding

Recently we had a new horse arrive at Medicine Spirit Ranch. He’s a roan gelding that belongs to my ranch hand, Juan. A friend of Juan’s gave him the horse, but Juan had no land on which the horse could graze. He asked if he could leave it at Medicine Spirit Ranch. I’ll end up feeding and treating the horse, if the latter is needed, but in return Juan will take care of the hooves of both the roan and our Paint horse, Fancy.

I said yes as the big red horse will herd up with Fancy and replace our recently departed Doc. When the papers arrived we learned the horse’s name was Dandy. It’s around eight years old and is said to be rope trained. I assume at one time Dandy was a roping horse as is typical for many quarter horses.

Dandy (on the left) and Fancy (on the right) get along well.

Word is Dandy is a great riding horse but hasn’t been ridden in awhile. Without question Juan who is a skilled horseman will be first up on Dandy. Dandy is friendly and very gentle. He likes to  nuzzle me on the neck and be scratched. He loves carrots but surprisingly won’t eat apples.

Dandy is not afraid of Little Jack and Bella, two of our dogs, who despite our best efforts continue to strafe the horses. Dandy stands his ground, puts down his big head with the white blaze and star, and holds his ground. Like sensible animals, the dogs veer off and instead chase a fleeing Fancy.

Dandy up close and personal

We look forward to getting to know Dandy. No doubt stories will follow as I observe his explorations of his new surroundings.

Let’s all welcome Dandy to Medicine Spirit Ranch.

Celestial Pasture

Doc, our roan gelding

Doc, our roan gelding, and Fancy, our paint filly, failed to show up for their morning meal several days ago. While not entirely novel, Doc does love his food and hasn’t missed many meals.

The next morning in front of our home I found Doc lying on the ground. Beside him stood Fancy, alternatively looking from Doc to me. She appeared anxious.

Our paint horse Fancy sensed Doc’s distress

Fancy acted as if she knew Doc was in serious trouble. The horses had made it to where they knew I would find them. Doc had been in obvious pain, as he had rub marks on both sides of his head. He was weak, shaky, and initially could not regain his feet.

With prodding Doc stood up and walked slowly to the barn, a distance of three quarters of a mile. There we loaded him into the trailer and I drove him to our vet’s clinic.

Fancy wanted to go too.  She followed Doc to the barn and had to be haltered and tied to the hitching post or else she too would have climbed into the trailer. This was no surprise as she has been utterly devoted to the big roan ever since her arrival at our ranch.

Doc will be missed

Unfortunately my story doesn’t have a happy ending. We learned Doc had colic, likely resulting from a twisted colon. He was suffering. At his advanced age his chances of survival, even with major surgery, were not good. His heart rate continued to be high despite three times the usual amount of sedation and pain medication– his elevated heart rate reflecting his discomfort. Unfortunately, after learning the limited options, we had to put him down. Talk about a painful decision to have to make.

All that day Fancy had stood waiting at the gate through which Doc left the ranch that morning. She continued to gaze longingly down the road, waiting for Doc’s trailer to return.

When finally I drove the pickup and trailer onto the ranch, Fancy followed it at full gallop. She ran around the trailer with mane flowing, nostrils flared, and tail held high. She circled excitedly behind the trailer, looking within it. Not seeing Doc, she shook her head, and headed off to a nearby pasture.  Fancy appeared agitated.

I’m certain Fancy missed Doc and showed signs of her grief. I am worried about her. Animals are capable of showing affection, grief, and longings, as do humans. Admittedly, I have never viewed great affection between horses and their human companions, at least not like I have between dogs and humans, but today I witnessed clear signs of affection between a filly and a gelding.

We have been trying to console Fancy. She has received extra attention and treats. We even had a horse from a neighboring come over for a visit. Fancy and Trooper  enjoyed each other and his visit seemed to raise Fancy’s spirits. We hope Trooper will return.

Fancy isn’t the only one who will miss Doc. He was a good and gentle horse. I traveled many a mile on his broad back. My favorite memories of Doc are with children astride. Doc was a great child’s horse. Even in his later years when his arthritis caused his retirement from trail rides, Doc would accept children to sit on his bare back. There the children would pat the big horse and view the world in what I hoped was from a different perspective. Doc received vast amounts of carrots and apples from appreciative children who would come to Medicine Spirit Ranch mainly for the purpose of seeing him, patting him, and feeding him.

