Sid's story Lake People






Professor of Equine Behavior







Sid Gustafson lives in Big Sky, Montana where he writes, teaches, and practices his natural approach to veterinary medicine at The Veterinary Clinic of Big Sky.
Sid was born in Montana, as were his children Connor and Nina and parents Rib and Patsy. Sid raised Connor and Nina in Bozeman, where he has practiced veterinary medicine since 1983. He grew up in the shadow of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and frequently travels to New York, California, and the University of Guelph where he teaches equine behavior for Equine Guelph. Dr Gustafson represents the health and welfare of racehorses on many levels. He is a thoroughbred regulatory veterinarian, an equine behaviour educator, as well as a practicing veterinarian. Dr Gustafson promotes training and husbandry practices that enhance performance by fulfilling the evolved needs of horses; friends, forage, and locomotion. Holistic approaches to development, husbandry, and training re-create the natural needs and preferences of horses, creating willing partnerships between horse folk and horses.
Literary influences include Halldor Laxness, James Willard Schultz, Dan Cushman, Iris Murdoch, Harper Lee, Malcolm Lowry, Alan Sillitoe, and Ken Kesey, as well as the beat writers and Montana novelists. The author is indebted to the writers James Welch, Greg Keeler, Doug Peacock, Andrea Peacock, Neil McMahon, William Hjortsberg, Alan Weltzien, Jim Harrison, Loren MIles, Brad Okerlund, Erik Gustafson, Tess Jacobs, Peter Bowen, David McCumber, Deidre McNamer, Dan Lahren, Bethany Blankenship, and many others for their guidance and support.
His next book to be published in 2013 is entitled The Language of Horsemanship, a non-fiction exploration of man's contemporary relationship with the horse. MONTANA STORIES awaits publication.

Sid is named after his uncles who lost their lives in WWII. Dr Gustafson's grandmother, Florence Johnson Galt, graduated from the Normal School in Dillon, MT, currently the University of Montana Western. Florence was the mother of Captain William Wylie Galt who lost his life in WWII. Captain Galt was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty defending the principles of freedom and welfare. Additionally, Dr Gustafson's paternal namesake uncle, Sid Gustafson, lost his life in Africa under similar heroic WWII circumstances. The two were close friends. The US Army awarded Sid the Silver Star posthumously, the highest commendation the Army awards. The French awarded Sid the Medal of War. Uncle Sid was a superb and sensitive horseman, and his concern for the well-being of horses is remembered and emulated.
Pursuing his lifelong horsemanship interests, Dr Gustafson graduated from Washington State University in 1979 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree to specialize in equine sports medicine. His subsequent interest in the behavioral and physical health challenges that stabling and confinement created for horses led him to the study of equine behavior. As Equine Studies Program Coordinator for the Natural Horsemanship Program at the University of Montana Western from 2006-2008, Professor Gustafson developed a science-based equine studies curriculum that explored equine behavior and husbandry as it applied to the teaching, development, and training of horses.

Dr Gustafson developed an early interest in equine and canine behavior through his exposure to Native American horsemanship and his family’s ranching and horse breeding pursuits. Dr Sid remains witness to feral horses in natural settings on a regular basis. He has raised and trained horses all his life, and continues to do so understanding clearly there is much more to know and appreciate about horses.
In addition to equine behavioral consulting and teaching Equine Behavior at EquineGuelph, Dr Gustafson currently is a seasonal regulatory veterinarian for the California Horse Racing Commission, where he represents the health and welfare of the racehorses.
Dr Gustafson is a journalist and veterinary behaviorist. An advocate for the health and welfare of racehorses, he has written regular for The New York Times The Rail since the 2008 Belmont.




Living the literary life: Sid Gustafson, a veterinarian by day, published two books this summer along with a pair of short stories
By SCOTT McMILLION, Chronicle Staff Writer, June, 2003
It might be some kind of literary record, at least as far as local authors are concerned.

Sid Gustafson, a Bozeman veterinarian, has had two books published this summer, along with two short stories in new collections of literary work. The plot synopsis of Gustafson's first novel "Prisoners of Flight," (The Permanent Press) sounds a little suspect: two 50-ish former Vietnam POWs crash their small plane high in the Montana Rockies, only to find a well-stocked cabin and a pair of college-age twin sisters. But the story never takes the obvious plot twist. Rather, the tale remains chaste and goes interior, deep inside the mind of protagonist Sling Roop, an alcoholic veterinarian with only one good ear. Sling and his buddy, a Cree/​Blackfoot named Henson with only one eye, have a long history together and their days at the Air Force Academy, their time in prison camp is only part of it.

