Missing Lakota, My Spirit Horse

Lakota at my campsite, July 2011
Lakota at my campsite, July 2011

The start of my camping season in the Pryors is just around the corner.  Amber and I are planning a trip to the top of the mountain in June.  I will be there a few times before that, but that is when the camping season starts for me.

This will be my forth summer camping up there.  The first year (2010) I spent  10 days there, 2011, I spent 14 days there, 2012, I spent 33 days there.  This year I will be in the Pryors for over 50 days.  I sense a trend here.  I wonder what next year will bring.

With that in mind, I started to think about Lakota, and how much a part of those trips he had been.  I miss him, there is no denying it and I hope I don’t bore you with this post.  But I thought that perhaps going through all the photos of my days in the Pryors would help me miss him less.  There was some comfort in it, but it actually made me miss him more.  All those “less than perfect” shots that I passed by of him and his band the first time around, suddenly looked perfect to me.  I didn’t care about the shadows, focus, or composition, I just became grateful for every photo I had of him.  I miss you my friend.

I decided to share these never before seen, less than perfect shots of Lakota, I hope you are touched by them as much as I have been.  A few of them are repeats, but not many.

I first knew who Lakota was in October of 2010.  You can read my post, LAKOTA to learn more about his history and this meeting.

Lakota, October 2010
Lakota, October 2010

I was just learning all of the horses then, it was confusing and I doubted I would ever be able to learn and recognize all of the stallions, let alone all of the mares and new foals.  But now, on my forth year to the Pryors, I think I know them all very well.  With the amount of time I have spent with the horses and with the amount of time I spend studying them at home when I am not there,  I would say maybe I have a bachelors degree in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses.  Not a masters degree like some I know, but a very solid bachelors.  That was a fun thought to think about.  I am not mentioning this to brag, but I have studied in college (many years ago) and I realize that I have probably put in more dedicated time studying the Pryor Horses than I ever did studying in college.

So with my knowledge of today, and my goal of trying not to miss him so much, I decided to spend some time watching video and looking through photos to see when exactly the first time I saw Lakota was.

I found out that the first time I saw Lakota was in August of 2010.  He was with his band, by Kreuger Pond.   I even have video of him that day. (you can see this footage in the video I have posted at the end of this post.  His 2010 band is at about 2:30 into the video.  There is also many footage of him in other years throughout this video). His band then consisted of  Quelle Colour (pregnant with Kohl), Blanca with her foal Kalispell, Half Moon with her foal, Kiowa and Heritage with her foal Kootenai.  I had no way of knowing then, that in two years, I would be able to look out my window of my house everyday and see two of these foals, now almost  3 years old. (Kiowa and Kootenai)

Starman band, Lakota band and Custer band.  August 2010
Starman band, Lakota band and Custer band. August 2010
Sante Fe band and Lakota band, August 2010
Sante Fe band and Lakota band, August 2010
Blanca and Kalispell, August 2010
Blanca and Kalispell, August 2010
Kootenai, August 2010
Kootenai, August 2010
Blanca and Kalispell, August, 2010
Blanca and Kalispell, August, 2010

I would next see Lakota and his band in October 2010.

Lakota, October 2010.
Lakota, October 2010.

I would not see Lakota again, until July 2011. Today, I found many photos that I had never published from that trip.  That is when Grijala was fighting Lakota for his band.  We woke up on our first day with this band surrounding us.  They seemed comfortable with us at our campsite, and stayed several hours.

It was then that I fell in love with Lakota.  I had admired him before now, but this was the day I fell in love with him.   I spent enough time with him that morning, to feel his strength, pain, and determination.   He was the perfect stallion to me, and I begin to find myself being sucked into the world with him.  Even after I left the mountain, I worried about him and what was happening.  I learned that Grijala would take the band from him and he would be alone.  My heart broke with his.

Grijala and Lakota snaking the band together, July 2012
Grijala and Lakota snaking the band together, July 2012

While we were there that day in July 2011, we watched this scene unfold before our eyes.  The still moments, the very thought-out moves and the interaction among the band was even more apparent to me today as I relived that morning.

