Isn't that how it goes? Free horses always come with something extra. And in this case, it really was a something extra!
Nakota was somewhere around three years old when she came to me. She wasn't broke to ride, but there was no hurry-bone in that mare. I lunged her a few times, carefully placed a saddle on her back, and tied the leadrope to the halter to make a set of reins. And I just rode her. I didn't know that un-broke horses could buck like the devil. She didn't, and before long, we were trail riding all over the dirt roads of the mountains behind our house or ambling along the Eel River.
My corral was up a little trail above the house. My dad's property is covered with dense brush and trees and if not removed, it gets pretty thick. You couldn't see the horse fencing from the house down below. I ran up and down the trail at least a million times each day. It was a well-worn footpath by the time I went to college. Each morning at dawn I would throw on rubber boots if it was raining, or just go barefoot if it wasn't. I zipped up the trail to throw hay and fill the water trough. On school days, I would hurry back home and climb back into bed for a few minutes. On weekends or during the summer, I would hang around and groom or just visit.
I know it was a morning in March 1987, but I am not sure if it was a school day or not. Just like every other morning I ran up the trail, grabbed Nakota's flake of hay and tossed it into her corral. Right away I knew something was wrong. She was agitated and pacing the fence line, not her normal routine. I looked around in the pre-dawn light and noticed that her robust belly was gone and each rib was standing out. I also noticed a goopy mess on the ground that I quickly realized must be an afterbirth. I looked around for a foal and was dismayed that there didn't appear to be one. Where could it have gone?
I clearly wasn't able to solve the problem, but Nakota seemed determined to try. I threw open the gate and watched her plunge over the side of the steep, brush covered hill. I whipped around the way I'd come, and rather than follow her through the brush, I ran to get my dad. I am pretty sure he heard me yelling from all the way up the hill because it took him about ten second to get up and fire up his motorcycle.
I should pause here and talk about that motorcycle. All of my horses were very comfortable with the roar of the bike as it was the way my dad zipped up and down into town and around the property. On hot days, cold days, and especially on lazy days I would beg for a ride up to the horses so that I didn't have to walk. I had been riding on the back of my dad's bikes since I was so small that my arms didn't even wrap all the way around his waist!
So when I heard the bike fire up, I was on the back in seconds directing my dad down the hill over which Nakota had charged. I was hoping to intercept her before she went any farther down. We looked for her for quite a while, but she was nowhere to be found. Now I was missing a foal AND a mare.
Read Part Two Here