Multi-species pack trip: Day 4

I awoke next morning to a heavy feeling in the air and the smell of rain. The sky was low and dark. We packed up camp before breakfast so we could beat a hasty retreat in case it started raining. But the rain held off and Gayle cooked egg and bean burritos for us.

It drizzled on and off as we headed back to the trailhead. The thick brush on this part of the trail soaked us from the waist down and drenched the panniers from the bottom so that when I got back to my truck, stuff in the top of Finn’s panniers was dry while the stuff in the bottom was damp.

Finn was a little sore starting out. He never objected to being saddled–in fact, he seemed quite eager to the task–but when he started walking I could tell that his back was sore. He was hollowing his back and walking with his hind end crouched low to the ground as if trying to walk out from under his load. I readjusted the saddle and tightened the cinch another notch to keep the load from swaying. It helped, but I could tell Finn was mostly just sore from yesterday’s steep descent. I need to find a saddle that fits him better. This one is ok, but it’s a little too narrow for Finn’s wide frame and it bridges a bit in the middle.

Sputnik was a champ. He loves having a job and it really showed on this trip.

The last creek crossing.

Gayle, me, Alexa.

We got back to the trailhead and our day’s adventures had only just begun. Gayle had driven a huge rig into the parking area and it took us around two hours to figure out how she could get it back out. It wasn’t as straightforward as backing onto the highway they way she’d come in and then driving up the road to find a turnaround. No, the highway was closed to vehicles over 35″ because of the sharp hairpin turns that started immediately above the trail parking area, and there was no turnaround. Suffice to say, it was extremely fortunate that several cars left the parking area during the two hours we spent trying to figure out how to get her rig out of there.

By the time we finally got going, all of us were sopping wet and very tired, but it had been a wonderful outing. This was a great first experience at multi-day goat packing for me. The goats seemed to love it too. They never once shied off or walked away when I got out the saddles in the morning–even Finn with his sore back. They stood for saddling and loading without being tied or held. The boys’ training is pretty solid and it showed, but Petunia was my little wild card. She’s never been a trail goat and knew nothing of trail manners or of her place in line. She would cut in front of the boys, then cut in front of me, then go off-trail for a snack, and she liked to cut switchbacks. Her bad manners tended to make Finn and especially Sputnik forget their training, so I had to do a lot of reminding on this trip. But I feel like if Petunia hadn’t been there to lead them astray, Finn and Sputnik’s manners would have been pretty impeccable. They were never really bad even with the distraction, and there were only one or two times when I had to remind the boys about staying on-trail for switchbacks regardless of Petunia’s antics. It makes me feel good to know that the time spent working on trail manners has paid off so well. I can’t wait for our next trip!

Multi-species pack trip: Day 3

I turned the goats loose after breakfast and Sputnik soon settled himself on a sunny little perch on a mossy rock.

This morning I waited until the llama saddling was well underway before I began packing up my goats.

But it didn’t matter. Soon my goats and I settled back down while Alexa and Gayle wrestled with Tuvoc and Spot. Tuvoc kept kicking while Spot turned saddling into a full-fledged rodeo. When she wasn’t bucking, charging, and spinning, she was laying down in protest.

Even hyper-active Petunia took the opportunity to nap a little longer.

Things went much better once we got underway. Spot realized we were headed back the way we came and she stopped dragging on the rope.

Gayle was even able to tie Spot to Tuvoc without wearing the 18-year-old llama out.

The trip out ended up being much easier than the trip down, despite the uphill climb. We stopped wasting time searching for a trail and instead we stuck to the creek bank. We crossed and re-crossed the creek many times to stay on firm footing. I imagine this valley is pretty tedious during a wet year. In fact, I wonder if the trail was obliterated last summer when we had so much rain.

It was a beautiful hike now that the sun was out and we weren’t in a hurry.

Sputnik’s pack was a good deal lighter after last night’s feast!