It soon becomes clear that they stay so long in the backcountry only because they want to. They have marooned themselves by choice, looking both for a place to hide and a place to seek. Although the story line has some minor weak spots, the book's imagery and sparse, elegant language pulls you through. Linguistic gems pepper almost every page. A jet's contrail, Gustafson tells us, is "a scar of flight." And when a cloud slips under the moon, it leaves the world "sipping blackness." Sling focuses on his senses, relying on his nose, tastebuds and fingertips to diagnose his patients and divine his surroundings. Yet he knows the dangers of living too closely in the sensory world. "I know how the senses can deceive," Gustafson writes. "They aren't math and physics, sensations can fool a mortal." His second book is less literary, but likely to be a good seller. Entitled "First Aid for the Active Dog," (Alpine Publications) it relies on the skills he applies in his day job and tells people how to take care of their canines when mishaps happen and there's no vet around. "I like that book," Gustafson said. "It balances out the edge the fiction has, that some people wrinkle their noses at." The slim book avoids technical jargon and is packed with practical information on everything from plucking porcupine quills to administering canine CPR to diagnosing altitude sickness. The two short stories (Gustafson has published a number of others in literary magazines) appear in two Birch Brook Press collections entitled "The Suspense of Loneliness, Stories of the Forlorn," and "Tales for The Trail, Adventures in Air, Land and Sea."In the latter book, Gustafson's story "Sequel," is the lead story and the one on which the book's cover design is based. A novel, a nonfiction how-to book and short stories in two collections, all in one summer. It's not a bad trick for a 48-year-old full-time veterinarian. Gustafson, a Conrad native, comes from a creative and literary family. His father Rib, also a vet, has written books about his own life in the Hi-Line country and about Lewis and Clark. His sister Kristin, a lawyer, published a book about maritime law. His brother Eric, a teacher and musician, wrote a lengthy history of ancestors who were World War II heroes. And another brother, Wylie, is a country music recording artist and songwriter whose famous yodel is used in Yahoo! commercials. Gustafson works on animals at his Church Street clinic and lives in an upstairs apartment, where he writes every day, usually around mid-day when the press of sick animals and distressed owners hits a lull. "All the urgent veterinary stuff gets handled early in the morning," he said. The novel took five years to write, he said, and the dog first-aid book took a little longer. There's more on the way. Another novel, entitled "Horsemen," is now making the rounds of publishers and Gustafson will supplement the dog book with one that addresses first aid for horses. Few people in this area know of his literary work, although he has fans around the country, in places like Louisiana and New York's Hamptons, where literary magazines have been publishing his work for several years. "I've got enclaves of fans in places I've never been," he said. Gustafson will appear July 29, 2003 at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, at 7 p.m., to read from his new work.


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Equine Health and Behavior


Pursuing his lifelong horsemanship interests, Dr Gustafson graduated from Washington State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree to specialize in equine sportsmedicine. His subsequent concern for the mental and physical health challenges that stabling and confinement created for horses led him to the study of equine behavior. As Equine Studies Program Coordinator for the Natural Horsemanship Program at the University of Montana Western from 2006-2008, Professor Gustafson developed a science-based equine studies curriculum that explored equine behavior and husbandry as well as appropriate contemporary horsemanship. He is currently completing a book on equine behavior and contemporary horse culture to be by published by Eclipse Press entitled The Language of Natural Horsemanship this fall in Lexington, Kentucky. Sid had the good fortune to be raised with horses in Montana just under the Medicine Line of Alberta, Canada, a country he wandered into horseback often riding with the Blackfeet Indians. He developed an early interest in equine behavior through his exposure to his family’s ranching and horse breeding pursuits, where he was witness to feral horses in natural settings on a regular basis. Sid has raised and trained horses all his life, and continues to do so understanding clearly there is much more to know and appreciate about horses. In addition to consulting regarding horsemanship and husbandry and teaching Equine Behavior at the University of Guelph, Dr Gustafson currently is a seasonal regulatory veterinarian at Finger Lakes Racetrack across Lake Ontario from Guelph in Ontario County, New York, where he represents the horses.




