Friday, November 9, 2012

"Feature Friday- Sandi Claypool, Monero Mustangs, Still Wild"

Howdy Folks,

In Rio Arriba county New Mexico there’s a range with Pinyon pines, beautiful mountains, a tiny rusty trailer and a small band of Spanish Mustangs. The tiny trailer is home to Sandi Claypool who is devoted to protecting and preserving the Spanish Mustang. The trailer has been there since 2008. The Mustangs since 1598. Sandi inherited her passion to protect the Mustangs from her mother Ila Bromberg who was educated as an archeologist and had herself a lifelong passion to preserve them, their heritage and their history.

This sanctuary is located on 4,700 acres on the Yellow Hills Ranch where the wild horses are free to remain wild, running free under the watchful eye of Sandi, who since her mother’s passing last November, operates the sanctuary alone, living in that tiny rusty trailer with electric but no running water.

Our story though, starts back a few years; it was 1997 when Sandi was looking for a Spanish stallion to bred to her mare, Kat Dancing. At that time the USDA Forest Service was removing wild horses from the Jarita Mesa Wild Horse Territory and offering them for adoption. Sandi saw the stallion, now known as Katzman Dancer, and filed the required papers. Eventually she was awarded ownership of the stallion. Katzman Dancer is now considered to be the foundation stallion, having been DNA tested and ranking very high with the original Spanish markers. Through subsequent breeding, “Monero Mustangs” was established.

Katzman was Sandi’s introduction to the herd management practices of the Forest Service and, while well meaning, it was painfully obvious to Sandi and her mother that the removal and adoption of so many of wild horses was causing the depletion of the gene pool, and could threaten the very survival of the herd. At the time it was estimated there were only 60 horses remaining of the original band. The Spanish horses at Jarita Mesa Wild Horse Territory are direct descendents of the first 1,000 horses Spanish explorer, Don Juan de Onate led across the Rio Grande River in 1598 when he claimed the territory for Spain.

Sandi and her mother sprang into action, leasing land and adopting as many Jarita Mesa Spanish horses as possible. For the next few years Sandi spent every moment, when not at work with the Social Services, with the herd she and her mother were assembling. The vision of protecting the band of descendents of the original Spanish horse, and to create a genetically pure herd, was slowly taking shape. Within 5 years the herd numbered nearly 30. Excited by the prospect of success, Sandi and her mother founded Monero Mustangs as a non-profit entity in May of 2003. The name “Monero” represents the geographic location where their herd went from a dream to a reality. It is an Italian word referring to the coal mines that supported the early settlers in the northern part of the Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. To Sandi and her mother it seemed as if the noble horses whose gallant ancestors helped build a nation might have a tiny nation of their own.

It was a fabulous dream coming true. The herd continued to grow and so did the relationship Sandi enjoyed with the Forest Service, who got in the habit of calling when they had horses they knew no one would adopt. Especially the older horses. The Forest Service knew they could count on Sandi and her mother. They even began accepting other wild horses not of Spanish lineage. Back in the settling of the American West, Cavalry mounts and settlers’ horses were often lost or left to run free and their decedents run in the wild herds. As long as they were wild, Sandi and her mother would provide the safe home for them to remain, wild and free. By 2007 there were over 40 horses under the care of Sandi and Ila.

Then things took a turn. A bad turn. Suddenly horrible things began to happen that caused Sandi to fear for the herd’s safety. In one week they found 3 dead babies. Other pressures were coming to bear as well and Sandi knew she had to do something, fast. Once again it seemed the wild horses were not welcomed on the range they’d called home for over 400 years.

She had one possible option. One that at the time wasn’t really available, but she’d make the call for help anyway. About a year earlier she’d been contacted by a group who were purchasing land just 20 miles from her. They had even asked Sandi about introducing Mustangs to their land. She tracked down the number and made the call asking if it would be possible to move the herd right away. Were they ready for nearly 50 wild horses? Fortunately the group had settled on the land and already founded “Yellow Hills Ranch.” Sandi’s call was received with enthusiasm and broad support. Yellow Hills Ranch was willing to allow the horses to roam freely on nearly 5 thousand acres, with a promise of protection. Things happened quickly, as they needed to for the safety of the horses. When Sandi and her mother got the green light, Sandi retired from her job, put her house up for sale and they moved the herd. In one day, in the spring of 2008, Sandi, her mother and a friend loaded and transported 45 wild horses to Yellow Hills Ranch.

