Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jules and the Acoma Pueblo

We have had two mustangs on our farm. These are wild horses from the Western States that are captured and adopted out by the Bureau of Land Management. They have freeze brands (using cold instead of hot irons) on their necks. To see the brand, one would think that it is some sort of hieroglyphics.

Actually, the brand approximates the year of the horse's birth and gives an assigned registration number. The information is in an "alpha angle code" in which numbers are assigned to different angles, depending on the direction in which they are pointing, a pretty clever way of conveying a lot of information with only one or two different branding irons.

Each State from which the horses are gathered is assigned a range of registration numbers, so you can tell where the horse was captured (for example, 80001-160000 for Arizona, 240001-320000 for Colorado, 0-80000 for Oregon, etc.).

About eight years ago, we took on a rescue mustang mare. She came from someone who was using her as a broodmare, and they had rescued her from a place where she had been living with several cows in a junkyard. She had a history of foundering (where the vascular bed between the hoof wall and the underlying cannon bone becomes tender and inflamed leading to lameness). A horse can founder from being ridden or driven too hard on pavement or hard ground (road founder), but more commonly, it arises from a genetic insensitivity to insulin. When we got this mare, she had been bred and gave birth to a foal after we brought her home. The foal went back to the previous owners, and we never had her bred again.

We named the mare Jules. Before we ventured into mustangs, we spoke with a mustang owner at the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, Wisconsin, who swore by them. She told us that mustangs are pretty skittish at first, but if you treat them right, they seem almost grateful to have found a new home and become extremely willing and gentle. That seemed to hold true for both of the mustangs that we have had. But then again, all of our horses are as tame as puppies.

Jules was a bay (brown with black mane, tail and socks) with the most beautiful, feminine head and eyes that I have ever seen. What I liked about her was that she had a habit of nickering softly to greet us whenever we came into the barn. She was broken to ride, but we never took her out much because she was tender footed. So she ruled our pastures.

The last two winters her founder returned in full force and she suffered pretty badly in the coldest weather. We religiously have the farrier out every eight weeks to trim all of our horses, and he did his best to correct her feet. This past week for the first time, he told us that he didn't think she would recover this time. Her hoof wall was essentially gone so that she was bearing full weight on her soles.

So yesterday we had the vet come and give his assessment. He concurred that she would probably never recover. So the decision was made to put her to sleep. I don't know whether you have ever witnessed this, but an overdose of barbiturate is injected, and within a matter of seconds, the horse drops and dies. It appears to be rapid and painless, but it is still hard to watch the life flow out of a friend.

I took the tractor out, dug a trench with the front end loader, and buried her out in the back 40 next to the burial site of Roany, Deb's 32 year old gray gelding.

Jules was a good horse and we gave her the best care and life that we could. I am not a spiritual person at all, but every once in a while, life seems to send strangely coincidental omens.

It turns out that we had the opportunity to travel to the Desert Southwest for a week just last month. While there, we visited the mesa-top Sky City Acoma Pueblo.

The Pueblo tribes keep kivas, windowless sacred chambers where religious ceremonies are held. According to most Pueblo legends, the spiritual beings of the world below instructed the people of this world to construct the kiva in the shape of sipapu, the place where humans emerged into the world from their previous existence. Entry to the kiva is from the top, descending a ladder into the kiva, most of which are built into the ground to bring the two worlds closer together.

Because the Acoma Pueblo is built on a mesa top, its only source of water is from the rain. So the kiva ladders were built with pointed skyward ends, and the Acoma three-pole ladder is built with a spacer at the top representing a cloud through which the poles pierce to help bring rain.

I could have sworn that the day we visited Acoma Pueblo, it was a totally cloudless day.
(Is that a horse in the sky?)

The night after I buried Jules, we received a much needed rain.

Rest in Peace, Jules.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Jules. It sounds like she had a wonderful life with you.

  2. It seems Jules was very lucky to have been adopted by you. Though she will be missed, take comfort in the fact that you gave her a wonderful life.

  3. I am sorry for your loss. What a beautiful story about the Kiva and the horse in the sky. I think it was meant for you. Animals do feed our soul, don't they?

  4. I had to stifle back some tears with your mare's death. It is so sad and I know what it is like.

    That horse in the cloud while maybe just coincedence is wonderous. I think sometimes we just have to believe.

  5. Jules was fortunate to have had you taking such good care of her and also making the difficult decision to end her suffering. That was the hardest and the most loving care of all.

  6. Thank you all for the condolences. A euthanasia decision for any companion animal is always wrenching and seems a steep price to pay. But remembrance of all of the good, shared, long lasting moments must make the price pale in comparison, because we continue to choose to live our lives in our animals' company. Jules was not the only lucky one in the relationship.

  7. I am sorry about your horse. At least you know you gave her a good life and even better and easy end. She was loved and she knew it. What more can any of us ask.
    Goat hugs.

  8. Oh boy that is tough. We are the same way with dogs. We have 3 now and we want to adopt 2 more. The 2 are going to be put down 8-12-09 and we are not sure if we could handle the additions. We live in the city and the house is small. We accomodate our 3 as inside dogs and that will be our only choice if we take on 2 more. I feel bad for the dogs and feel for you having to put down the mare. Animals are so innocent and mistreated by their owners. You are one of the good ones.

  9. Im sorry to hear of your loss. Euthanasia is a difficult decision but in some instances a much needed gift. You did what was best for her.

  10. Im sorry to hear of your loss.
    Getting a Payday advance is just a few steps away

  11. The cloud horse is a strange and beautiful sign.

  12. I'm sorry about Jules! She sounds as though she had a great life with y'all. It does look like a horse running in the cloud in that picture.

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