January 13, 2017
STITES - It’s not February yet, but I am about to tell a tale of love.
It’s a story of a man’s love for his horse. It’s a tale of the love between two horses. And if selfless risk for another can be described as love, it is that heroic tale of rescue that demands retelling.
Had six Idaho County men and Idaho County Sheriff’s Office deputies not taken a risk, an older girl named Gypsy might not have made it home Tuesday, Jan. 10, to her barn, her beloved pal Dancer and her owner. Gypsy was found motionless standing in the Clearwater River near Stites’ 3 Mile Creek that morning. The Missouri Fox Trotter wandered out for a drink of water and her return to shore was blocked by ice.
For those unfamiliar, a Missouri Fox Trotter is a horse breed developed for its ambling gait know as a fox trot. Not to be confused with a Fred Astaire-dance move, the movement is an exceptionally smooth four-beat diagonal gait.
Gypsy’s owner, Michael Edwards, spoke with me by phone from Lewiston where he lives and works while his property in Stites is undergoing repairs. However, Gypsy and Sundancer reside there in a barn on the property, and Edwards noted the river runs through his property.
Edwards regularly returns to care for the animals, however he was in Lewiston working at the time. He was devastated to get the call Wednesday from a neighbor about Gypsy’s rescue. He quickly left Lewiston and returned home to care for his loves.
“I gave her nutrition, I zipped two cold-weather sleeping bags together and covered her for warmth,” he said. “I’ve checked with vets. I’ve done exactly what they prescribed.”
When Edwards speaks, you hear the tone of concern in his voice. You hear the love for his animal as he explains how he cares for them. And the determination is there as well.
“You talk to them, massage her. She’s not out of the woods yet. I have a meeting this afternoon and then I am headed back there, just being there helps. I really need to be proactive,” he said Friday morning, Jan. 13.
Gypsy’s former owner, Lanalee Anderson who lives just up the road, described Gypsy as a “tough old bird.” Anderson bought Gypsy from Conan Asmussen, a buckskinning mountain man and friend of Bear Claw of the National Geographic TV series “The Boonies.”
Mountain men are known for their wondering spirit but more importantly their grit, so it seems appropriate their mounts carry the same tenacity. While age has diminished the mare some, Anderson said Gypsy suffers from arthritis, Gypsy maintains that spirit to fight for survival.
Both Anderson and Edwards say Gypsy remained in the water unwilling to leave her love, Dancer, behind. (Both horses are 21 years of age, not elderly by any means but getting a little long in the tooth.) Edwards said she easily could have crossed the river and emerged from the frigid water. However, Dancer was on the shoreline Gypsy couldn’t reach and her desire was to remain at his side.
“It’s really quite a love story going on there,” Edwards said.
Anderson said Gypsy has never been afraid of the water, but miscalculated the danger with the surrounding ice. Gypsy has several lacerations on her legs she received falling through the sharp frozen water. Those are being treated at home in her barn, along with plenty of hay, grains and electrolytes.
As Edwards said, the horses have quite the lounge in the barn. And each other.
Edwards said Dancer knew immediately Gypsy was not well. Dancer greeted Edwards with an agitated spirit, worried about Gypsy, when he arrived. Now that Gypsy is back on her feet and moving around, Edwards says Dancer pushes her along, encouraging her to rebuild her strength.
Edwards guides her lovingly too when he is home, pushing for her recovery. The past year was rough for Edwards. He lost the love of his life and another horse, Dancer’s mate, Sunrise. Sunrise suffered a brutal death after eating bad apples that destroyed her from the inside.
He is determined this year will be better.
He brought Gypsy to his land to provide companionship for Dancer. Neither Edwards or Dancer could bear to lose their girl Gypsy.
The actions of the six men who rescued his beloved Gypsy have given him faith that there may be hope for this year. And if Gypsy makes a full recovery, it will surely confirm that sentiment.
“There were some real heroics there, you just can’t thank them enough,” Edwards said. “My hats off to all these people.”
Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have suggestion, contact Laurie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 208-983-1200.