Mustang News from the Rolling Hills of Southwestern Oklahoma
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Mowdy Ranch is now the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM)’s second wild horse ecosanctuary in the United States. Located 12 miles NE of Coalgate in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma, Mowdy Ranch is now offering daily photographic tours and lodging facilities for wild horse enthusiasts. Mowdy Ranch comprises 4000 acres of wooded hills and open valleys in southeastern Oklahoma, the historical home of the legendary Choctaw ponies. The Choctaw ponies were famous for their toughness and endurance which was showcased in the film “Hidalgo”. Mowdy Ranch has now dedicated 1280 acres of the ranch as a wild horse sanctuary and currently houses 153 wild horses on a long term basis. Mowdy Ranch is owned by Clay and Kit Mowdy whose children are the fifth generation to live and work on the ranch. The ranch has two lodges which are capable of sleeping up to 35 people and has kitchen and dining facilities which can accommodate larger groups and special events. For tour fees, lodging costs and reservations you may call 580-927-5093 or visit their website at www.mowdyranch.com.
MUSTANGS ARRIVE ON SITE
July 3, 2014 finally brought the long awaited arrival of the Mustangs to our ranch. Their journey from Canyon City, Colorado was planned so the horses would travel through the cool of the night and arrive at their new home at first light. The morning dawned clear and beautiful in southeastern Oklahoma but the trip was not all clear sailing for the horses. As they traveled through western Oklahoma they met with a freakish storm which, though it brought much needed rain to this drought ridden part of the country, made the roads nearly impassible with downed powerlines and flooding. Although delayed by several hours, they thankfully made it safely. It was thrilling to see them thundering off the truck ramps to their new home.
As you can imagine, not all of the horses weather the long trip to the ranch well. Soon after the mustangs arrived, we took stock of the horses that were limping or sore. All of them recovered quickly, except for one beautiful sorrel mare that had a very “Spanish” look. We named her The Senorita and kept a close eye on her. Within a week, she was obviously in trouble. She was so lame in her front foot that she would spend her day laying down. We worried she soon would not be able to get to water. We made the decision to help her. With much effort, we finally eased her into the corral and checked her foot. You could smell the abscess, but she was too difficult to handle, so we called in the vet. She was tranquilized and we cleaned her foot and drained the abscess. The vet said she would be lame for several weeks until the “frog” of her foot grew back and got solid. He didn’t count on how tough these horses are! Within a week we returned The Senorita to the herd and she hasn’t missed a step since.
FEEL GOOD NEWS
Caring for a herd of wild mustangs can make for long days but with the hard work comes a lot of satisfaction. Doctoring and caring for hurt and sick mustangs can be a dangerous and time consuming job. Accepted protocol is to allow the horses to exist like they do in the wild and provide no medical assistance, but we have a hard time doing that. We will keep a running post on our success stories which we hope will warm your heart as much as they enrich our lives.
Our most recent rehabilitation project was Sally. In late October, Mustang Sally limped behind the herd trying to keep up. We never knew what happened to her and could only assume another horse had kicked her rear leg. A beautiful blood bay mare with two stocking legs and a white snip nose, she was truly wild and always aloof. Because she was so pretty and wild and fast, we named her Mustang Sally. Over the next two or three weeks Sally grew weaker and thinner, her right rear hock hugely swollen. Several times we tried to ease her into the corral with no success. By late October, her right hip had atrophied to the point that she could barely move. Within a day or two, like she knew she needed help, Sally appeared at the gate. We put her in a small pen so she couldn’t move around and sought the Vet’s advice. The prognosis wasn’t good. “Put her down” they said. Clay took his gun and went to the corral but came back an hour later. She deserves a chance he said. We kept her in a small pen to keep her from moving around too much for over a month, feeding her two and three times a day. Sally had always been one of the wilder mares, never friendly, never coming too close. But soon, she met us at the gate every morning, glad for company and more friendly each day. Within a few weeks she started to put weight on her leg. Bit by bit she got better, limping less and putting on weight. On the last day of December we turned Sally back out with the herd. Although her hock is still swollen, she runs with the herd without a limp. We smile every time we see her. She never gave up.
One of the flashiest horses to arrive was a dark sorrel mare with a blaze face and platinum blonde mane and tail. We had no choice but to name her Blondie. She was very skinny when she arrived, but she was put out in deep grass pasture. Unfortunately over the summer, she just kept getting more and more thin. It soon became apparent that left alone, Blondie would never live to see winter. Luckily Blondie was easy to coax into the correl. We wormed Blondie and then fed her alone for a few days. After watching her eat we realized that her problem was her teeth. We called the vet and after tranquilizing Blondie we examined her teeth. We discovered that Blondie’s teeth were in terrible shape, the jaw teeth being so long and sharp that she was shredding her cheeks and gums with each bite. The veterinarian “floated” her teeth, a process of filing the teeth down flat so that Blondie could chew her food again. Afraid that if we didn’t put some weight on her she wouldn’t survive, we kept Blondie in a pen for almost three months, feeding her twice a day. Needless to say, Blondie did put on weight and soon turned into a beautiful mare. We turned her out with the herd in December and she is still doing well. Sometimes she comes back to the corral hoping to be fed. Gentle and beautiful, Blondie is every ones’ favorite.
THE GREY SISTERS
In many ways, horses are not that different from people. Soon after the mustangs arrived, they started forming their own social groups. Just like people, they have their own friends and family around which they feel most comfortable. One of those groups we soon named the ”Grey Sisters”. The Grey Sisters are four grey mares that are not only the same color, but they also have similar characteristics which makes us wonder if they are actually related. The Grey Sisters are very wild and wary. They rarely mix with the other horses, preferring their own company. They never come in to hay or feed and always fend for themselves. Beautiful and aloof, the Grey Sisters embody all the characteristics that we all love about the American Mustang.
Another day feeding in the snow. It gives you goose bumps to watch the horses thundering in to be fed, snow flying and breath steaming. They come in with so much snow and ice on their backs, they lay down and roll to scrub it off. We try to keep the horses standing in hay on days like this, so we feed double the amount of hay. It does make for a long day. While we are concerned about the the horses in the snow, the mustangs have so much hair and are so tough and resilient, they don't even seem to mind the cold. They do, however, appreciate the hay.
I’ve been around horses all my life. We raised them, broke them, trained them and worked them. I’ve always felt that horses are amazing animals. When we decided to run the mustangs I remember wondering why people might want to come look at the mustangs. I mean a horse is a horse right? I thought they won’t be that different. But I was wrong.