We enjoyed sunshine on our hike back up the valley. The scenery was so beautiful I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Once we started up the steep part, the goats made the rest of us look bad.

Gayle and Tuvoc: Mountain conquerors!

Waiting for llamas… again.

Finn is dwarfed by that pack!

Here comes the first llama!

We picked up the trail at the base of the boulder field, but it branched off in several different directions near the top. Gayle and Tuvoc took the high road, Alexa and Spot took the low road, and my goats and I took the one in the middle. Alexa and Spot met some hikers going the other way. Finn and Sputnik studied them with interest from above.

We crested the saddle and stopped at the pond on top for an hour or so. Alexa wanted to fish. The sun was warm and the grass was soft. It was the perfect place for a picnic. I unloaded Finn and Sputnik so they could have a proper break. If I hadn’t left their brightly-colored saddles on, you’d have a hard time spotting my goats among all the gray and white rocks!

Sputnik always manages to find a little nook to lie in.

A bearded dragon goat!

I haven’t seen Gayle’s photos yet, so I hope she got a good one of me and Finn. Finn plopped down behind me on the grass, so I leaned back and used his warm, soft belly for a pillow. That’s when he curled his head around me, rested his chin on my shoulder, and promptly went to sleep with his cheek against mine.

After our rest at the pond, Gayle and I headed down the mountain to start setting up camp while Alexa finished fishing. The llamas were going well because they were headed back, so Gayle was able to string them together and lead them by herself. It was the goats that had problems on the steep descent! Sputnik uses a Sopris saddle with a flexible tree, and it isn’t always the best at staying put. The steepness of the hillside caused it to inch forward until the cinch worked its way up to a narrower part of his chest. Once that happened, the saddle promptly slid off to one side. Sputnik stopped and waited for me to come back and fix it. I did my best, but the hill was so steep I couldn’t find a good spot to readjust the saddle. I would have liked to remove the panniers and start from scratch, but I was afraid if I took them off they would go rolling down the mountainside. So I had to fix the saddle as best I could with the panniers attached, which meant I couldn’t tighten the cinch properly. Naturally it happened again… and again… and probably one more time after that… before we reached the bottom. Sputnik was very patient. Every time the saddle slid off, he just stopped and waited for me to go back and fix it. I think many animals would have run off with the turned-over panniers flapping and spilling their contents all over the mountain.

Finn’s wooden John Mionczynski saddle stayed centered, but the front edge of the saddle slid up against his shoulder blades and made him a bit sore. This is where I wish goat saddles were made with an upturned front edge like horse saddles. That straight edge can really dig into their shoulders when they’re carrying a heavy load down steep terrain.

All this fiasco meant that Gayle and her llamas got well ahead of me before I reached the valley floor. This was a novel experience and I had the opportunity to stop and take some beautiful photos of her in this breathtaking green valley. I love the creek meandering through it.

Gayle and I reunited in the valley and Gayle had me lead Tuvoc down the next steep section. It had some tricky spots on it that required more maneuvering than she she thought she should do with the llamas strung together. The goats had no difficulty crossing a large, steep boulder the size of a dump truck, and they went on ahead of us down the trail. Little did they know that I planned to take Tuvoc around the far side of the boulder. When the goats looked back and didn’t see me following them down the rock, they panicked and ran back up to look for me. They came bursting around the boulder just as Tuvoc and I were about to carefully negotiate a series of smaller boulders. Tuvoc spooked and leaped off the rocky hillside, smacking me square between the shoulder blades with his right pannier in the process. I almost lost my balance on the rocks and started to fall as Tuvoc pulled the rope out of my hands. I know I should have held onto him, but I was afraid he was going to pull me right off the edge, so I let go. By some miracle I managed to stay upright, but Tuvoc was trotting down the mountain as fast has his old legs would go and the goats were chasing after him. I called the goats back while Gayle jogged down the trail after Tuvoc. Thankfully it was the old, highly trained llama that had escaped and not the wild, unhandled one. Tuvoc eventually stopped in some thick brush near a creek crossing so he could wait for Spot and that’s when Gayle managed to catch hold of his rope.

We set up camp in the same spot we had used on our way out. I unloaded the goats and Finn and Sputnik immediately crashed while Petunia went straight to eating.

Finn fell asleep almost at once.

Then it was Sputnik’s turn to fall over. The goats never laid out on their sides at the same time. One always waited for the other to pop up before he flopped over.

The sun was hot on the hilltop but Petunia found some relief under the rain fly of our tent.

What a view!

Spot was tired too.

Sputnik laid down near Spot. By the third day, Spot was accustomed to the goats and didn’t mind them at all. The goats enjoyed hanging out in Spot’s picket area that evening and the next morning.

I don’t know how they sleep like this. It looks uncomfortable to lay balanced on a single horn tip.

Multi-species pack trip: Day 2

We broke camp after the sun was well up and the early morning frost had melted. Gayle and Alexa went to saddle the llamas so I figured I should start getting my goats ready. One person saddling three goats should take about the same amount of time as two people saddling two llamas, right?

A few minutes later my crew was ready to rumble.

But “Hurry up and wait” became the name of the game as I discovered that the llamas took much longer to pack than I anticipated. Luckily my guys are patient and know how to avoid tiring themselves before the hike even begins.

We got going and our view widened as we climbed out of the valley floor.

This boulder was child’s play for my nimble goats who skipped right up it like it wasn’t there, but it presented something of a problem for the llamas, who had to find a way around.

We crested a shoulder of the mountain and saw the valley spread out behind us while another valley widened out in front.

We stopped in this second valley to eat some lunch and take a break after our morning climb and before the biggest climb. Gayle discovered that Spot likes apples, which apparently is somewhat unusual for llamas.

The big climb was not terribly long but it was very steep. I loved the views of the grassy green valley floor below us.

As Finn and Sputnik approach the top, you can see Gayle and her llamas not far behind us but very far below. This was just the top part of the climb. Most of it is out of the frame.

As we crested the ridge we discovered a small lake in the saddle.

When we crossed the saddle we could see another valley spread out below us with Frying Pan Lakes in the distance. It looked like it would be an easy downhill trek to the ponds where we planned to make camp.

“You da man, Sputnik!”

Our path became more difficult as we descended the far side of the saddle. Trails fanned out in several different directions and cairns were sometimes misleading. My goats and I got up on the scree so we could look at the lay of the land from above.

Once past the scree slope, it looked like an easy and pleasant walk through the green and gently sloping valley below, which was a relief because bad weather was moving in and rain was starting to sprinkle down.

But as we got going, we realized that this was a trackless valley filled with marshes, jumbled rock, and thick brush. We weaved back and forth, searching in vain for an established trail, but we never found one. It was beautiful and looked how I imagined the wilderness to look between Bree and Rivendell when I read The Lord of the Rings. But as the day wore on, the lovely walk became more and more of a slog and then a death march as we trudged doggedly on toward the lakes, wet and tired. I wanted to press ahead. My goats spent more time waiting for the llamas than actually walking and it was wearing them out. Spot was dragging on her lead the whole time which was tiring Gayle out and slowing everyone down. I tried not to think about having to hike back UP this valley tomorrow. We ended up stopping before we reached the lakes. We were tantalizingly close and Alexa and I were game to keep going, but Gayle was worn out from dragging Spot and we weren’t exactly sure just how much further the lakes were since we couldn’t see them past the trees. It turned out later that we were almost on top of them, but we stopped in a boulder-strewn dell among the evergreens and made camp just as more rain set in.

I was on cooking duty that night and I made shrimp linguine alfredo. It was a surprisingly easy camp dish, especially since I had milk on the hoof, and it came out delicious. I love it when a simple meal looks super fancy so I can take credit for being a five-star chef with the ease of preparing a box of mac ‘n’ cheese.

It was nice to have a piping hot meal after such a cold, tiring day.

Multi-species pack trip: Day 1

I’ve had a rough time with Jet’s unexpected death almost two weeks ago. I marked my calendar ages ago for a goat packing trip the first week of August, and when Jet died I felt like canceling. But I’d been looking forward to this trip for months and I had other people counting on me to be there. So although I didn’t feel like going, I decided that it would be good for me to get out and have a few days away from home doing something completely different. I’m so glad I went…

Last fall, Alexa Metrick of Pack Animal Magazine contacted me and several other women to propose an “all-animal pack trip” for summer 2018. The original idea was to have packgoats, llamas, alpacas, a yak, and possibly a burro on the trip. In the end, only the packgoats and llamas represented, which turned out for the best because of the limited parking available at the trailhead.

Our crew was scheduled to meet at 10:30 Tuesday morning, July 31st at the North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead (there’s a mouthful!) on the edge of the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, situated between Twin Lakes and Aspen, Colorado. I arrived exactly on schedule and Alexa showed up a short time later. Our llama buddy, Gayle, however, was delayed several hours so Alexa and I ate lunch and spent time exploring the trailhead area.

Gayle showed up around 2:00 and it took her almost two hours to unload the llamas and gear and get packed up, so we were fortunate that Alexa’s plan for our first campsite was only about two miles in. Alexa had no pack animals, so Gayle and I divided her gear among the two llamas and my two packgoats. Finn carried Alexa’s clothes and Sputnik got the tent.

Finn and Sputnik to carried the gear, but Petunia came along to provide fresh milk on the trail so we could dine in luxury. She carried a small pack containing her milking things, which included a couple of empty bottles, milk strainer and filters, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, clean cloths, and an inflatable cushion for me to sit on while milking.

Sputnik was so boss on this trip! His panniers weren’t huge, but they were heavy because they contained the food, first aid and survival kits, and other assorted dense and oddly-shaped items. I slipped a couple of lightweight plastic trash cans inside his panniers to protect his ribs from the hard-sided things in his pack.

Flower child.

This is Gayle with her llama, “Spot”. This was Spot’s first experience on the trail. She’d been saddled at home and given very light weights to carry, but she’d never actually been packed and she took a bit of persuading to stand for being loaded. She also needed a good bit of encouragement to keep moving along the trail the first couple of days.

My crew had never really packed either for that matter. Finn and Sputnik have always had it easy. Our packs have never weighed more than about 30 lbs. tops, and I’ve nearly always traded the pack between them since we’ve rarely needed two full loads of gear. This time they had to carry full loads of about 50 lbs. each and they didn’t get a break. I have to say, they really stepped up to the task. They never acted like it bothered them or slowed them down.

Finn’s pack weighed about the same as Sputnik’s but it was much bulkier since he carried the sleeping bag, clothes, and other fluffy items. I brought winter gear since we planned to be near timberline for most of the trip, and I was glad to have it at night!

Left to right: Alexa, Spot, Tuvok, Gayle, Me, Petunia, Sputnik, and Finn.

There was quite a lot of thick brush on the lower part of the trail and I was thankful we weren’t tackling it at the height of tick season. The goats didn’t mind their panniers scraping between bushes.

The first day was the hottest, and my goats had spent most of it sitting in the sun while we waited for Gayle so they were quite thirsty despite the easy work load.

You know you’ve found the perfect campsite when beams glow down on it from heaven.

“Well, hello Spot!”

I worked out a pretty good system for milking on the trail. I’d tie Petunia to a bush so she could eat, plop my inflatable cushion on the ground next to her, set my milk strainer in an empty bottle, then milk straight into it.

I chilled the milk overnight by placing it in a creek. I don’t drink coffee but I love my milk in the morning. It’s filling and it gives me energy to last for several hours, which is good for someone who isn’t much of a breakfast eater.

In the blink of an eye…

I lost my good friend Jet last week. We’ve been so worried all summer about fire, but it was during the rain that tragedy struck–literally. We had a tremendous lightning storm around dinner time and when it was over, Jet was gone. The tree he was under had been hit and he was gone in an instant. My only consolation is that he did not suffer even the tiniest bit. He fell exactly as he’d been standing. I have a long and wonderful history with that horse. Jet was 16 years old last month. I helped his mother bring him into the world–a gangly rambunctious little colt with a bold, adventuresome attitude. He grew into a fantastic all-around horse who did a little of everything and excelled at much of it.

Jet and I had a wonderful “last hoorah” the night before he died. I took him to Salida for the “Gambler’s Choice” obstacle challenge. Jet won first place in the jackpot. I drove home at a snail’s pace through thick fog in the wee hours of the morning and Jet, as always, was quiet and patient in the trailer over those winding mountain passes. Little could I know that less than 24 hours later he would be gone.

My nephews and niece came to watch the competition and they got to ride Jet around the warm-up arena. He was so good with kids.

This is me and Jet’s last photo together.

This may be the hardest loss I’ve ever experienced because it was so unexpected.My neighbor buried Jet the next morning. I was worried that scavengers might bother Jet’s body before we could get it underground, but Skokie stood near him all night. The only trauma to Jet was the ear that Skokie pulled on, trying revive his friend.

Hug your loved ones. You never know when they may be gone.

Budding packgoats

I still have a backlog of photos from early July. Max is really coming into his own these days and I think he’s going to make a marvelous packgoat when he grows up. I’ve only taken him out on a few hikes, but he acts like he was born to do this. He’s adventurous, he loves people, and he’s got the gung-ho attitude that every packgoat prospect should have. And did I mention he’s also handsome? Max is one of those goats who looks good and knows it!

Yep, there it is–The Pose!

First water crossing. He barely hesitated and managed to keep his feet dry. He splashed into the water on subsequent crossings and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

I went hiking with a couple of friends and Max quickly became good friends with Johanna. He decided she was “his person” and followed behind her on the trail instead of me. She fell in love with him too and wished she could take him back to college with her.

Phil and I decided to take both Max and little Sarge with us a couple days later and see what Sarge was made of. They are quite good friends despite the age difference and significant size discrepancy.

Yep, there’s that pose again!

“Are you spoiled rotten, Max?”

This was Sarge’s first time away from his mom and he didn’t seem to miss her at all–no crying or fussing. He was ready for adventure!

Sarge is almost too cute to be allowed. He’s like a fluffy little stuffed toy. But don’t tell him that! He’s every bit as rough-and-tumble as Max and wants everyone to take him seriously. Small and cuddly as he is, he wants to be treated like a big boy!

Sarge was a little trepidatious about his first water encounter. But Max showed him how it was done and he soon followed.

I’m not sure what happened with that ear, but it amused Phil and I for almost five minutes before Sarge finally shook it down off his horn.

The ones I never posted

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since we took these photos, shortly after we got home from the Rendy. The baby goats are starting to skip the “baby goat rock” now. I guess they’re getting too grown up for these kinds of antics, and the baby goat rock seems small and mundane to them now that they’re “mature”. Smile

Brother-sister rivalry.

A few days later we were smelling smoke from the “Spring Fire” on our daily walks. I was originally thinking about joining my family for a big 4th of July get-together down in Texas this year, but the extremely dry conditions had me too nervous to leave home. I notified my relatives that I would not be attending, and the very next day we saw flames and smoke from the Spring Fire, which exploded in size over the following week of hot, dry, windy conditions. Several other small fires started in our vicinity during that week, and though they were promptly extinguished, I felt like we could easily be under evacuation orders at a moment’s notice. It was a good year to stick close to the critters.

Dear Prudence… she certainly did “come out to play” starting in early July. She and Honey Pie are my shy girls. I hadn’t spent enough time socializing them, and then we left for a solid week in June so they were not quite as outgoing as most of our kids. But we came home from Rendy and suddenly she decided that the best game in the world was to jump her front feet on a person’s backside. For about two weeks, Phil and I spent each walk getting pummeled from behind by her little front hooves. She would also walk and leap along on her hind legs behind either Phil or I, not quite touching us but keeping very close and perfectly upright. It was hilarious! And then the phase passed as suddenly as it began. .

The wildfire made the sky strange and the light eerie on July 3rd. The air had a pungent tang and black and white ashes fluttered around us as we walked. But the goats didn’t seem to mind.

I caught Prudie in the act of jumping up on my bottom so I turned around and grabbed those naughty little front feet. She knew she wasn’t in trouble. She’s way to cute to be in trouble!

Then everyone else wanted up, but little Sarge was the only one small enough for me to still hold.

Sexy Sadie.

Max and Sgt. Pepper have become great little buddies. Max towers over little Sarge, but Sarge doesn’t seem to realize he’s tiny, and Max never uses his size advantage to push the little guy around. Max is a rough-and-tumble goat who plays hard and irritates all the adult goats, but he’s got a heart of gold and is very gentle with all the babies that are smaller than him.

Sarge is a total fuzz-bomb! His coat is as fine and soft as dandelion fluff, and sticks up about the same way.

Wild Honey Pie.

My herd sires. These guys are such good buddies.

“Working goat” week

I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately! Monday I drove up to Longmont (about 4 hours) to teach a harness goat class to the 4-H utility goat group up there. It was a lot of fun and a great turnout. I took Finn, Sputnik, and Tigerlily. Before the harness class, we also did a little obstacle course practice. I gave Tigerlily to a couple of young girls while Finn took turns first going with a grown woman and then a man. He was quite good and did all the obstacles with nonchalant ease. Tigerlily took a bit more convincing. She was a little spooked by the crowd, but she managed to do most of the obstacles. I took Sputnik around. He was also spooked by the crowd and wasn’t too sure he wanted to cooperate on the obstacles, but he did most of them eventually.

After dinner I taught the harness class. I used Tigerlily to demonstrate how to train a goat to drive who has never been driven (by cuing from behind with a whip instead of just pulling on the halter to move forward). I’d never done that with her before and she picked it up very quickly so I felt it was a good demo.

Next, I used Sputnik to demonstrate how the harness works, how it should be adjusted, and how to hitch to a cart. I drove him around the horse arena as a little demonstration. He did very well, and I planned to harness Finn next and let folks get a feel for driving, but plans changed when several people decided they were ready to bring their own goats in for driving practice. They were all dry does, and the kids had fun teaching them to respond to a whip tap as their “walk on” cue. Then we tried on harnesses and adjusted cart shafts and got a couple of them going with their carts. I spent a lot of time teaching kids how to hold the reins and whip properly together. The goats had been handled a lot so the kids were able to start driving their goats around the arena with the carts that night, which was very rewarding.

One lady brought a miniature horse cart that she wanted me to look at. She thought it would be too big for goats, but Sputnik proved her wrong. The highlight of the evening was after everyone else had left, and I took this lady’s miniature horse cart and hitched it to Sputnik. We went out to the paved road so we could have a smooth ride and I drove Sputnik up and down the road, first with each of the lady’s daughters and finally with her. I let her take the reins and we trotted up and down and turned this way and that. Sputnik was a model citizen–quick to respond to voice commands and light whip cues, and feather light on the reins. What a good boy! It was fun to be able to drive him in a cart made for two. The one-seater goat carts we have are actually a little small for him at this point and the shafts tip too far up even with the shaft loops on the bottom hole. Sputnik pulled two adults easily. Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos of that event.

