|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
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By Alan S. Evans
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2009 Alan S. Evans
All rights reserved.
The fall of 1996 — eleven years earlier
Deep in the back country of the Wind River Valley in northwest Wyoming
Well beyond his prime, the old Native American slowly makes his way through the familiar lush green forest. Finally reaching his destination, he sits on a large flat rock to catch his breath. After a short rest, he looks up toward the snow-capped mountaintops and whispers the Indian word, Tahotay. Then with outstretched arms, he raises his open palms to shoulder height and begins a chant that is old as time itself.
He is a highly revered man among his people, the last in a centuries-old line of true spiritual shamans. He prefers the old ways, often speaking his native tongue, and living by the ancient beliefs and traditions that he fears will one day be lost to his tribe. It's this particular sacred spot where he often comes to meditate and seek answers. Just as his father had done, and his father before him.
A red-tailed hawk circles high overhead in the cloudless, blue sky, screeching its piercing call. To the aging spiritual leader of his tribe, this is a sign that his ancestors are near. He closes his eyes, lowers his arms, and drifts into a trance. Soon, a tear runs down his face as a vision, which he has seen before, reveals a dark future for his people and their ancestral land.
Little does the old Shaman realize that events that would deeply affect his fate were beginning to unfold fifteen hundred miles away, and a world apart in northern Tennessee.
* * *
The morning was beginning like many others on the farm. It was 6 a.m.; Shane Carson had already fed the horses and was now relaxing with a cup of coffee on his front porch. The hired help would be in soon to start setting up for the long hours of training that lay ahead. This was one of Shane's favorite times of the day. With his family still asleep, he looked forward to these early mornings alone on the porch. It gave him a chance to plan out the day's progress he had in mind for each horse while watching the first rays of light slowly dance across his farm.
Shane carried a deep admiration for his land. To him this place was much more than just a monetary asset. He saw the real treasure in the countryside itself, with its ageless, tree shaded, grassy hills and their whispered surroundings. Here he had plenty of room to stretch his arms and raise his kids without the congestion and problems of more populated areas. Shane felt fortunate for this lifestyle, but taking care of his land and the valuable animals entrusted to him required a tremendous commitment involving timeless days of hard work.
It was early November in Cheatham County, Tennessee, and there was a light frost on the grass. This was the first cold morning of the season, so the horses were feeling frisky.
Shane took another sip from his cup of coffee as he admired the bright waning moon still hanging low over the horizon, soon to trade places with the rising sun. Off in the distance he heard one of his broodmares whinny for her foal. He knew which one it was by the sound of her call. He knew all of his horses that well. Following the mare's call, he heard the sound of thundering hooves in their field located on the back side of the property. There were eight broodmares in that field with eight babies by their sides, and all sixteen were soon caught up in a playful stampede around the large, rolling meadow. This was not a rare occurrence on the farm, but the cool morning's nip seemed to be adding to the herd's enthusiasm.
By the time they had made their second lap around the field, the yearlings in the next pasture over had joined in the fun. With all the heart and strength they could muster, each animal desperately tried to outrun the others. This playful madness quickly launched an unstoppable chain reaction that continued on to the two- and three-year-olds in training, which were kept near the barns on the front of the farm. Then, just as suddenly as it all started, the herds began to settle. The horses, one by one, exhaled a last snort, dropped their heads, and began to graze quietly.
Witnessing all this brought a smile to Shane's face. He knew how important it was for these animals to grow up like this; being able to interact with each other in a large group was only natural for them. Providing this kind of environment helped them become secure in mind and strong in body, both of which would serve them well later on when they became work or show horses.
His business included training and selling the young horses he bred and raised, as well as training the ones his many clients sent him. All the horses he worked with were well pedigreed, expensive animals. Once they were finished and had proven themselves, these young potential champions would be given a life of envy. They were fed, groomed, and schooled on a daily basis, all of which cost their owners a substantial amount of money.
Shane sometimes joked about what aliens from another world might think if they were to observe a human's relationship with his horse. Watching the care, time, and quality of life afforded these animals, it would probably appear to the aliens as if the horses were the masters and people were their beasts of burden.
His methods were different than those of most trainers. They had been taught to him by a couple of special old mentors who had died years ago. At this point in his career he could do just about anything with a horse. He could start 'em, fix 'em, and also put a finished handle on one that would impress his clients as well as his professional peers. It was said by many that he had some kind of magical power over these thousand-plus-pound animals. Others claimed that he'd learned to hypnotize horses in order to tame them so easily. He knew differently. Hard work and knowledge had earned him this level of mastery.
