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Wrangling on the Range #116

Trusting in Magic




Horses and cattle guards don't mix, but this reader's young
granddaughter had no way to know that.


Northern California's Carole Lindstrom poses with her gelding
Magic, a scaredy-cat speed horse who learned how to trust humans
- then faced a horrifying test.

HIS IS THE STORY OF THE most frightening thing that's ever
happened to me with my horses. My wonderful black gelding, Magic,
is my speed horse. He flies around barrels and whips through
poles. I have trophies and even a saddle to show for his efforts.
When he first came to us, though, Magic was afraid of everything.
At the slightest provocation, he'd fling himself against fences,
lead ropes, stall doors, and trailer walls. I spent months
working with him, using all the skill I could muster to calm his
fears and instill in him a trust that people could and would keep
him safe.

Ultimately, that trust saved his life. It also saved our
12-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, from what could have been a
life-changing trauma.

Taylor had come to visit us at our Northern California ranch from
her downstate home, where she has no access to horses. She'd
always ridden quieter, less challenging mounts when she'd visited
before, but this time she insisted. She wanted to ride Magic.

I gave in, and it turned out to be fantastic - if nerve-
wracking-weekend. Taylor rode Magic in two all-day gymkhanas,
while Grandma stood by the fence, worrying. But Magic seemed to
understand the situation, softening his turns and gentling his
stops to match Taylor's ability. Late on Sunday, her arms full of
ribbons, Taylor was one happy young horsewoman.
On Monday, Taylor and I took the horses to a small lake near our
ranch for a few hours of trail riding before she was to head back
to the city. Again Taylor rode Magic, loping around the lake and
up the trails.
Back at the trailer, she asked if she could ride the three miles
back to our house. I told her to go ahead, cautioning her to stay
off the pavement. My plan was to load my horse and the dog and
come along after, to check on her. As I was loading up, I heard
Taylor's urgent voice.

"Grandma, I need help!"

Suddenly I remembered the cattle guard at the gate, realizing
with a sinking feeling that Taylor didn't know there was another
way out.

"Be right there," I called back, then drove immediately down to
the gate. As I came around the corner, what I saw froze my heart.


Oh my God!, I thought. He's a dead horse!

Taylor, having no idea how dangerous a cattle guard was, had
asked Magic to walk over it. He'd hesitated, then, trusting her,
had stepped forward obediently. Now both his front feet were
trapped between the heavy train rails of the guard.
His toes were pointed downward, jammed into the base of one rail,
while the heels of his shoes were wedged under the lip of the
rail behind. The steel was cutting into the heel bulbs of both
feet, and he was obviously in pain - and scared.

Taylor stood miserably at his head, talking quietly to him, tears
streaming down her cheeks.

I worked intently for a few moments, trying to budge a foot,
before realizing I would never be able do it alone. Worse, I knew
that if Magic began to struggle - even a little - he'd break a

The thought that I might lose this wonderful horse was
gutwrenching enough, but the realization of how this might
traumatize our sweet little granddaughter was unbearable.
I called my husband, Ray, then flagged down a young motorist who
immediately went to find a pry bar.

Through it all Magic stood, stock-still. Clearly suffering and
eyes wide with fear, he dropped his head for Taylor to hug and
looked at us as if to say, "I know you'll fix it if I just wait."
Soon, Ray and the young man were struggling desperately with pry
bars, trying to free those feet. Time after time, a hoof would
start to move, then the shoe would hang up on the rail and the
pry bars would slip off.


Miraculously, Magic remained still for over 40 minutes, his head
in Taylor's arms, trusting us, waiting. At last, first one foot,
then the other were pried out of the steel trap. Magic's shoes
were bent and twisted, and his legs hot and swollen, but he
walked calmly to the trailer, loaded up, and rode quietly home.

Taylor went home, too, with happy memories of her trip and a big,
exciting story to tell about Magic and the cattle guard. Oh, how
different it might have been! Had my good gelding not remembered
his training and his trust, I shudder to think how it might have
ended. But he did remember, and that's what counts.

And it's also why this horse is my hero. 

CAROLE LINDSTROM is a retired travel agent. She lives with her
husband on their small ranch in Jackson, California. She loves
speed events and trail riding, and "especially enjoys sharing my
horse life with my grandchildren." She still competes regularly
with Magic, and says he'll always be there for the kids to ride.
Have a poignant or humorous story to share? E-mail; 700 word maximum.


What a great story, indeed so. Shows that with lots of love,
kindness, and gentle working, most scared-stiff-of-people horses,
can be brought around to trust and love human beings. If you have
a horse like that somehow you come to own, it is lots of time,
lots of gentle patience, slow easy movements, quite talking,
gentle and slow with the hands and arms to touch and stroke the
neck, then shoulders, withers, chest, then cheek, and eventually
the front of the face and nose. I cannot give enough emphasis to
slow and steady, and yes what most fail to do, a soft smooth
voice - yes talking to the horse. Many people do not fully
realize how a soft smooth voice calms a horse and gives him
comfort that you are a friend. It is a fact that horses like soft
smooth sounds. In a riding stable if you play soft smooth music
you can see the horses relax, head droop, eyes half close, as
they relax. I found out this decades ago as a young man of 19
working in a public riding stable. I would walk up and down at
times, singing soft smooth cowboy songs, and I could just see the
horses relax, and I could just sense (call it horse sense) they
liked it and I was really crooning them to relax and have a cat-
nap sleep.

Out in nature it is the sounds of the birds singing or the steam
moving along, the soft moving of the tree leaves and the warmth
of the sun that relaxes a horse. So when trying to win over a
scary-cat horse do not neglect using a soft smooth voice.

Keith Hunt

To be continued from time to time

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