More Eva Wilbur Stories and the stallion, Amigo's unusual tale.
Milagra de Mogollon: My 13-Year-Old Wonder Horse
By Bonnie Buntain, DVM
Last April my friend and Spanish Barb owner Katie White, also of Spirit Dog Ranch here in Catalina, AZ, tempted me to go with her to Heidi Colling’s home in New Mexico to look at her herd of mares and other horses for sale. I have a 19-year-old grade Quarterhorse and for 11 years Riley has been a great trail horse, but I was beginning to think about getting a younger, smaller trail horse, and Katie educated me about how special Spanish Barbs are. Sure I thought. How could any horse be a more willing trail horse than Riley? So off I went with Katie to Heidi and Jerry’s ranch to bring her Spanish Barb mare, Fabiana, to be bred to a young red dun stallion, Chico (Pardo Rojo). Well Mr. Chico was gorgeous, friendly, and I was falling in love with him.
You’ve got to know another thing about me and horses. I’m a retired equine veterinarian, and perhaps my career contributed to me “holding my feelings” about horses, so being so attracted to Chico was a pleasant surprise. Chico was to be castrated after this breeding season, so I could have a 5-year-old to train. I was getting excited. Heidi took us out in the pasture to see the mares, and a beautiful stocky, well-built 13-year-old red dun mare with a striking forehead star led the herd up to the ATV. It was Chico’s dam, and he was a spitting image of her. I looked at her closely and thought “I hope he matures to look like her!”
Milagra in New Mexico pasture April 2020
Alas, Heidi got an offer to help keep the breed going by loaning out Chico for a couple of years of breeding. Sadly I understood how important it is to the Spanish Barbs to keep good blood lines. Heidi invited us to return in May and take a look at 3 mares for sale, including Chico’s dam, Milagra, the red dun that I saw before and admired. I was feeling a bit doubtful about buying a 13-year-old, plus I never owned a mare before and admittedly have some bias against mares. I suspected she might be fickle and feisty having been out in pasture for nearly 13 years leading a herd of mares!
On the first day that Heidi showed me the three mares, Milagra stood out in conformation and beauty. She took her through a very tough obstacle course, and I admired how patient and expert Heidi was working her. It was as if 6 years hadn’t passed since Milagra’s last ground training as she carefully and willingly worked through each challenge. What convinced me that she could make a great trail horse was when Heidi guided her from the side over a huge metal teeter-totter, Milagra carefully worked her way over it.
Towards the end the platform swung down loudly hitting a block of wood and a dog bolted out from underneath right in front of Milagra. She didn’t even react! I knew then what Katie and Heidi had been talking about: how willing and smart these Barbs can be. The next day Heidi worked her in the round pen and taught me the signals she uses. She gently got on her in the pen and was the first person to ride her. Milagra didn’t flinch. Sold! We brought Milagra back to Spirit Dog Ranch on May 7, 2020.
Katie White, Milagra and I having fun training, May 2020. My first time on Milagra in the round pen.
My first ride on Milagra May 2020
So what about this bias against an older mare? Well, she has won me over! She nickers when she sees me, puts her head down for haltering and bridling, and follows me like a puppy. Katie worked with me on furthering round pen basic ground and riding training. Within 2 weeks we were on the trail! When she sees something “scary” like a big truck passing closely or a bunch of pipes piled up, she may balk and turn, but she stops and doesn’t try to run away. When riding with strange horses, she may put her “mare ears” back at them but is always willing to join the group on a trail ride. She sometimes turns and tries to go back to the ranch, but with more circles and encouragement she decides quickly that it’s a lost cause. When I take her out alone on the trail, she has a stubborn streak and doesn’t want to leave Riley, but with circles and leg pressure she relinquishes, and we leave the ranch for an enjoyable solo ride. On a trail ride with Katie, we cantered for the second time. Milagra bucked a little, but she didn’t try to run away.
In late June, I took Milagra and Riley on an 11-hour trailer ride to Pagosa Springs, CO. Katie, myself and another friend, rode up hill and dale for two weeks, trailered to multiple places, and I never had a problem with my amazing Milagra!
All in all, the 13-year-old mare and the 73-year-old veterinarian have had wonderful journey.
Milagra de Mogollon may still be a green horse, but we are becoming a more confident, wonderful team.
Milagra and I, near Pagosa Springs, CO,
The Bighorn Fire
FIRE IN THE CATALINA MOUNTAINS
by Esha Mork
My name is Esha Mork. My husband, my daughter Jade, my mother-in-law Gloria, and I live in Oracle, Arizona. We have three Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Barb horses, Pilar, La Reina (who is ten months pregnant, and Sundance, La Reina's three year old stud colt.
On June 25th, 2020, lightening started a fire on the Big Horn Ridge in Oro Valley, which is twenty seven miles away from our house. There was lots of wind and the desert was very dry. By the afternoon of June 17th, the fire was so close to Oracle that the smoke filled the air and was irritating to our lungs. I was worried about both the horses and about my family breathing the smoke filled air. We decided that
the horses should be moved to a safe place, out of town. We humans would wait for the GO order to evacuate.
