I met Dualin Gun, a handsome Quarter Horse, only a few days after he was born. In reality, I knew him even before that — I’d been giving equine massage to his Mom through out her pregnancy.
Dualin’s person, a long time western horse-person named Gwen, couldn’t wait for Dualin to be born. His sire was a very successful western working cowhorse and his mother was Gwen’s own beautiful Quarter Horse mare, Charm. Gwen was confident that Dualin would would become the reining horse she had always wanted.
One of my favorite memories of Dualin occurred when he was about 2 years old. I was in Gwen’s barn massaging one of her other horses and we noticed Dualin standing in the field behind the barn. Gwen yelled “ Hello Dualin ” and waved to him . . . he must have thought she was calling him because he headed for the barn at a dead run! There was a moment of suspended motion before he hit the thin wire stretched across the open gait (he was thinking, “ Should I? ”) then he broke through the wire and kept coming toward the barn at a gallup! It was clear he wasn’t going to stop before he got to the barn, so I dragged the horse I was working on into a stall. But Gwen stood calmly in the middle of the aisle and waited for Dualin. He stopped on a dime, right in front of Gwen and she never flinched — just patted him on the nose when he stopped. Gwen trusted Dualin totally that day — and still does.
Gwen started Dualin’s training at home and followed up with a local trainer. We talked to Dualin when needed — to explain training issues so he could understand better what he needed to do. Dualin tried hard to do as he was asked. When the time was right, Gwen asked me to talk to Dualin about going to a professional trainer to learn reining. Dualin said he would try very hard — he knew how important this was to Gwen and wanted to be a good partner for her.
Dualin had been away at the trainers for a couple months when Gwen showed me a video of Dualin that the trainer had sent her. The trainer was trying to get Dualin to do a simple exercise to prepare him for fast reining spins. But Dualin kept trying to do the spins, not the simple exercise! When the trainer corrected him, Dualin cooperated . . . but Dualin seemed very unhappy the whole time.
We talked to Dualin that day . . . he said that reining was boring. He felt sad and unhappy doing the reining work. He said he could do everything they were trying to teach him already. Dualin said he knew how to do spins, sliding stops — everything. He didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just let him do it! Gwen confirmed that the trainer agreed that Dualin could do everything but he didn’t seem happy. I asked Dualin if he would be happy doing reining if he he was allowed to just do it . . . he said no, because it was SO boring — but he said he would do it if Gwen wanted him to. I asked Dualin what he wanted to do . . . he said, “ I need a cow. ” Gwen didn’t know how he could know about cows, since he had never met one — but Dualin was very clear with me that what he wanted was to work with cows.
When I told Gwen this, she knew she couldn’t force Dualin to just do reining. The last thing Gwen wanted to do was to break Dualin’s spirit. We asked Dualin if he’d be willing to do reining if she also did some cow work with him — Dualin said that would be OK, but he would only do reining if he could work with cows too.
Shortly after this Gwen and her horses moved to FL. Gwen watched Dualin the first day he was turned out in his new field. As he wandered around exploring, he suddenly focused on the fence area that was shared by the neighbor’s field, where a small herd of cows was standing by the fence. What Gwen observed amazed her . . . she saw Dualin go to the fence and start trying to work the cows through the fence! He had not had any training with cows — Dualin was working on pure instinct! Clearly, Dualin was a cowhorse through and through — working cows was the job he was hard wired to do. Gwen knew in her heart that she had to let Dualin do what his heart wanted to do.
Dualin received training in working cows and spent a summer on a working ranch in Montana with his trainer. We talked to Dualin while he was away — he was SO happy working the cows! He loved the long days, the independence and the trust that his rider had in him. Dualin loved every minute of his work that summer, but missed Gwen and was glad to be home with her when the summer ended.
Gwen and Dualin went on to train and compete in working cowhorse competitions. Gwen said they didn’t always win, but they always had fun. Gwen says that Dualin always knew what he needed to do to get the cow — she just has to “ get out of his way ” so he can do it.
Gwen tells the story of one time at a lesson when Dualin was so determined to get the cow, that when the cow ran and through the arena fence – then plowed into the seating area, Dualin kept right on the cow and went right through the rubble of the fence and seating, right behind the cow! That might sound scary, but Gwen said she had complete faith in Dualin and knew he’d keep her safe — and he always does.
Dualin is retired from showing but he and Gwen still take trail rides and Dualin insists on trailering to every horse show with the horse Gwen is showing — he will NOT be left out of the action! As Dualin’s Mom did before him, Dualin watches out for Gwen — and continues to bring joy and laughter to her life.
“ I feel very blessed to have Sky in my life and in my horses’ lives. She provides that missing link which enables me to be sure I am doing the best I can for each of them. I feel more in tune with their well being and am confident that I am not taking them in a direction that they are not equipped for mentally or physically. Sky’s ‘conversations’ with several of my horses have truly warmed my heart and made me feel so much closer to them. ” — Gwen A., FL
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