Mike sorting on Mary; 2007 West Block roundup. Photo by Terri Mason.
Mike sorting on Mary; 2007 West Block roundup. Photo by Terri Mason.

How a Horse Picked her Guy

I’ve always believed that, when given the chance, a horse will pick their owner. This is the true story of how Mary picked hers.

Back in October, 2007 I was in the Cypress Hills riding on the West Block roundup. That was the first time I saw Mary. I couldn’t help but notice her, as she’s a striking black and white papered pinto with enough withers to hold a saddle upright. I took many photos of her, and the mare never left my mind.

She was owned by Mike Doody, a top hand who originates from Hardisty, Alta., and now lives and works deep in southern Saskatchewan?—?almost on the Medicine Line. He had bought her in 1999; he picked her out of a herd of about 100 head.

She had been spoiled and was a handful. “If she wasn’t trying to rear she was trying to buck,” said Mike, “and she showed no interest in cows at all; plus she had a big cut on her leg.”

However, it wasn’t long before he got her healed up and turned around from “survival” mode into “willing” mode and the flashy mare rapidly became a gentle, trustworthy and keen cow horse that played a rope with as much feel as a fiddler has with a bow. Mike rode her extensively in a feedlot for a couple of years, and then on the community pasture he manages down south. His wife, Joanne, a member of the Neekaneet First Nation band, and their daughters, Hilary and Jordan, rode her too. She had earned their trust.

Being a pasture manager means that you always have to have young horses coming up, and eventually Mike decided he needed to sell a horse. He reluctantly chose Mary. Off they went to horse sale at Agribition in Regina. She was the first horse into the sale ring and she didn’t fetch near what she was worth. Afterwards, Mike felt pretty bad about selling her and as he stood by her stall the buyer came around. Apparently, sometime after the gavel dropped the buyer had a change of heart and offered her back to Mike for the same price. Needless to say, Mary went back home with Mike to continue working on the grazing co-op.

A few years later when horseman Dale Mosquito needed quiet, gentle horses to use in the new Okimaw Ochi prison horse program, Mary was recruited and after each season, would return back home to Mike’s care where she continued to earn her keep.

By now it was the summer of 2010 and I hadn’t forgotten the picture-perfect pinto. I phoned Mike to see if he’d consider selling her.

Photo by Terri Mason.
Photo by Terri Mason.

“Funny you should call,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about selling her as I’ve got a bunch of young horses and I kinda need the room?—?but I’m most interested in finding her a good home.” We made arrangements that he would bring her to the West Block and I’d try her out that fall. I was on the turn back crew and really enjoyed riding her; she made some super cow-y moves that made me look good, and, outside of putting a kink in my new hobbles at lunch, she never made a wrong move. Before Mike went home we struck a deal; I would buy Mary and pick her up in the spring.

Sometime that winter I called Mike for a visit and he had some bad news. “My wife and kids don’t want me to sell her,” he said. “So I have to back out of the deal.” I was disappointed of course?—?and Mary stayed in Mike’s pasture.

A couple of years later Mike called me up. “I was wondering if you’re still interested in Mary,” he said. “She’s getting older; I want her to have a good home?—?and I’ll give her to you.” I was excited, but in a tight spot myself; I already had two geldings and a small pasture. To put a mare in with my “boys” would create a prison riot.

“I really want her,” I said, “but until my circumstances change I don’t have the facilities.” He sounded a little relieved. “That’s OK, she’s fine where she is,” he replied. “I’ll just look after her for you.” So once again, Mary stayed in Mike’s pasture.

Fast forward to the spring of 2014; my circumstances did start to change and I was looking for a new place to hang my hat. I called Mike; he was on his way to try and win a saddle at a team roping fundraiser?—?and Mary was in his trailer.

“Well, I was going to call you,” he said. “We’re starting up a youth horse program on the Neekaneet Reserve and Mary would be perfect for it. So I wanted to ask you if you’d be interested in donating her to the program.”

I laughed out loud?—?of course I would.

More than any other horse Mary proves my theory that, when given the chance, a horse will pick their owner. She has been bought, sold, bought back, sold again, bought back, sent to prison, given away and donated back?—?and never once has her lead shank left Mike’s hands. And now it’s settled; for the rest of her days, Mary will live in Mike’s pasture?—?because Mary loves Mike.