...an interesting and vital piece of information regarding human and equine interaction and dependency. I never considered this relationship or the degree of importance until I was 45 years old. After a life time, up until 45 years old, with horses in one capacity or another.
When I was 45 I had a serious accident on Samburu KA aka Sammy. He was owned by someone else at the time. I worked him on a regular basis for this owner. Sammy and I had a working relationship in as much as I looked forward to the work and he did as well. I never got the sense that Sammy thought anything, about me, beyond the time we spent together. The relationship seemed to be, "I ride you, you let me ride you, you get a treat, and I will see you next time" type of relationship.
Then, one day, we were riding up on a canel road, in Merced, CA, that runs along the irrigation canal/ditch. The ditch was full of water. Next to this particular stretch of canal is a four lane road. So, water on one side - lots of traffic below, on the other side. If anyone is familiar with the canal system in the San Joaquin Valley you know how many miles you can travel uninterrupted and free of equine traffic. We were approaching a 'bend' in the canal, lined with trees, visibility was minimal. Imagine our surprise, when, around the bend came a run away horse and rider directly at Sammy and I. We didn't have much time or room to navigate out of the horses way. I turned Sammy away from the horse, next to the water side of the canal, to give the horse room to go by. Hoping this would lessen the fractious experience one can anticipate when an offending horse approaches a STALLION. Instead of taking the break in the path the horse came straight into the side of Sammy pushing him to the edge of the canal where he lost his footing. We went, over, into the canal sideways.
I was pinned, under Sammy, at the bottom of the canal. According to a witness, that had been driving on the road side of the canal, Sammy, at his own risk, tried to climb the cement canal, cutting up his pasterns and fetlocks to lift himself off of me. When I got out from underneath him he dropped himself back down into the water. Clearly he was not just trying to 'get out' of the water. Rather Sammy knew I was under him. After I got out from underneath him and held onto his saddle horn, he was able to keep his head above the water line, until someone helped me out and then anchored Sammy, so he could get his footing on the cement, and pull himself out. I was immediately, separated from Sammy and driven to the hospital. As I was being driven away Sammy kept calling after me. At the time, being in so much pain, I didn't think about why he was so upset. Sammy was taken back to his ranch. Needless-to-say I had a few injuries and was laid up for about 2.5 weeks.
I was unable to get out to the ranch where Sammy was located during those 2.5 weeks. I called regularly and spoke with Sammy's owner to see how he was doing. She didn't want to worry me and told me he was okay. Then at the 2.5 week mark she said, "he is okay but he seems to be getting more and more depressed as each day goes by. He is not eating much. When can you come out?" I had someone drive me out to see Sammy. As I got out of the car and called his name he scretched in return. It was one of the most plaintiful calls I had ever heard in my life. I got to his stall as quick as I could. When I entered his stall he dropped his head over my shoulder and ever so gently huggd me with his chin. He took a step back and looked me in the eye with one of his eyes and breathed into my ear with one of his nostrils. He then dropped his mouth to my hands and licked them and kissed the tops of my hands with his lips. I was no overwhelmed with emotions I started to cry and for the first time in my life I witnessed a horse CRY! Tears streamed down his face and he rubbed his cheek on mine to wipe away my tears.
The exchange and experience between Sammy and I was one of the most emotional moments I had EVER had with a horse. Up until that point, over the number of years in my life, the number of horses I had been involved with, owned, or trained, was in the hundreds. It was at that very moment, with Sammy, that I realized how important I was to him. How he came to depend on me. And how he may have felt that he let me down. That he may not have taken care of me as well as he should have. It wasn't until I said to Sammy, "it's okay boy, I am fine, and thank you for saving my life!" That he actually let out all of his breath, relaxed his neck, and leaned against me and breathed normally.
I was amazed and bewilderd by this experience. As I spoke of it to others and listend to similar stories I began to truly understand what lies in the heart and soul of the horse. I was referred to several different books on the beliefs of the Bedouins regarding their horses. One book, I believe it is Bazy Tankersley's, "Ride Away Singing," that explains the Bedouians belief that an Arabian horse, always knows where it's ''owner' (lack of a better word here) is at all times. that the Arabian horse has the capacity to love all humans and only 'bonds' with ONE human. The Bedouians, also, believe the horse knows, feels, and can communicate with said 'owner.' During my recovery process I had 'felt' as though Sammy may have been trying to communicate with me. I dismissed it as 'silly notions' that he would have had any idea where I was or what condition I was in. Apparently I was wrong.
A couple of years went by after the accident. My life became very full of work, travel, and committments to my own horses. I was rarely out to the ranch to see Sammy let alone work him. And yet I never lost contact with Sammy through our spiritual interaction. I woke up one day, I was living in San Jose (2 hours from Merced) at the time, and told my partner, Keith Clanton. we need to go and see Sammy. We talked about the feelings I was having. I told him I thought Sammy was trying to communicate with me and that I really needed to be there. When we got to the ranch and saw the condition that the horses were in (owner fell upon hard times and there was very little hay) I understood what Sammy was trying to communicate to me. We returned to San Jose with the feeling of such sadness. I called a friend who said he would buy four of the horses - Sammy, Cejlon, Czapral, and Iza Fire. Two weeks went by and it was time to pick up the horses and have them transported. I got a telephone call from Kentucky that the buyer had been killed in an automobile accident. I was grief stricken, not only for my friend, for the horses, Sammy in particular, as well.
Again, fate, karma, whatever you want to call it reared it's beautiful head. Keith comes home and hands me the money and says, "go pick up the horses!" That was July 1998. Sammy has lived with me ever since and there is not a day that goes by, unless I am off site, that we do not spend time together. We ride, we play, we talk, or we just have silent moments together. Sammy will be 28 on the 12th of March. I treasure each and every day I have with him. And he has taught me to never underestimate the strength and power of the horse's ability to be at one with it's human.
God Bless you one and all in hopes that Sammy's story inspires you and guides you to never underestimate the impact you have on the horses life.
D'Arcy L. Demianoff-Thompson