He advocates natural approaches to equine health and consults regarding resolution of animal behavior issues. Much of his animal philosophy is embedded in his novels and short fiction. He is former Professor of Equine Studies at the University of Montana-Western in Dillon, MT where he developed the Natural Horsemanship Program. Based on an appreciation of equine behavior Dr Gustafson advocates natural approaches to equine health, training, and conditioning. He assists trainers and breeders in the natural development of their horses for optimum durability and performance.

Montana Western Professor Featured at Dances With Words
Monday, March 19 2007 Press Release
The University of Montana Western English department is sponsoring a series of readings of area writers and poets during the 2007 Spring Semester titled “Dances With Words.”

The third reading features Sid Gustafson, Bozeman author and University of Montana Western professor of Equine Studies, Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. in The Cup, located on the lower level of the Swysgood Technology Center.

Gustafson will be reading from his novel “Horses They Rode.” “Horses They Rode” is a dramatic story of love, family, and changing cultures.

“Gustafson has the rare ability to take you from your seat and place you directly in his novel,” said Justin Easter of the Montana Quarterly. “He accomplishes this in “Horses They Rode” not with the all-too-common literary tactics we are used to, but through the use of fascinating imagery. While giving the reader familiar points in Montana to use as reference, Gustafson brings his readers into a different countryside than the one we see from our windows. If you are interested in opening a book that will captivate your imagination while encouraging introspection, you need not look further than “Horses They Rode.” You may put this novel down wondering about the spirit of the mountains, the relationships you have with people around you, or even the relationship you have with yourself. This is, of course, not surprising when you realize Gustafson is using his own experiences to masterfully shape his characters. Expect to read one of the finer stories related to quickly dissipating Montana culture, and one of the most impressive novels written by a Montana author this year. Hold on to your emotions, because there will most likely be an instant when Gustafson is able to open your mind in a way that is truly fascinating.”
Gustafson is a practicing veterinarian and also the author of the popular guidebook, “First Aid for the Active Dog”. He is an authority on horses and was quoted in a New York Time’s story on Barbaro, the injured racehorse.
Dr Gustafson is director of the Natural Horsemanship Program, as well as Equine Studies Program Coordinator at Western.

Bio&Biblio


Brief biography of Sid Gustafson's namesake uncle, Sid Gustafson.

"They brought his body down off of the hill on the back of a mule. He loved to go on pack trips as a young man, and it was a fitting way to bring his body off of the battle field. According to his friend Ed Bailey, who was in Africa with him, Sid took out the first machine gun nest that he encountered, but the Germans had another nearby machine gun nest that was located nearby to cover the nest he attacked. He was hit by fire from that location. His commanding officer told me that when they finally took that hill, it was a very strategic location. Sid's efforts helped them overtake that hill."
Brief biography of the last day of life of my namesake Uncle Sid, killed in WWII, written by Erik Raymond Gustafson.
Lt. Luther Sidney Gustafson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General George Patton for his extraordinary heroism in the Battle of Tunisia and the Purple Heart. General Giraud of the Corps Franc d’Afrique, whose troops also served with Lt. Gustafson, awarded Lt. Gustafson the second highest honor of the French Army, the “Croix des Militaires Volantaires”. Less than two (2) weeks later, on May 9, 1943, the Allied Forces took Tunisia, the final North African objective of Operation Torch.
Sid is buried in Tunisia along with 500 other men from the 2nd Army Corps. My brother Erik and I hope to visit his grave before we end up in ours.

"They brought his body down off of the hill on the back of a mule. He loved to go on pack trips as a young man, and it was a fitting way to bring his body off of the battle field."



Sid Gustafson

Published novels:

PRISONERS OF FLIGHT debut novel, The Permanent Press, Sag Harbor, NY— literary fiction 2003 ISBN 1-57962-088-4

HORSES THEY RODE Second novel, Riverbend Publishing
publication Fall ’06, literary fiction ISBNs 13: 978-1-931832-74-8, ISBN 10: 1-931832-74-9, finalist for HIGH PLAINS BOOK OF THE YEAR, 2007

NON-FICTION:

FIRST AID FOR THE ACTIVE DOG a guidebook, Alpine Publications, Loveland, CO 2003 ISBN 1-57779-055-3



