It was a extremely hot day in July of 2016 down in Supai, a village located in the Grand Canyon, the home to the Havasupai Tribe. The sun was burning my skin, the heat was giving me a headache and as I walked pass a home; I saw him. A beautiful dark brown horse lying down in the dirt in the front yard, his legs stretched out, his body covered in sweat, he appeared lifeless, but, he was not 🙂 As I looked a little further through the wire fence I saw that his hooves were in terrible shape, his hip bones protruding through his sweaty and dirty body, his ribs so visible he looked like a skeleton. His spirit gone, his heart weary and lonely and it was then that I knew, that horse was going to be mine. I was going to get him out of there, come hell or high water, that horse was mine.
On this trip; I wasn’t down there guiding, rather I was down there to gather information and pictures of the abuse that haunted the canyon, the abuse that became the reason I quit my job. I left Supai a day later, with the knowledge that getting him out of that place would take awhile, it might not happen at all and he might not make the hike out, but, I was going to try. After all, I promised him that I would get him out.
I was no stranger to Suapi, or the Tribe, up until the 4th of June, 2016; I was a backpacking guide, taking people down to camp at Havasupai Falls. After finding out more information about the tribal wrangler our company used to haul our camping gear up and down the canyon; I quit my job, no longer was I going to keep my mouth shut about the horrific animal abuse that took place in that canyon, no longer was I going to accept what all the other guides and people did, I was not going to accept the answer of, “that is just the way it is.” NO, it was time to stand up, yell at the top of my lungs and tell everyone I knew about the truth of that deceptively beautiful place. I spoke to the Channel 12 news, created a page on FB to advocate for the animals and told everyone I knew. The attention began to grow and the pressure was felt by the Tribe. While all the attention was being brought to the abuse I worked everyday to get him out, every night, I dreamt of him. I was ready at anytime to go, hike down and get my horse, bring him out, take him to Flagstaff and rehab him, love him, and begin my journey with him. On July 26th,2016; I was at Best Buy and I got the text, “come get your horse”, it was around 6pm. I packed my backpack with everything I would need for an 8 mile hike down to the village and a hike back out not knowing how long it was going to take. My heart was screaming in happiness, I was getting my horse, I was on my way to rescue him and man, that was an awesome feeling. Wade drove my car, I couldn’t drive, I felt high, I was too excited to focus on driving the 3.5 hrs. We arrived at the Hilltop around 11:30pm and headed down the trail to Supai in the dark. We reached the village around 3am and were excited to get him around 630 am, but things did not happen the way I had hoped. When I arrived at the owner’s house, my horse was gone, I was terrified that something had happened to him. I knocked on the door and was told that my horse and his owner had left the village hours ago.
I started running. I had not had anything to eat, nor had I slept and none of that mattered. All that mattered was that I needed to get to my horse. I had made a promise to save him and so I ran my heart out, crying, praying he would actually be at the Hilltop. I ran 8 miles up, arriving around 940am at the Hilltop, he was there, my heart relieved to see him. I met up with the owner, he had run him up the canyon, riding him for a mile and a half. I had to keep my cool though I wanted to smack him and yell at him for what he had done to my horse and so many others, but I knew I just needed to get my horse and paid him $250 like we had agreed on. I will never forget the second he took his lead rope off and walked off.
There I was, in the hot sun, alone for the first time with my horse. MY HORSE!!!!! I was told by his owner he did not like people, but judging from the way he nuzzled right into me as I attached my lead rope to his old halter, I knew that wasn’t true. I had a HORSE!! I was excited, nervous, scared, worried, tired, hungry, but, I was content and I could see relief in his eyes. Well, I had a HORSE now, so of course he needed a name. I named him Hayduke, in honor of Edward Abbey’s writing and passion for the Southwest. So, now I had a HORSE and he had a name. We sat together at the Hilltop in the heat for almost 7 hours, his feet looked like paddles, his body like a skeleton, but I knew he was a fighter, I knew that he knew that I saved him and was going to get him out of there. We spent a few hours together hunkering down under the outhouse looking down into the canyon where he had been living, a place he was never going to see again.
