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Tribute to Major
Loved and missed by the hundreds of people who knew him
Me and Maj, 2006
May 15th, 1979 - May 9th, 2007
A teacher, a healer, a friend, a confident and "the boss".
Where does one start, how does one pay tribute to a horse that not only changed my entire life, but the life of so many others, too numerous to ever list.
Thankyou to Jeanette from Denmark and Franzi from Germany (I FINALLY got it right!) for taking the wonderful feature picture of Major and me in 2006. Wow, eh, little did we know it was for a reason.
Me and Maj, 2004
My world will never be the same again. I have lost a part of me, a part of my soul, a part of my reason for being. Major was with me for 28 years, and there will never be another like him. No more walks in the forest, no more quiet talks under a stary sky, no more hugs or nudges. But if ever a horse had a full life, it was Maj, for that I am thankful. And for the hundreds, and hundreds of awesome memories and time we spent together.
Major was born in Buck Creek, Alberta on a PMU ranch that ran about 200 mares. His mom was a registered Percheron and his daddy a registered quarter horse. I moved to Alberta in 1979 and I met a fellow who said he had some colts for sale. I knew nothing about horses, except that I loved them and would die to own one. When I first saw Major he was all legs, 5 months old, and his hind end was about a foot higher than his front end. This never changed his entire life. The fellow that had him for sale told me he was the perfect build for a world champion jumper. As naive as I was, I believed him and bought Major the first day I saw him. He was wild, never handled since birth, and I would go and talk to him every night after work. I remember wanting him to just let me put the halter on and he would have NO part of that!! Wow, so much has happened since them, it's almost like a storybook you read in fairy tales. Such has been my life, and Major was a HUGE part of it all, miss you buddy, wish you could have lived forever, but we'll meet again.
Since Major was my first horse, and I knew nothing about horses, we did allot of learning as we went. He was the easiest horse I EVER trained and we spent every spare moment together. There was never a moment that we weren't learning something together. We just started riding him, it really was that easy. I kept waiting for his front to catch up to his back end, but of course that never happened. I would spend hours riding him around the trees teaching him, and me, how to respond to seat and leg aids. We would canter out in the field learning our canter leads. We anttended many a clinic and horse shows together. And then when my daughter was ready she used him as her first horse for Pony club. Eventing, jumping, dressage and gymkhana.
You could NEVER pen up his friends without him. He would figure out every type of gate latch in the world and turn everybody loose that he wanted to go with him. Many a time somebody got heck for leaving a gate open, when they had actually latched it, only for Major to open it. If one of his girlfriends were penned up he would play with the latch all day untill the gate finally opened. Tie him up, he'd untie himself. Chewing on the rope till it either untied or actually fell apart. The rope would be all wet and soggy when he was done with it.
Major was always the boss horse of the heard, until Pall came along at least. No matter where the horses were, if I called out his name he would bring all the horses to me. In the early years I would whistle and he would come a running. He was the steady influence that every herd needs. If he saw me, he would come. If he needed super, he would let me know. If the stock tank was frozen, he would kick the heck out of it until somebody came. If he were caught in a wire, he would stand patently waiting for release.
The last 10 years he really was our main horse here at the stables. Almost everyone had his or her first ride on Major; he was as trustworthy as any mount you will ever find anywhere. He "showed" a completely blind boy what a horse was, and took him for his first ride. He gave a Down syndrome girl her first ride. He took many a Pony clubber over their first rail. Numerous first trail rides for many a nervous rider. He performed at clinics, standing rock still while I would demonstrate how to do a horses feet. Little children could run under his belly. He was truly one of a kind.
When Maj was 4 we were living in a cabin for the year and had to bring in some logs from the forest. The funniest episode, well, there were a number of them, was when we were hauling back a couple of trees from the forest. I had him hooked up in harness and would drive him back pulling the log and then put a blanket on him to ride him back to the forest for another tree. After we hooked up the tree I would leave the blanket on him so it was there to ride him back again. This one time I was leading him and we were about half way back to the cabin and he stopped dead in his tracks. I was getting tired and so was he, and I begged him to keep going so we could do one more run and be done. He would not move. Froze, all the clucking and pulling the world and he would not budge. He kept looking back and finally so did I, and there on the ground was the blanket! As soon as I put it back on his back, away we went.
Another funny story from the cabin was when some friends came to visit us and got their Volkswagen stuck in a snow bank. We decided the easiest thing to do was to hook up Major in his harness and let him pull them out. Everything was set and ready, the tugs tight, and I eased Major up and let him feel the weight of his load. He leaned into the harness and gave a fair pull and realized what he was up against. I set him again and really encouraged him to give a pull, and car rocked a little bit. So now he is excited. The challenge is on. He's pumped, prancing and ready to give it his all. I set him up. cheering him, clicking him, he's primed and he throws his heart into a huge lunge to release the car and the leather tugs break on the harness and away he goes, galloping all the way back to the cabin, proud as can be!! We never did have the heart to tell him the car was still stuck.
Major acquired the name the "Moose" for many reasons. When drinking from a river he would bury his whole muzzle under water to drink. He never slurped the water, but literally drank like a moose. He also had a "jug" head that looked like a moose and his front legs were shorter than his back legs. None of this ever stopped him from having a huge heart that melted for small children or timid adults. He was gentle as kitten, but when he was in one of his moods, look out. For the first 15 years of his life he would dump me every spring on that first fresh ride. I was always a bit scared to take him out for the first ride, as I knew what was coming. After he dumped me, he would never leave me, just start grazing beside me as if to say, okay, we can carry on now.
