A sweet, gentle and beautiful Quarter Horse mare named Daylight lives on a ranch nestled alongside Wyoming’s Nowood River. Daylight hails from a long line of working ranch and cowhorses—her pedigree includes Blue Valentine and Hancock horses—but she isn’t broke.
In the lingo of the West, “broke” refers to a horse that is generally safe to ride and doesn’t buck. Many horsemen don’t like to use the term because back in the Dark Ages of horsemanship, it was widely believed that a horse’s will and spirit had to be broken before he or she could be of use to mankind. The end justified the means, and sometimes the means were unspeakably cruel.
Back to Daylight’s story: Some years ago, Daylight was given to Maria by her husband-to-be, Skip Eastman. The wild, unhandled two-year old was to become Maria’s dream horse.
“Daylight was the first horse I worked with while learning the traditions of Ray Hunt, Buck Branaman, and the Dorrances. Daylight opened my eyes to a whole new way. I thought she was magical.”
But Maria’s life got too busy to work much with Daylight. Then a series of mistakes, mishaps and mishandling by other trainers convinced the young mare that saddles and riders were frightening and intolerable. Bucking them off was a viable option; since she was strong and athletic, she was quite good at it. Trainers gave up and suggested that the Eastmans to consign her to the bucking horse sale in Miles City, Montana.
Instead, Maria brought Daylight home and spent many hours trying to regain Daylight’s trust. Still Daylight bucked. When Maria wound up in the hospital with her skull split open, she and Skip considered putting Daylight down but finally decided to give the mare a chance in Maria’s equine assisted learning and therapy program, Rainhorse. To the Eastman’s amazement, Daylight shone (and still shines) brightly as a therapy horse, helping children and adults find self-worth, wisdom, confidence and healing. More than one youngster actually told them, “Daylight saved my life.”
One delightful autumn day, I was greatly honored to be invited to participate in Wyoming Veterans Warhorse, a Rainhorse program for military veterans (although I’m not one). Daylight volunteered to be my equine partner for the afternoon. When we worked alone in the round pen on a “joining up” exercise, I was thrilled when Daylight followed me around without a halter or rope and even adjusted her pace to mine. Daylight’s eyes were captivating. She kept watching me, even when she was turned loose with the other horses, and when I talked to her, she looked straight into my eyes with an expression that said I know.
Somehow, Daylight knows. She may not know exactly what happened, but she knows that it did. She doesn’t know who did it, but she knows that they did. She understands that it was meant to break me and almost did. She knows the fight it’s taken to remain unbroken.
I am truly sorry that Daylight suffered and that Maria’s head and heart and dreams were broken. But I am so grateful that Daylight bucked, that she refused to accept the unacceptable, that she’s unbroken.