Hayduke was transported to Flagstaff and taken to a wonderful place, that first night in Flagstaff was filled with a ton of commotion and unknowns. I watched as the farrier trimmed his feet, as the first set of abscesses appeared in his feet. It was bad, his feet were in bad shape. I remember feeling like a zombie, so tired both emotionally and physically and worried beyond words about this amazing creature that I had rescued and instantly fallen in love with. The next day, Hayduke’s first day in Flagstaff he ate and ate and ate and ate, and he seemed calm and happy. He seemed as though he felt safe.
The Vet came out on his second day and gave him an exam, did blood work, etc. Again his feet were a concern and we began a daily process of soaking, medicating, wrapping his feet to help open and drain his abscesses. Hayduke moved from that first place to a ranch in Flagstaff where I spent hours everyday trying to heal his feet and allow him to eat as much as he wanted. He also received an excessive amount of love, he probably was so sick of the kisses and hugs, but he got him, everyday. His story began to touch others, so many were rooting for him. I became aware of how generous, kind and loving the horse community is as well as random people. I was nurturing this wonderful creature back to health. He ate and ate and somedays that is all he did 🙂 he became my best friend so quickly and my love for him grew daily. I woke up everyday excited to drive out and spend my days with him, it was as though the rest of the world stopped and it was just Hayduke and I. He was gaining weight, getting some of his spunk back, but his feet, his feet were not improving.
On August 15th 2016, the vet came out to the ranch, Hayduke had been lying down and I could tell his pain was immense. The vet opened a deep abscess that bleed like crazy, he preformed a series of X-rays and I could see it in the Vet’s eyes that Hayduke was in trouble.
Hayduke was taken into the hospital that night and put on IV meds, had medical wraps on his feet and received medical care around the clock. I spent my days lying in his stall with him, most of the day, he would lie down next to me, put his head in my lap against my chest and just sit there. It was like magic, but, I knew in my heart that he was sick and that no amount of love was going to fix this. After four days in the hospital it became apparent on X-ray and by watching him that his pain was not going to be manageable, he was suffering and the abuse and neglect he had faced could not be reversed. It was time to say goodbye, time to allow him to rest and be at peace. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was a cold rainy day, I knew I had to say goodbye. The Vet told me that I did not have to stay, but, there was no way I was going to leave him alone. It was about 430 in the afternoon, I led Hayduke outside his stall and behind the office. The Vet explained how the process worked, I hated it, I was so angry and heartbroken, but I could not let him suffer any longer. The vet make a braid for me from Hayduke’s tail and handed it to me. He gave Hayduke the first injection, in a few minutes it caused him to collapse to the ground, I remember screaming out, crying my brains out. I felt so sad, so hurt, so fucking mad, so fucking mad. Hayduke now laid on the ground, his beautiful body right in front of me. I went to his head, started loving on him, the second injection went in and he faded like he was going under for surgery. I told Hayduke that I loved him, that I was sorry. And then, the last one, the vet whispered a few seconds later, he has no heart beat. I wanted to throw up, I wanted to run down to Supai and yell at his former owner. I wanted my Hayduke back. I wanted his silky nose to nuzzle my face, I wanted a story with him. But in a matter of minutes that was all gone. I felt like I had failed him. I felt so broken so lonely. I had three weeks with Hayduke and in that short period of time, I feel like I had a lifetime. A lifetime filled with love, hope, smiles, life lessons and compassion, for what else is there in life?
Hayduke is now in my heart forever, that is where is was always meant to be. He taught me so much, much more than I ever expected to learn. He loved me and I loved him and though I wish he was still here, I know that my job in all of this was to get him out of suffering and to send him to heaven knowing love. I could have never prepared myself for what Hayduke brought to my life. Out of all of my adventures, this one truly changed me. I am humbled to have been a part of Hayduke’s life. I am honored to have been there as his friend at the end. I am grateful to so many people- Scott and Terry Small, Kathy Oliver, Christine Griffin, Don and Marci Walters, Ruthann Penn, Dr Shane Dennis, Colleen and Dan Larrabee, ATGNIphotoworks, all my horsey friends on Facebook- too may to list, but thank you to everyone who donated, gave their advice, support, friended me to help, assisted Hayduke and I in anyway. Thank you for holding some of Hayduke in all of your hearts.
