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Dust's Stormy Journey

Background: StarStone's Dust in the Wind wasn't always his name. In late June, he was a product, a by-product actually, of the Premarin(TM) industry. His mom was just a mare on the line, kept endlessly pregnant in order to harvest her urine. That fluid is used to make a female hormone replacement therapy drug, Premarin(TM), the most widely prescribed drug in the United States. His mom had stood, for most of her pregnancy, in a concrete stall so small that she could not lie down, or turn around. A collection cup was strapped to her to catch the cash flow of urine and there she stood, day after day, as her body nurtured her unborn foal.

I am not privileged to know Dust's exact history, but most stories are that the foals are born in the open, with out veterinary care . A lot die in those early days of life, but they are not of much concern. Those that live are allowed to nurse on their mothers for a few months, while mom is impregnated two weeks after giving birth. At around three months, Mom goes back to the line, and baby goes to be fattened for the meat market. on-line
Rescuers buy some of these babies at the auctions, and with the help of wonderful contributors, get the foals to stations were they are cared for, wormed, vaccinated, nursed, and gentled. Mares on Production Line
Photo from PETA leaflet

I had heard about Premarin(TM) and its horrors as I looked for ways to cope with menopause myself. I had always dreamed of having a horse, but it had never come together before. Here I saw an opportunity to have my dream and do something right too.

In June, I contacted Green Chimneys, a center that uses animals to help children, who also was rehab for these foals. They were wonderful in helping me to get information and they put me on the list for an adoptable foal.

Waiting was the hardest thing, but finally four potential foals came to Green Chimneys in September 1999. At last, I could begin to realize the dream.


Dust First Meeting : It was raining when we drove to look at the foals, but armed with camera and video, the family was in high spirits. My husband, Tom, my daughters, Jessica 15 and Brittany 7, and I bundled up and went on the best adventure yet.

Upon arrival, we met Lois, a lovely lady who had charge of the foals and other animals.

Dust in the Wind in the Rain
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley
We were told that two were very ill with strangles, a kind of horse strep throat, and were in quarantine. But we could see the other two right away.
We gave them pet names so that we could know who we were talking about. First we met Sky, a black appaloosa, with beautiful markings, and Rocky, a sturdy red and white paint. They were so frightened of people that they stayed in the very center of their pen, as far from humans as they could get. We talked to them, and cooed at them, and stood very quietly at the fence, but they really wanted nothing to do with us.

Lois got permission for us to see the others and we piled into the car to go to the other barn. There we met Caramel Apple, a flashy marked red and white paint, and Dust, a buckskin type, with coal black skin, light gray hair, a striped mane and tail, and black points. Dust and Caramel were used to people, their illness had made them gentler and needier. We could not touch them, but they were led out on halters and we could see them.

Caramel was very fine looking, delicate and beautiful. In contrast, Dust was fuzzy, with donkey like ears. He had a sleepy look, with eyes half closed. He had very sturdy legs, heavy shoulders and rump, and could only be described as a fuzzy tank, or a very large dust bunny. But he was loaded with charm, and we fell in love moment by moment. Over pizza on the way home, we talked and debated, but we knew. StarStone's Dust in the Wind was going to be our horse.


Getting to know you: Our second visit took place in October. I had read so much about the Monty Roberts method of training that I was anxious to try it out on Dust. This is when we found out that Dust had some jumping ability. He tried very hard to sail out of the round pen and be reunited with his stable mate, Caramel Apple. So much for getting any significant training done while Dust was recuperating. So our plan for the next few visits was to cuddle him, brush him and just get him used to us. Eat My Dust
November brought some new ideas. Brittany and I attended Equine Affaire(tm), and had the opportunity to see many different types and methods of training.
Eat My Dust
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley
Target Training(tm) really impressed us. The method uses food and clickers and a target to get your horse to do what you want. It is based on Sea World Training methods, and if it works for those huge animals, it should work on Dust.

I brought a clicker along to our late November visit, and decided to work on tail handling. Dust hated his tail being touched, and would try to swing his rump out of reach when anyone tried to brush his tail. Since his tail is so so beautiful, I had already decided to use a tail bag to keep it free of burrs. But it needs to be clean and brushed anyway, so his reluctance was a problem.

Dust Snack It worked great! Within an hour, I could do anything to his tail and he stood like a stone. What a fast learner he is!

