Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dozer the GoatPony

Dozer has spent the summer of 2012 learning about domestic life in the saddle.

He is learning from the example of our current GoatPonies: Pecos, Chopo and Doonie...

Though he has been under saddle for just over a year now he is only just settling into it comfortably. 
Here is Dozer on his first day working goats in company with another herder (minimal resposibility for Doz).

His work has been slow and steady... 

The last few months Dozer has been more seriously apprenticing as a GoatPony.
He was introduced to the concept through being ponied by Doonie, Chopo, or Pecos on many GoatWalks over the rugged Range around SunStar.
He learned that he has a job to do, and a partner to work with.

Dozer enjoys a nap after work...

The Dozer went to work in the North Valley with Doonie. 
In this pasture he proved to me that he could be in a large area and be completetly tractable in halter or not...

And also herded the goats to his first job

Dozer was a little unsure, but worked just fine with a little support and gentle guidance.

Dozer now enjoys his days on goat-duty and his days on pony-duty, and loves all his many dogs.

And especially his grey Dun bud.

The Maremmas have worked on Dozer and have shown him so much kindness and unconditional love that he now loves them back just as kindly and gently...

He has been mapping his new territory and taking notes of the water holes, in all stages of existence...
Until February of 2011 Dozer was a wild born Stallion, running free with his own band of mares and foals on the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory in the Northern reaches of New Mexico... 
His out of the box thinking got him and his band removed and taken to town for adoption after the third time they were picked up outside of his "territory". From there he went fairly quickly to the Mustang Camp where he was readied for adoption (to say this gave me a good start is an understatement).
When I saw a photo of him with his band I was sure that he was a horse I could use. 
I liked his looks and I liked the calm quiet way he stood protectively with his family.
 When I received my wild mustang he could be haltered and led, trailered and front feet lifted (with patience). He did require lots of repetition and it was awhile before the halter and feet and leading was easy.. then again our approach was a little different from his conditioning which we employed parts of. Being food motivated makes the mustang your friend quite well. Dozer can be well fed and be offered a bit of grass and will give a shoulder, or forehead, or withers, or butt... to earn his reward. But he has also come to enjoy giving "kisses"for free. Offering my hand he reaches out to touch and I simply smooch a kiss sound. He understands language quite well, body as well as my english.
Mustang Camp is a remarkably valuable organization greatly improving the adoption success of Americas feral horses. Thanks to them I had a positive foundation on which to build a meaningful relationship. 

Dozer and Chopo are good buddies now...
When Dozer was joined as a member of the herd this spring he had only lived with Doonie, whom he loved. But Chopo all the while resented this new guy, Chopo never really gets along with dominant males as he is sure his muscles are the biggest... Dozer took many the shark attack while out riding together before they were penned together. When we did put them all together very little happened. Only when no one was looking did Dozer bite and kick Chopo leaving him subservient and more than a little banged up. I have actually witnessed very few fights between the boys, but for a few months a war went on between red horses leaving Dozer the leader but Chopo a companion boss. 
Now Dozer enjoys quiet power. And Chopo teaches Dozer where all the potential food stashes are around the yard when they have "free" time in the yard/orchards etc.

Here they watch a local impromptu-feral band of horses stampede down the valley beyond the goatherd. I was glad Dozer was not inclined to join... Some weeks later we encountered these horses out on the range with a 20 foot arroyo between us, Dozer called to them and they came to us just like out of a painting as they had been just watching stark still. It would have become interesting quick if not for the burro, Stella. She has a large dislike for dogs and tries to get the horses to as well. She started chasing the Aussies, and so the Maremmas were forced to send her away, along with the horses. The Maremmas are always working on befriending this herd, but if Stella is around she always messes things up... Until then it is a pleasant scene with horses and hounds.

Dozer ponies and palls around with everyone now..

He has been an interesting horse to work with. He is very intelligent and also a strong personality. He requires a dominant person, but one with a light and sensitive touch... he is the kindest most gentle horse... yet we are only now coming to the place where we really trust. He has bucked me off a dozen times, as well as Kino... but the last time he dumped me he returned to the horses and I (with a little coaxing) rather than heading toward the Jicarilla, and went back to work. 
He has managed to restrain himself from a full bucking episode since that day. 

That day when he returned he drank deep his water  and munched his hay and seemed happy to have a home in domesticity. 