Today the total herd numbers just over 100. Sandi lives alone in that tiny rusty trailer keeping watch, doing the paper work and continuing to build the foundation. She has made her inspections of the horses sometimes on crutches, or with her broken arm in a sling, or sick with the flu. In the winter, the hay must be hauled to feed the horses whether Sandi is in the pink of health or under the weather. She knows every horse by name, their family tree and every horse knows and trusts her. From time to time the Forest Service still calls when they need to find a home range for a special wild horse.

Yellow Hills Ranch and Monero Mustangs welcomes visitors to spend the day observing the Mustangs in their natural environment. Sharing her knowledge about these unique horses is Sandi’s passion and she encourages you to come see them for yourself. On a typical visit to Monero Mustangs, she will guide visitors around the ranch to see the horses in their favorite places and explain the history and the stories of each of the Mustang families. Please go to the website to schedule a visit and learn more about these elegant horses and the struggle to protect them. Tours are the main source of funds to keep Monero Mustangs operating, and they offer photographers unequaled opportunities for great pictures. Another important source of funds is Sponsorship. This is an exciting way to be involved with these magnificent wild horses. These are very personalized sponsorships where you can sponsor a horse of your choice, and Monero Mustangs will keep you informed of their progress during the year with pictures and diaries.

Working long distance with Desiree Goodall, a 17 year old volunteer living in Montana, Sandi is currently creating a comprehensive registry of all the horses at Monero Mustangs. This is very important because should anything happen to Sandi, without this registry the identification, history and other facts, such as health and personalities of these horses would be forever lost.

A future goal of Monero Mustangs is to open an educational center which will include a Colonial Spanish Horse museum and a research facility for DNA and historical data. With the welcome home at Yellow Hills Ranch, Sandi and Ila’s dream of preventing this tiny strain of horses from becoming extinct and to educate the public about the treasure we have in our midst has become a reality.

Thanks to one woman’s passion and devotion, the Monero Mustangs are “Still Wild” and running free.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"He Looked Up and She Was Gone"

Howdy Folks,

Thought I'd share a story I wrote a while back for a "Writer's Prompt Contest." The story had to begin, "He looked up and she was gone," and be 550 words. Enjoy!

He looked up and she was gone.

He looked up and she was gone. Even though their relationship had been amazingly brief, her sudden departure saddened him. From the very moment he met her under the giant mimosa tree he knew she was special. She had a unique kind of magnificence that could hold any admirer's attention, man or woman. He remembered her sitting there so poised, so angelic. From the first glace she had held him captive with her dainty, yet commanding beauty.

It wasn't like him to be so overwhelmed by a chance meeting, most of the time it took effort for him to become interested on the level she had stirred. She was different. She was the epitome of natures own splendor. And grace. She held a speechless trance over him. In her presence he could scarcely afford even an instant to look away. He knew God had made her special, no one need tell him that. It was the power of her fragile beauty that engulfed him and made him her prisoner, if only for too brief a time. He shook his head and closed his eyes remembering, as best he could, every detail of their time together under the spreading bows of the ancient mimosa.

Her dark eyes had seemed so inquisitive, they held him transfixed. While their encounter had been fleeting, her ability to hold him prisoner with her quiet stare was overwhelming. He focused a lonely gaze where she had last sat. If he tried hard enough he could imagine her there, still. He touched the grass where she had rested in the one sun spot made possible by a break in the massive mimosa's canopy. She loved the sun. She'd never told him that, but he knew. She was different in the sun. She glistened.

