“Who Helped My Horse?” Ensign, July 1978, 66–68
When I was about eighteen years old and herding sheep on the slopes of Caribou Mountain in eastern Idaho, I was sent one day with a message to another camp on Elk Mountain, some fifteen miles distant. It was a two-day trip, and my horse, while sturdy, was not especially easy to ride. If loose, and unhobbled, he could not be caught without the aid of other horses to corner him, and he would not be bribed with a pan of oats.
On the return trip, riding down a ravine beside a small creek, the trail gave way under our weight and my horse and I slid down the steep embankment. It wouldn’t have been serious except for the fact that we came to a stop with the horse lying helpless on his side in a small pool of water.
I managed to pull my own leg free from under him, and then pulled the saddle off his back. At first he made desperate attempts to get up, but with each effort his body settled deeper into the muddy pool, his less protruding outward and his head and neck forced into an uncomfortable angle. He then refused to try any more.
The sun went down, and I still had several miles to go to reach my camp. I went to a hilltop nearby to see whether there might be another sheep camp in the vicinity, or other means of help. I saw none. Returning to the horse, I removed his bridle and used the reins as a persuader to get him to struggle. No use. His feeble efforts proved that he was completely helpless.
Now what was I to do? With no one to help, I decided to pray, having been taught to do so from my childhood. The opposite side of the stream was a gentle slope, and I knelt there among the sagebrush and explained my plight to the Lord. I especially didn’t want my horse to lie there and die, I told him. Darkness was coming on and I was alone. After pleading for help I got to my feet and found my horse still helpless in the pool. I again hurried to the hilltop and shouted, then listened for any sound of sheep or herders in the distance. All I could hear was the echo of my own voice, so I returned to my helpless animal, and then to the sagebrush to pray again. I had heard missionaries tell of praying for hours before receiving the help needed.
After several unsuccessful attempts to get myself really in tune with the Lord, and mustering all the faith I could, I sincerely and humbly asked for help or direction out of my predicament. It was now practically dark, and I wasn’t sure my horse would live through the night in his cramped position. I might find my own way down the trail to some sheep camp, but I didn’t want to leave the horse alone, and I told the Lord so.
This time, on getting to my feet I saw a sight that both thrilled and chilled me. On top of the steep bank down which we had slid, silhouetted against the little light still in the sky, stood my horse. My chill came from the instant reflection that he was uncatchable while free. And he was free! But with head and ears held high, he appeared frozen in his tracks. I could not climb the bank, nor could he have done so by himself, so I hurried down the creek to where the slope was more gentle, got up on the trail and cautiously approached him from the rear. He didn’t move an inch, but stood with a most surprised look until I put the reins over his neck.
My gratitude knew no bounds, and I felt that my horse was thankful too—at least he was greatly relieved. A miracle had been performed, and I like to feel that an unseen friend held my horse until I reached him.
After saddling him, I rode down the trail in the darkness, and about half a mile farther on I saw a faint glimmer of light among the trees and heard the gentle tinkling of bells. Sure enough, it was a sheep camp.
I guided my horse toward the light, and the dogs’ barking brought a herder to the door of the wagon. When he saw me, he came out with a lantern to size up his unexpected visitor. A Basque herder, he understood very little English, but he got enough of my story to know that I was lost and hungry. He put my horse with his, fed it, and then led me into his covered wagon where he and his companion soon put a hot meal before me: delicious sourdough biscuits, mutton chops, hot tomato juice, some jam, and a piece of cake of their own making. Never did a meal taste better. They put me up for the night, and when I departed the next morning it was with a feeling of deep gratitude for the kind and watchful care I had received.