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Power – My “Mane” Man

By SUZANNE MILLER

Beginnings do not always foretell the story. Power came into my life during a period of sadness, confusion, and stress. I had no business buying a horse. My father was dying. My mother was in a rehabilitation center with a broken pelvis. I was in the middle of a large consulting contract that required me to travel between Montana, Colorado, and Alaska.

The world felt heavy and like it was spinning out of control. The grief of losing my father along with navigating difficult decisions with my mother, my young sons’ busy lives, and travel demands afforded me little time for anything else. I bought Power sight unseen. I took a simple leap of faith and trusted in the judgment of my good friend Barbara.

Young, BIG, and full of himself, Power initially gave me a real run for my money. Unable to stand still, always wanting to be first, rearing up when he didn’t get his way, looking for any weakness in his rider, constantly testing – he was in many ways too much horse for me to handle. We were thrown out of horse clinics for bad behavior.

Yet I persisted, and so did he. We learned each other’s ways. Soft trails with easy slopes meant taking off at full speed. I didn’t need to ask. Downed timber, tight passages, and steep hills – he did not need my guidance; he would find the best route for both of us to pass.

Bright shiny objects were his nemeses. A silken spider’s web covered with dew and reflecting the morning sun was enough to send him off the trail in a spook. I did not mind. Standing up in my stirrups, saw in hand, cutting a low branch that blocked the trail; I would sometimes let it fall across his shoulder. He did not mind.

Power was the leader of our herd of nearly twenty horses, a leader in the true sense of the word. Kind and benevolent, yet yielding certain authority, Power was willing to take the risk and go first. He conveyed confidence and calm to his herd followers. Others jockeyed to be near him. They would follow him anywhere with a trust well placed.

We were less a herd of two than a pair – equal partners working together. We took care of each other. Together, we traveled thousands of miles, through snow, rain, lightening storms, hot summer days, crisp autumn evenings, and early morning sunrises.

We picked our way along drop-off cliffs, forged swollen streams and rivers, crossed steep talus slopes, pulled ourselves through deep bogs, negotiated fields pocked with prairie dog holes, galloped through snow covered meadows, and pushed cattle out of the brush.

We encountered bears and cougars, moose and elk, llamas and mountain bikes—and angry dogs. We shared moments of peace, sheer terror, sheer joy and determination. We faced many obstacles, pushed through moments of fatigue, and found great comfort from each other’s presence. He was my “main man” and I loved him. I love him still.

Power’s death at the end of March last year came without warning. The hole in my heart is still too big to describe. He allowed me to live my dreams and he made me a better person. Why is my pain at his loss still so very deep? How was my love for him different from the love I hold for others?

I remember hearing a mother’s letter to her child, in which she wrote, “I thought I knew what love was and then I had you.” My love for my children is all absorbing. My love for my husband is central to my life. I realize our lives are full of many loves – and all of them unique—each one opening us up to richer lives.

My love for Power was based on a relationship that I can have with few others. Humans are predators. Horses are prey. Forming a close partnership with Power required both of us reaching across that vast difference in world view. It required my building trust with an animal who by his very nature was not trusting. But it happened; and it was magic. It opened my eyes to possibilities; it gave me confidence to reach across lesser gaps, to see love and trust in places where I did not see them before.

Thank you, Power, for all that you have meant to me.

You can read other stories from Suzanne Miller on makeitmissoula.com.

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