Big Sky Equine Marketing Services

Kris Kohl

Water Aquatics on the Yellowstone

Submitted by Kristy Kohl on Tue, 06/16/2009 - 04:07.

The corrals and barn border the Yellowstone, and since we are on a cut bank, literally gets closer and closer each spring. The view from our house is beautiful and frightening during the springtime as the water rises and shows no mercy. We have a small pasture with a fence along the frontside and angles into a large triangle with river on one side, and towering cliffs on the other-great natural boundaries unless that is your name is Lily. Now Lily is not just a horse, she is a beautiful red roan Brabant draft horse, the last of the grandparents lifetime of breeding and raising drafts which they drove and farmed with. My daughter was just one day old when she was gifted "Lily". Quite a fitting gift for a little girl who loves horses (and any other animal just like her parents). Ironically my daughter has the largest and smallest horses of the herd (she also has a pony about 3 feet tall with his head raised and about 4 feet wide). Needless to say, Lily is quite special to us and at 3 is just getting ready to find a partner to start off her career and possibly also carry my daughter around someday.
Lily was turned in this pasture with a few other mares and a stud. One day Lily did not meet us at the gate as she always does to greet us. I thought it was odd, but thought perhaps she was off exploring. The next day, still no Lily which now raised a red flag- she always comes to greet us. Having an 18 month old daredevil, I was not going to search for her myself, so I waited for Justin to come in for lunch. He looked all around in the pasture and couldn't find her. The only thought in my mind was she was standing on the bank when the Yellowstone devoured her into her swirling, raging arms. Horses can swim good I kept telling myself, if she fell in she would be smart enough to swim across to an island. We called all the neighbors on the other side of the river as she was not branded to no avail. I took my daughter out on the 4wheeler the next morning and searched every cliff, coulee and drainage as far as we could go hoping to see her happily munching on lunch across the river or below us. As hard as I tried to see her my eyes would not produce her image. The water was too dangerous to ask anyone to take a boat out to look for her and impossible to get to the islands without one. We would have to wait till the water descended to even attempt a search. I just repeated over and over that she swam across and was having a hayday on her own island. I clung onto the vague gleam of hope everyday until Justin returned gloomily letting me know he had found Lily- I was so afraid to ask if she was still alive. After I got the courage to ask I found out she was, but the situation was gloomy. A man (I think he was an angel!) had been going up the Yellowstone via boat and saw Lily just a few thousand feet past the corrals. He had called 911 who in return notified us of her exact location- 3,186 feet from the house to Lily. I was so relieved she was still alive but we werent out of the woods yet. The man said she was on a cliff and was cut up pretty bad.
I was ordered to stay at the house(I would be a nervous wreck watching the attempted rescue unfold). Justin and his dad left out to find Lily- who was right below where I searched, but hidden by 1000 foot drop off and stuck on a small ledge. How she got there we still do not know-its like God swooped her up and gently placed her on this ledge. How they would get her back to the pasture was another question. They would have to shovel a trench along the steep sloping base of the riverbank to safety. After about 3 hours of digging they put a halter and forty foot lead and tried to stay ahead and lead her to safety. Lily stepped over the leadrope and panicked. She flipped over and fell about 20 feet into the river(I would be a screaming basketcase at this point). Justin ran ahead and swam her down river to a gravel bed beach. She was scared and weak, but had made it to safety. She was also very hungry. She was left there to regain enough strength to make it back to the other horses. The next morning my daughter and I eagerly rode down to the barn to see our Lily. Her "cuts" were a small cut on her lower jaw and a few superficial scrapes on her legs. I hope I can find the man who saved her life and thank him, this day and age most people would have kept on and never given it a second thought!

I see it seemingly fit to rename Lily to Lucky Lily, or Lily the Lucky!