Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tatanka the Outlaw?

As I drove up to the ranch it was pretty difficult to miss all the action.  People were running here and there and as I observed the situation closer I noticed a well built sorrel horse who didn't seem to want to be caught.  I later found out that they'd just unloaded him to his new home and he'd broken loose and everyone and their sister was scurrying around trying to figure out how to catch this bad boy.

I'd never been to this ranch before. I'd been hired over the telephone to come take a look at a few Mustangs that some people wanted to put under saddle. I'd pretty much learned in my travels to keep my nose out of other people's business especially if it appeared that there were all ready enough cooks in the kitchen.  In the horse business, especially if one has been around for awhile, one gets a gut feeling when to offer assistance and when to just let things work themselves out. Plus, in our modern world we've become obsessed with doing and to a great extent we have forgotten about the simple art of allowing things to be.  I'm still working on that one.

I parked my truck, spoke with the people about the Mustangs and was observing one of the Mustangs in the round pen when the owner of the ranch approached and asked if I'd have time when I was finished to assess the outlaw horse that had finally been caught.  I have to say that I like outlaw horses.  It is a pleasure to work with their spirits and in some ways I have always felt a curious bond with them; kind of like the exciting opportunity of meeting Jesse James face to face.  I couldn't wait to meet this rebel.

When I was finished with the Mustang I walked over to the indoor arena where the owners of the outlaw horse were talking with the ranch owner.  It seemed that this horse, who they had only owned for a short period of time, had just arrived to the ranch that very day.  He'd broken free while being unloaded from the trailer and had decided to check-out the joint on his own.  You just have to love that about some horses; if they want to do something they're dog gone big enough to usually get their way; and if we're not dealing with them in an honorable manner, heck, they'll just walk away. We should feel lucky that they don't give us a good kick or headbutt prior to exiting.  Bless them for their honesty and courage.

It turns-out the horses name is Tatanka which means Buffalo in the Native American Lakota Sioux language.  He's eight years old, a gelding, about twelve hundred pounds and a nice sorrel with a little white on his left hind foot, a tiny white marking between his eyes and a brand on his right shoulder.  The story goes that the present owner who had just bought Tatanka bought him for a song because he'd tossed his old owner in the dirt a few too many times so down the pipe he was to go.  The new owners wanted my opinion of this outlaw.

Tatanka was brought into the indoor arena and handed to me.  I turned him loose in order to observe his attitude; to see if he was going to ignore me, go to the other end of the arena, stand by me, try to attack me or whatever. For me that's the best way to begin to get a handle on what's going-on inside a horses head; turn him loose in an enclosed area and just watch how he does or doesn't relate.

I should say right here that I never buy a story that comes with a horse and I normally recommend that people adopt the same policy.  I may keep the story that comes with a horse resting lightly in the back of my mind but I never buy it so as to say that this is the way this horse is. The story isn't the horse anyway.  The story's just the story and usually has more to do with who's telling it than with the horse involved.  As I looked into Tatanka's eyes, from moment number one, I didn't see an outlaw at all. From that first time I laid eyes on him I knew I could have saddled him right then and there and it wouldn't have been even a tad of a problem.  As a matter of fact that's just about what happened.  

I groomed him for about twenty minutes that first day because, as I've mentioned in some of my other Blog posts, it's a great way to understand tons of things about the horse in question.  Answers and understandings come a mile a minute when I'm grooming a horse.  The horse is offering-up so much information it's difficult to keep track of it all.  Our Tatanka stood square, still and didn't give even the slightest iota of difficulty.  The Native Americans have a saying as they place their fist over the heart and that is that we get back from the horse what we bring to the horse.  I could write a book on that statement but for right now I'll just say Amen.

I was riding Tatanka within twenty minutes; walk, trot and canter and although he was a bit rusty with the aids and clumsy with his gaits he wanted to please me.  Right in the middle of the ride, as I also mentioned in one or more of my other posts, I dismounted and walked away.  Without missing a step here comes the outlaw right behind me saying with this gesture "Hey, come on, let's do more".  So I mounted once again and off we rode.

So, this horse Tatanka was totally different from his story and if he is approached with gentleness, humility and a kind touch he will be the same for anyone because I'm not that different from anyone else.  I just know that, with horses, I'll get back what I bring to the game; and most times I'll get it now if not sooner. I meet a lot of horses in my travels and Tatanka is a gem. I fell for that horse right off the bat. He's a smart horse and a courageous horse.  If a person comes to him with violence or stupidity, as I feel was the case with his previous owner, then he will stand-up for himself and I take my hat off to him for that.  Generally, horses take a lot of crap from people and many horses, being incredibly intelligent and not wanting trouble, understand their predicament and heartbreakingly (probably not a word) resign themselves to their sad plight.  But once in a while we meet a horse with an incredible heart; a horse that would rather die than conform.  Tatanka, in his matter-of-fact and gentle manner, is just such a horse. You've just gotta love a horse like this.

We humans, like our horses, are asked more and more every day to conform and I pretty much think that many of us also go along because we just don't want any trouble.  But there comes a time when enough is simply enough; when we'd, in this moment, rather fight than switch.  This is the world some of our horses live in and God bless them for their courage.  Thank you Tatanka for being the horse that you are and for allowing me into your sacred world.  I will never forget you.  I still have the honor to ride Tatanka weekly for the new owners and it is my great pleasure to spend time with him.  The new owners of Tatanka understand the heart thing and I am thankful. 


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