One teenage neighbor girl who used to ride him regularly in his more active days was once spotted lying on his back, sound asleep. Doc was so gentle he would not move without his rider urging him to do so. What a peaceful memory!

We are left with only our memories of Doc, as he has departed Medicine Spirit Ranch for his Celestial Pasture. Let’s hope he finds laughing, excited children to sit astride his broad back. Doc would like that.

A Backward Glance–Guest Blog by Paul Hayes

What a pleasure it is to receive a response to an item I posted on my blog. Paul Hayes recently sent a lengthy and thoughtful piece. A second part of his piece will follow. The satisfaction of impacting others is the most fulfilling aspect of having a blog. I hope reading my posts will prompt others to glance backward at their lives and recall similar fun episodes. If so, let me know. Thank you Paul for sending this piece.

Paul Hayes wrote the following:


It is always a joy to read about life at Medicine Spirit Ranch. Undoubtedly, during all those years working in the medical community, you secretly harbored the desire to be a real-life cowboy. Now, after retirement from the city life, you get your chance to experience the cowboy life first hand.

Like you, I knew early on that I, too, wanted to be a cowboy someday. After all, what’s to know about horses, cows and guns? What follows are true accounts from my youth about my training to be a cowboy.


Take my first experience ridin’ a horse. When I was near about six years old, my friends and I gathered at Ricky Robinson’s house for an afternoon of whatever we could find to do on a Summer’s day in our tiny little town. Randy Brewer, who lived a rock’s throw down the ol’ dirt road from Ricky, was the imaginative one in our gang. When he would enlighten us with one of his stories of famous relatives and such, we would tell him that he was just imaginin’ thangs.   However, on this occasion, he was the one who imagined that we ought to go saddle up their old mare and go horseback ridin’ around their backyard – much of which also served as Mrs. Brewer’s veg’table garden. Now tell me, what group of young boys wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity like that. Each of us, decked out in out white Sears tee shirts and blue jeans, high tailed it over to Randy’s house to begin our cowboy experience.

Anytime we went from one place to another, it was always a race. We never walked a single place. If it weren’t worth runnin’ to, then it weren’t worth doin’.

The Brewer’s mare was quite old and very docile around us kids (we can thank the Lord for that little favor). Randy, we would come to learn, knew as much about horses as I knew about girls of the opposite sex at the age of six. Ne’ertheless, he managed to get one of those metal chompin’ thingies into the horse’s mouth so that we would have something to hang on to once we got on top. That, my friend, would prove to be the easiest part of this adventure into the world of cowboys.

Next came the saddle. I distinctly remember askin’ if we REALLY needed a saddle at all. “After all, I’ve seen injuns ride bareback on all the TV westerns”, I would proclaim. Wantin’ the real cowboy experience, by buddies quashed that idea quicker’n Paladin drawin’ his six shooter on a stage coach bandit. Ok, so herein lies the problem. We have five boys, each of which measures about 4 foot nuthin’, and a full grown horse whose back, though swayed, is taller’n all of us. But don’t you think for a New York second that such a small challenge would deter this group of would-be rustlers. No siree, Bob. With Randy holdin’ that leather strap thang and the other four of us standin’ on a rickety ol’ table that we found in the garage, we hoisted that saddle up onto that ol’ horses back – on about the fourth attempt, that is. We actually achieved the feat on the third attempt, only to discover that the saddle was on back’ards.

Now, not havin’ lots of deposits in my vast horse-knowledge bank, my misguided mind thought we was through. Some brilliant mind came up with the sayin’ “hold your horses” just for occasions like this one here. “Oh, no”, explained Randy. At this point, we were all willin’ to learn a thang or two from our friend, Randy. He instructed Tommy Wilson to grab aholt of the rope that was attached to the saddle and walk under the horse to the other side. Without hesitation, Tommy grasped that rope in his hand, ducked his head only slightly (he was shorter‘n the rest of us) and proceeded to traverse that horse’s belly. Well, as dumb luck would have it, just at that time, that ol’ horse decided to buck an’ come down on Tommy’s head like a big ol’ hay bale. We rushed to see the damage, but it was nuthin’ more than a couple of tears. Although Tommy recovered quickly and wiped the tears as if they weren’t never there, I feel certain that he had screws in his neck by the age of 30. He jumped up, grabbed the rope and handed it to Randy. Randy, again bein’ the horseman of our gang, ran the rope through a silver ring and pulled it about as tight as a six-year-old could pull. It was only a few minutes later that we would come to realize that the strength of a six-year-old may not have been sufficient for the job.

