Bandit

 

This is Bandit, the greatest Tennessee Walker and my horse! George picked him out for me.

He is great! Bandit is a big, strong mountain horse, loves to run up mountains. He also enjoys his food. He trusts me completely, never gives any trouble, especially if you let him lead, which is fine with me. I like to lead, too. We're very well matched!

You see him below on the pasture in The Bob and with his girlfriend, Beate's horse Dancee, a real sweetie. Although Bandit is officially a gelding, he likes his mares ...

In the fall of 2002 I wrote this ballad while going up Pyramid Pass for the last time that year.

In the summer of 2006 Bandit developed a bad colic and almost died. He had surgery in the nick of time, and while he was recuperating, I bought my second horse, Strider.

Pictures of Bandit are below.
 

 

On June 5, 2009 Bandit died. This is the e-mail I sent to my friends:
 

Bandit died this morning from a colic at age 22.

When Beate walked out this morning, he was thrashing and rolling on the ground, obviously in terrible pain. We gave him Banamine, orally and intravenously. It helped briefly, but we could not keep him standing up.

Tanya, our friend, the vet, who is our neighbor came and gave him narcotic painkillers. Bandit calmed down but still could not stand. His stomach kept bloating, and his gums were turning pale. It was clear that we could not trailer him to Missoula, and that even if we tried, there was nothing they would be able to do.

Bandit briefly staggered to his feet twice, only to collapse again: first when I called the other horses to come in from the pasture. He got to his feet thinking he needed to lead his herd in and then went down again. The second time when we lead Dancee to him, his inseparable companion for 15 years to say goodbye. He got up one more time, took a couple of steps towards her and then took a mouthful of grass, as if to say: ďItís OK, eat something and go on.Ē Then he fell down again, and that was the last time Bandit was on his feet.

It became clear what we needed to do. Tanya gave him enough narcotics to calm him down, and I had a chance to lie next him, with my head on his body, telling him all the things I wanted to say: how much I loved him, how much he had meant to me, how deeply I would miss him, crying helplessly, saying goodbye to him.

Last night, when we let the horses out, Bandit ran out ahead of them as usual, with lots of energy, bucking and kicking, the picture of exuberant life. It does not seem fair; it goes so quickly.

Bandit was a magnificent creature; everyone who knew him agreed. He was a noble, proud horse with majestic carriage and an aura of peace, tranquility and wisdom. He was the leader of the herd, and he ran it with calm authority and no violence. The occasional bite was never deep, only intended as a reminder when needed.

There are many Bandit stories, far too many to tell. At one time Sharon (our neighbor who keeps our horses during winter) came home, and our and her herd had got mixed up in a corral, and there was great tumult, excitement and running about. Then she saw that at the corner of the corral were the two yearlings belonging to her herd, standing against the fence with Bandit in front of them. He had herded them into the corner out of harmís way and was standing in front of them to shield them from the chaos. There are many other stories of Bandit protecting horses at risk, too many to tell.

He and I were completely bonded, practically telepathic; we each knew what the other wanted or was about to do often without visible communication, and we trusted each other totally. The teenage daughter of a friend paid me what I thought was the ultimate compliment; she said: ďYou on Bandit, it looks like itís one, not two!Ē

One time Bandit and I ended up caught in barbed wire that was lying on the ground, a very dangerous situation with a horse. I told him not to move, got off and lifted each of his feet until we were clear of the wire; he stood perfectly still the entire time. Bandit was playful; he loved to nuzzle me and unsnap the flashlight on my belt, but he always knew when a situation was critical, and then he was totally focused on what I needed from him.

Bandit and I were together each summer for the last 15 years. We went on countless rides, loving every minute of them. Our favorite ride was a trip through the Danaher Valley in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. We would ride for a whole day, traveling through forests, prairies, up mountainsides and through wetland. We had our favorite stretches where we would love to run at top speed. I didnít have to tell Bandit; he knew when to take off.

Bandit would follow me around wherever I went, and he would always come to me when I called him. I would walk out on the pasture with his halter, call his name, and he would come and give me his head so I could halter him, hoping we would go for a ride. He would tolerate it when I petted another horse, but not for long. After a few minutes he would walk over and his authority was such that the other horse would retreat. Banditís message was clear: "You can hang out with Klaus briefly, but make no mistake: heís mine!"

I cannot imagine walking over to the corral from hereon and not seeing that black face with the white spot hanging over the fence, waiting for me and hoping for a pellet. Bandit would always get the first and the last pellet I gave out.

The horses in the coral are quiet and depressed. Their respected leader is gone, and they are mourning, quite clearly.

Those of you who have known me for a while will understand what happened this morning. Bandit wasnít just a horse, he was the horse. Beate said that when I would get really upset or depressed she had a secret trick to get me out of it: she would bring up Bandit, and no matter what mood I was in, it would invariable bring a warm smile to my face. It is impossible to describe how much Bandit meant to me. He wasnít just a horse; he was like an equine deity who had come to earth to teach me about horses and love and spirituality. He will remain in my heart forever.

I am devastated; when Tanya gave Bandit his final injection while I gently stroked his head, a piece of me died with him. Now he lies dead in the pasture, a blanket over him. My sorrow knows no end. I still canít believe itís true; I hope to wake up any minute from a terrible nightmare.

 

Sharon, who keeps our horses when we're not in Montana, wrote this:

In Memory of Bandit

Today all the horses in heaven lifted their heads at the sound of hoof beats carried on the breeze. They looked anxiously into the distance trying to see who was joining their ranks. They could tell by the Lordís reaction that this was someone special, someone who was to be greatly missed on Earth, someone whose heart was pure and strong.

Soon they could see a gleaming black horse walk up and rest his muzzle in the Lordís hands as if to say ďI am here Lord. I heard your call.Ē The Lord was pleased with this magnificent animal, gently stroked his ebony neck, and smiled as he motioned for him to go and join the others in heavenís herd.

The other great horses trotted out to meet Bandit as he made his way across the green meadow. They greeted him with necks bowed and nostrils wide. So this was the great Bandit about whom they had heard so much. The black horse whose heart was devoted to his master and to his herd. They had all been waiting to meet him and to welcome him. Once the leaders of the herd understood that they were in the presence of greatness, a horse whose heart was pure and full of devotion they stepped back in honor and let him pass.

Instinctively Bandit moved through the herd to locate the mares and foals. They had been waiting for this guardian and he knew his job. Shyly the mares came up and touched Bandit with their muzzles in greeting while the foals hung back wide eyed with awe and curiosity. They had been told of a great gleaming black horse who would be their champion and protector, and now he was here in their midst. The black horse had an aura of peace and tranquility and wisdom that put the mares instantly at ease. Slowly they began to drop their heads to graze the grass that blew in the gentle breeze. Bandit approached the foals with his head low gently nudging them to go back to their mothers. Eventually, some lay down to sleep in the warm sunshine safe in the knowledge that their guardian was there to watch over them.

I loved him and miss him too. I hope your memories will give you comfort in the days to come.

-S

Bandit in his glory on pasture in The Bob

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Bandit and Klaus in 2005

     

Bandit and Dancee ca 1996

 

December 2001

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