I am very glad to have this Jicarilla pony on the goat string. 
He is becoming a fantastic horse as he embraces goatherding and all the adventures that result. 
We were following the herd toward home a few days ago just off the top of the hill east and north of the house. I rarely take that particular path anymore just because I don't need that adrenaline feeling as much as I seemed to when Doonie and I were learning... but hey, how do you know you are living if you are not on the edge? This path is completely doable. On a good horse. 
He was happy with the direction and also with the terrain which is up-and-down-up-and-down steep and rocky. He flew through there like he had wings. I always talk about Dun having the power of flight, but Dozer zooming and rappelling off of large ancient coral boulders felt like we had truly taken to the sky. Partly because we were in the air so much... he went over the ridges only touching down in the valleys between... Such a happy dragon was he! And I! Because it is those moments when we are one that are so intoxicating. To share that wild pride and strength. To feel his gentle heart. 
To have his heart! To be fair he also has mine.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Between Dogs

We meet many of our neighbors while out herding the goats. 
Groups of animals have lived on this range for a very long time.. 
Cattle, horses, deer, sheep and goats have historically grazed and browsed. 
Feral horses which were maybe used at one time now "retired" as well as a few breeders  released by current residents have replaced Madrid's miners' burros which were released into the Ortiz and brushy tail mustangs that once roamed the lands lending their strength as Pony Express ponies... and the last remnants of the cattle herd grow fat even without a bull...
We add our hooves and hearts to the land but under an entirely different management plan. 
We always accompany our goatherd with ourselves on horseback and dogs to herd and dogs to protect.

As more people move in so do more dogs. Coyotes continue regardless, but the deer are long gone. Occasional deer tracks ceased appearing in the late 1990s as the drought made it too unattractive altogether... Our goats have begun to fill that niche in this environment over the last 10 years. 
The goats have an advantage over the deer-their own body guards! Over the years we have not had many incidents of dogs drawing blood, few goats killed. Most of these happened before we had a mature pack that lives to serve and protect. Whether I am aware of these things happening at the time or not I am made quite aware by how my dogs treat such dogs on subsequent encounters. 

Zuli at seven months single handedly defended me from a pack of three dogs (one a coydog..) after the pack had begun killing and scattering the herd while we were working for the USACE at the Galisteo dam. That was then. She was the only working dog in a pack of older farm house-dog mutts. 

Now we have a substantial pack which can prevent trouble. 
And the way they do this is really effective. 
They avoid real conflict, relying on their impressive size and confidence to intimidate and push the perceived threat away from their stock. 
In Eldorado they return dogs to their people, then rejoin the herd. They establish a territory in this way and are given respect thus preventing any issues. They are, of course capable of backing up their threat. Everyone knows that. 

But Maremmas are really kind and gentle creatures preferring that we all just live peaceably. 
They are smart.
I know a lot of the dogs out here by sight anyway. Some are penned and some stay close to their homes and so I know less about them. Many dogs like to come and greet our Maremmas and Aussies as we pass by their territory. Lots of wagging tails and some play even from old house dogs ensues. 

This black dog I met one day south of her home on the mesas. She had followed a car departing from her home up the road leaving home and was on her scenic return trip, quite unaware that the goats were drifting through. I was on a finger mesa watching the goats drifting just off and on the adjacent mesa east of my finger mesa. I watched from there with Dozer as dad on Pecos went around to push the herd back my way and toward home.  

Here trots along a long black dog.. Guppy did not much like her because I was giving the strange dog some of my attention, but had nothing much else to say. So the dog hung out for awhile watching the goat specks in the distance and such while Gup sulked under a tree.

Dozer payed no attention to the strange dog, we were as yet still untested on so many situations I was glad this was not an issue...

She is cute, but those ears! 

At some point Dog spotted this black pooch from her mesa with the goats who were beginning to turn this way... Dog was upset, she ran all the way down and up that little mesa-let in between, then all the way down and up again and was some winded by the time she got to me. 
She gave me a smile and a tail wag, before looking around for the dog...

Spotting her, Dog proceeds to push the black dog away.

Dog was jealous like Guppy, but also a guard dog and so told the dog to be on her way, and that was that. That was maybe a month ago. Last week the herd passed nearby the black dog's home and there was also a red dog there, they both stood in their yard barking. But something about the red one's energy the Maremmas took offense to and chased the dog south and east quite a ways. As the last of the herd left the valley two old does that were a little slow that day dropped behind a bit, they were still connected to the group, but hesitating... The black dog ran down to the goats and I thought "Ok she'll probably push those two into the group."... But only one did, the other evaded the dog by going off the edge of the arroyo stranding herself four feet below the lip and six feet above the ground. I tried to push the herd back to the stranded doe a few times, but the barking of the excited dog kept them from getting too close. The Maremmas were still returning from driving away the other dog. Once I made it back to the arroyo, and the dog, I was back-up to Bucky who told the black dog the gig was up. 
She ran off after the direction the other dog had been pushed... 

Like most encounters out here these days no one was hurt. The old doe was persuaded to find a way down and jumped in three foot increments to a fairly easy landing below. She eventually made it home. She is a wild individual and had little trust in me, but knew her way home...