He was well paid for what he did, and he loved his work, but Shane was no longer a young man. Now in his forties, every morning his body, abused by his occupation, reminded him of this. You couldn't be as good as he was without also physically accumulating the miles and injuries he had endured. But it was all worth it to him, and to do anything else for a living would be unthinkable.
The only thing that meant more to him than his work was his wife, Jen, and their two children, eight-year-old Jacob and Tina, who was six. The kids were now old enough to ride, and they begged daddy every day to put them on a horse. These were good times and Shane loved every minute he spent with his family.
With his cup of coffee now empty, Shane stood, stretched his sore back, and ambled toward his day's work. His assistant trainer, Terry Adams, was waiting when Shane arrived at the main barn. As usual, the dependable Terry had the first horse saddled and ready.
"Mornin', boss," Terry said as he handed Shane the reins. "Your first victim is ready for you." They both grinned.
The morning was going well, and by 9:30 they were already beginning to work with their third horse. This one was the young bay gelding he had ended with yesterday, one that had been started in a bad way by a rough trainer.
"You want me to saddle him, boss?" Terry asked as he led the trembling, wide-eyed young horse out of the stall.
"No, I need to put him in the round pen and try to get him to relax first. I'll wait to saddle him in there when's he settled."
It was only his second day with the gelding and the horse didn't trust Shane yet, but that would soon change. Shane knew it was going to take more than a kind word and a pat on his head to change how this horse felt about people now. He carefully led the scared gelding out of the barn, "Come on buddy, let's see what we can get done with you today."
Shane began his work in the round pen by allowing the gelding to run free. The round pen, which Shane often referred to as his office, was a circular enclosure that measured sixty feet across with a strong seven-foot-high wall. This design allowed a horse freedom of movement without the possibility of being able to jump out. It was designed and built for just this kind of foundation work. By staying in the center of the pen and allowing the horse to move around him on the perimeter, Shane was in a position of control without the horse even realizing it. From here he could skillfully apply and release pressure as he needed to, in order to get the desired response.
Within thirty minutes, the colt was already making some positive changes. He could now see that this was a nice responsive animal who was very willing once he understood what you wanted from him. It would take more sessions before the horse would retain this attitude, but Shane was confident that each day he would become a little more trusting. He rubbed the colt affectionately on his neck as he spoke. "You keep trying for me like you did this morning, and I'll eventually make a nice horse out of you."
Shane looked toward Terry as he led the nervous gelding back into the barn. "Luckily, the idiots that tried to break him before didn't totally blow his mind. With a little time and patience, I think he'll be okay. We ought to be able to saddle him up and swing a leg over him soon."
"Who's next?" Shane asked.
As they continued to work, the cool morning slowly gave way to the warmth from the rising sun making the remainder of the day quite pleasant. By late afternoon all fourteen horses in training had been ridden and were now grazing lazily in their paddocks.
Tired and sore, but not complaining, Shane began the short walk from the barns to the house, leaving the feeding to the hired hands.
As he headed away from the main barn, Shane noticed out of the corner of his eye a shadowy figure following him from just inside the four-board fence. He realized it was the same bay gelding that he had worked with in the round pen earlier. The horse was keeping some distance, but was showing a curious interest in him. Shane didn't react to this at all, not even turning his head to look. To do so might cause the inquisitive bay to shy away, and he definitely wanted to leave the horse with this mind-set for tonight. "Looks like I got in your head a little today after all," he noted as he walked on.
When he got closer to the house, he heard a sound coming from behind the familiar old oak. It was a quiet giggle and then a stern, "Shhh!" Shane smiled slightly but pretended not to notice. He knew his two kids were trying to sneak up on him. Suddenly, they charged, screaming playfully. Jacob grabbed his left leg while Tina wrapped her arms around his right.
"Oh, my gosh!" Shane yelled, "You got me again."
The kids held onto his legs with all their might, knowing that the dreaded tickling would be their dad's predictable defense to the ongoing assault. Shane grabbed Jacob first. He knew right where to get him the best. The boy burst out in an explosion of laughter, and then let go to retreat. Shane then reached for Tina, who had already turned him loose and was now racing toward the house as if her mere survival depended on it. They scrambled noisily inside, slamming the door behind them, cutting off their dad's loud, jovial pursuit.