A good friend, Maureen, had offered her place in Tucson for us and our horses to go. I wanted to stay with the horses, so we decided to take her up on her offer. By the time I was ready to load the horses it was dark. My daughter Jade used her car headlights to light up the horse trailer. I haltered Pilar and La Reina, brought them up to the trailer, tied La Reina to the outside, and I loaded Pilar. I was nervous and shaking the whole time, and trying to breathe normally, and stay calm so as not to communicate my fear to the horses. Pilar went in, turned around and I tied her as usual. I loaded La Reina next to Pilar without turning her around, then I tied her in and shut the mid-gate of the horse trailer. Next was Sundance who had not been loaded into the trailer with the mares in over 5 months. I had to really calm myself. He was walking back and forth along his fence because the mares were out of his sight. I put his halter on him and slowly led him to the trailer. He hopped in, sniffed both his grandma and his mother, then he turned around. I tied him, then shut the gate. Phew, we loaded at night in the smoke, during a pandemic!
We texted Maureen that we were on our way at 11:30 pm. Once we got to Maureen’s house I looked in the trailer and saw that Pilar had moved to the opposite side of La Reina, and she was still tied to the other side of the trailer, to her quick release tie. The bungie part of the tie was frayed and stretched to its max. Her head was pulled over La Reina’s back. I reached in through the side of the stock trailer and pulled the quick release. The horses stayed calm during this scary moment while I told them easy, easy, eeeasy in a low calm voice. We unloaded with no further drama and put the horses in the corrals. By then it was
1:00 am and I was too tired to drive home, so Jade and I stayed the night in Maureen’s guest room.
The next day Gloria and Paul joined us. We stayed another two nights, then we all went back to Oracle. While we were driving up toward the mountains, it looked fairly clear of smoke. As the day progressed, the smoke got thicker and by evening I realized I had made a mistake by bringing the horses home. My horse shoer has a boarding place in Marana, and I had preplanned last year to go there if we had a fire evacuation. I called him as I was heading out the door. Again, it was dark by the time I was loading the horses. This time I loaded both mares facing the back. La Reina went in, turned around and backed in next to Pilar like I asked her to. I closed the mid-gate and loaded Sundance. We drove an hour and unloaded the horses in the smoke free air of Marana.
This was the end of a long three days. I am amazed at the awesome temperament of these great horses. I was shaking with fear, even when I was trying to stay calm. I had been a stressed out human, evacuating with large animals with the threat of fire and so much smoke, plus the further stress of evacuating during the coronavirus epidemic.
Despite my nerves, my Spanish Barb horses kept calm during it all, and because of the hard work of the first responders, and wild land fire crews, Oracle was saved.
Photo by Alana Carden
IKodi - The Terrorist?
Watch the Video,
by Beth Mendivil
IKodi is a yearling Spanish Barb colt. As he is the only foal we had last year, he has no other foal playmates. We have made sure that he has a lot of toys to play with and is always in the company of an older horse.
Recently he has developed a fondness for his plastic play pool. He loves to grab it by the edge and flip it up so hard it hits him in the head, then he runs like mad carrying it and banging it on the fencing. It makes a heck of a racket as you can hear in the video.
His half brother and companion Hermoso de Dragoon, is not so fond of the pool and IKodi can't figure out why his brother won't play with the pool as well!
Look in the video for Hermoso trying to stay out of the way. Lol
IKodi, mischief maker
Apple Bobbing Horses
by Heidi Collings
Dripping Springs Ranch
When we moved to New Mexico 22 years ago, we were blessed to have mature fruit orchards. There was so much fruit that we could not eat it, freeze it, can it, or give it away fast enough. So of course we had to share with our horses.
Being ornery, my husband started throwing apples into the water trough. It turned into a "Horsey" Intelligence Test. It did not take long to see which horses had the brains to grab the apple.
The Spanish Barbs always got more than their share, while the others (QH & TBs), nearly drowned with no apples to show for it.
In the early days, when we had other breeds of horses here, I did not have a smart phone to video them, so you will have to take my word for it.
For your enjoyment, here are Aguila, our 2 year old stud colt & Tizwin, a 14 year old gelding in a race to get to the apples. And the youngster wins, every time.
Jornado Del Muerto
Journey Of The Dead Along The Camino Real
By Jane Dobrott
There is a valley near where I live, called the Jornado Del Muerto, (Journey of the Dead). It is part of the Camino Real or Royal Road, on which the Spaniards and their livestock traveled northward toward what is now Sante Fe, NM. They were forced to this waterless valley to avoid the hostile Natives living along the Rio Grande to the west. At the end of this long, dry valley is Black Mesa, formed by a volcanic flow.
I have hiked to the top of this place that the Spaniards used for a view to count the livestock that made it through the valley alive. It is a black, boulder strewn trail lined with ancient Indian petroglyphs and at the summit are Old World style signatures made by Spaniards glad to have survived the journey.
I imagine their Spanish Barb Horses watering at the river below, as this is the place where the journey of death ends, finally reaching the river they left days ago. They are lined up at the water's edge drawing in great drafts of water to slake their thirst. Hopefully, they will not die from the need to quench their hot, dry throats because they drank too much at once.
This is but only one imagining of the hardship to which the horses and men were forced. This is just one thought to add to how these fine horses were hard-shaped by their presence in the New World.
These horses of history still exist in small numbers today. Learn more.