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RU Sierra

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Photo by S. Ralston
  • BLM Freezebrand 08726296
  • Bay 3-year-old Filly
  • Mustang # 6296
  • Born Summer 2008
  • Captured from Cedar Mountain, Utah on December 9th, 2009
  • Will be registered with the Wild Horse and Burro Association
  • Sponsors: Katie Vogel, Barbara Earnest and Ann David
  • Students: Sarah Shaw and Joann Chien

March 2011

        March has been a jam-packed month for Sierra. With moving the mustangs and Ag Field Day training starting, Sierra has had a busy but fun-filled month.

        We moved all the mustangs over from the Old Barn to the Red Barn (on Cook Campus) over spring break and the move went very smooth with only a few minor issues while loading and unloading. I couldn’t be there for the move, but from what I heard Sierra did really well. The nutrition research has now ended and all of the mustangs are now being fed hay and cubes. She has adjusted to the Red Barn extremely well; in fact she even seems friendlier and more trusting about new people after being in the brighter, more open environment of the new barn.

        Before the move to the Red Barn, Sierra had been having issues with picking up her feet and standing still. Robin, Joann and I worked long and hard to get her back to picking up her feet like a well behaved young horse should. We now have her to the point where Sierra is allowing other students to pick up her feet with only minor issues.

        One of the main changes that I have noticed in Sierra recently is that she is more accepting of other people. She actually begs to be scratched while people are standing outside her stall. We have continued to desensitize Sierra to the new objects in the Red Barn. Some of the items included a fluffy talking parrot toy (that makes sounds and talks and moves on its own), the wash stall and being cross tied, walking over and on newspaper, plastic bags and soda cans. While Sierra has approached all of these new things with suspicion at first, in the end she does what we ask her to do and she seems okay with it as long as we are reassuring her. She also seems to be more into exploring new things. She wants to touch and smell the new objects more than she did before. She has taken an interest to the soccer ball we have in the barn and I would kick it and she would follow it. In the last session with Robin I got to free lunge Sierra and work on side passing as well. She picked both up very quickly and follows directions very nicely. Overall, Sierra has come around and made a lot of progress. She even came right up to me in the field when two other students were in the field too. She knew that I was there to get her and instead of choosing the first person she saw, she walked straight to me. I’m very happy with her progress and I can’t wait for next month’s progress!

Written by Sarah Shaw

February 2011

Sierra has been making progress this last month. With spring right around the corner, all of the horses are more anxious to be outside and Sierra is no exception. They often let us know in the morning that it is time for them to be let out. In February we finished up the corn vs. TMR cubes breakfasts trial and moved onto the oats vs. TMR breakfast trial. We were testing to see if the behavior, manageability, and the reactivity of the horses changed when they were on the corn/oats as opposed to the TMR (Total Mixed Ration) cubes fed as a single meal. Sierra just seems to enjoy the change in diet regardless of the type. She’s been licking her bucket clean; especially when her breakfast consists of the corn or oats. 

Recently, Robin has been working with us in desensitizing Sierra to a variety of new/novel objects such as the umbrella, empty and full feed bags, the horse blanket, electric clippers and a spray bottle. While she tends to be a bit more suspicious of new objects; eventually, with patience and methodical introductions, she has come to accept many new things. We are still working on getting her more comfortable with lifting her feet and picking them out. We have also been reinforcing older things such as rubbing our hands all over her body, especially down her legs and under her belly. In addition, we have been teaching her to turn on the forehand and haunches, which she does very well, and introducing her to the sidepass.  We have found that she is a very observant horse and responds to the slightest cues. She is acutely aware of where people are around her and will position herself accordingly. She is a pleasure to lead as she doesn’t pull and stops when you do. She has really warmed up to us and will follow us around the stall begging for scratches.

Written by Joanne Chien

January 2011

      Sierra has been progressing so much in the past few weeks. In December, we turned the horses out 24/7 for winter break but students and Dr. Ralston checked up on them daily and brought them in at least twice a week for grooming and TLC. They were brought in during the blizzard after Christmas!  During the break, Robin Rivello, one of the professional trainers
that we have for the program, made a lot of progress with Sierra. In November the farrier came to trim hooves and Sierra was not a fan to say the least and needed to be heavily tranquilized. All of the hard work over break paid off, because now Sierra picks up her feet and lets us hold them with no issues. The farrier came back on January 24 and Sierra stood perfectly still for him-no need for chemical restraint this time! We were all very impressed.

        Sierra has also been reminded of her manners and tasks such as tying, backing up and turning on command. We have begun working on tying and grooming Sierra outside her stall and she has been doing very well, though she is still nervous about sudden noises or movements. She is very polite, however, and even moves to the side to let us past.

