My second day at Indian Grove Riding Stables I did the only thing possible—cowboy up.
I awoke at the crack of dawn and began working with Smokey and Coyote. I have no experience training wild horses but if I was to begin this journey I would have to learn, and it would have to be quickly.
Aaron, the horseman who owns the stables, helped me as much as he could with direction, but he wasn’t in the best riding shape. After his son Shaun passed away a few years back, he stopped working with these horses.
“When my son drowned I was very depressed and I completely stepped away from training,” he told me with sad eyes.
Aaron’s son also rode and trained these animals like his old man. And the last horse he ever got on was Coyote.
“My boy died two days after he rode this horse for the first time,” Aaron said holding Coyote’s lead rope.
After Shaun passed away Aaron released the horse back into the wild where he remained for several years until one day he returned again. The horseman caught the horse and now wanted me to take Coyote on this journey to celebrate his son’s life.
I loved the story and felt honoured to celebrate Shaun’s life, it sounded like he was a great kid, but unfortunately the 9-year-old stud was too much to handle in the short period I had before going to Alaska.
The first day we went into the round pen to work with Coyote, he exploded while Aaron lunged him. He ripped the lead rope out of the trainer’s hand and took off bucking hard while snorting like a devil. After a few spins he faced Aaron and lunged forward towards him as if he was going to attack the trainer. Luckily, the experienced horseman kept his cool, raised his hand and stopped the wild horse on his tracks. He eventually calmed the horse down and continued working with him.
“Wow, that was crazy,” Clara said to me after the chaos had subdued.
That night, I sent Karen Hardy, my American mom who adopted me during my ride from Calgary to Brazil, the video of Coyote bucking. The next morning she was at the stables in Osoyoos.
“I can’t believe you drove here from Washington state,” I said to her after we hugged.
“I flew to Barretos, Brazil to see you cross the finish line, you don’t think I would come a few hours north to insure one of my kids is okay,” she said while we watched the horses eat.
Karen, an experienced horsewoman, has trained several mustangs during her lifetime. She even trained Dude, the mustang from the Taos Pueblo Aboriginal Reserve I rode from Texas to Brazil. And Dude was one of the kindest horses I ever got the chance to ride.
She spent the entire day with me working with Smokey and Coyote. We lunged them. Put the saddle on their backs. Worked on stepping on and off. It was tremendous having Karen there to help me. Her motherly love along with her extensive horse knowledge made me feel a lot better.
“You think I would let one of my kids get hurt, never,” she said before she drove back south.
I continued to work with the two horses with Aaron’s guidance and things started to look better… with Smokey anyways. We castrated the little horse and I even managed to get on his back and ride him inside the round pen. Every few seconds he would take off running like a bat out of hell, but he wouldn’t buck. And I stayed on. Unfortunately, on the third day, my coach decided it would be a good idea for him to ride the grey.
“I’m going to get on him this morning,” Aaron announced.
It didn’t take long for Smokey to dump the trainer not once but twice. The wild horse was too quick and strong and Aaron had been off of the saddle for too long. His balance was gone and the horse quickly realized that.
“I guess I’m not in the shape I used to be in,” he said limping back to me, still with a smile on his kind face.
With a rolled ankle Aaron stayed off of the saddle and left the training to me. But the first two days after Smokey learned he could just throw whoever was on his back off were arduous. He tried to get me off of him intensely and often.
Luckily, I am fit and have ridden more than 20,000 kms in the past 7 years. There was no way this little grey was getting me off. Smokey realized that as the week went on and slowly he stopped trying to kill me.