Worth your Salt and an Eye Update

By Patty Wilber

Cometa’s eye has really improved since last week!

Regooped with a triple antibiotic and a silver containing salve.  (Silver is antimicrobial).The lower eyelid swelling got worse as the day progressed.

Last week

This week!

This week!

His eye actually opens more than that but since he has been in the pirate mask, his eye has been in the dark so the light makes him squint.

He is on eye steroids for a few more days and then we will see if he can see.  I have not opened the vet invoice from Wednesday yet…


And now for our feature presentation!

The Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen worked in the Pecos Wilberness…no no I mean “Wilderness” this past weekend and  one of our tasks was to haul 600 pounds of trace element salt from Jack’s Creek to Beatty’s Cabin (about 16 miles round trip).

What does “worth your salt” mean anyway?

Apparently, “centuries ago salt was so valuable that many people used to have part of their pay in salt.
It’s mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible (Ezra) in the context of the pay of the Persian king’s servants.
According to the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, Roman soldiers are also supposed to have been paid in salt.

It’s also where the word ‘salary’ is supposed to come from (the Latin word ‘salarium’).” (from http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080125125348AA6VLMV)

The salt is for the Big Horn Sheep.  Someone thinks the sheep  are worth their salt!

I knew the sheep were introduced to the Pecos area and I knew the sheep liked salt, but didn’t know more than that. Here is what I found out.

“Bighorn sheep were extirpated from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the early 1900’s (Bailey 1931, Barker 1976). Restoration efforts began with a translocation from Canada 13 in 1932, but no bighorn sheep survived past the mid-1930’s (Lange 1978). A second translocation of 24 bighorn sheep in 1965-66 from Banff National Park, Alberta and from the now extinct Sandia population was successful. In 2002 this herd was estimated to have 340 bighorn sheep based on results of a helicopter survey, hunter-guide reports, and mathematical modeling.

“Considerable human interaction, driven primarily by a craving for salt (Hass 1992), has been reduced in the Pecos Wilderness population by consistently providing trace element salt blocks to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (NMDGF files).”  From the Long Range Plan for the Management of  Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in New Mexico 2005-2014

Livestock salt probably comes in a few forms, but the two types I am familiar with are trace element salt blocks (which I have always called “mineralized”) and, just plain salt.

The plain variety is white, and some publication I read somewhere sometime suggested that there was no reason to spend the extra money on mineralized salt for your equines, so I buy the plain.  Every pen has a block of salt and some of the horses (Cometa in particular) really like to lick the blocks, making artistic grooves…

The mineralized salt is reddish/brownish, and that is the sort we were to haul.

I have purchased salt in 10 pound blocks and 50 pound blocks, and I know of people who have purchased “designer” salt in loose form (for a gob of money, too).

Our sheep salt was in 50 pound blocks.

Trace element salt blocks


All that will go on the animals!

All that stuff will go on the animals! The salt isn’t included yet!

We saddled and pack-saddled and tied on our saddle bags and cantle bags and pommel bags and coats and water and radios and spot locators–yes we were (over?) prepared.  Then we loaded 100 pounds onto each of  the horses: Lacey, Squirt, and Cinco; we put 100 pounds on one mule and 200 pounds on Chance (the other mule).

Chance was wearing a metal frame pack and he thought the whole thing was a little odd, so he unloaded the first a-salt (via various airs above ground manuevers) in fairly short order.

Once reloaded though, he was regrounded.

Loaded for real this time

Loaded for real this time.



Cinco had salt in pack boxes, while Lacey and Squirt carried theirs in panniers. You can see Cinco, Squirt and Lacey’s butt in this picture.

I box hitched Lacey and Squirt’s loads and the thick and unwieldy rope on Squirt’s lash cinch gave me fits.  There is a new rope for that rig sitting on my kitchen table at this very moment.

Then we headed out!  Richard and Peter both ponied two animals each (and I was kind of proud of Squirt, since I trained her to ride and pack–she figured out how to be the second horse in the string without a hitch–wait–she had a box hitch–oh well, you know what I mean!)

I ponied Lacey, and we had two out riders, Siri and Julie.

On the way out of Jack's Creek.

On the way out of Jack’s Creek. (Photo by Siri.)






It was balmy and sunny–just the perfect temperature for riding.  The trail is steep climbing out of Jack’s Creek and then opens out onto a lovely meadow.


Richard and his string after we have climbed out of Jack’s Creek. It is SO dry!  In a more normal year,this would be much greener and the ground would be wet.

Despite the dry (there was NO recorded runoff for the Pecos this year–0% of normal?) there were still several small creeks to be crossed.  After Canyon de Chelly, Toots and Squirt were pretty good over water.  Lacey has always been willing to follow Toots and only jumped the muddy stuff once or twice.

Toots and Lacey are both good drinkers, but with her head down like that, Lacey stepped over the lead rope more than once.  Then Siri would gamely get off and fix it for me!


Photo thanks to Siri!

After a couple of hours, we made the forest service cabin just south of Beatty’s Cabin.  We unloaded.


Un hitching the lash cinch.  Toots is supervising.

Unhitching the lash cinch. Toots is supervising. Picture by Siri.
Peter unloading Squirt.

Peter unloading Squirt. Picture by Siri.

Julie unloading Chance.

Julie  helping with Chance. Picture by Siri.

Our contribution to the welfare of the sheep!

Our 600 lb contribution to the welfare of the sheep!

We had a late lunch break on the porch at Beatty’s Cabin and then headed back.

Peter and his string.  Photo by Siri.

Peter and his string. Photo by Siri.

We made good time back–I THOUGHT Toots was a fast walker, but it turns out she is only Medium Fast.  Richard’s lead mare can really step out, and Toots is going to have to step up to keep up!

Fun trip and I know my girls are definitely worth their salt!


I will be out of town next week, so will post a rerun blog about Longshot as a foal with his contracted tendon.  He is now 2.5 and the next new post will feature “The Training of Longshot”.








About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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2 Responses to Worth your Salt and an Eye Update

  1. Doranna says:

    Go, Cometa! Heal that eye!

    I’ve actually read where the mineralized salt is a bad thing for horses–not balanced correctly. But I don’t recall just why…I quit buying it and let the details slide from my brain…

    Your girls are definitely worth their salt–!

    • Patty says:

      Amazing on the eye I thought!
      Thanks re the girls! I had chiropractic done on Toots today–she was a little stiff….

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