So then a few days ago we were in the same neighborhood, but to the north of the house. The black and the red dogs saw the goats a ways off and began barking in their yard. The goats veered north and up the hill completely avoiding the entire area... but the Maremmas ran over to hold the dogs in their yard while the goats made their escape. I didn't really expect that reaction, but accepted it. I was too far away to do much about it and figured the white dogs would catch up as we left the danger area... The dogs' owner came out to shoo away the Maremmas before long. and all was quiet. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bucky and Guppy Puppies are HERE

SunStar's Horned Locust GoatScaping is proud to announce the arrival of Guppy and Bucky's first litter! They were born in a den outside the house on October 16, 2012. 
(And excavated from said den two days later...) 

These will be fine working dogs of calm and kind temperament.

The merle color carries on...!

Bucky is a very attentive boy, always with an eye on the job... ready to spring into action! 

He is a strong intelligent worker with a confident attitude.

Guppy is a very sweet girl that loves to work her goats. 
She is very strong and intelligent, and is a more independent worker than Buck. Her main focus is to keep the herd together which she does by circling the herd and driving the laggards and other drifters. 

Guppy and Bucky are a good team.

Guppy at 10 months...

Here Guppy drives a tough mother and kid into the herd while on the range west of SunStar. She is good in these situations as she can read how close the bubble is and not cause too much fight from the stock, though she will certainly head when needed.

Guppy is half Australian shepherd. 
Zuli ("SunRay's High Desert Lazuli"), is Gup's dam from Arizona. Zuli's grandsire is "Twin Oaks Kit Carson" Who was one of three dogs to ever earn the title "Supreme Champion" by winning the National Stockdog Finals in ducks, sheep and cattle in the same year. One of the other dogs was littermate to Kit Carson. Zuli is always ready to go when she hears the sound of spurs or bridle. 
She is a great help in catching goats as she triangulates well and keeps the stock toward me. 
And especially kids which she handles very gentle/assertive.

Here Zuli gently pushes the herd through a garage into the fenced backyard at an Eldorado home.

 Guppy at two months with Zuli.

Bucky and Guppy both liked to keep their toys together as puppies!

This is Guppy's basic working posture. 

Gup Loves her Goat Babies.

Guppy chastises her sister, Bamba, for being too excited around the goats...

Bamba is Guppy's litter mate and belongs to my niece. Though she has had less exposure to stock she loves to work when she can. Bamba also has a strong bunching instinct like Guppy and Zuli. 
Bamba and Guppy's father was my neighbor's sheepdog. I know little about the dog other than that he grew up with the sheep and kept watch when they grazed free. I suspect he did some herding. My neighbor owned both the dog's parents. The mother was a Rottweiler X Border Collie and the father a Rottweiler X German Shepherd. 

Guppy at the ready beside my trusty steed.

Guppy is always keeping the herd together. When one gets too far from the herd she rounds them up. She hates disputes and is especially helpful when breaking up buck fights during the breeding season.

Guppy has always loved the Maremma Sheepdogs that we keep for protection. Here she sits at the ready with her little friend, Dog. 

Dog, at four months, herds a goat into the nightpen. 
Whether from her own genetics or not she has become quite the herder in her own right under Gup's example.

Guppy oversees her work.

Though Guppy is usually a very calm worker she sometimes employs this maneuver on the goats when she wants to make a point. She is more likely to hit this way, more with her body than with her teeth.

Hart II's SunStarBuck

Bucky is a tough little dog from Texas. We bought him from Norma Hart at MeMac Ranch in the hope that he would be a dependable worker for us in our climate and environment, and that he would be worthy to breed more useful members of our new herding dog society. 

When we got Buck at eight weeks he could merely walk past the goat pen and the herd would dash away snorting, wondering what that little black furrball was. He demanded such attention! At 10 weeks a dairy goat and her kid got out of the pen. Zuli and Bucky together turned that doe (THE Queen which Hates dogs) and put her back into the pen, but the kid started zooming in all directions. It was too much for Zuli, so we told her to stop. 
Bucky blocked that kid a few times then pushed it right through the gate like a pro. 
We knew then that we had made a good choice.

He has shown us many times since that we chose well.

Buck is a truck dog...

Always ready.

Here Buck heads a tough goat...

And drives the herd home for a water break.

The black and red goats here were always testing the dogs, but Bucky, at eight months, shows them what the alternative to good behavior involves...

Bucky drops everything to herd goats, but off duty he loves to play ball!
You wouldn't believe how many golf balls and tennis balls there are in the world. Usually after the goats settle into a yard he shows up with something round...

But more than anything he loves goats.

Bucky on the job in Villanueva...

Buck at the Eldorado's 2011 Independence Day Parade...

Getting ready for the parade with Krishan...

Bucky is strong worker that lives to please. He will do exactly as you ask to the best of his ability. 
And he is quite smart and able to figure things out.

Bucky and Guppy wait while the work crew unloads at a job for CH2MHILL in Eldorado. 
This was a job where they kept the goats inside an existing non goat-proof wire fence. Guppy kept the herd together and Buck let them know that outside the fence was off limits in no uncertain terms.

The colors are lovely! 
And there are three naturally bob tailed pups.

These puppies will grow up to be hard workers just like their parents, capable of working just about anything