When December arrived, I had bought Dust his first real present, a new halter. The one he had been wearing was a standard no frills halter, good for the job, but not attractive. So I bought him a black and purple padded halter, that really "worked" with his coloring. Suddenly, as I buckled the straps, he lost that "orphan" look. He belonged to somebody, and it really showed! Even though he really needed a good scrub and wash, he looked better than before.

Dust Snack
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley


No Dusting Required : Late December brought some health problems for me, requiring surgery, and a longer recuperative period than I had thought. Therefore, I did not see my baby Dust for 6 weeks. I kept up with his progress of recovering from strangles and knew that he was doing well.

We had an appointment to see him on the last Saturday in January, when on Tuesday, Lois called and dropped a bombshell. Dust could come home on Friday!!!!

Hurry up and wait: Because of the phone call, the family was in a state of sheer panic. A frantic call to Dot, out neighbor, whose farm was to be Dust's home, fueled the panic. Dot, an angel who has been guiding and helping us every step of the way, has four beautiful mares, named Raisin, Shadazy, Annie, and Patience.

Shadazy is Raisin's 7 month old daughter, and Patience is a boarder at the farm. Bringing Dust, a young stallion, to join the group, could have caused some real problems.

Brittany
Brittany and the "ladies"
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

calf Our first plan had been to isolate him until the vet could geld him and Raisin, the very protective lead mare, could get used to him. But the recent snow and cold had prompted Dot to put calves, who were at great risk of dying in the open, into that isolation pen. Where could we put Dust?

Dot came up with an unusual but good solution. Dust could live at my house! We have over an acre of property, and a large shed in the back yard. Dot suggested that we fix up the shed as a large stall. Heck, the dimensions make it palatial.

The Great Usurper
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

And that daily, after Dust had eaten breakfast, had his morning training session, submitted to general fussing over and played with our three collies while his stall was neatened, he could be walked the 100 yards to Dot's sheep pasture, where he could be turned out with Shadazy, Dot's filly. Dogs
They could romp and play, much to the sheep's and llama's consternation, for most of the day. Then when Jess and Brittany came home, we could get Dust and bring him home for his grooming, more training, and a dinner of grain. Sounded like a plan. Merlin, Jewel, and camera-shy Foxy
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

Except for one thing. Dust was still a stallion. And Shadazy was still a mare and horses don't "Just say no!". So we had to have Dust gelded before he could come home. We sent the money for the operation to Lois to pass on to the veterinarian and worked on his stall.

Jess and Shadazy Jessica shoveled snow out of the yard until her arms fell off. Brittany and Tom installed the electricity and all the lighting. We all banged nails and swept cobwebs. Jess and Brittany moved garden tools and bikes to the garage. We tramped all over looking for feed bowls, water buckets, grooming tools, rakes and forks, and even an apple flavored salt block.
Teenager to Teenager
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

Today is February 4th. If all is going according to schedule, today Dust is getting gelded. I hear it may make him even quieter and sweeter. If it does, he will be like a chocolate statue. He is already sweet and gentle. If things go as planned, he will be here next week. Can't wait!


Dust in the House: He's here! I don't think I have ever been so excited or so scared in my life. Things have not gone exactly as I planned. But nothing does I guess. I had planned to keep Dust at Dot's farm, and with her help, train him. But with him in the back yard, I don't have that crutch. But with him in the back yard, he is getting to know me and the girls much faster than if he was next door. Well, I guess that I have to learn faster and do more than I think I can.

Dust was dropped off on Friday, the day after my birthday, and things have been crazy since. I was just handed his paperwork, a baby picture and a vaccine list and I was on my own. I have since learned how to give him worm medicine, make a bran mash, and measure his antibiotics. I haven't slept much since he arrived.

Especially since he escaped his first morning here. I came downstairs early Saturday to a frantic knock at the door. My friend Sue told me Dust was loose. Very calmly, I herded him gently off the road and back to his stall. Tom immediately added a very stout metal gate to keep this youngster in bounds and he has not gotten loose again. I stayed very, very calm during the emergency, but when I got back inside, I broke down and sobbed.

Baby Dust
Baby Dust
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

Well, this is a learning experience, but I had hoped to learn at a slightly slower pace than this.

Things have not gone perfectly. Dust has a stubborn streak, has bitten me a few times, and has smashed his training target. But he also nickers to me each time I come out the back door, he has learned to really enjoy apple slices, and he is great with his new girlfriends.

Firstday Portrait We took Dust to the sheep pasture at Dot's to meet the "ladies" over the fence. All the girls were interested at first. Raisin lead the way over to the fence, and the others followed. Dust pranced, tail held high, and whinnied, and kicked for joy at seeing the mares. Raisin was cautious, as befits a leader, and nudged her daughter Shadazy back from the fence. Annie, sweet but blind, could not quite find where Dust was at any given second, and soon gave up. But, Patience fell instantly in love. She cavorted, she flirted, she nuzzled his nose. She made noises of pure bliss. She rubbed up against him through the fence and shamelessly courted him. They carried on for hours as I watched. Dust kept running back to me as if to say "I think she likes me Mom!" Going back home was not easy for any of us, he threw a temper tantrum like any youngster. But we'll go back again.
First Day Portrait
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley


Too Much Dust: I am not very good at giving up, but there are times when I know that I am in over my head and then I get very upset. The situation with Dust living in my back yard was not working. He had no place to exercise, and trying to take him to Dot's sheep pasture was too much for me. He kicked and reared and tried to bite me whenever I tried to lead him. As the days went on, I was getting more depressed and in violent pain (my fibromyalgia was flaring badly). I did not sleep much at all and had to call my doctor for medication. My husband was ready to divorce me and shoot the horse, or vice-versa. Dust was angry and frustrated. Something had to give.
Saturday, Tom went down to talk to Dot, and she agreed to have Dust live there. We brought him down and she tried to work with him. He reared and acted crazy. She warned me that the mares might pick on him or ignore him. She was sure that Raisin would put him in his place as low man on the totem pole and that I should be prepared. herd
The Man is in the House!
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley

We brought Dust out into the field. The mares came flying in from the meadow, tails high and necks arched. We let go of Dust and I held my breath. Raisin laid her ears back and kicked at him. He retreated to a polite distance and approached her slowly, holding his tail very high. He reached out to kiss her and lick her lips, as he had done to Patience over the fence last week. Her tail went down, Raisin lowered her head and to our amazement, acknowledged Dust as leader. Dot, Abe, Tom, Jess and Britt and I stood in shock. Dust began to prance about, gathering HIS mares into a bunch. Only Annie, probably because of her blindness, rebelled and had to be nipped on her kicking butt. But even she fell into place with little argument. And then, Dust, acting as a proper leader, drove his mares to the field.

I went home, very tired and very dejected. I felt like a total failure. I went to bed thinking that this was a huge mess, and I had probably ruined Dust.

Dust in the Snow The next morning, I went down to Dot's to give Dust his breakfast, and Brittany went with me. I went out into the field and Dust came to me right away. He nuzzled me sweetly, without trying to bite and let me lead him into the barn. I led him into the stall and he settled to eat his grain. I quietly got his brushes and groomed him from nose to tail. He stood, and was calm, and acted wonderfully. Was this the crazy colt of yesterday? I led him to the big trough to drink. Something about the heater float really frightened him, and he trembled, but I was able to soothe him and he drank. Patience stuck her head in the door, and he wanted to be with her, but we practiced leading a bit before I released him back to his women. Dust lingered near Brittany and me, as if to assure me that everything was alright. Finally Britt and I, with frozen feet, started for home.
Dust and Brittany "Best Friends"
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley
Later that day, I called Dot. She told me that she had checked on Dust several times during the night as she looked in on her goats. Twelve kids were born from Friday to Sunday and Dot had been very busy. But she said that Dust had spent a pleasant night and that she was sure that he was going to be fine. patience kiss
"Love you!Love you too!"
Photo copyright 2000 Debbi Sheeley
On Monday, the farrier was coming to trim hooves and this was going to be another new experience for Dust. He came in easily, with the mares following. Jess brought up the rear leading Raisin. He was to be first today, and except for being afraid of losing his balance, he did quite well. He was very obviously frightened of having his feet immobilized one at a time. But the farrier, Joe, said he had a good temperament and would be an excellent horse for the family. Poor Shadazy was terribly frightened and fought almost the entire time, but she calmed down a bit when her mother was nearby waiting for her turn. Joe and Dot told us that Raisin had once been insane about having her feet touched but had learned to calm down and they hoped Shadazy would too. There was only one casualty in the whole day. Poor Jessica, holding Raisin, got her foot stepped on rather badly. Raisin is no lightweight, and her whole weight seemed to be on Jess's toes. Jess yelped and shed a few tears, but she never let go of the horse and we praised her tenacity. Altogether, not a bad day at all.

More to Come... !


Premarin(TM) is a regestered TradeMark of Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.