Well, the only thang left to decide was who would be the first of us to ride that day.   Country boys are just born with the innate wisdom of the democratic process, and we understood that the only fair way to decide that question was to draw straws. Randy grabbed his maw’s broom that was leanin’ ag’inst the garage door and he picked off five straws. He then pulled a pocket knife from his pocket (where else would one keep a pocket knife?) and he commenced to cuttin’ those straws so that one would be shorter than the others.

Now, we hadn’t yet got to the point in our cowboy development where bravery was fully developed. While nobody dared say, none of us was hopin’ to draw the short straw that day. As I recollect, Joey Andrews was the first to draw. His was a long one. Next was Tommy, and he too smiled as he slide a long straw from Randy’s now sweaty hand. As if written for a big screen suspense thriller, Rickey likewise tugged on a straw, revealin’ a third long one. Only Randy and I remained. As I reached for the straw on the left, Randy jerked his hand as if to say “not that one”. But, bein’ the brainy one in this group, I now knew exactly what I had to do. I reached for the straw on the right and tugged quickly. Randy laughed with delight as he exposed the remainin’ long straw, still in his hand.

Right at that moment, to my mind came another sayin’ that someone had made up just for such an occasion – “Never let ‘em see you sweat”. So as to demonstrate my bravery, the development of which took a small leap forward that day, I jumped up on that table and grabbed aholt of that saddle. “Now what”, I asked Randy. “Th’ow your leg up over the saddle and slide on top” he explained. Sizin’ up the feat, I explained in a semi-calm voice that “I need a boost”. Ricky joined me on that table and, cuppin’ his hands together, I placed my foot, and my life it seemed, in his hands. I then pushed my way up and onto the saddle. That ol’ horse, she barely moved at all. With a whole new level of accomplishment and confidence, I smiled and declared “I’m ready”.

As Ricky and Joey moved the table aside, Randy handed me that leather strap that, as I recalled from watchin’ westerns on TV, worked like a steerin’ wheel for a horse. Problem was, at six years of age, I had no idea how a steerin’ wheel worked. But, that didn’t matter, not one bit. This gentle ol’ mare took one step forward and the saddle and I began what seemed like a slow motion slide. With my eyes closed tighter’n a skeeter’s ass, I held on for dear life. When the motion had stopped, I was still holdin’ on to that handle-like knob on the front of the saddle, my feet now draggin’ the ground. The ol’ horse didn’t take nary another step, which was amazin’ considerin’ the roar of the laughter that had erupted from my gang of buddies.

It was, indeed, an inauspicious beginnin’, but I vowed to remain fearless in my quest for cowboydom.

Cockleburs and Velcro

by Tom Hutton

My typical morning routine includes feeding and currying the horses. Of late I have had to spend extra time painfully (for me not the horse) removing prickly cockleburs from forelocks, manes, and tails. These tenacious burrs have become so numerous and work their way in to such an extent that at times our horses have the appearance of wearing hair curlers.

This got me to thinking about Velcro. A little googling finds that a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral in 1941 invented Velcro. He was inspired after taking a hunting trip to the Alps and having to contend with burrs in his dog’s fur and on his clothing. He placed a burr under a microscope and found  that each spine had a hook, making them stick to virtually anything. This inspired him to fashion Velcro from which I assume he made enough money to fill a Swiss bank vault.

The cocklebur (Xanthium) that I must contend with in Texaas is native to the Americas and eastern Asia. I can only guess that the recent

Just a few of the Cockleburs removed from our horses

Just a few of the Cockleburs removed from our horses

drought in our area somehow relates to the heavy crop of these burrs.