Horse care in rural Alaska is often a do-it-yourself chore
By: Julie Collins
LAKE MINCHUMINA, Alaska —Some horses don’t mind being separated from their herd-mates. Our old gelding Dropi is not one of them. He’s especially attached to Meyla, the little mare who ran away with him from a campsite 50 miles from home. He stuck to her side for five months, guiding her home through the wilderness, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
That’s why I was so worried in late April when Dropi didn’t appear with the two young horses when they showed up after several days out foraging. At age 28, he’d slowed down a lot and sometimes fell behind, but two hours later he still hadn’t arrived.
From the bluff overlooking the flats I spotted the old horse with binoculars, half hidden in the brush. He appeared to be grazing, but two hours later the same gray alder clump still concealed his graying chestnut coat. Only the white splash on his shoulder told me he wasn’t a moose. He hadn’t moved, and that definitely was not normal.
When a third trek up the hill revealed him still motionless, I took the canoe across the river and tramped into the willows to search for him. Even after scoping the country carefully from the overlook, I wasn’t sure if I could find him in the brush.