Certain things about life had always been hard for him to understand. He wrung his hands, then pounded the ground beside him, frustrated at the sense of loss. He felt a tinge of bitterness force its way inside him as he questioned the fairness of allowing such a tender, yet short-lived encounter to happen. He had known of course when he discovered her, their relationship would not long endure. They came from different worlds. Worlds that could intertwine, interact, but never truly embrace each other.

Why was that? He felt the urge to yell at the sky and demand an answer, but he fought it. Silly, stupid question. He cussed himself. He knew the answer. It wasn't that complicated, even if it was unfair. She had her world, he had his. And each must abide by the rigid rules set in place by powers more powerful and unwavering than anything a mere man could understand. Still he wondered about the callousness of it.

Lying back onto the grass he allowed his eyes to weave a path through the soft leaves of the mimosa and stared at the blue sky. He reasoned perhaps it wasn't so callous, that rule. Of course they would need to each live the life so destined for them, she and he, by some omniscient power that had chartered their separate paths through life. But he thanked that power for allowing him to have known her for even the briefest of time. He knew he would be forever enriched by that meeting. He reached for his diary and recorded the day's date, time and location of this once in a lifetime find. The rarest of rare almost impossible finds, a butterfly so splendid he thanked God out loud for sharing this beauty. He stifled a question though, why had he made so few?


PS- Please if you leave a comment, no spoilers ... THANKS!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I called Annabelle..

Howdy Folks,

I called Annabelle this morning to tell her about yesterday's sighting here of the 2 Hermit Thrushes. Oh my, she was so happy to hear from me, and she said she'd never seen a Hermit Thrush. Of course I told her this was my first too. I told her the whole story about hearing them, "pip-pip-pip" and how Kessy and Saturday just had to tag along as I searched the tree branches for the mysterious "pippers" and dear Annabelle laughed so hard she said her sides hurt. So then I read her yesterday's blog and by golly she got a good laugh!

It's snowing a little today, up in PA where here nursing home is, and she said the bird feeders the staff put up outside her window is pretty busy. She told me she has House Finches, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Cardinals and even a Tufted Titmouse. She's so excited they finally positioned the feeders just right so she can see them without getting out of bed, which sometimes now is becoming a bother. I teased her and said she always loved those warm covers. Of course she sternly let me know she'd always been an early riser! I said yea, when she smelt the coffee brewing! That made her laugh good, too.

The nurses came and interrupted us, and Annabelle told them her sweety was on the phone and they'd need to come back, so we had a few more minutes of yakking and laughing. Together we remembered a time we went birding and saw a flock of Meadowlarks, the only time either of us had seen anything like that .... She told me to say hi to all her facebook & blog friends and wish you all good birding!

If you have a chance today, give a call to someone you think might enjoy a visit...

And Annabelle says, have fun today and here's hoping you see a good bird or two!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mystery Guest

Howdy Folks,

Above Kessy's eager tugging and munching on her breakfast hay I heard a "pip-pip-pip." Settled in my Coffee Clutch chair, Saturday curled on my feet, I was enjoying my first cup this bright and cheery, yet cold 28 degree morning. Today was the first day this fall I'd donned long-johns and insulated coveralls, sparkling sunbeams danced on the thick morning frost. Chickens and their winter guests, the Juncos busily hopped and scratched together at the cracked corn. Today a wary rabbit huddled off to the side nibbling corn, too, but scurried into the brush when Mr. Guinea decided that was his breakfast and charged the rabbit, wings wide in a threatening display.

Still chuckling at bossy guinea I heard that, "pip-pip-pip" again. I tried to zero in on the direction it came from, but Kessy's chomping seemed louder than normal, and even with a cupped hand behind my ear I could not. Two Cardinals and about a dozen doves joined the chickens and Juncos for a breakfast buffet. Mr. Rabbit returned, too and I suppose it was a coincidence that a squirrel joined him – Or did Rabbit bring him along for defense against Mr. Guinea?

It's not uncommon to have such a busy breakfast feast at the 3 grain smorgasbord, but usually they take turns. I reckon they were all running on empty after last night's temperature dip. It was, after all, chilly enough to keep Tigger and Miss Kitty in the house this morning.

