Julio was a little pinto that our son Dustin bought when he was in high school. He was a good solid, gentle, horse with a lot of stamina. He loved to step out and could out-walk any horse we had.
Dustin went off to college and then to work, thus, Julio became my horse. I loved him because he was small and easy to get on. He also enjoyed going on rides as much as I did.
Julio was a good kid horse; sure-footed, gentle, never offered to buck or anything, but he was NOT a cow horse. I think he was probably used as a trail horse, because that’s all he wanted to do. He would not look at a cow, was hard-mouthed, and wouldn’t rein worth a darn! He was fun to ride if it was just for pleasure, but if you actually had to work cows with him….I think I could have moved them better if I got off and pushed them up the mountain on foot! However, I didn’t have his stamina and about three feet into the climb, I was done for. I actually needed him!
Pushing cows up onto the forest was never easy. It was a straight up climb. The cows didn’t like that climb any better than I did when I was on foot. They always cut back on us and we fought them the whole way.
That did not make an easy day riding Julio. If a cow cut back, I had a hard time making Julio follow her. He wanted to keep climbing; didn’t matter to him if a cow turned back. Didn’t even matter to him if he passed all the cows on the trail! He just wanted to get to the top. He also did not like to get separated from the other horses, and if you took off after a cow, or someone alongside of you did, he wanted to go where the other horse went. Needless to say, I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with that horse. I loved to ride him if it was just for pleasure, but when we worked cows, by the end of the day I wanted to load him in the trailer and take him back to the sale yard! There were even a couple of times I wanted to skip the trailer and go get the gun!
That all changed one day. We were moving cows along a steep trail, when a cow broke off and went down the mountain. Mike said he’d go get her, but I was right behind her so I said, “No, I can get her, I’ll be okay.” Famous last words!
Julio and I meandered down to the bottom where the cow was. There was a lot of fallen timber that I had no business riding through. I should have gotten off and walked. But Julio was sure-footed and gentle, so we just took our time. We got the cow headed back up the trail, and then Julio started acting strange. He kept striking his foot, put his head down, and was making weird snorting sounds. I couldn’t pull his head up and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. When I did finally pull up his head, I saw the problem. Bees! We had walked into the middle of a nest of ground bees!
Julio’s nose was solid bees and after I pulled his head up, they were quickly solid from his nose and neck clear to the saddle.
Julio was in shock and I knew I was in deep trouble. I couldn’t get Julio to move. I figured he was going to blow up and here we were in all this downed timber. Didn’t look good! I started screaming up to Mike, “Bees, bees!” He couldn’t understand me, but he knew something was wrong. Just then his horse whinnied, and Julio heard him! That’s all it took. Julio was headed for the sound of that horse! Of course the problem was he was going straight up; no side-winding, no caring about over hanging branches, or downed timber! We went straight up! All I could do was lay flat on the saddle and hope I didn’t get knocked off by a tree branch.
I had gloves on and kept swiping and mashing bees off him as fast as I could. When we got to Mike and he saw the problem, he yanked me off the saddle and tossed me out-of-the-way, and went after the bees himself. I’m not sure if he got them all, or they gave up and flew away. Then Mike, in a panic, turned to me, but all I had was one bee sting! Not so for poor Julio. He was solid bee stings from his nose to the saddle. You could not put your finger anywhere and find a space that had not been stung. We figured he would die from anaphylactic shock. We were well over an hour from home, and there was nothing we could do but ride him as far as we could.
We made it back home and called the vet. He said because of the length of time from the attack that there wasn’t really anything he could do. He felt that if Julio had survived this long, he was probably going to be alright. And he was.
If I had used common sense and got off and walked, I would have walked into those bees, not Julio. I’m sure I would not have survived. If I had been on any other horse, they would have blown up, bucked me, off and we both would have had broken bones and bodies, and the bees would have finished us off.
But I was not on foot, and Julio did not blow up or stumble over downed timber. It was partly because of his hating to be separated from other horses, that when he heard Mike’s horse, Julio’s instinct drew him straight up that mountain.
Julio saved my life that day. Although he would still frustrate me from time to time, from that day forward there was no more love/hate relationship…just love.