Some horses are extra special and Two Ton is one of those horses. Last spring my phone rang and my dad was on the other end. He mentioned there was a gentleman who was selling out of his trail riding business and had some horses and tack for sale. Immediately Kurt gave him a call and we arranged a time to come look at his horses.
As we drove over to this man’s place we had a certain kind of horse in mind. We were in need of some big thick boned horses that had some draft cross in them. We wanted a horse that had been proven to go down the trail safely with guests, something that was sure footed, big boned, and able to go into the string. Kurt reiterated this several times to me that these were the ONLY horses we were looking for. As we pull in the driveway we are met with this spit fire little punchy cowboy who was about 14 years old. “which one ya interested in?” he asks. As we made our way through each horse looking at them, riding them, picking feet up and of course asking lots of questions we had a handful picked out. When over my shoulder in this pen about 100 yards from us was this soggy Chestnut Quarter Hors gelding who could stand 300 pounds put on him. I asked my new punchy cowboy friend who that was and he replied “that is old Two Ton.” Next thing I know the boy is off to go get him. To my surprise he returns bareback in a halter. He slides off him and looks at me and says “go ahead give him a try.” Now let me set the scene here….I have NEVER got on a horse I do not know bareback, but for some reason this horse didn’t worry me one bit. His eyes were sincere. They were different than any horse I have ever known. He looked at me and I had a connection with him. I felt safe immediately so to my husband and my surprise I climbed on. Two Ton was as soft as ever in the mouth even with just a halter. He spun a hole in the ground and next thing I know we are trotting across the pasture (which was not very comfy considering his wither was sticking up and as I mentioned previously he could stand about 300 pounds on him). I slid off the side of him and looked at Kurt. He knew it was over.
As we were narrowing the horses down we had Fred, Goliath, and Tanner picked out when we came back by Two Ton. I looked at Kurt and described the feeling I had and that I just HAD to have him. He argued that we came here for a distinct kind of horse and he isn’t it and he is pretty poor. But I shrugged it off and we left that day with Two Ton in the trailer.
For the next month Two Ton stood in the back of the corral. He had a 1200 pound alfalfa-grass round bale in front of him and he barely ate and he wasn’t gaining much for weight. So away we went to the vet. Several questions came up at the vet….could he be older than we thought and that is why he is poor and not gaining weight? Is he a hard keeper? Do his teeth need floated? Does he have something that is causing him to not be able to gain weight? So Two Ton spent most of the day at the vet and we left with no answers. So we thought maybe we should just give him time. Another month passed and we returned to the vet for more blood work and left that day with the conclusion he was depressed…. So how is it you get a horse happy again?
We started giving Two Ton grain 2 x day and the weight was slowly coming on but not as fast as we wanted it to. One afternoon Kurt decided to grab him and rope off of him. We were in the arena playing with the hot heels and Two Ton’s ears laid back and he went straight to the hot heels like he had done it his whole life. Over the next week we roped off of Two Ton several times and Two Ton starting meeting us at the gate for his grain and he started gaining weight and his eyes changed. They lit up and he turned into a whole new horse. We contacted the previous owners and asked where he came from. They told us he was a solid ranch horse from Nevada. When they bought him they used him for day rides. This horse that had a job, started going a 1 and 2 hour day rides and he lost his spirit. That day watching Kurt rope off this horse changed everything. Kurt gave away all his personal horses to the wranglers and then onto the guests. I looked at him and said “That is your personal horse.”
Over the next couple of months we learned Two Ton’s personality and everyone fell in love with him. We had a guest that even wanted to buy him. He was the first one to greet you, he started getting a big belly. If he was ignored he would lift his front leg up in the air and rest it on the fence or the gate! He was more of a dog then any horse I had ever been around. It got to the point that we would open the gate for him to get his grain and he would walk straight to the grain bin. Our son Braxton would lead him around climb all over him and he absolutely loved kids. He became part of our family and everyone fell in love with him from guests to my husband. That horse was just special.
In September, our businesses overlap and some of our horses go to camp. Two Ton was fat and needed to go to work. Kurt argued that he was better at the ranch and I made him take him to camp. That week at camp our horse Nikita (I will tell you her story in the future) got severely hurt and was extremely hard on us. 3 days later while still trying to get through Nikita getting hurt I get a radio call from Kurt “Good morning Covered Wagon.” My stomach sank knowing I shouldn’t be hearing from Kurt. I asked him why he was home and he responded “one of our horses is acting colicky.” Needless to say it was Two Ton. Kurt assured me it wasn’t a bad case. He had given him Banamine and away Eryn went with Two Ton to the vet. Kurt and I called Dr. Tami Parrott and Dr. Gordon Hardaway at Hardaway Vet and told them the situation. We said we were not interested in Colic surgery as we have been down that path before (the horse we did surgery on made it through surgery and then died of a blood clot). I could not fathom going through that again. Kurt kept reiterating to me it wasn’t a bad colic and that we have had a lot worse cases and to relax a little bit.