I got home on Tuesday and packed the truck and trailer for the annual Pueblo County Fair packgoat class. Phil and I set up a course in the indoor horse arena and we brought Finn, Sputnik, and Tigerlily. We got photos, but unfortunately not many folks showed up this year. I’m not sure why because I was under the impression that this year’s event was better planned out and advertised than in previous years.

Sputnik and I tested out the course before people showed up. Sputnik did great on most of the course, but I’m always especially pleased when a goat ground ties nicely. He stood beautifully without being held while I donned the raincoat, then took it off and slung it over his back, and finally walked back to the fence to put it away.

We also had a series of walk-under poles. This obstacle was challenging for Finn. He was wearing his crossbuck saddle and kept getting himself stuck, first on the front crossbuck and then on the second one. This is something he really needs to work on for the trail because ducking under things is not his strong suit.

This was probably my favorite obstacle. We used a big tarp to make a “river” complete with driftwood step-overs which flowed into a “pond” with real water at the end. All of our goats actually did this obstacle remarkably well.

We had a low plank bridge. This one was very easy and fun for all our goats.

Then they had to step their front feet on this high log. Sputnik didn’t particularly like this obstacle.

A few folks showed up and I did a brief saddle fitting class to start.

Sputnik wasn’t convinced that this jump was worth the effort.

I had to do a bit of encouragement from behind to get Sputnik to trot the cones for his enthusiastic young handler.

I love how the boy holding Sputnik’s lead is almost through third pole and has no idea that his goat is still standing at the second one saying, “Do I really have to do this again?”

“Steer him straight!”

The little girl in pink “led” Finn around the course. He did a lovely, enthusiastic jump for her.

This was a funny obstacle–the kid had to straddle the barrel and wave the orange noise-maker with one hand while holding the goat’s leash in the other. It makes a loud whistle when you spin it, so the idea was that the goat has to trust you and stand there while you wildly wave a loud, whistling object nearby. The goats were a bit befuddled, but not frightened.

Finn did great with the water crossing, the bridge, and the log. I love how his very young handler is so attentive. She was totally convinced that she had full control over Finn all by herself.

One of the funniest episodes during this event was when the little boy in the green shirt got to the end of the course. The final “obstacle” was they had to run up to a barrel and “ding” the service bell on top. He was so eager to ring the bell that he dropped the leash and left Sputnik standing by the final obstacle while he took off at top speed for that finish bell. I was standing right there and almost grabbed the leash but instead I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t. (I was pretty sure I already knew, but I wanted the kids to see.)

I hollered, “Hey, who’s holding the goat?”

The kids turned around and realized that Sputnik was loose and was already sauntering off to join the goats at the other end of the arena. All three kids turned and chased after Sputnik at top speed and top volume. Naturally Sputnik took off in a panicked run, kicking dirt up behind and gracefully clearing the jump which he had refused to leap over before. He stopped near Tigerlily, but when the kids kept coming he nearly took off again. I hollered at them to hold up and we had a little discussion about not dropping the leash when you need to hold onto your goat, not running after loose animals, and not screaming. I felt it was a pretty good object lesson, and hopefully it sticks because not all environments are safe like this one.

July 4th in Westcliffe

I spent the afternoon of July 3rd primping and polishing Finn and Sputnik to a high shine. The smoke from a nearby wildfire dimmed the sun and prevented the camera from catching the gloss in their coats and on their horns. I used hoof polish on their horns to darken them and give them a glossy sheen. 

Sputnik sure knows how to rock those spots! When he’s freshly bathed they  really “pop”!

Sputnik is funny. He’s the only goat I know who LOVES to be bathed. Petted, brushed, scratched? No. But sprayed with water and shampooed? YES! He especially loves to be sprayed in the face. He also likes to eat the shampoo and the suds off the surface of the wash water. He’s a weird goat.

What a lovely turnout!