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RU Sassafras

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Photo by S. Ralston
  • BLM Freezebrand 09606181
  • Black 2-year-old Filly
  • Mustang # 6181
  • Born Summer 2009
  • Captured from the Beatty's Butte HMA, OR on September 18, 2009
  • Will be registered with the Wild Horse and Burro Association
  • Sponsors: Dr. and Mrs. Bauer
  • Students: Lesley Sun and Natalia Dziegiel

March 2011

    Sassafras has been progressing quite well. We moved the horses from the old barn on Ryder's Lane over to the Red Barn on Saint Patrick’s Day. This went very smoothly and Sassafras did exceptionally well! She was a bit hesitant to get onto the trailer as she was the first horse to go on, but once she was on she did not make much of a fuss. Once at the Red Barn, Sassafras led off the trailer and into her stall very well. There she was greeted with a little handful of oats and fresh hay, which she thoroughly enjoyed! Once turned out that day, all the horses loved being outside, running around and enjoying their new field.

    Sassafras still has a big appetite and spends most of her time outside and inside eating. Ag Field Day sessions have started and Sassafras has two more students working with her in order to prepare her for her Ag Field Day presentation on April 30th. She has been working very well with her new students and has been progressing very well. She still has sessions with Jose twice a week. We are working on lunging, desensitizing her to her new surroundings, ground driving, and trotting in hand. All of these skills will benefit her and will be helpful for Ag Field Day.

Written by Natalia Dziegel

February 2011

    It is hard to believe that it is already nearly spring! There are only a few weeks left before we end our nutritional studies and move our mustangs over to the Red Barn. I am looking forward to seeing the Ag Field Day students work with Sassafras and see how she progresses with unfamiliar handlers.

    It’s easy to tell that the horses are clearly enjoying the change in seasons: they are more anxious to be turned out and seem a little less enthusiastic about coming back in. Even Sassafras, who always came up to be brought in immediately throughout the winter, stays out in the field to soak up some more warmth and sunlight. Along with the naturally later sunset, we have also started the “lights out” procedure, where we leave the lights on until 9 PM. This is done to prompt the horses to start shedding their winter coats out. Already we can see a difference with Sassy’s coat – every grooming session ends with a slightly sleeker and darker horse and me attempting to brush more stray hair off myself.

    With the weather warming up, Jose has been working with us in the round pen once again. I think the fact that we were working outside and moving around more made the sessions more enjoyable for Sassy. At the beginning of the month, we introduced her to a horse blanket. She did throw a tantrum at having an open blanket approach her, but by the end of the session, was willing to stand and walk (still a bit apprehensively) with the blanket on. Just last week, Jose helped me to continue to desensitize Sass to the process of blanketing her and to the umbrella. While she really could care less about the umbrella and wearing the blanket, it took more time and patience for her to get accustomed to having the blanket actually being put on her.

    In regards to the nutritional studies, we noted that Sassafras certainly gained a lot of weight while on the corn diet and, once put back on the TMR cubes diet, lost some of that weight. On the tail of the corn vs. TMR cubes trial, Dr. Ralston has started an oats vs. TMR cubes study. This oats trial is essentially the same as the corn trial, just with different concentrates. We are testing to see if the horses’ handling and reactivity levels change when fed a meal of 0.2% of their body weight in oats versus an equal amount of calories in the form of the TMR cubes as a “breakfast” 1 hours before doing a standardized training test with them.

    Throughout the nutritional trials, Sassy was also a little friskier and forward than usual, though she still performs superbly on her behavior tests and in front of a crowd. At the previous public preview, she was eager to greet the crowd. She certainly enjoyed the pats and the attention – she was very reluctant to go back in her stall at the end of the night!

Written by Lesley Sun

January 2011

    Sassafras has been progressing quite well. During her training sessions we have been working with desensitizing her to anything and everything around her. From moving a metal trash can across the floor to one of the empty feed bags, she has been introduced to it. The plastic bag was placed all over her body desensitize her from things touching her. Jose has still been working with her and she has been doing very well. He explains all of the training very well and it helps me understand that subtle cues will either tell the horse whether the behavior they are exhibiting is a good one or a bad one. Due to the icy conditions, I have not been able to work with her in the round pen just yet. Jose says this will help create a stronger bond between us, which will aid in her training.

    Sassafras still has a big appetite and spends most of her time outside and inside eating. This semester the mustangs on a nutritional trial in which half of them get 0.2% of their body weight in cracked corn for breakfast (1.8 lbs for Sassy!) and the other half get an equicaloric amount total mixed ration cubes that they have been receiving since they arrived at Rutgers. We were interested in seeing if the horses being fed corn would be more difficult to handle or more reactive to novel stimuli, such as a person standing on a foot stool. The horses are led by Dr. Ralston and the students through standardized behavior tests about 90 minutes after eating. The tests are recorded and graded by the two trainers Robin and Jose.

Written by Natalia Dziegel

December 2010

    All of our mustangs had their hooves trimmed for the first time at the very end of November – some of them desperately needed it too! There was a lot more action than usual, as some of the horses had just started learning the “lift” command – picking their hooves up when asked. Even though we could pick her front hooves up with relatively little resistance, Sassafras still showed enough fight with her hind end that Dr. Ralston administered 1 mL of Dromosedan to sedate her. She stood very well for the farrier soon after the administration of the drug. Recently, Dr. Jim Kenney came to adjust several of our horses. While he didn’t get a chance to adjust Sassy, Dr. Ralston has arranged for another veterinary-chiropractor to come and help the remaining horses. I am very excited to observe Sassy’s adjustments as she appears to have some sensitivity in her back.

    Sassafras certainly enjoys her time outside, exploring every nook and crook in the paddocks and socializing with the other group of horses. She obviously enjoys her inside time – she is almost always the first one to come, sometimes trotting up to the gate to be caught. I have my suspicions that she is eager to come in because she knows all the food is inside.

    Her most recent accomplishment was being introduced to a new scale and getting weighed. We encountered some technical difficulties with our usual scale and had to bring in a smaller, more portable wooden scale. Sass showed no fear, just a lot of curiosity when she stepped up to it. She spent a few minutes sniffing and licking the scale before a few hand-held cubes enticed her to step onto it. She stood very nicely and very still, just long enough for us to get an approximate weight – a whooping 850 pounds!

    Overall, Erin and I have been refining Sassafras’ ground manners. She stands for grooming and can lead on a loose rope well, walking and stopping with the handler, though she still gets distracted by little things in the aisle. While she lifts her front hooves on command, we have been having difficulties asking her to lift her back hooves – Dr. Ralston believes that this may be due to her back sensitivity. We have also been applying “Skin So Soft” oil to help deal with her dermatitis. Sass certainly enjoys the scratches and relief – and we get a great-smelling horse as a bonus!

    Sassy has also been continuing her training sessions with Jose. Recently, we have come to the conclusion that Sassy is at her best when being worked. Jose enjoys working Sassy in the round pen, being able to work with her on the lunge line and at liberty. Erin and I have been able to do the same with a happy horse and good results!

Written by Lesley Sun

November 2010

    RU Sassafras is a very opinionated yearling mustang who has been interesting to work with over the last few months. As she is the first mustang I have ever worked, with I expected there to be a little bit of a challenge. After a good start, we encountered some set backs, but now she seems to be coming along quite well. She is wonderful at leading and thoroughly enjoys being groomed. She can be a little mouthy, but I assure you that both Lesley and I are working on correcting that behavior.

    Lesley, Sassy and I have continued working with Jose Romero-Bosch on training Sassy and desensitizing her to all sorts of novel objects and situations. Just recently, Jose and I were able to lead Sassy down the “scary aisle” of the barn. She did beautifully and was only a little hesitant, but calmed down quickly and was able to walk back down the aisle without pulling me the whole way. We are also working on picking up her feet. It is still a work in progress but I expect her to be a professional at it in no time.

Written by Erin Koci

October 2010

    RU Sassafras is a bold and friendly youngster. She was captured in the Beatty’s Butte Herd Management Area in Oregon mid-September last year. Originally Mustang #6181, she quickly proved to love her food and scratches in a very forward manner in the stall. She showed quite an attitude when I got too close to her feed bucket the first day we mucked the stalls, earning her nicknames “Sass” and “Sassy.” With some reprimanding and more time spent in the stalls, she now knows that when humans come near her feed, they don’t mean to steal it. Sass rather enjoys having us humans around to feed her and to provide her with room service and scratches.

    Along with her big personality comes her big stomach. It has been a trend to pull Sassy’s feed bucket out of the stall and have it licked clean. She can eat over 15 pounds of alfalfa cubes with each feeding, just as much as our big two-year-old geldings, RU Koda and RU Santana. This means she has been filling out her sides quickly, and is no longer the skinny little yearling we picked up at the Sussex County Fairgrounds. I am looking forward to working Sassy in the round pen to give her a chance to stretch her legs and exercise a bit!

    So far, Erin (her other student) and I have been able to scratch and rub her all over (she likes her face and poll scratched in particular), as well as lead her around the stall by the halter. We have been working on leading her by the lead rope and, being the smart filly she is, Sassy has been getting the hang of that too. I led Sassy (with a lead rope!) out of her stall for the first time last week, just for a quick circle in the aisle way, and she was nothing but curious and eager to explore. In fact, it took a little bit of convincing to lead her back in her stall. Recently, we have introduced her to grooming tools. She was slightly suspicious of the curry comb at first, but when she realized that curry comb meant scratches, she wanted nothing but grooming time! She accepted the body brush and comb after only a minute’s worth of wariness and sniffing.

Written by Lesley Sun

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