When I was a young man in my 20’s a neighbor stopped by our old ranch one day asking if I would be willing to repossess a horse. He explained his dilemma. He had sold a young bay mare on a hand shake several weeks before to a rancher who lived in the next county but had never received payment. When he had confronted the man on the matter he was run off at the point of a 12 gauge shotgun. Our neighbor Chuck had been deeply shaken and in a state of distress went to the local sheriff who advised him to hire someone willing to repossess the horse on his behalf. That’s why Chuck came to me. He knew I had admired his young filly before the sale but hadn’t had the money to purchase her myself. He was so angry he offered me a new legal bill of sale for twenty-five dollars just to go get her. Being young and a bit foolish I said I would and at 2 o’clock the next morning snuck her out of the ranchers corral without incident.
Her name was Sunday, she was a yearling and she was beautiful. She had a gentile disposition and when she turned two years old I started her training. She never bucked one time with me or anyone else in the thirty-two years we owned her. She died on our Idaho ranch in 2007 after living a long happy life.
When Sunday was six we bred her to a friend’s mustang stud. Like many mustangs he was smaller yet muscular and tough. He was of appaloosa decent and had colorful brown spots from head to toe. The following summer in 1981 Sunday gave birth in our front pasture to a beautiful little foal who we named “Sunday’s Monday” or Monday for short. From the beginning Monday took on more of her mustang father’s personality than the friendly docile manner of her mother. She was leery of humans, especially adults and as small as she was she had an uncanny way of avoiding human contact. Katie, our daughter who was seven at the time, was the only one able to catch and handle her which she did until Monday started to relax and trust the rest of the family. That was nearly thirty years ago and today Katie’s eleven year old daughter Hope now considers Monday her own.
I started riding Monday in the mid-eighties shortly after she turned three years old. Unlike her mother she wasn’t passive when it came to accepting the strange new feeling of a saddle or rider. During our first year of training she successfully managed to buck me off two different times when I wasn’t expecting it. One of those times I was riding alone through some juniper covered hills several miles from the ranch. We’d been riding for several hours and I thought she was really starting to settle down. I remember thinking how much progress we had made together on this one day when I decided to break from a fast trot into a canter. Even when she was young she had amazing endurance and strength for a horse her size and I loved working with her. In the middle of my endearing thoughts of thinking how we were really starting to bond, out of nowhere she bucked and twisted until I found myself lying on hard rocky ground. I fully expected to see her disappear over the horizon heading for the home corral, but to my surprise she stood over me trailing her reigns in my face as if daring me to try it again. I did, and we rode home together all the wiser for the experience. This event happened just one more time before she realized I was too stubborn to give up on her and she surrendered never bucking again that I can recall. After another year of use I trusted her behavior as a hard working dependable and even gentle horse. It was always obvious that she liked the kids more than more aggressive adults and because of it our son Brook began to claim her for his own. Brook was only seven when he started to ride Monday on a regular basis. Kate had her own little mare and Brook had outgrown his faithful little Dusty. (See blog #33 under livestock category) For the remainder of his childhood and into his early teen years Monday became Brook’s horse. When Brook was twelve we moved off the ranch in California to Idaho bringing four horses with us, two of whom were Sunday and Monday.
When we landed in Idaho we lived in the city for the first time in our married lives. This was fine for us, but required us finding pasture outside of town for our equestrian friends. Paul and Sharon Taylor, a family that made the journey north with us offered a pasture on the new forty acre farm they had just bought. It was a perfect place except for the fact that our horses had neighbors in an adjacent pasture. This was a new experience for them and Monday, still having feelings of mustang superiority, decided to pick a fight with a mare on the other side of the barbwire perimeter fence. This ended in grave injury for her. Catching her leg in the wire she nearly sawed it off at the knee joint. At first glance I thought she was beyond help. Up until then I hadn’t experienced a leg injury on any horse that looked this disabling.
I was struggling with the hard choice to put her down when Brook pleaded her case for a chance of recovery. We had used every financial resource to make the move to Idaho and I was broke. The consideration of a vet bill at that point was out of the question, but between Brook and Nancy’s cries for mercy I broke down and took her in despite the circumstances. The vet was a young woman named Dr. Scott who we all felt was a God send. Seeing the situation and knowing we had moved to Boise to start a new church she voluntarily doctored Monday mostly at her own expense. Knowing we couldn’t afford to board Monday at her clinic she trained Brook to doctor the mutilated leg. Brook did this twice a day for the next six months and by the following summer Monday could not only put full weight on it, but use it well enough to take a thirty mile pack trip into the Sawtooth Wilderness. At first she walked with a stiff leg, even having to drag it over low deadfall trees lying across the trail, but the exercise seemed to loosen the scared joint and allow her to regain flexibility. After that she never missed a back country trip either packing or hunting. She was the horse that you could always depend on in the roughest of country.
Recalling Monday’s life reminds me of the many rich adventures the past thirty years have given us. Looking back through picture albums which recorded many back country exploits of hunting, fishing and pack trips, Monday was nearly always present. Over time her reputation grew as one of the most reliable surefooted animals we had, not only as a saddle horse, but a common sense packhorse as well. I started believing she would do almost anything I asked of her until she proved me wrong one time during elk season in the mid ninety’s. We were miles from camp in a dense stand of Lodge-pole pines in steep rugged country and we needed to pack out four quarters of a bull elk we had shot. I had just loaded her mother Sunday with the heavier hind quarters and was about to load the front quarters on Monday when her reputation became tarnished. As I hefted the heavy pack in her direction she rolled her eyes back and bared her teeth at me. Her eyes looked crazy and scary. All at once she spun around flailing her hind feet in my general direction forcing me to duck for safety. Losing my balance I fell head over teakettle down the hillside with a hundred pounds of raw meat landing on top of me. She had reached her limit of congenial domestication and decided putting a dead animal on her back was beyond the call of duty. I didn’t attempt that mistake for ten more years at which time I found myself in a bind and had no other choice but to ask her to try again. Being wiser and not taking her for granted I was much more cautious. This time I packed the meat in clean heavy plastic bags before she had the opportunity to see or smell what was being loaded in her pack bags. My deception worked and from then on Monday joined her mother carrying game out of our hunting camps every fall after that.
In addition to being used under saddle, Monday also followed in her mother’s foot steps being used in harness. And like everything she was asked to do Monday took right to it. Being a no nonsense animal she became a great buggy and wagon horse working as a single and in a team (See blogs #196 & #42 under livestock category).
Monday is turning thirty years old next year and remains a loved part of the family and continues to pull her load here at Timber Butte Homestead. She has been, and still is to this day, a blessing from God to our family. In recent years she has taught our grandaughter Hope and her little friends the joy of horseback riding.