In loving memory of George W Hayduke, the horse from Supai
I had been so exhausted and defeated in the days leading up to Abiqui. I enjoyed a day off at the Abiqui Inn- a neat little respite from the long days on the Divide. A few weeks prior while I was in Colorado; I had been informed about a man who lived outside of Abiquiu who was holding bikers up at gunpoint and robbing them, it had been on my mind ever since learning about it. It had created an immense amount of anxiety and fear in me and I was leaning towards taking an alternate route to avoid that area. I spoke with locals and other bikers who for the most part knew nothing about that guy. After, a nice day off, my plan was to head out. I went to the restaurant to eat breakfast and was seated next to this guy who was also eating alone. He looked like a movie star, he had this sleek, kind and handsome look to him. At some point, we struck up a conversation, we talked about my trip and a little bit about who we each were and where we were from. I have no idea how the topic of losing my sister Martha came up, but somehow it did. He was so easy to talk to and I guess I was in dire need of releasing some of my grief. Grief is a constant ebb and flow of emotion. I hadn’t really been addressing my grief on my ride thus far. More so, I had been hiding it, pretending it wasn’t real and trying to ignore it. I mean, I was on my bike, I couldn’t ride at all or make any miles if all I did was cry and let my grief out. I had to stifle it and put it away. But, grief isn’t just tears, sometimes it shows up in the form of just needing one more day off on a big bike ride, or being extra anxious or lonely or feeling “off.” That morning it knocked me over and consumed me. He began to talk about his own losses and grief and what his process had been. The more we talked, the more both of us started to tear up. There we were two grown strangers crying at breakfast. It was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. I then told him I had planned to leave that morning and about my concerns about what I had heard about that guy harassing bikers. He could tell I was struggling with myself to continue riding. He said to me, “you don’t have to ask permission for another day off.” You can take it. He offered to take me into Espanola so I could get to a real store. I told him I’d let him know in a few hours. After, I finished my breakfast and exchanged contact information with him I left the restaurant and noticed that there was horses in the back of the property.
I immediately walked over there and had another big release of grief. Horses are extremely therapeutic and it was exactly what I needed at the moment. The way they smell, the way they feel, the way they can reflect and comfort you without even knowing you, without any questions asked is such a special gift. I stayed there for a while and then decided to walk back to my room. I was so tired and now, I was emotionally exhausted. Grief wears you out. It drains you. It’s so hard. I ended up texting my new friend and he picked me up and drove me into town to Walmart and Dairy Queen. It was awesome and relaxing. I was so glad I had not ridden off that morning. I wasn’t ready to leave and that was okay. I had a kind escort for the day and a cool Kermit Car to ride in.
After we returned to the inn, he offered to take me on his motorcycle up Polvadera Mesa where that guy I was worried about had been known to be. He said it might help to see some of the route and if I did indeed decide to take the alternate then at least I wouldn’t miss some of the beautiful views of the actual route. The ride was amazing, it’s so special out there, so beautiful- the desert, the mountains, the rock, the sky- man, it’s all so indescribably beautiful. It was nearing the end of the day and I knew that in the morning I was leaving. I had to chose the actual route or the alternate. I got back to my room right at dinner time and said goodbye to my friend. It had been a very healing day for me. Though, I still felt sad, uneasy, and anxious. I knew that I had to start allowing my grief to surface more. That I shouldn’t be scared of it or try to ignore it. That it was okay to be a mess, to be vulnerable and lonely and sad even when I was on a big adventure, being a badass or trying to be a badass. It was okay to be just me and to be just where I was with my grief. The next morning, I packed up and rode to the general store. It was either turn left and head up to Polvodera Mesa on the actual route or go straight and take the alternate. I started riding and for some reason turned left onto the actual route. I surprised myself with that decision. But, I was not going to let some guy scare me off the route…