Working Horses and Maternity Leave

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It was time to wean two of our colts. They were both well able to carry on fine without their mamas, so one morning Colin and I caught the two mares, left their colts in the corral with an old babysitter mare, saddled the fine ladies and loaded up to go to my folks place to do a bunch of riding for Dad. Neither mare seemed very concerned about leaving the kids behind, nor were the colts in a panic as they were eating hay with their old friend Dolly. So, we drove out to the ranch and unloaded. Our plan was to do the cow work that needed done, then just unsaddle and leave the mares there in the corral at the
ranch to wean the colts. It always worked slick and the colts at home never fussed for long if they couldn’t see or hear their mothers.
It was a cool fall morning, so Colin and I hung our bridles on our saddle horns while we got our chinks pulled on, our jackets zipped and got ready to ride. I got my bridle off the saddle horn and realized that it had been on a different horse since I’d ridden Lily with it. So, I went ahead and put the under bosal on her, adjusted it, then proceeded to adjust the headstall on the nice spade bit rig I rode her with. I was facing her, she was watching me, and I was having a little trouble as the buckles were tight on the cheekpieces. As I got it to the right notches, I straightened it all out and before I could stop her, Lily had put her head in the headstall and taken the bit and curb strap into her mouth on her own. It was backwards and very awkward, but she was apparently so ready to go back to work that she just couldn’t wait longer! I took it back off of her, turned it around and held it for her and she once again took the bit into her mouth, this time without a curb strap and other hindrances, and I slid it over her ears. If the song of the cricket was any indication, she was a happy horse.
Both her and Snickers were wonderful mothers, but the bottom line was that they were working horses that liked their jobs. Plus, those two colts had teeth and were getting rough, so it was time and they knew it. Some would say the moon must have been right, and maybe it was, but I think our good mares were ready for a change of pace. Maternity leave was over.

working horses


On a side note, pertaining to the weaning of Lily’s colt, remember that we had left the two colts with Dolly. It had been quite a few years since Dolly had raised a colt. She could no longer carry one past a few months so was retired and left with the mares as she would help watch the babies and just loved being with them. She was the perfect candidate for weaning Lily’s colt Rush and Snicker’s colt Lakota with, as she would never hurt them but would insist on manners. Lakota fussed a while about his mother, walked the fence a bit, nickered when the other horses came in, and suchlike. Rush didn’t. He never made a peep and didn’t seem very concerned at all, just hanging with Dolly and eating his grain and hay.
I found out why he was so unconcerned several days into weaning. As I came around the corner headed to their pen, there was Rush, sidled up to Dolly, nursing. I was rather surprised, and more so when I peaked underneath and the old girl had a bag again! That colt had brought her back to her milk, even though it had been years since she’d nursed a foal. Dolly was absolutely delighted with the whole situation! Good grief.
Let me tell you, it was a noisy separation when I had to wean Rush the second time and took Dolly out to the ranch to be with Lily and Snickers. She whinnied all the way out there, paced the fence and fretted for days.
This time, I put Rush and Lakota in with the old stud for company. He was good to them, loved the babies, but let me assure you, he darned sure wouldn’t let one nurse! So Rush was finally weaned.

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About Jan Swan Wood

Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....

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