Tim Giago: 'The outside of a horse is good for inside of a man'

Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2011 Unity South Dakota

Our daughter Susan’s mare Lacey got her rear left foot tangled in barbed wire. After making sure she was alright and after looking at the damage we were sure she would never be the barrel racer or pole bender she had been.

There was a full page ad in one of the horse magazines at the house that showed a beautiful black and white paint stud from across the state. We assumed that Lacey was now retired from barrel racing and pole bending so we loaded her on a horse trailer and hauled her across the state in order to breed her to this great looking paint. We really wanted to add a paint to our stable.

Well, it took and so Lacey was now ready to foal in the fall.

My wife and I came home from an evening dinner and noticed that there were no horses in the barn. It was dark, cold and windy so we ran into the house, put on some heavy coats, grabbed flashlights and headed up to the hills above our house.

There in a small clearing in the pine trees stood Lacey, Bud and the other horses. My flashlight immediately pointed out what had happened. Lacey had given birth and shot the baby under a barbed wire fence so that she and the other horses were on one side of the fence and the foal was on the other side. The foal was already standing on unsteady legs. In a small grove of pine trees behind the foal my flashlight picked up the gleaming eyes of two rather large coyotes getting ready to close in on an easy meal.

I climbed through the fenced, grabbed the foal and slid her underneath the barbed wire where her mother immediately ran to her protection. The other horses sniffed at the baby in turns just to make sure she was alright.

My wife threw a rope around Lacey’s neck and began to lead her and I nudged the baby along down the hill to the barn with the two coyotes stalking us at a safe distance. Although she was just about 10 minutes old the foal made it all of the way down the hill and to the safety of the barn. Everybody just called her baby so the name stuck.

Well, Baby grew up to be a beautiful all-black horse with not a sign of paint about her. And she turned out to be a pretty mean little devil. I had to be very watchful when I was cleaning out the stalls because if Baby was in one of them and I got to close to her, she would lean across the stall and try to bit me. A thump on the nose didn’t discourage her.

We had a miniature schnauzer named Missy. She didn’t realize she was such a small dog and thought she could herd the horses and this was fine as long as I was along to protect her. But one day a man from one of the utility companies forgot to close the gate where the dogs stayed while I was at work. Missy got out and started to chase the horses and they usually just ignored her. But not Baby. She kicked Missy in the head and killed her.

It was a terrible loss because everybody loved Missy. One day I thought she was getting a little smelly (ripe) so I took her to a dog groomer who gave her a good bath. She also put a pink ribbon around her neck. When I brought her into the living room and placed her on the floor, several friends of Susan and Sara started to laugh at her. Missy hung her head and headed for the bedroom and climbed under the bed. She was so embarrassed.

We knew it wasn’t Baby’s fault when she kicked Missy because she was just behaving as she always did. But the girls knew she did not have the patience or discipline to be a good barrel horse so we put her on the market and sold her.

Lacey eventually got well enough to run barrels and bend poles, but she was never the horse she used to be. Susie and Sara went on to earn individuals titles of Miss Rodeo Colorado and then be strong competitors in the Miss Rodeo America contest at the National Final Rodeo contest in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I no longer have any horses and I guess like the Lakota horse culture of old, I really miss them. As the saying goes, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is President of Unity South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1990. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at UnitySoDak1@knology.net

More from Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Reviving Native languages in face of technology (11/14)
Tim Giago: Former adversaries face terminal cancer ailments (11/7)
Tim Giago: Re-examining Christianity and indigenous beliefs (10/24)
Tim Giago: Many people trying to make it right at Pine Ridge (10/17)
Tim Giago: Reflecting on enigmatic AIM leader Russell Means (10/10)
Tim Giago: Include South Dakota tribes in the Buffalo Roundup (10/3)
Tim Giago: The Indian mission kids only knew him as Rochester (9/26)
Tim Giago: Beau LeBeau teaches us about the other 'good meat' (9/19)
Tim Giago: Remembering 9/11 -- the day that lives in infamy (9/9)
Tim Giago: Budget woes among states bring bad news for tribes (9/5)
Tim Giago: Lionel Bordeaux still a visionary for tribal colleges (8/29)
Tim Giago: The Christian Bible as a weapon of mass destruction (8/22)
Tim Giago: The Internet may be killing off America's newspapers (8/15)
Tim Giago: Shooting raises anxiety among Indians in Rapid City (8/8)

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