Our first horse show was very exciting. We were patently waiting for our turn in the ring when around the corner came some donkies! I held on for dear life as Major galloped accross the field to the other side totally unglued. There was NO WAY he was going anywhere near those donkies. We missed our first two classes and had an orientation on donkies instead.
Western saddles never agreed with Major. Due to his swayed back they always rubbed him the wrong way. For this reason I rode mostly English everywhere with him. In the mountains, no problem, I trusted him with my life. Many a cowboy would laugh at us in our prissy saddle with my custom saddlebags, but we didn't care, and Major was big enough to intimidate any old cowboy! Anytime I did ride him in a western saddle he would ALWAYS buck going down hill (I never told him he couldn't really buck!). Never uphill, but every time downhill.
For all his might and strength, he never liked to be alone. His first girlfriend was a Tenesesse walker mare, Sassy. If she was out of his sight he would cry the whole time. Next was Spic, then oakley and Beauty Girl.
Once when we went to the mountains we were travelling along a very narrow ledge, alongside a steep mountain, with a long drop down into the valley below. Major and I were in the lead and we came around the corner of one ledge and finally ran out of trail. There wasn't enough room to safely turn around mounted. So we had to dismount our horses and creep up above them a little bit to turn them around. My friend mounted their horse and disappeared around the edge and Major became very frantic. So much so that I was afraid he was going to go over the ledge, crashing down the mountain. I couldn't get on him so I carefully tried to lead him from above along the the trail back around the mountain. Felt like it took hours, but it wasn't long before we got back to the main ridge and I was able to get on and catch up to my friend. Major was dripping wet from his excitment and it was definetly a slower ride back to camp.
Another time we were in the mountains and I was riding in my english saddle, enjoying the scenery and loving life. We came to an open grassy area half up the mountain. My friend went ahead and all of a sudden their horse, Spic, fell into the bog. Spic was frantic, trying to get her footing, but that made her go deeper into the earth. I never felt so helpless to be on my horse with no saddle horn to help another horse. We did make a sort of harness from our lead ropses for Major and he finally pulled her out. He was so steady, he knew what he had to do. That was the last time I rode in the mountains in my English saddle.
Our most heroic ride in the mountains was when a fellows horse went over backwards right in the river. The fellow tried to save his horse and was going down the river with him. Major and I had to gallop flat out all the way back to camp to get help. Major gave me everything he had that day, never quit or even thought about quitting. It was a long trip and when we got there we weren't done yet. We had made it back before the horse and rider in the river so we rounded up some cowboys and we all headed along the river while they tried to get a rope out to them. After many attempts they finally made it. 3 hours later we arrived back in camp and Major got extra oats that evening.
In 2001 we almost lost Major when he slid into a beaver run and almost drowned. We were riding with some friends and at the bottom of a ravine there was a little trickle of water that looked harmless as could be. So, as usual, Major and I went to check it out. When I asked Maj to go over it his front feet slid into the water and we quickly discovered it bas about 5 feet (1.5 meter) deep. It was very narrow but somehow he rolled onto his side and could not get his feet underneath him. It was terrifying as he struggled for a while and then quit. Thankfully my friends were still close by and came down the hill to help. I held Majors head up out of the water so he would not drown and loosened his saddle so he could breathe. I was screaming at him not to quit and trying to lift him up. It felt like forever before everyone came down to help us and finally got him out.
Another close call was in 2004. It was the middle of winter and we had lots of snow. Maj had lain down for a rest and while he rested the snow melted and his body sank into the depth of the snow. Now he was cast, as he could not get his feet back under himself. Luckily I found him before the sun set and was able to help him get back up. He would not have lasted the night like that.
One of our scariest experiences was on our way to a horse show that my daughter was entered in on Maj. We headed out early in the morning and had to go down a huge hill and across a bridge over an extremely deep ravine with a major river at the bottom. at the bottom of the bridge the road made a sharp turn to the left and back up the hill. It was all under construction and straight ahead they were building a new road, this area was, thankfully, all new, deep sand. As we crossed the bridge and made our left turn to go up the hill, I looked in the mirror and saw the horse trailer, with Major inside, leave the truck and go out of sight!! I remember to this day how my heart stopped and my whole body started shaking. I was certain I was going to find the trailer and Major at the bottom of the ravine in the river. But it wasn't his time yet, and when we found the trailer it was still upright and had dug the hitch into the sand. Major was thrashing inside the trailer, stomping his feet and screaming for all his might. He was NOT impressed!! When we took him out he was soaking wet, but not a scratch on his body. Wow, were we lucky that day.
If you are prone to be teary eyed, then grab a kleenex.
The day before Major left us I noticed him standing beside the gate from the pasture all by himself. I went over and opened the gate for him and turned him loose in our yard. He would never go far, just munch on the grass around the house. Gave him a nice big feed of oats and carried on my business. Before I went to bed I left him another feed of oats.
When I was ready to leave for work the next morning I noticed his bin in the middle of the drive still had oats in it. So I went looking for him. and found him. Not moving. Under my bedroom window. He had never went around there before. Did he know? Of course he did.
When we carried him out to his burial spot every single one of our horses (close to 75 horses!) were lined up all in a row, along the fence, watching. They were paying their own tribute to the legend they all had know for their entire life. And then when we went past all the horses through the gate they all followed, single file, to the top of the hill and gathered together saying their good byes. It was all much more than I could handle that day.
January 2010. It is now three years since you left us. And crazy as it sounds I thought I saw you yesterday. So many times I walk through the herd expecting to see you. Especially that one night every year for the magic moment at midnight Christmas eve that you shared for 28 years.
Miss you my friend.