"Hey, easy guys!" their mom shouted from inside her office. "I've told both of you a thousand times not to slam the door!"
"Sorry, Mom," they yelled as they dashed by. "He's after us and we've got to hide fast."
As the two dove into their best hiding spot, they could hear the front door opening. "Oh, no, here he comes," Tina blurted.
"Shut up," Jacob whispered, "you always make too much noise."
"All right you guys," Shane's deep voice carried through the house, "I'm coming to get you, and when I find you there'll be hell to pay!"
Jen grinned and shook her head as she watched this familiar fiasco from behind her desk. "You have to remember to watch your language around those two," she said as he walked by her office. "Tell them to come out and get cleaned up. Dinner will be ready soon."
Jennifer was a few years younger than Shane. The couple had met at a training clinic he was putting on in Texas twelve years before. They'd been introduced by a mutual friend, and there was an immediate attraction between them. Although neither was looking for it, soon after meeting they both realized that life would never be the same.
Now, a dozen years later, they still shared a powerful love for each other, as well as for their family and farm. Jen was a good organizer and business woman who handled most of the bookkeeping, bill paying, and scheduling for the training and breeding business. Although sometimes her cooking left something to be desired, she was a great mother and anchored the family. She had kept her slim, well-built figure even after having the two children, and could still turn many a man's head.
The temperature was beginning to drop outside as the family sat down to eat. By now the horses were all standing in their stalls, finishing their evening hay. Shane looked up from the sawing motion of his steak knife as he cut a piece of meat. "It's dipping into the mid-thirties tonight; the horses will need their winter blankets for the first time this year. That's a sure sign that the nice fall weather is over and done with."
Jen took a sip of her iced tea and raised her eyebrows, "You always said you'd rather work in the cold of winter than through the heat of summer."
Shane shrugged his shoulders, "Sure wouldn't mind if it could just stay fall or spring all year long."
"Hey, Dad, can we ride tomorrow?" Jacob rarely let a day go by without asking.
"If you guys get your homework done, you and your sister come out to the barn about five o'clock, and I'll let you take ole Tory for a little spin."
Tory was a great old horse for the kids. He was what you would call a babysitter, and was as safe and dependable as you could get. At fourteen, he was still sound and would give you plenty of motor when you asked for it. Tory was one of the horses Shane had hauled all over the Midwest and eastern states when he was putting on horsemanship clinics.
Before he had a family, these clinics were his bread and butter. After twelve years of this kind of life on the road, he was ready to settle down. That's when he met Jen, got married, and purchased the farm.
During his traveling years, he built a reputation for being an extraordinary horseman and clinician. His methods and theories were featured in many national equestrian magazines. He also had several very popular videotapes on the market covering everything from starting a young horse to fixing specific problems that the general public would commonly have with their horses. All this had earned him a certain amount of notoriety and fame in the industry — which Shane would downplay if you asked him about it today. Shane looked back on those years with fond memories of the places he'd been and the people he had met. His time as a clinician had paid him well; therefore, with the money he made he'd been able to buy this beautiful ninety-acre farm in Tennessee, starting the life that he now knew.
The next afternoon Jacob showed up at the barn. "Hey, Mister Terry, where's my dad?"
"He's on his way back from the quarantine paddock. He'll be here in a minute."
"What's he doing over there?"
"Some lady brought in a young mustang mare. The woman said she couldn't keep it and asked your dad if he wanted her. The poor thing looks like she's been through the war. Your dad thought maybe he could save the mare and find her a home. But he didn't want her around the other horses until we had Dr. Tolbert check her out to make sure she's healthy."
A few minutes later Shane drove up in his truck. As he walked into the barn, Terry looked up from a horse's shoe he was tightening. "Do you think she'll be okay?"
"She's pretty scared. I couldn't get real close to her. She needs a good deworming, a lot of feed and hay, and her feet are in bad need of a trim. She should be fine, but we'll have Doc check her out tomorrow to be sure. Did you notice that strange brand on her hip?"
"No, I couldn't see through all that dried mud on her," Terry answered.
"She's a mess for sure," Shane muttered. "We'll give her a chance to settle in tonight. Hopefully we'll be able to catch her and clean her up in the morning before Doc gets here."
"Dad, can I go see her?" Jacob asked, "I've never seen a wild mustang before."
Excerpted from Spirit Horses by Alan S. Evans. Copyright © 2009 Alan S. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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