4 years ago, I was leasing a horse at a barn until I could find my own to get back into riding again and to try to complete myself at a dark time.
4 years ago, I figured out how difficult it is browsing horse ads online for hours, only to close the browser with a heavy heart every single time. Too much money, too far away, just not the right one. Time after time after time.
4 years ago, I met an old-fashioned, modern-day cowboy, John Wayne Haynes, now a dear friend of mine that I hope to see again one day.
4 years ago, this cowboy friend of mine came up to me in the barn after a ride and said, “You don’t happen to be lookin’ to buy a horse, are you?”
4 years ago, I walked out to a meadow in January’s golden hour and looked into the big brown eyes of an emaciated, rain-rotted dun Quarter Horse mare and thought she was the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen.
4 years ago, standing in that meadow while the sun sank below the horizon and Winter’s chill rose again, I knew she was the one. This was the horse for me. I was not only going to ride her, no, it was never just about the riding, but form a bond with her, protect her, take care of her, mend her, put her back together again. I was going to give her the best life I could possibly give her. Because this horse deserved the world and more.
4 years ago, I was telling this cowboy friend of mine to call back his friend (that was set to come take pictures of this mare the very next day so he could put her up for sale online) and tell him not to come out.
4 years ago, I was saddling up for my first (very rough) ride on this mare. I fell in love the instant we were off. I didn’t wanna get off. And my Ma saw my face and said, “Yep. You don’t have to say anything. Your face says it all. She’s the one for you.”
4 years ago, I learned that sometimes, all you’ve gotta do is stop looking, and an opportunity will find YOU.
4 years ago, I rescued a horse, and she rescued me in return.
And her name was Montana.
Present day, and I still find more reasons to love her every single day. I really can’t picture how my life would be without this gentle giant guiding me through life every single day.
For years it was tough, and I mean TOUGH. But I don’t regret a damn thing. My Mom watched me, scared to death that I was going to get seriously hurt. A helmet could only protect so much. John offered to help, offered to get on her and run the hell out of her. Other riders scoffed at the way she looked and wondered why I’d paid as much as I did for her and thought Montana was crazy, and I was even crazier for putting up with her. But I just told them all, “We’ve got this.” When my Mom told me to have a harder hand, I just kept telling her, “Mom, I dunno what it is about this horse, but she needs kindness. She needs a gentle hand. She needs someone that’s not going to give up on her.” And it took time, but eventually, she finally trusted Tana like I trusted her. She finally told me, “Baby girl, I’m so glad you didn’t listen to me, or anyone else, and did your own thing. Because it paid off. And you did it ALL on your own, just like I did with my horse when I was young, and THAT is the best feeling in the world, isn’t it?”
One of my favorite stories is when John told me about him and a buddy hanging out at the barn one night, just talking over coffee when all the horses were put to bed and fed their supper. They were both standing in front of Tana’s stall and the guy goes, “Man, that is one good lookin’ horse.” And John replies, “You don’t know who that is?” And the guy looks puzzled and says, “No…? Should I?” To which John replied, “Well yeah you should. That’s Montana!” The guy just looked at him and said, “No. No way that’s Montana. She looks so… *good.*”
And the funniest thing was that this guy turned out to be the neighbor of Montana’s old owners’, and had once even took her in and took care of her while the past owners went out of town for a few days. She’d been at his farm! And he didn’t even recognize her.
Montana remembers her barrel racing days. She remembers being spurred in the flanks and manhandled and smacked around and yelled at. She remembers the man that once owned her. She remembers fighting for her food, crammed in a round pen with 6-8 other horses 24/7. She remembers how she got her scars. But I wasn’t there, no one was there to stop it before it happened, and I can only attempt to make up for all those dark times now that she’s with me.
She once threw me off in a field on a road ride and ran, down the road, all the way back to the barn. Watching her run from me, in terror, hearing the sounds of hooves on pavement and cars skidding to a stop and horns blaring, I thought I’d blown it. I thought I’d lost her. I cursed at myself and hated what I put her through. And when I went running back to her, I found her in the back of the barn, breathing hard and sweating, and the look in her dog-like eyes said, “It’s not your fault.” And when I walked toward her, she walked toward me, put her forehead to my chest, and we stood in silence like that for a long time. And now, some would never guess that we ride in a hackamore down open country roads for hours, without a care in the world, never stopping to hesitate, and she gets me home safe every single time.
I was bucked off so many times that I lost count. I’ve flown all the way over her head, doing a flip in the air, and landed on the ground right in front of her, where she reared and her front hooves came down on my back. She’s kicked me across the collarbone and jawline and chipped two of my teeth. She’s stepped on me, on my feet, on my bare hand. She’s reared and reared and reared and at some point, I just kept staying on, and now I can’t even tell you the last time she pulled something like that. She was stubborn, but I was stubborn back. We’ve both got our scars. And that’s what made us stick together. We’re, in some ways, the same. I never gave up on her like others did, and she never gave up on me.
Now, we’re a herd of two. We’ve fought our battles. We’ve battled our demons. Together. We’ve forged a bond that could withstand a hurricane. She’s given me wings, and taught me how to fly. She’s taught me the true meaning of Endure and Survive. She’s made me stronger and braver and more confident. She’s made me so deeply proud of her, of us, of how far we’ve come, of how hard we’ve worked to get here. I trust her with every fiber of my being, and I know she trusts me, too.
Words can’t explain how grateful I am to be able to look out the window into my backyard and see this beautiful creature resting there, happy and content with her new (verrry spoiled) life. To go out back to do farm chores every day and hear that nicker, that whinny, and then turn the corner to meet those big brown eyes and perked ears at the gate, faithfully waiting there for me. To finally be able to do a sport I never thought was possible for a fragile gal like me and a 1,300+ pound scarred rescue horse burdened with a tragic past: mounted archery. To be able to sleep out under the stars beside a campfire in the Summer with her standing right at the head of the cot I’m lying on, her breath warming my face, her presence watching over me all night. We are so much happier here.
The way she grooms me as if I was another horse, the way she looks for me when I’m out of sight, the way she calls for me, the way she looks at me still melts my heart to this day, and I will never tire of it.
I used to think I didn’t deserve her. I didn’t know why she had so much patience with me. I didn’t know why she put up with me, did absolutely anything I’ve ever asked her to do. But now I see the respect, the undying love she has for me. Now I think we were both meant for each other. We were placed on this Earth so that fate could come along and bring us together. And a million embraces, a million kisses and snuggles would never be enough to show her how much she means to me. So I’ll just continue to do what I’m doing, which is giving her the best life I possibly can, because this horse deserves the world and so much more. And if there’s one thing I can promise, it’s that I will devote my life to her until the end of days.
Happy 4 years, Montana. It has been an absolute honor to spend life with you by my side all these years. Here’s to many more. Here’s to you, regal warrior, noble beast, protective guardian to whom I belong. My other half. Thank you for everything.
Tagged: , 4 years , together , togetherness , horse , steed , equine , animal , beloved , beast , girl , gal , horse and girl , pals , friends , love , bond , sweetness , companions , friendship , happiness , smile , happy , memories , moment , magic , snuggles , cuddles , warmth , warm , cozy , content , comfort , snuggle , cuddle , Dun , mare , Quarter Horse , Dun Quarter Horse , Winter , season , sunlight , glow , golden , golden hour , evening , twinsies , matching , poncho , fringe , Native , farm , homestead , pines , pasture , home , safe , guardian , protect , adorable , apple , treat , baby girl , 4 years together , here’s to many more