These tales come on the backs of some beautiful Thoroughbreds.
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It’s been awhile since I rode Chaco. I love riding him, and I trust him with every ounce of my being. I’m not riding him much, because of his leg. After a couple of miracles, he is perfectly sound, so I decide to take the chance on a short trail ride. I fear messing his leg up, but he is bored out of his mind. He needs to get out, so I promise myself we’re going to go for a short, easy, and relaxed ride. I miss being with him in this way. He is so easy to ride, so intuitive and responsive, and he moves across the ground like Baryshnikov. You hardly feel the ground while on him. I’m resigned to the fact that all we will do are short rides, and that’s wonderful. He loves it, and I love it. As soon as I get on him, which can be difficult, because he is so tall, a smile spreads across my face. I lean forward and whisper, “I so miss us.”
I let my hips sway with his back, and each step he loosens up more and more. I exhale and place my reins on his neck and completely let go of any apprehension. I raise my arms out to my sides and lift my face to the sky in gratitude. We both ride away from our worries.
Chaco’s leg before today has been up and down. Last month it hit me hard between the eyes and in the heart that I will one day say goodbye to him not because of old age but because of his leg. I pray for a miracle every day and eventually I was led to a couple of them. One night I found out about a way to feed a horse turmeric, and how the combination of Turmeric with Boswellia could be the anti-inflammatory punch I needed. After I found out about Total Gut Health for Dulce, I found out about Total Equine Relief made by the same company. The Turmeric was already working wonders, although he still had bouts of pain whenever he took a sharp turn at the canter. When I finally got TER, that changed things. It doesn’t have any of the side effects of bute, and it works in two hours. Ever since I put him on this, life improved for him. Each time I see it, I stop to take a picture, because I feel like I got my miracle even if it is for a short time.
We’ve decided after Christmas to try IRAP. ProStride hasn’t worked, and I don’t know if IRAP will do any better. Chaco deserves the best we can try for him. He is the sweetest horse with the biggest heart. He takes care of Dulce, he dotes on Harley, and he loves anyone that needs extra attention. A distant neighbor stopped by a couple of weeks ago to say hello to the horses, not me, and Chaco dropped his head to him and let the man rest his head upon his. Later this neighbor told me he had cancer, and how Chaco lifted his spirits on a bad day. Chaco is a healer. I want to give back to him that which he gives so freely to everyone.
We’re riding along on the easiest of trails with our dog Winx out in front, and Chewy and Bella behind. No one is around for miles, not a human sound to be heard except for my breath. I listen to the sounds of his hoof beats, and I smile. Reluctantly, we turn around with me using my body to guide him to turn back without using the reins.
That’s when we hear a yipping sound. All three of my dogs stop dead in their tracks facing west. I know this sound, the dogs know this sound, and Chaco knows it. I look west, and there he or she is. Her silvery coat sparkles in the Fall sunlight when the coyote yipped at us again. Chaco stood quietly as I called the dogs to stay with me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve crossed paths with a coyote on the trail. In fact, I have a pretty fond memory of going on a trail ride with one. It was the second time I ever rode Shandoka on the trail. It was a stupid move on my part, because I went alone. Not the smartest thing to do on a very green horse, but I believed in him. He did great on his first trail ride with my friend Laura Lee, and I couldn’t handle waiting for another day with someone else. I loaded him up and we drove down to the Basin.
We started out, and Shandoka was great despite being as green as a green horse can be. I finally got him pointed to the area I wanted us to ride into when a Coyote suddenly showed up. I expected Shandoka to react. He didn’t. We rode along while I kept my eye on the coyote and my other eye on Shandoka. The coyote quietly followed along with us, and I noticed Shandoka relaxed dropping his head down. Whenever Shandoka got nervous about something, the coyote went first to show him it was safe. I think my jaw was on Shandoka’s withers the entire ride as I watched Shandoka and this coyote dance with one another on the trail. A few times the coyote walked alongside Shandoka, and he looked up at me and smiled as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you through this ride safe and sound.” When we got back to the road where the truck was parked, the coyote disappeared. I looked all around, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.
