Horse Friends – When Friendships are Born of Horses


Friendships among horse aficionados can be very different from those centered on other endeavors. Horses intensify just about everything – the risks, the emotional involvement, the time and money, the hard work, the patience, the rewards and joys. My friendship with Sally Suk exemplifies this kind of relationship that grows from sharing a passion for horses.

Horse friends come to know and trust each other on a profound level. We see each other wrestle with our deepest fears; we depend on each other when disaster strikes and our very lives hang in the balance; we witness each other cry in joy, fear, sadness, and frustration; our spirits soar together when all is right with the world and we move together with our horses—and we love sharing it all with someone who truly understands.

Sally came into my life through horses. I had offered a horseback ride as a premium for our local public radio station, KUFM, and Sally, looking for a way to follow her childhood dream of connecting with a horse, excitedly called the station the minute they read the premium. We went riding together that fall.


Sally in a quiet moment with Sona. Photo by Karin Flint.

This is the part in my story when I typically say, “Sally came out to ride and never went home.”

If Sally is within hearing range, she will quickly add, “Well, you never asked me to leave.”

And, indeed, she is right. I never did. And I never will. I tell people that Sally can take the credit (on a good day!) or the blame (on a bad day!) for my starting a guest ranch. It was simply too enriching to my life to share my horses with people like Sally.

Over the years, since that first KUFM ride, Sally and I have been through it all together – and I do mean all of it.

On her very first trip acting as my drag rider for a group of clients, we encountered a small herd of feral llamas with two stallions. It was a very dangerous situation. Our horses held it together until the llamas broke right into their line and began spitting and kicking. The chaos resulted in one woman breaking a finger and all of us walking our horses out for several miles.

Later, I found out that Sally went home and cried – worried about the fear that gripped her during the event. Yet, all I saw was a brave, confident woman coping extremely well—who was a big help to the clients and me.

As Sally’s horsemanship skills and interests deepened, it was clear that she should have a horse of her own. In mid-April, my lovely Lady Lonza gave birth to a beautiful bay filly. I named her Stormy, in honor of the spring snowstorm that swept through on the night of her birth.

Within a year, Sally bought Stormy, and re-named her Sona – a Persian name for girls meaning prayer. Sally quickly established a strong bond with Sona. She worked with her daily through the summer of Sona’s second year.

Then, that November, while Sally was away in Mexico, it ended in tragedy. Sona was found dead in our pasture very early one morning, apparently from a bow hunting accident. I had the terrible job of telling Sally that Sona was gone. We cried together and tried to come to terms with our mutual loss and sense of violation. We worked together with the authorities trying to find some answers and to get closure.

When Sally recognized that she must move on and bring another horse into her life, she chose a striking, young palomino filly about the same age as Sona. When the new horse arrived, Sally struggled with a mixture of emotions. She felt excitement and grief. She missed Sona and wanted to honor and remember her, yet she also wanted to give this new horse her full attention and affection.


Sally and Echo, ready for an adventure.

We talked about names. Out of nowhere, Sona’s Golden Echo jumped into my mind and Sally quickly adopted it. Sally and Echo have since become an amazing pair. Putting in many, many hours of patient training, Sally has nurtured Echo into a confident, willing young horse who happily accepts Sally in the saddle and easily moves through any obstacle presented to her. Sally can be very proud of her achievement with Echo.

Our horse adventures have also included the other end of the spectrum, the rewards and joys that are beyond compare.

We have shared the incredible highs that come from experiencing Montana’s extraordinary landscapes with our horses: Sunrise rides on the Rocky Mountain Front, long days on narrow trails into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, glimpses of a bear moving through a thick forest and running through a carpet of golden needles shed by the larch trees in autumn. Our hearts have sung together as we have watched the night stars from a forest lookout and crossed swollen rivers that rush against the horses’ bellies.

Sally has become an integral part of my life at Dunrovin Ranch. I trust her like no other. I value her presence in all aspects of the ranch and my life. I greatly appreciate all that she has graciously given to Dunrovin. I cherish all the time we have spent together, the sights we have seen, the fears we have conquered, and all the life lessons we have learned from each other and from our horses.


Get another dose of the horsing life from SuzAnne’s other posts: Driving Miss Dixie, A Professionally Nice Horsewoman, or A Sterling Horse Husband. Please leave comments below, or check out Suzanne’s other posts at the Horse Around, Missoula blog home page.

   Visit the Horse Around, Missoula archives.


SuzAnne Miller is the owner of Dunrovin Ranch, a small horseback riding guest ranch nestled amongst the Bitterroot River and the Sapphire Mountains, south of Missoula. She shares her home with her husband of 42 years, 2 sons, 20 equines, 2 or 3 dogs, the resident wildlife, and anyone looking for high adventure.