He came into my life in his 11th year — a strong, beautifully marked buckskin gelding with a temper to match the devil himself.
He had never been trailered or worked for his keep, but his eye was gentle and something inside of me whispered to give him a go.
A gift from very dear friends, he was unique in his character; writing the trailer off on the way home and commencing to display all his misery. He bucked, kicked, bit, and rolled. Being a girl of generous proportions, I stayed put and that just got him even hotter. Each day I would show up, saddle up, and get going. There was work to do and we were going to do it.
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Now this was not in an arena or on soft ground. There were 400 heifers in paddocks ringed with electric fence and the ground was pure clay — hard as cement and very unforgiving. Not only was I on a green mount, but I was doing it between electric wires in a 20-foot alley. It required a lot of concentration on my part because I had to read the horse and not get into a wreck by sidelining into the power.
Every day we did circles — sometimes all day. Every day he bucked — sometimes all day. Every day he shook his head — sometimes all day. At every opportunity, he pushed me physically and mentally. But I totally believed in this fellow.
Eighteen months later he walked over to me — put his head on my shoulder and leaned in with love. And that was the end of the shenanigans. We have been together for 21 years. At 32 years of age, he is still working cattle, now by a much younger and lighter rider.
Ours is a love story. For not only did he safely and carefully work with me for two decades, he also carried my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends, and visitors from around the world. He would play tag with the kids or be their goalpost in a soccer game; bring in the last calf on his own; guard an open gate like a dog if you were not home; call out when there was something amiss or an injury of any livestock in the field; and always, he was ready to work.
A sensitive being, his observations were extraordinary. When my first granddaughter was born, my daughter and I were out looking at all the horses with the baby. Baby was sitting in the feed trough when one of the other horses came over to investigate. My beloved buckskin took baby in his mouth by her snowsuit and lifted her out of harm’s way — handing her over to a rather astonished young mother. As I had a horse rescue operation, he quickly adopted new friends and would lead them firmly but kindly.
From the obnoxious, stubborn, and poorly behaved equine grew a fierce and hearty warrior. He never stumbled or complained. He loved to work and all I had to do was think of the number of a heifer and he knew her. He could crawl like a cat when sorting and read cattle like he wrote the book. He made me look good.
The mountains bored him as it was too leisurely and he had a firm dislike of being photographed, but he had all the time in the world for children. They would gather round, brushing him or clambering all over his back and he did not move a muscle. Headgear was optional and I often did little tricks with him, standing on his back or just riding backwards while he rolled his eyes and patiently waited until I was done fooling around.
He had no fear of anything — ever. You could throw a rope or walk across a rickety bridge, start a chainsaw or put a cat on his back, and he took it in stride. He woke up and switched on as soon as we went out with cattle and I often would sort for a couple of hours, for no reason at all other than the pure joy of sharing that time. He never tired. I trusted his judgment completely.
Ours is a true love — the kind that digs deep into your heart and won’t let go regardless of the raging river to cross or the load to carry.
He is my hero for he never counted the hours or the errors, nor did he scold if there was a sore on his girth or bad weather for the day. His commitment was as firm as his black hooves and he stands tall today loved by a little boy he will carry to manhood with pride. And I, his tearful mistress, will always honour him with the dignity and grace afforded to those who commit their lives to you without asking for anything more than love and care in return.