          Now that the new semester has begun, the horses have been brought in from their 24/7 turnout and we have started them on a nutrition trial of feeding our total mixed ration cubes vs. feeding corn as a "breakfast meal" and how it effects their trainability and behavior. They are all on the TMR cubes free choice the rest of the day while they are turned out and in their stalls over night.  Sierra was started on the corn breakfast. The first behavior test was conducted on January 31st, and Sierra did extremely well. The test consisted of leading, standing still for one minute, picking up all feet ( I had to hold Sierra during this though because she wouldn't stand still), walking on the scale, turning on her haunches and backing up. We had one of our students stand on a stool for the last part of the behavior test as a "Novel Object", testing their fear reaction to a new thing. Sierra did very well by not spooking but instead she seemed very interested in the student. The student, once Sierra got close enough, then rubbed Sierra with her hands on her neck and towards her back, and she stood fairly well for it.

        We are continuing our project of de-sensitizing Sierra to foreign objects. Sierra is such a loving horse and so polite and respectful and I am excited that I have more time to work with her this semester.

Written by Sarah Shaw

December 2010

      December was a busy month filled with behavior tests, training sessions and unfamiliar stimuli. In general, Sierra has been making a lot of progress. We are now able to run our hands all over her body (including her head, face and legs), groom her, brush her mane and tail, and even pick up her feet for hoof picking sessions. She had previously been very sensitive about being touched in certain places; especially her head and feet. With lots of hard work and dedication from Robin, we were able to get her past all of that. In fact, we are now able to change her halter easily, pick her feet up and clean them. Overall, Sierra is well-mannered and sweet; she leads with the slightest pressure.

       This month, the farrier came by to do all of the horses’ feet for the first time. While Sierra is usually very non-reactive when it comes to objects such as muck buckets, wheelbarrows, and pitchforks, she had always been reluctant to pick up her feet. Needless to say, she was not too happy about not only having her feet being picked up, but also held there, and a iron rasp grinding against her hoof and required a large dose of tranquilizer before the job could be done. However, we are happy to say that in the last few weeks, she has improved to the point where we can not only pick her feet up but also clean them out without chemical restraint.

        Right before we turned all of the horses out for winter break, we exposed Sierra to the measuring stick as well as the above ground scale. While she still needs some more work with the measuring stick, we are so proud that after sniffing the scale, she walked right on. In addition, she did very well on her final behavior test. It has been such a pleasure working with her this semester and we can’t wait for the spring semester to start.

Written by Joanne Chien

November 2010

       We found out that the halter that had been put on her at the BLM auction actually was injuring her head (behind her ears), so we had to remove it for a couple weeks until her poll healed and she accepted having her ears and head touched again. Finally, after much time and effort, we made progress and got her halter back on her again. Step one complete! We then started getting Sierra used to clipping the lead rope onto her halter. At first she was very wary of me whenever I would make an attempt to clip it on, but after she learned that the rope was not going to hurt her she let me do it with no problems. I then started leading her around outside of the stall. It was really funny to watch her ears perk up and her breathing speed up whenever I took her to a different surrounding. We introduced Sierra to the scale around the end of October and she weighed 767lbs. When we were finally able to turn the horses out in the paddocks in mid-October, Sierra and Sunny (Sundance) were not quite as advanced in their training as the other horses, so we kept them together in the roundpen so we could be sure we could catch them. After a couple days of that we finally turned then out with the others.  The first time that I brought Sierra in from turnout, she avoided me at first and it took me awhile to catch her. She was obviously enjoying her freedom, but decided she would let me catch her when she saw the others going in. Now we are at the point when I come outside to let her in she is only slightly wary and then she comes right up to me. Two days ago we introduced Sierra to being tied in her stall while being groomed and she responded very well to it. Sierra has already made a lot of progress with things and I look forward to continuing to work with her.

Written by Sarah Shaw

October 2010

       This is my first time working one on one with the BLM Mustangs and I am thrilled to be working with Sierra. She is a 2 year-old bay filly and was born in Cedar Mountain,Utah. The first week that Sierra was in the barn, she was still very jumpy and very afraid of people, though surprisingly not as fearful of objects such as the pitchforks and the muck buckets. Around the second week, Sierra allowed me to come up to her and start scratching her, but she was only comfortable with scratches on her neck. Over the next couple days, I came back and worked with her getting used to me and having my hands rub on more than just her neck. The hard work and time showed because now Sierra is now accepts being touched on her neck, withers, back, stomach, and her rump. Sierra and I are now at the point where when I stop scratching her she moves towards me as if to say, “Why did you stop?? Scratch some more!”

        Last week she was having problems with being comfortable on her right side, but now this week she does not seem to be bothered with me scratching and rubbing on that side at all. I am starting to work with Sierra with her getting accustomed to things (mainly hands) touching her face. She know lets me rub up to her cheek bone, but if I go any further she pulls away. I’m also working with her with having pressure put on her halter and a few times she turns her head towards the direction I’m pulling, but it’s still a work in progress. 

Written by Sarah Shaw

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