My arm isn't long enough to get Takoda and me AND the border sign, so you'll have to take my word for it that I'm actually at the border here (not quite sure why, but the marching band and welcome committee that I expected wasn't there to meet me . . . nor were there any paparazzi to take my picture for me. At the very least, I really wanted to see a "mountie!"). But I am wearing the "Takoda" t-shirt that my mom bought for me at the restaurant in Sisters, Oregon, in celebration of the horse that got me this far.
Actually, however, even though it was Takoda at both "bookends" of the ride, it's been while riding Shyla that I've probably covered more miles on the trail, although to be fair, sometimes Takoda was right there doing the miles also, but serving as pack horse rather than being ridden. In both cases, I am incredibly proud of these two horses, who have given their all day after grueling day, despite tremendous obstacles and very challenging circumstances. They have put up with getting in and out of trailers (and I've got a very small, old, out-dated trailer, so that's not a luxury accommodation!), moving constantly, being separated and reunited and separated again, riding in rain and snow and blazing heat, getting fed at all sorts of irregular hours, hitting the trail before dawn and staying out on it long after dark. There is truly something noble and generous and forgiving and tolerant in a horse's heart. I'm sure if they thought about it, they would have often concluded that I was stark raving mad to be doing what I'm doing--and making them do it too. But they have never complained or flat-out refused to do what I asked; even if they didn't like the looks of what I was wanting them to go across or over or under or around, and even if they made their doubts apparent at times, they always eventually accepted and did their best to accomplish what I required of them. Each of them has a different personality and different strengths and weaknesses, and at times I'm sure--like every traveling partner--we've been frustrated and sick of each other's company and close to wanting to call the whole thing off. But they have never quit on me, not once. They have always been there, nickering softly to me at night on the highline to let me know that they'd appreciate a drink of water, pawing at their grain bags when I'm a little slow to get them what they really want to eat instead of grass, patiently waiting for me while I clear a trail for them, greeting each other with enthusiastic whinnies when they reunite at the end of a ride or the end of a couple days apart. They are more than just a horse or a means of getting from one place to another--they are my friends, at times my lifelines, always my companions and dedicated helpers, and I owe this whole trip to both of them.