Once again I heard, "pip-pip-pip," and once again Kessy's munching made it difficult to identify, or even get a handle on the direction from where it came. I poured a refill from my thermos, and steaming cup in hand, set out to identify our mystery guest. But of course it would help if whomever it was would, "Pip up again" … Get it, "Pip up?" I thought that was funny …

I stationed myself just outside the barn and stood leaning on the door jamb next to Kessy. In a few seconds it called again. "pip-pip-pip," again Kessy's chomping kept me from hearing clearly where, and who? So, seeking to distance myself from her loud chewing, I set out in the direction it seemed to come from … Of course Saturday and Kessy felt the need to tag along. How am I going to sneak up on a reclusive bird with an entourage of a beagle and horse?

"Pip-pip-pip-pip" floated down from a tall pine. Years of volunteering for breeding bird surveys had trained my eyes to zero in on almost exactly where "Call Notes" come from. I must admit though, these eyes and ears are a bit rusty, and I never did a survey accompanied by a dog and horse … But locate our mystery guest I did. In fact it was two! ... Two beautiful Hermit Thrushes! What a joy! At first I'd suspected Wood Thrushes, but they are usually gone from our neck of the woods by late August.

For the next five minutes Saturday, Kessy and I tagged along as they flitted about "Pipping" from one treetop perch and then another. What a delight! ... Hermit Thrushes will winter in our area and I hope they become regular visitors to our Coffee Clutch.

If you'd like to read about the Hermit Thrush & hear their song & call notes go here -

Have a perfect day and God Bless!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Perfect Day!

Howdy Folks,

Ah what a fun day Kessy had yesterday as she continues to expand her boundaries and explore the world. We loaded onto the trailer to go our friend Chris Cooper's house and ride a little, in the company of other horses. I'm the kind of fellow who likes to take things slow, some would say, too slow. But I'm most comfortable with baby steps ... And I've always felt most horses are, too. So yesterday's adventure was a big deal to Kessy and me. It is so wonderful to have a friend willing to be help out.

Kessy's getting pretty good at loading here at home, still need the "rattling grain can" and I expect we will for a long time, but it's the loading away from home that worries me, especially when there are other horses she'd like to visit longer. But all went well. We got there and rode about a half hour around the barn and in the pasture, near but not with other horses. Even though Kessy was very nervous she was wonderfully obedient, with only a few high stepping moments, and one "almost crow-hop." Chris walked with us as a companion for Kessy, showing us the way, and Kessy loved that! They've got a beautiful pasture that meanders up and down hills and around and through lovely trees. Kessy was tempted to run a few times, but with a head shake, to let me know she disapproved of my request to keep it a walk, she did, with a slight bounce or two tossed in, just to make her point. She knows how to make me laugh.

Time to go home, back at the trailer, Kessy balked a bit about loading. It took about 5 minutes of "grain can rattling" for her to step in. For a moment I was worried she would not leave the other horses, but all at once she just stepped right in. That was a big deal for me, and her.

Back at home I decided she should have a chance to hit the trail on familiar grounds, so Kessy, Saturday and I set out for a hike. With hunting in full swing right now, and the bad weather, it had been 10 days since we'd been out and I know she missed it ... And I wanted her to end the day with working a bit on trails she was fully confident on because she was still a bit nervous even when she got off the trailer at home ... And here at home I said yes to her request for a stone tossing flat out run ... Head low, ears pinned, her beautiful black mane flying in my face, the wind whistled in my ears as we flew down the trail. Of course we had to wait a spell for Saturday to catch up after her light-speed dash.

We had a delightful ride. Saw plenty of birds, a few beautiful fall asters, some brilliant red maple leaves … and a set of really big bear tracks. I mean granddaddy size bear tracks ... I stood Kessy next to them in the mud so she could make a track to compare, and by golly those tracks are slightly bigger than her hoof print!

All in all a perfect day, and I hope you have one today too!

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry