Tiny, Alaska range horse, Pioneer Outfitters herd mare, was bought and brought home to Chisana in 1999 at four years old. At 17 hands, was initiated into Pioneer Outfitters range horse herd as a pack horse, as strange as that sounds. A big boned mare with an attitude, she also immediately took over the entire herd.
A pack horse that stands 17 hands? ~ That’s right. Inconvenient? ~ Oh yeah. But a stronger, more sure-footed horse couldn’t be found. Most people were simply intimidated by her size.
The day came, I was listening, yet again, to the worry and fretting comments about Tiny being ridden and I had had enough. I told one of our guides to put my saddle up on her, that I would ride her.
So I did. (What a view!) Huge, yes she is. Stronger than any horse I had ever ridden. Cranky? No more than any other mare I had ridden. Mean? Not a bit. Scary? No. Tiny was, after that day, an all-around horse.
On the third hunt of our 2011 Fall Hunting Season, the horses made their escape and ran off. (It happens, it is simply a fact of horsey-life!) They do this sometimes, belled, hobbled and set out to graze after a day’s hunt ~ they’ll just take off. Homeward bound.
After long hours of searching and tracking, Boss circling above in Cubby searching as well, they were located and rounded back up.
Tiny was missing.
Terry got back into the Super Cub and flew again. Returned to us worried and concerned. Where had she gone? How did the herd get separated from her? Was she hurt? We could only guess and we all worried.
The hunt had to continue. We headed out for the day (the next day) and found the Alaska-Yukon Moose we were all hoping for.
On the ground, the mighty Northern moose was more than I dreamed for. Over 70” with heavy palms still shedding their velvet, 4 x 6 brows and dozens of points. It was a trophy of trophies.
In the distance, we heard a horse call out with a high whinny. Could it be? As we finished all we could do with the moose for the evening, we rode home in the direction of the excited whinny. There she was, Tiny.
No visible wounds or trauma, no scrapes or rubs, she was incredibly happy to see us. Luckily, my own Thunder was almost as huge and I removed his halter and rope and put this on Tiny to lead her home with us.
We had a very satisfied double celebration that night in camp and the next day returned to the kill site to finish quartering and to pack the enormous Alaska-Yukon Moose back to camp.
We finished and lined up and tightened the pack saddles, hobbled the horses for loading, began to load and Tiny exploded.
Whoa. Even young and green, Tiny had never caused the upset that all had feared from her, such an enormous animal. All hell broke loose.
Short version ~ after numerous attempts, with tempers frayed and both guides as well as the trainee sporting fresh bruises and scrapes, we packed what we could with one horse and led her home again. (We returned the next day to retrieve the rest of the meat and the trophy with the other two pack horses.)
At the conclusion of the hunt we had the same Tiny-psycho-insanity to deal with and we decided and agreed that the real Tiny had been horse-napped by aliens and replaced by an evil twin.
The last two hunts had my trainee riding her and she behaved fine.
Alaska Hunting Horse
Fast forward to this first hunt of our 2012 Fall Hunting Season, this first Dall Sheep and Grizzly Bear Hunt. We were loading up for the day’s hunt this morning. One of Pioneer Outfitters Guide Trainees had been given Tiny as a mount for the season.
Cinches were tightened, rifles slid into scabbards, bridles slipped on, clients were helped mounting and we were almost ready to head out. Tiny exploded.
Alaska Hunting Horse, Tiny
What?! I called for Boss and turned to Tiny. Dodging her enormous self in the midst of a temper tantrum, I got her untied and pulled away from the hitching rail, away from the clients and other horses. Calling out for a set of hobbles to contain her a little bit, I told the trainees to back off. Makinzi (one of our trainees) was training and present for the drama the previous Fall and knew what was happening and what to expect but I told her to back off as well.
Makinzie had more experience, granted, than the other trainees but none dealing with the problem at hand. Putting hobbles on a freaked out horse isn’t easy and doesn’t give much room for do-overs.
Boss arrived and I had Tiny in hobbles. Terry looked up at me as he approached and asked how tight her cinch was. I checked and told him “tight.” To which he replied, ”Can you loosen it?”
Getting my hands on the cinch of the lunatic-monster horse was a feat in itself.
One pull, and that was all it took.
Tiny put her head down and calmed instantly. Instantly returned to the gentle giant we’d worked side by side with for so many years.
The point of me sharing this with you is this:
All the lessons learned and experiences had (many, many, many; when all combined) of using, riding, packing and raising horses, not once did it occure to anyone involved that Tiny had been trying to tell us something. Something was wrong and something was hurting her.
Lesson learned? Remember to always think about and consider solutions “outside the box” of what you know.