FICTION ANTHOLOGIES: Letterpress editions

BRINE RIGHTS; STANZAS AND CLAUSES FOR THE CAUSES, 2014, BRINE PUBLISHING ISBN 0992033160
THE SUSPENSE OF LONELINESS, TEARDROPS, short fiction
STORIES OF THE FORLORN, Letterpress Edition, Birchbrook Press, Delhi, NY ISBN 0-913559-83-0
TALES FOR THE TRAIL SEQUEL, short fiction, ADVENTURES IN AIR, LAND, AND WATER, Letterpress Edition, , Birchbrook Press, Delhi, NY ISBN 0-913559-85-7
FRESH FICTION FOR FRESH WATER FISHING, short fiction, DOLLY DICK, Letterpress edition, Birchbrook, ISBN 0-913559-84-9

Poetry Anthologies:

POEMS ACROSS THE BIG SKY
ISBN: 0979518504
"The Big Open" (Ingomar Montana)
Many Voices Press

SPRINGSPRUNG, Ariel XVII, Poetry Anthology of Triton College, Chicago, IL National winner, Salute to the Arts Poetry Competition, 1999, "SpringSprung"

EDUCATION:
Washington State University Pullman, WA
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, ‘79
BS Veterinary Science, cum laude '76

PUBLISHED SHORT STORIES AND POETRY in literary and regional magazines, a partial listing:
LAKE PEOPLE, Montana Quarterly Magazine, The Water Issue, Spring 2014
HONING IN, Outside Bozeman, Magazine, Fall 2013
Time Leaps, poetry, Outside Bozeman magazine, fall 2010
Searching for Montana Horseracing, Big Sky Journal, SUMMER 2009
THE COLOR OF ELK, Big Sky Journal, Fall 2007
TIME, short fiction, Big Sky Journal, Bozeman, MT Winter 2005
THE BIG DRY, short fiction, Big Sky Journal, Bozeman, MT Winter 2004
1973, short fiction, Thema Magazine, Thema Literary Society, Metarie, LA fall 2003
UNVANQUISHED, short fiction, Thema Magazine, Thema Literary Society, Metarie, LA summer 2003, ISSN 1041-4851 Nominated for the 2004 Pushcart Prize
PRISONERS OF FLIGHT, short fiction, Thema Magazine, Thema Literary Society, Metairie, LA, Autumn 1999. Nominated for the 2000 Pushcart Prize.
AGE, fiction, Inkwell Magazine, Manhattenville College, Purchase, NY May 2000
HI-LINE, fiction, spring 2003, Thema Magazine
WHISTLE, fiction, Zone 3 Literary Magazine, spring 2003
THE COLOR OF ELK, fiction, BIG SKY JOURNAL featured fiction, Autumn 2007, October publication
PLUME, prose poetry, The School of Southern Literature, DeadMule.com
BRAKEMAN, fiction, Montana Crossroads Magazine, Livingston, MT 1997








We oppose the trapping and anesthesia of grizzly bears and wolves by misguided biologists in and around Yellowstone Park. Let the bears and wolves be wild, please. It is extremely traumatic for bears and wolves to be trapped and anesthetized. The untoward and unnecessary experience subsequently alters their normal behaviors. Urge your conservation and wildlife organizations to support the health and welfare of wildlife by banning their harassment with drugs.

*GUSTAFSON, LUTHER SIDNEY (KIA)
Citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Luther Sidney Gustafson (0-446806), Second Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 28 April 1943, in the Battle of Tunisia. During the advance of Lieutenant Gustafson's battalion on Hill 382, he led a combat patrol to secure this position. When the patrol came under intense enemy machine gun fire, Lieutenant Gustafson deployed them to form an effective firing line while he made a personal reconnaissance of the emplacement. Locating the guns, he single-handedly attacked it with grenades and pistol and silenced it. During this heroic action, Lieutenant Gustafson lost his life, but his fearless leadership and spirit of self-sacrifice so inspired his men that they held their position until reinforcements were brought up. Second Lieutenant Gustafson's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 9th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, Seventh U.S. Army, General Orders No. 31 (1943)
Born: at Rapelje, Montana
Home Town: Gallatin County, Montana

Montana Quarterly Magazine
Book Review, Spring ‘07

Horses They Rode
By Sid Gustafson
Riverbend Publishing, 288 pages, $24.95
Reviewed by Justin Easter