Lakota 2011-10
Lakota, July 2011
Lakota 2011-12
Grijala with Lakota’s Band, July 2011
Lakota 2011-18
Lakota
Lakota 2011-11
Lakota with Jenny, July 2011
Lakota and Grijala, July 2011.
Lakota and Grijala, July 2011.
Lakota 2011-16
Lakota
Lakota 2011-17
Lakota
Quelle Colour, Kohl and Grijala
Quelle Colour, Kohl and Grijala
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
Knight, Kohl, Lakota and Grijala, July 2011
Knight, Kohl, Lakota and Grijala, July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
Jenny and Quelle Colour
Jenny and Quelle Colour
Grijala and Kohl
Grijala and Kohl
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
July 2011
Lakota takes time to roll.
Lakota takes time to roll.
Lakota posturing at Grijala, July 2011
Lakota posturing at Grijala, July 2011
Lakota snaking the band.
Lakota snaking the band.
Lakota, July 2011
Lakota, July 2011
Several Bands, Lakota and Grijala (and Band) in the middle.  July 2011
Several Bands, Lakota and Grijala (and Band) in the middle. July 2011
Lakota
Lakota

I returned to the mountain the following month (August) with my daughter Amber.  We only got one very brief view of Lakota.  It was just before dark.  He was heading to Kreuger Pond, and he was alone.

Lakota, August 2011
Lakota, August 2011

In September I would again go to the mountain, but I would not see him that trip.  Then in October I was there for just a day.  You know the story if you have read my post Lakota.  I would see him just as I was about to leave the mountain.

My heart broke even more that day as I watched him.  There was a look in his eyes that made me sad.   His will to live seemed to leaving him.  I had heard stories of stallions that just give up after they loose their bands, I hoped he would not be one of them.  I worried about him all winter.

Lakota 2011-October 5

In March of 2012 I headed to the Pryors.  It was my birthday.  I was hoping to see Lakota, but I knew that the chances would be very slim.  The horses are so spread out this time of year, and travel is very limited.

I saw him.  It was just a chance finding really.  You can read about that day by clicking THE GIFT.

Lakota gave me one of the best birthday presents I have ever had.  Showing himself to me.  He looked great too.  The winter had been kind to him and he had put on a lot of weight since I had seen him last.

Lakota, March 2012
Lakota, March 2012
Lakota
Lakota

I would not see him in April when I returned, but in May 2012, he gave me another very special gift.  You can read about that encounter, by clicking on Finding Lakota.

It was one of the most incredible moments of my life and most definitely the most incredible moments I have ever had with a wild horse.  I will always remember it.  Every time I head up Burnt Timber road, I point out this spot to whom ever is with me.  I don’t care if they don’t care to hear it.  I say it out loud every time.  I will never forget that day.

Lakota, May 2012
Lakota, May 2012
Lakota, May 2012
Lakota, May 2012
Lakota, May 2012
Lakota, May 2012
Lakota
Lakota

I was so happy and excited for Lakota.  He looked so good and that sparkle was back in his eye.  I heard from Shawn a few weeks later that he was dogging Grijala, trying to get his band back.  I thought “Good for you Lakota”.  Even though he was 20, I had every confidence that he would prevail and win his band back, or at least Quelle Colour, his faithful and devoted long time mare.

But it was not to be.

I returned the middle of June, only being away for 3 weeks.  I received a text from Matt on the first evening I was there. “Lakota is injured”, the text read.  I was lucky to find a place where I had fairly good cell service and called Matt.  He told me Lakota was down Burnt Timber Road a ways.  The next day, my friend Linda and I headed down in search of him.  We passed Grijala and his band way down in a valley below us.  Continuing down the road, not much further, was Lakota, looking down towards his former band.

I knew right away by looking at the pain in his eyes that it was not good.  Linda and I tried to have hope and we managed to have some.  But I think I knew deep down that my first thought was the right one.  Lakota would never win his beautiful chestnut mare back.  He would be lucky to survive this injury.  You can read more about that day by clicking on Healing Thoughts For Lakota.  I did not know that these would be the last photos I would have of him alive.

Lakota, June 2012
Lakota, June 2012
Lakota
Lakota
Lakota
Lakota
Lakota
Lakota

I kept in contact with other people that were on the mountain after I left. (thank you Ginger and Jared).  Some saw him, and I held out hope he would make it through this injury.

I returned 3 weeks later and spent most of my time searching for him.  I never found him.  It was heartbreaking.  You can read about that trip by clicking on Searching For Lakota.

Two weeks later, my phone rang.  It was Jared and he said the words I did not want to hear.  “I euthanized Lakota last night.”  It was July 24, 2012.   I weeped for days and I still do, even I as write this post.  Click on Remembering Lakota.

Lakota, July 2011
Lakota, July 2011

I made several trips to the mountain last summer, after Lakota’s death.  Lori, Shawn and I held a memorial a week after Lakota died.    And you know what?   He died where he knew I could always find and see him.  Not far from my campsite.  I believe it was his last gift to me.  It was apparent he had been there for some time.  There was a perfect circle (about 20 feet)  of eaten grass around his body.  He could not move any longer and so he stayed and ate what he could.

