MASTER OF THE PLAINS
His whinny is the echo of a timeless untamed freedom.
Defying fence and saddle, he is master of the plains.
His hoofbeats are the thunder of a windstorm through the canyons,
And the lusty, daring rhythm of some pioneer refrains.
And though he bears captivity with gentle-bred devotion,
His noble heart is yet untouched by human guided reins.
And often when he gazes past the sunset's wild horizon,
He seems to be remembering his long-ago domains.
Those of us who have spent our lives loving these big hearted animals usually have that "one" that held an extra special place in our heart and when it's time to say goodbye, it leaves a hole in your heart that no other horse can seem to fill. I've owned a lot of horses, but that "one" for me was my Haps, and while I lost him nearly fifteen years ago now, I cannot talk or think of him without being overcome with feeling. So, this page is in memory of him.....
Haps was the first mustang I adopted through the Wild Horse Program. He had been rounded up from the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in Montana and shipped by rail to a BLM facility in Cross Plains, TN for adoption.
I trailered down from Michigan and felt lucky to have gotten an 'early draw' which meant I had nearly the first choice of the young fillies and colts in the pens that day. I had my eye on a colt that clearly had Appaloosa bloodlines - while he was pretty rough and had gotten a bit beat up by the older stallions in the group, I could see he had good conformation and there was just 'something' about him. (Little did I know that day that he would prove to be the most precious horse of all I would ever own. Even though he wasn't born in Kentucky and didn't have a pedigree or royal bloodlines, he would prove to be as noble as any thoroughbred I have ever known).
While he was just a yearling, his wild instinct was very strong and we certainly had our challenges early on. But, after hours and hours of just sitting cross-legged on the ground in the tall pen I was required to build for him so he couldn't jump out, he finally began to relinguish those strong fight or flight instincts that had kept him alive that first year in the wild and became curious about me.
I got him under saddle and during the early years of his life, we found the sport of long distance competitive trail riding, which he excelled at. We spent many weekends traveling to rides and camping. After some time, he began to learn new things like ponying my young training horses and packing elk out of the moutains. Then he learned to jump, and we spent many years doing hunter paces, and he was also trained as a mounted police horse. Eventually he became a school horse - one of my best ever. Haps was always the favorite of all the kids. After all, how cool was it that they got to ride a real wild mustang?
Haps taught countless kids to ride over the years. As he aged, he seemed to become a wise old soul, much different from the wild soul that challenged me for so many years. It was as if he just knew he had to take care of them. But I lost him too soon. With his light skin and white coat, he fell victim to cancer, and I had to put him down when he was just 22. I had him creamated and took him back to the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, where I scattered his ashes so he could once again be 'home'. I know I'll see him again one day, if the Rainbow Bridge story is true (see a copy of it here).
NOW ANGELS RIDE HIM
When Father Time caught my Haps, the leaves were turning brown.
He was suffering and couldn't eat; it was time to put him down.
It's hard to do what you need to when your eyes are soaking wet.
I thought about my childhood and waited for the vet.
I held his halter, talked to him, and looked him in the eye.
He had no way of knowin' what was makin' his friend cry.
I guess I wasn't ready; when he fell it made me weep.
I rubbed his nose and sang to him; he slowly went to sleep.
A breeze blew down from somewhere and brushed away my tears,
Like a kiss from Heaven for all the happy years.
In my mind he's in a meadow, the grass is long and green.
He teaches every kid to ride and becomes their favorite dream.
1980 ~ 2002
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Haps' life in pictures