Bozeman author and veterinarian Sid Gustafson has the rare ability to take you from your seat and place you directly in his novel.
He accomplishes this in Horses They Rode not with the all-too-common literary tactics we are used to, but through the use of fascinating imagery. While giving the reader familiar points in Montana to use as reference, Gustafson Brings his readers into a different countryside than the one we see from our windows.
Gustafson brings his reader into a world where Indians and cowboys live together, and before the novel even progresses, the affect of this relationship, however strained, is evident to the reader. The nomadic qualities of Gustafson’s characters echo throughout the novel and resonate in any reader who has felt an itch for exploration.
If you are interested in opening a book that will captivate your imagination while encouraging introspection, you need not look further than Horses They Rode. You may put this novel down wondering about the spirit of the mountains, the relationships you have with people around you, or even the relationship you have with yourself. This is, of course, not surprising when you realize Gustafson is using his own experiences to masterfully shape his characters.
Expect to read one of the finer stories related to quickly dissipating Montana culture, and one of the most impressive novels written by a Montana author this year. Hold on to your emotions, because there will most likely be an instant when Gustafson is able to open your mind in a way that is truly fascinating.
Justin Easter

'Horses They Rode' full of linguistic gems
BOOK REVIEW
By SCOTT McMILLION Chronicle Staff Writer

Meet Wendel Ingraham. Meet him slouched over in a Spokane train station, ready to flee the life he has botched and the wife who no longer appreciates "his thoroughbred ways."There among the bums and winos, Wendel doesn't look like much, and he knows it. He's a man who admits he is no better or worse than his malodorous companions.
But he's still got some hope. Wendel is going home to Montana, back to being a white man on the Blackfeet Reservation where he grew up. He knows it's his last chance."Wendel reckoned if he couldn't find happiness in Montana, he wouldn't find it anywhere," Sid Gustafson writes in the opening pages of his new novel, "Horses They Rode.
"Gustafson is a Bozeman writer and veterinarian. "Horses" is his second novel and the first piece of fiction published by Helena's Riverbend Publishing, making the book very much a Montana project.
Descended from a long line of accomplished Montanans, Gustafson uses his intimate knowledge of the state, its people and its horseflesh to create a compelling story of a man who has spent too much of his life battling his own well being, both financial and emotional.
But he's trying. By God, he's trying. And you've got to root for him, from the time he stumbles off a freight train in Browning until the climactic horse race at the end of the novel.
Along the way, Gustafson delights the reader with characteristic linguistic gems. He describes a prairie wind as "bending into trills and caterwauls." Columbia Falls is a town "befuddled by the stink of its aluminum mill."
And here's his description of modern agriculture, seen from the flank of a northern mountain, where Wendel has just been spooked by a grizzly bear: "Farming stared back at them from the plains, precisely rectangled, Mother Earth turned inside-out, scarred deeply and forever," Gustafson writes. "All the distance broken by farming, tillage taking the entire history away from the land, depriving it of any future."
"Horses They Rode" is the story of a flawed man trying to do better, trying to rebuild a life through family and love, through good horses and good friends in familiar country.
Wendel falters some, and learns to never quit trying. And he listens to his friend, a Blackfeet shaman named Bubbles Ground Owl. "Remember reliable things," Bubbles tells him. "Forget the unreliable."
That's good advice in any place.



Living the literary life: Sid Gustafson, a veterinarian by day, published two books this summer along with a pair of short stories
By SCOTT McMILLION, Chronicle Staff Writer, June, 2003
It might be some kind of literary record, at least as far as local authors are concerned.

Sid Gustafson, a Bozeman veterinarian, has had two books published this summer, along with two short stories in new collections of literary work. The plot synopsis of Gustafson's first novel "Prisoners of Flight," (The Permanent Press) sounds a little suspect: two 50-ish former Vietnam POWs crash their small plane high in the Montana Rockies, only to find a well-stocked cabin and a pair of college-age twin sisters. But the story never takes the obvious plot twist. Rather, the tale remains chaste and goes interior, deep inside the mind of protagonist Sling Roop, an alcoholic veterinarian with only one good ear. Sling and his buddy, a Cree/​Blackfoot named Henson with only one eye, have a long history together and their days at the Air Force Academy, their time in prison camp is only part of it.