Lakota's memorial
Lakota’s memorial

One of the first things I will do on my first trip up the mountain this year, will be to visit Lakota.  By now, I am sure I will have to pick up his bones and carefully stack what is left of him by the memorial that I made last July.

I hope as time passes, my pain will subside.  I just hope the ache in my heart and in the pit of my stomach, that I am feeling as I write this, will pass some.   Not all though.

I do have some comfort when I look out the window at his young son, Kootenai.  As each day passes, he looks more and more like his father.  I know that a part of Lakota lives on through him and his daughter Kiowa.

I am also sure that Lakota’s spirit is living on, on top of the mountain.  I feel it every time I am there.  I am sure he will be running through the lupine again this year, just like I saw him in July of 2011.   My Spirit Horse.

I miss you Lakota.

Sandy

Lakota, July 2011
Lakota, July 2011
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell
Logo designed by Amber Bushnell

31 thoughts on “Missing Lakota, My Spirit Horse

  1. Sandy, my heart aches for you. You truly lost a family member who will be with you forever. The bond of love to the Pryor wild horses and especially to particular horses cannot be explained. There are sacred places and for me the Pryor area is one that God has blessed with His gift of the horses. Lakota has blessed your soul in a way that cannot be described, only experienced and held close as a treasure in your heart. What a beautiful eulogy you have written to honor him.

  2. Sandy, beautifully scribed. Your relationship with the mountain and its wild mustangs, especially Lakota, fills my heart with joy and my eyes with tears. Find peace this spring when returning to Lakota. He is all around you, forever. Diane

  3. What a wonderful eulogy to your forever friend, I cried all the way through as I am sure I will on the mountain with you in July. Thank you for all you share with all of us, Jeanne

  4. What an incredible tribute to Lakota, Sandy! I admire that special bond that you had with Lakota, and the fact that he trusted you as he did is a very special and unique gift that you will have in your heart for the rest of your life! I know that you will develop another special relationship with another horse, but it will never be the same and in your heart, you know that to be true!
    There is something totally special, mystical and magical about the Pryor wild horses, and being amongst them touches one’s very inner soul. I suppose if you are not a “horse or animal person” you would have a very difficult time understanding any of these feelings. Ones that we cannot, or have a very hard time expressing to people. Thank God for you and all that you do and why you do it. I know Lakota will be in your heart forever, and his spirit will absolutely be on top of the Pryor’s with you whenever you go up there. What beautiful photos…thanks so much for sharing and again giving us all a glimpse into your heart & soul! You are a blessing to those wild horses!

  5. Now after watching your video, and rereading your words I know you and Lakota are spirit souls who met because it was “meant to be” and that your paths had to meet. I have to go get my box of Kleenex!!!!

  6. What a moving tribute to a wild horse. I know you miss him, but now you have his children to love and cherish. 🙂 I think I found your blog on Freshly Pressed and it was a post about Lakota. I was so touched by your dedication and connection to this horse (and all the others on the mountain). I am seriously considering a trip to Montana one of these days, just to have a chance to see these wild horses. Your blog has convinced me I must!

  7. What a beautiful post, Sandy! It’s impossible not to be moved to tears by your words, and still it’s good to know how you hold on to all the wonderful memories you had together. I have actually been thinking about you and Lakota lately:)

  8. What is it, the magic of the Pryors and its wild horses? It’s a place where if you have been……your soul never leaves. Your heart never leaves. In that place where the great spirit painted such an awe inspiring back drop and where his most magnificent creature the mustang lives you know this place is sacred. Sandy as you said his spirit will run the Pryors forever…and on a cloudy day when that sunbeam hits you for a moment , or when you think you hear him …..when you think , he’s not gone he’s around here somewhere…..he is telling you “hello my friend , I’m well and I’m whole again , and thank you for always thinking of me.” Lakota rising , his spirit free for ever . Thank you Sandy

  9. I just read the history … your’s history at you and Lakota
    I’m very very sad.
    I think Lakota and you be one for ever.
    But we never, nerver forget a horse who’s in ou heart.
    Milady, my horse’s dead 15 september 1988 at 20:45 pm and i can’t forget her, nerver.

  10. It is always so hard to see good friends go but then we must remember that Lakota had a good life. He was wild and free as all the Pryor Horses should be.

  11. I love all of these pictures of him. He was a very special horse. He’s one of the legendary stallions that will always be remembered. I had really expected him to take back Quelle Color when he came out in the spring strong, recovered, and determind. At least the two of them still have Kohl and Galaxy together still on the range. And Lakota has a few other of his offspring. I’m glad you have Kootenai and Kiowa so you get so see a part of him every day. Was Kootenai born later in the year? He looks so tiny in those August pictures.

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