My Unci said that Coyote was a trickster, but when he appears in an unusual way such as this, it is a Blessing. It felt like it, so when I saw this coyote while riding Chaco, I simply wanted to keep my dogs safe. Coyotes can lure dogs away, and then the pack kills them. I kept my eye on this one. He was on the other side of the canyon, which is wide and deep. He couldn’t get over to us that fast. Just then I saw him head down into its depths.
Coyotes don’t scare me as much as mountain lions do. They say that you cross paths with a mountain lion ever three hours you’re in the forest. I’ve come face to face with one, heard them, seen their tracks, and once I was followed by one while riding Shandoka.
We were heading back to the trailer after a fantastic ride through a new area. He and I worked so well together that day, and I was on cloud nine. On the way back we were both relaxed and comfortable. He was on a loose rein, and I looked around enjoying the trees when suddenly the hair on the back of my neck got prickly. Shandoka went from relaxed to alert and tense. I gathered up the rains, and slowly we walked through this area we had to get through to get back to our truck when Shandoka went from tense to life threat mode. This area is filled with oak brush, so you can’t see if something is crouching on the other side of the bush to jump out at you. When a horse hits flight mode, all bets are off, and it’s a struggle to communicate. Shandoka wanted to run. I wanted to let him, but if I did, the animal that I thought was following us would break out into a run making us his prey.
We spiraled in circles, zig zagged and anything I could do to keep him from breaking out. It took every ounce of strength I had to keep him with me instead of with his fear of what was following us. Shandoka was a huge horse, the most powerful I’ve ever ridden, and I don’t know how I kept him at a walk. As soon as we got to the trailer, I hopped off, and Shandoka literally loaded himself with saddle and headstall still on. I closed the trailer as quick as I could, got into my truck when I saw him. A mountain lion emerged from the Aspens pausing for a moment staring into my eyes, and before my next breath, he was gone.
The dogs and I are moving along the trail when the coyote appears on our side of the canyon within minutes. Dang they are fast and agile. Time to pick up the speed and get the dogs in the truck. We have a half mile to go, and I’m worried about doing this to Chaco’s leg. I wanted him to enjoy an easy, relaxing ride; one that didn’t tax his leg. However, if we kept going at this pace, the coyote would be on the dogs quick. My dogs are too curious about the coyote to go slow. We long trot over rock and dirt. Chaco is unphased. Chaco feels my urgency, so he immediately moves into an extended trot.
On one of Chaco’s first major trail rides we came across a bear. I think on our way down the trail he caught a whiff of this female bear, at least we assumed she was a sow. We came to this spot on the trail where he was hesitant about stepping forward. The entire way down he led the way without a problem until this one spot. My friend then went to the lead, and he followed easily. We came across elk, which horses normally don’t like the smell of, but he didn’t care about them. On the way back when we came upon that spot, we saw her. There she was off in the trees maybe 150 feet from us, a black bear. Chaco didn’t back up, didn’t get nervous, and in fact he stepped forward towards the bear when we tried to get a picture of her. We think she had cubs nearby, so we decided to move on quickly. Chaco and I were in the rear with the dogs tucked up close to his hindlegs. He never minded any of it, so I wasn’t worried about him with this coyote.
As we long trotted, Winx stayed in front of us, and Chewy and Bella were tucked in close to Chaco’s hindlegs. Chewy had no interest in hanging around with the coyote, Bella wanted to chase him off, and Winx was looking for some shade to lie down in. I knew if I needed to chase off the coyote, Chaco would help me do it, but luckily the coyote hung back far enough for me to not consider it.
We got back to the truck, I hopped off, and there was the coyote about 200 feet away sitting in some sage brush gazing at me as I gazed at him. I knew we all were safe at this point. I stepped forward a step to get a better look at him. He seemed to have a big smile on his face. Like my dogs he sat their panting in that relaxed sort of joy they have after a good run. Another blessing.
A coyote, a horse, and three dogs enjoying the trail together.