As we are shuffling trailers and out of cell service we get a radio call from our chef Bradley “you need to call the vet, they need permission to put Two Ton down he is in a lot of pain.” I came apart and became an emotional disaster. I was so upset I couldn’t hold myself together. I was sobbing and in between sobs I told Kurt we have to do surgery and we will figure it out knowing the surgery would be well over $10,000. We called the vet(s) and they told us they thought it was too late for his surgery. It seemed like we were back and forth phone calls when Dr. Hardaway calls us back tells us they hopped Two Ton on their personal horse trailer and drove him out to Montana Equine (the surgery center) in hopes of still being able to do the surgery. Let me set the scene again…here are two vets that are extremely busy and dedicated to their work and they take their personal trailer and drive 20 minutes one way to take a horse they are pretty sure is not going to make it to another vet. This is the same vet that saved our dog Pax’s life and why we love them so much. They are beyond dedicated. Okay back to my story. Dr. Parrott tells us that once they open him up they will determine how bad he is and if they don’t think they can do the surgery they will put him down on the table. The next five hours my stomach was in a huge knot and I was restless and emotional. We get a phone call that Two Ton made it through surgery and he was in the recovery room, (I hate buts) but the next 72 hours are critical. Over the course of the next 48 hours we were checking in on Two Ton and he was doing great.
72 hours post-surgery I stop in at the vet. They told us he was like a human patient in that the more visitors the less likely he would be to get depressed and go downhill. I asked my dad to meet me at the surgery center. As I walk in I see my soggy chestnut gelding in a stall with his head down in the corner. I call out “Two Ton!” and his head lifted up. The next 30 minutes changed my life and the feeling cannot be described in words but I will try. I entered the 12X12 stall filled with shavings and approached my boy. As I stroked his side tears started to rush down my face. I loved and loved on him. I studied his belly where the incision was and everything else escaped me. The only thing on my mind was this horse….this horse that I wasn’t supposed to have…this horse that was so sad and lost, this horse that I trust more then any horse I have ever known. And the tears overwhelmed me. At this moment Two Ton put his head in my arms and there it sat for a good five minutes. I just held him and looked into his eyes. The same eyes that brought him to me and that is when everything changed…… He looked deep inside me as if to say “It’s okay, you are going to be okay, thank you for never giving up on me.” You can think I am crazy some people do. But that horse changed my life that day. That horse healed me in ways I didn’t think was possible.
I stepped out of the stall and looked at my dad who stood there with a smile on his face, someone who knows me very well. “Do you think I am crazy?” I was hesitant on the response. “No, not at all.” The man that I adore and love so much understood why I had to do what I did.
I started to talk to the vet and discuss the next days, months, etc. Over the course of the next week we visited him regularly until he got to return home with us. Once at home he was still not in the clear, but one day closer to being better. He had a pretty intense regime schedule we had to stick it and pretty soon Two Ton was over the schedule and escaping from the stall and pawing once again. The next couple of months were pretty hard on him staying isolated and letting the incision heal. About 3 weeks ago we got the clear for him to go back to light riding. Needless to say he has wintered A LOT better this year and is as fat as a butter ball. We took him to our neighbors’ indoor arena and rode him. All the emotions came back to me as Braxton and I rode Two Ton in a halter around the arena.
Today, we are almost 16 weeks post-surgery and Two Ton is doing great. He is back with his friends and we decided to give Two Ton to our 2 year old son Braxton. Dr. Flint, the Vet that did Two Ton’s surgery asked me when I was visiting him one time. “Do you want a horse or do you want this horse?” Dr. Flint told me people always ask if they should do the surgery or what he would do. I will never forget that quote and it fits Two Ton so well. Of course I could have put him down and went and bought another horse, but I didn’t want another horse. I wanted that horse, just like the day we first saw him. I had to have THAT horse. Life gives us choices and they are not always the easiest but I know with all my heart we did the right thing. We love what we do and we have almost 90 head of horses and I love them all for different reasons, but there is something different about Two Ton something extra special. We have a bond I have never had in a horse and for that reason he will be with us forever.
Covered Wagon Ranch
Big Sky, MT