A Tribute to Shane
Freedom Family Band Stallion
6/12/14 Loving has its risks. In the case of my animal companions, I can hardly imagine life without them and I know most of you feel the same way. But when we lose them, the sadness can be overwhelming. Such is the case with the sudden and inexplicable death of our most dominant, dearly loved Freedom Family stallion, Shane. At the age of only 15, he isolated himself in the far corner of his beautiful Montana pasture, lay down, and died.
Billy Maloney, the owner of the ranch where our horses live
north of Wilsall, Montana, watches over them. On Friday, June 6th, he noticed that Shane had been lying down for quite some time while his six mares grazed around him. When Billy walked out to check on Shane, the stallion got up and walked very slowly away. He noticed that he had a loose stool but looked fine otherwise.
In short order, a local veterinarian came to the ranch, and she and Billy were able to give Shane banamine to ease any pain he might be experiencing as well
an anti-diarrhea paste. The vet was scheduled to return in a few hours. If Shane was still lethargic, she planned to sedate him and give him fluids.
Several hours later Billy walked the pasture, looking for Shane. He had trouble finding him for the stallion had chosen the farthest corner of the big pasture as his final resting place. (Conquistador, left, challenges Shane, 2010)
Billy looked around the place where Shane lay. The ground was totally undisturbed around his body, suggesting there had been no struggle. For the second time in just over two years, we suffered the sudden loss of a band stallion—Conquistador in 2012, and now Shane.
I first met Shane as a newborn on the Pryor Mountains. In May of 1999, while filming the first Cloud film, we found a dun colt, less than a week old, trapped in a barbed wire exclosure in the limber pine forest below the Teacup Bowl on Tillett Ridge. He had no doubt fallen asleep and rolled under the fence. By the time we saw him, he was bouncing off the barbed wire, frantically trying to return to his mother, Tonopah.
The colt’s father, Looking Glass, and the rest of the family were a short distance away, but Tonopah stayed close, standing right next to the dangerous barbed wired, trying to give comfort to her newborn. A friend hopped out of his truck with wire cutters and made a hole big enough for the colt to slip through. The little dun dashed out of his prison and began nursing.
We have no idea how long he might have been trapped. Few people came to the mountain in those days and we’d seen no one on our way up. We all agreed that Shane would have died, had not this good Samaritan acted decisively on that beautiful spring morning.
The colt the BLM named Shane grew strong. Eventually he was successful in winning mares and building a lovely band in the Custer National Forest Service lands. He shared these lush sub-alpine meadows year round with the stallions, Conquistador, Bo and Trigger and their families.
But their lives would be forever altered when, at the request of the Forest Service, the BLM removed Shane and all the horses in the Custer National Forest Service during the massive 2009 roundup.
When these horses were offered for sale and adoption TCF, at the urging and with the help of Laura and Carl Pivonka of Billings, Montana, purchased the band stallions, Conquistador, Bo, Trigger, and Shane and most of their older mares in order to keep them together in their family groups.
The spring after the roundup, Shane stole Bo’s mares and when he kept chasing the less aggressive stallion through our fences, we made the decision to remove Bo before he became badly injured. He was gelded and then expertly gentled by Spencer Dominick. Bo lives with our friend, Effie Orser, and her family near Emigrant, Montana.
When Conquistador died suddenly in 2012, perhaps due to a lightening strike, Shane acquired his mare, Cavalitta, and filly, Josie, leaving only Trigger’s small band and Shane’s large one. That is the way it stood until Shane’s death a few days ago. (Shane greets Cavalitta)
Billy reports that Shane’s mares have somewhat reluctantly joined Trigger’s group, but all the horses are still “sorting themselves out.” Time will tell if Shane’s mares will allow Trigger to act as a replacement for their remarkable stallion.
Shane’s best human friends were Laura and Carl, who visited the Freedom Families often, bringing a helping of oats and treats for one and all. Shane was particularly fond of Laura, the first person he allowed to touch him. Although Shane never had a rope on him and was wild, he accepted Laura and seemed to relish her light touch and soft voice.
Laura had no hidden agenda—no intention to make Shane do anything. There were no expectations and he knew he could trust her. Although he would take a horse treat from her hand, he never demanded. It was lovely to watch their interaction
Simply put, Shane was unique. He was a powerful presence. If he even thought that Trigger was challenging him, he reacted fiercely and decisively. As Billy says, “He was the boss.”
Yet, he was remarkably gentle around us humans. There is no other way to interpret his behavior other than to say he was friendly. I think he really liked us, and I know we all loved him. We will always remember the little dun stallion with the big heart.
Thanks to all of you for your support of our efforts to keep our Freedom Family mustangs together. Your donations allow us to care for them, and to give them what they value most—their freedom and their family.
P.S. Enjoy more images of Shane beginning when he was a colt in 1999. He is the full brother of Baja, a long-standing band stallion on the Pryor Mountains. His full sister, Brumby, was the first mare that the coyote dun stallion, Jackson, ever won. He has many relatives on the wild horse range and we are proud to have his daughter, Lily.