A Cadillac of a Horse

One sunny July morning, I was headed up a trail alongside a crystal blue lake east of Atlin looking for my herd of horses. Technically I was the cook for this outfitter, but I often was sent to jingle in the herd. We were at the main base camp for most of July that was situated on a long narrow lake called Rainbow after the fish that filled the lake. On it’s west end was a beaver dam and a slough and further beyond was a beautiful set of meadows amongst the willow brush. The horses usually ended up in those meadows a good mile and a bit from camp.

Usually I kept a jingle horse in camp and rode him out to find the herd, but for some reason this morning I was on foot. Possibly because we had been away and had sent the whole herd out while we were gone, but I can’t remember the exact reason. I do remember walking along the virtual hi-way of a path alongside the lake, not even really listen for bells, as I figured they’d be down by the meadows and to far away to hear. Surprisingly though, I heard them just as I reached the end of the lake. I guess I shouldn’t say surprisingly, because it really wasn’t surprising to me that they were in a different spot. By now I had wrangled enough to realize that horses are rarely ever where you figure them to be.

However this was the first time I found them right at the end of the lake. In the swamp, of course. I didn’t even know how to get to them, even though I had been jingling for a few weeks already from this camp. I ended up having to walk a fair ways past the end of the lake and the happily grazing horses to find a way across the stream that entered the pond of the beaver dam.   They never hobbled the horses in this camp, so I approached them carefully so as not to spook them. It took a long time of fighting and some finesse to make my way through the tangle of willows and swamp grass hassocks to where the herd was. I couldn’t even see all the horses in the herd, but I trusted they were there, as this herd rarely split up too much.  The whole time I was keeping a sharp eye out for bears or moose, as I had often seen them in this particular area and I wasn’t keen to run into either one of them on foot.

A cow moose I often saw at the end of Rainbow Lake, standing in the swamp where I found the herd grazing.

A cow moose I often saw at the end of Rainbow Lake, standing in the swamp where I found the herd grazing.

First I had to pick out as horse to ride back. I came up to a big dark chestnut named Amigo. Amigo had a reputation of being lazy and slow, and he liked to eat grass while being ridden–– a lot! He also was a bit sneaky and conniving and I think he deliberately liked to knock knees into trees, and kick young pack horses if they got impatient with his slow walk. He was a “dude” horse as in we put the least experienced riders on him, trusting him to deliver them safely to the other end of the ride.

I had never ridden him before, but I figured he’d be fine to bareback, and I knew he was a herd leader. So I slipped a halter on and swung up on his back. Immediately his head came up and he set off for camp. I let him go as I knew horses have an uncanny knack for finding a path where I have been unable to on foot. Sure enough he found a path through the grass hassocks and willows and the herd fell in around us all headed for camp.

Amigo is the second horse from the right.  A solid, strong, dependable horse he was often used to carry the inexperienced riders.

Amigo is the second horse from the right. A solid, strong, dependable horse he was often used to carry the inexperienced riders.

We were headed towards the end of the lake and I wasn’t sure what I thought–– maybe that there was a shallow place to splash through along the lake edge or something. However the horses veered along the path away from the lake and towards the beaver dam and suddenly I saw the horses in front entering the pond. Before I could stop Amigo he was splashing into the pond and suddenly he dropped and the water slapped at his chest as I hurriedly drew my knees up high on his withers, perching like a jockey.

Amigo was a wide backed, rather stocky horse and I balanced precariously on his back as he started swimming the pond. It was deeper than I had thought, but in a few moments my mount was gaining the bank on the other side and I was dropping my legs to wrap around his barrel as he shot up the trail on the other side after the racing herd of horses in front of us.

We blasted smoothly through the trees and hit the hi-way of a path towards camp. It was a jolly good ride into camp. Amigo was a Cadillac of a horse to ride. Smooth and powerful! He galloped along like a luxury sedan and became one of my favorite horses to ride on long rides. The guides used to laugh at me, when I chose to ride him, but the joke was on them!

Amigo is next to the yawning paint horse, back in camp all saddled for another ride.  Chevy, my dog, watching over the horses.

Amigo is next to the yawning paint horse, back in camp all saddled for another ride. Chevy, my dog, watching over the horses.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you give a horse his head, more often than not they’ll take you places you don’t expect, but usually you’ll end up back at home.
  2. Horses will ALWAYS find a path were you figure there is none.
  3. Dude horses sometimes are the real gems to ride of the outfit.
  4. Some of the best friendships come from unexpected places.

Who’s the “Amigo” in you’re life? You know, the one with that reputation that keeps you from befriending them or talking to? The one that flies under the radar.

Sometimes I think if you can’t find a way through the tough tricky spots of life, you need to change you’re approach.  Sometimes, this means reaching out to someone you wouldn’t normally. Maybe that involves listening to someone you normally wouldn’t. Of course that may mean being taken a way you wouldn’t have expected. And you may be pleasantly surprised in the end.

Some of my neatest friendships have come out of unexpected places and with people I naturally wouldn’t connect with, and I’m so thankful for the effort and the courage it took for them, or me to connect!Rainbow Lake

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This entry was posted in Cooking and Wrangling the Wilds of Northern British Columbia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Cadillac of a Horse

  1. Beth Majak says:

    As always, I love your stories Heather! You are a good writer! Keep them coming!

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