It soon becomes clear that they stay so long in the backcountry only because they want to. They have marooned themselves by choice, looking both for a place to hide and a place to seek. Although the story line has some minor weak spots, the book's imagery and sparse, elegant language pulls you through. Linguistic gems pepper almost every page. A jet's contrail, Gustafson tells us, is "a scar of flight." And when a cloud slips under the moon, it leaves the world "sipping blackness." Sling focuses on his senses, relying on his nose, tastebuds and fingertips to diagnose his patients and divine his surroundings. Yet he knows the dangers of living too closely in the sensory world. "I know how the senses can deceive," Gustafson writes. "They aren't math and physics, sensations can fool a mortal." His second book is less literary, but likely to be a good seller. Entitled "First Aid for the Active Dog," (Alpine Publications) it relies on the skills he applies in his day job and tells people how to take care of their canines when mishaps happen and there's no vet around. "I like that book," Gustafson said. "It balances out the edge the fiction has, that some people wrinkle their noses at." The slim book avoids technical jargon and is packed with practical information on everything from plucking porcupine quills to administering canine CPR to diagnosing altitude sickness. The two short stories (Gustafson has published a number of others in literary magazines) appear in two Birch Brook Press collections entitled "The Suspense of Loneliness, Stories of the Forlorn," and "Tales for The Trail, Adventures in Air, Land and Sea."In the latter book, Gustafson's story "Sequel," is the lead story and the one on which the book's cover design is based. A novel, a nonfiction how-to book and short stories in two collections, all in one summer. It's not a bad trick for a 48-year-old full-time veterinarian. Gustafson, a Conrad native, comes from a creative and literary family. His father Rib, also a vet, has written books about his own life in the Hi-Line country and about Lewis and Clark. His sister Kristin, a lawyer, published a book about maritime law. His brother Eric, a teacher and musician, wrote a lengthy history of ancestors who were World War II heroes. And another brother, Wylie, is a country music recording artist and songwriter whose famous yodel is used in Yahoo! commercials. Gustafson works on animals at his Church Street clinic and lives in an upstairs apartment, where he writes every day, usually around mid-day when the press of sick animals and distressed owners hits a lull. "All the urgent veterinary stuff gets handled early in the morning," he said. The novel took five years to write, he said, and the dog first-aid book took a little longer. There's more on the way. Another novel, entitled "Horsemen," is now making the rounds of publishers and Gustafson will supplement the dog book with one that addresses first aid for horses. Few people in this area know of his literary work, although he has fans around the country, in places like Louisiana and New York's Hamptons, where literary magazines have been publishing his work for several years. "I've got enclaves of fans in places I've never been," he said. Gustafson will appear July 29, 2003 at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, at 7 p.m., to read from his new work.


HORSES THEY RODE
Washington State Magazine summer 07
By Sid Gustafson '79 Riverbend Publishing, Helena, Montana, 2006
Midway through Sid Gustafson’s new novel, Horses They Rode, I found myself put in mind of all the second chances I have had. His take on the reknitting of family, friendship, and one man’s tumultuous life is such a story—a tale of second chances where hope effervesces across a storyscape of high country, horse corrals, drunkenness, and regret that seems, at moments, irresolvable. It’s a wholly American novel, for of course, America is a land forgiving of first mistakes—where a shot at trying again is fair and right.
Wendel Ingraham, Gustafson’s protagonist, is a ranch hand who has roamed Washington State’s Inland Empire, Idaho’s panhandle, and Big Sky Country on a multi-year binge, leaving a daughter and a broken marriage in his wake. A series of experiences, including encounters with a high-school sweetheart and with mentor, companion, and part-time Blackfoot medicine man Bubbles Ground Owl, leads to his sobriety and amends.
Wendel and Bubbles take jobs as hands on a ranch where they worked as youths. And this is where the novel cries its message in earnest. The protagonist is never so competent as when he’s reunited with his beloved horse. The symbiosis that is rediscovered between them, a language of faithfulness and trust, portends atonements awaiting Wendel. A gathering of horsemen and their mounts prompts language from Gustafson that is a gorgeous but gritty admixture of potential:
“Whoever they were, whatever breed of horsemen, they brought horses and they brought hope, hope that horses could revive a manifest heart.”
At the ranch there are additional reconciliations required of Ingraham. In their execution, he emerges whole, “. . . grateful for all the people who’d gathered to live the life they knew best, everything and everyone connected, men and animals, fishes and birds, grass, trees and stars.”
As in his first novel, Prisoners of Flight, Gustafson often joyfully eschews writing conventions. By turns, his forms are starkly tangible or cloaked in mythology. His prose is exuberant and accessible. Rhythmic, he often reads like a long poem: “Parents want their children with them, children of the land, something about having your children with you on the land, native children on native land.”
Horses They Rode is a one-sitting book. And it’s the kind of book about something important in a world full of books about unimportant things. People should like it.
—Brian Ames ’85

Equitarian Philosophy, making the world a better place for horses and horsefolk...

Dr Gustafson's Equine Behavior Educational Services
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