"ASLEEP WITH SAKI" was published in the above book "Horses with a mission." The editors of the book did some editing, however, I am posting my original story.
ASLEEP WITH SAKI
Saw a sign “Horses for sale” while driving South from Santa Rosa, CA - stopped to have a look. There were a number of horses standing in a small field near the entrance, so while looking them over, something pulled me towards a bay quarter-horse mare.
Have always had good relationships and communication with animals, so figured we had met in a past life. I rubbed her head and she nuzzled me. The owner saddled her, and I had a frolicking, bucking ride around the arena before she finally threw me. I bought her and named her Saki.
Was living on my friends ranch in the mountains above Kenwood, North of the city of Sonoma. There was a vineyard, at the top of the property - the whole ranch was about 168 acres, with room for a horse. Took delivery at the bottom of the hill, then walked her three miles up the hill to the ranch, figuring it would tire her and she would be easy to ride.
When we got into the fenced vineyard, I threw the saddle on her; an old saddle that had been on the ranch for a long time. The saddle didn’t have a belly cinch, so I used the old strap that was with saddle. Climbed on and away we went. Saki wasn’t a bit tired. My wife said the saddle was a foot above her back and I was two feet above the saddle. After three attempts, decided to just gentle her out, before I ruined her, or she ruined me.
Every day I put the saddle on her back and bridled her, then walked along-side, using the reins to guide her, while talking to her and rubbing her neck. She was neck reined before I ever got on her.
One day, while walking up the road from the house, it felt like the time was right to climb into the saddle. We were on this winding, narrow, gravel road - not in a corral, but it felt right, so I climbed on. She accepted me and we walked around the ranch - our first ride together. We rode every day; her, getting to know me, and me, getting to know her.
Came home from work about 10:30 PM, about a week after our first successful ride. Driving through the vineyard, the full moon looked so beautiful, that the only thing on my mind was a moonlight ride with Saki.
We had a delightful ride and then I turned her loose - She was free to roam around the ranch or go into her stall in the barn. In that three months she became part of us and would not run away, although, to catch her, a bag of oats always helped.
We were watching Johnny Carson, and during a commercial, went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Heard a noise at the kitchen door window - Saki was looking in at me with her nose against the glass.
She looked so lonely that I told my wife I was going out to visit with Saki for a while. Took a sleeping bag along - threw it on the slightly sloping ground, spoke to saki, then crawled into the bag.
Saki came over and started pulling on the sleeping bag with her teeth. Had to shoo her away, which was new, because usually the only way I could catch her was to have a bag of oats.
She walked away and I dozed off, then awoke to hoof beats passing above my head. It was Saki. She walked past me, and moved down the slope so that her rump was facing me. Thought she was getting ready to kick me out of the sleeping bag. Got ready to roll.
Instead of kicking me out of the bag, she laid down beside me, with her rump so close that I reached out and gave her a pat. She lifted up her head, looked back at me, gave a slight whiney, then laid her head back down and we both fell asleep.
If anyone ever asked me if I slept with a horse, I would have to answer, “Yes, and very soundly.”
Told this story to the actor, Ben Johnson. He said,”Sam, that’s the dog-gondest horse story I ever heard.
Our Time with Saki
After three years, we moved off of the mountain and down in the valley with Saki, Duchess, her six her puppies, 26 chickens and our new son, Torre.
We found a ranch that accommodated our group. We lived there for about 15 months and then moved to a house with fifteen acres of pasture. Saki loved it. There was a sandy area that she liked to lay in and roll around. Saki would lie there and the puppies would gather around her and play, bumping against Saki as if she was their mother. It was a delight to see.
Then, I had a good job offer in Marin County and we moved to Sausalito. By this time the puppies had grown and had found their own homes, the chickens we gave to a friend. We took Saki with us to a ranch that boarded horses. I would go out on the weekends to ride her. She ran free on a range that went up the side of the mountain. There were other horses on the range, so she always had company. During that time we were also blessed with our new daughter, Samantha.
Saki was about four or five when we first met her. She was about fourteen or fifteen when we moved to New York to pursue a singing career for my wife, Paula. I left Saki with a friend in Sonoma. He wrote, telling me that Saki would not let adults ride her, but children were welcome, she was gentle with them and they loved her. Saki made her own rules. Three years later we moved back to San Francisco.
When I visited Saki, it was a hard visit. I now had a family and we were low on finances after our time in New York; I didn’t have acreage or a place to board her so I couldn’t take her with me. I didn’t want to renew our friendship and then desert her; I looked on from a distance. She was as beautiful as the first time I laid eyes on her. It was very painful for me to let go. It was the last time I saw her, but my love for her is eternal.