Not Just Any Old Horse

Posted on September 27th, 2011 by Tonia 21 Comments

This husband of mine is one cool guy. The surprise he planned turned out to be an AMAZING little road-trip up the north shore of Lake Superior. Mike took us to Grand Marais, MN, a beautiful little town near the Canadian border that prides itself in delicious fresh fish cuisine. As happy as I was about the prospect of a hot bowl of fish chowder for dinner, I was even more excited about a horse.

Yes, a horse. And not just any old horse….LOKI! Loki: A sturdy Norwegian Fjord gelding who was my first horse ever. My parents bought him for me {and I helped, with whatever summer-job money I had} when I was 13 {after approximately 12 years of begging them for a pony, they finally gave in.}

Loki turns one (June 1998). Please disregard the Chicago Bears sweatshirt. I’m NOT a Bears fan!
It was a hand-me-down from my cousins who live in Chicago. GO PACKERS!!


He became mine exactly 10 hours after his mother gave birth to him. My family stood outside the stall and watched her lick the goo off of his tiny body. He was the most beautiful, knobby-kneed creature I’d ever laid eyes on and I couldn’t believe he was mine.

The folks who owned his mother taught me all about raising a foal during the months when he was still nursing. By the time he was finally old enough to be weaned and brought home, I was well prepared to train and raise him.

We had six amazing years together. Loki lived in our back yard with an old Arabian gelding named Shadow who was given to us by some friends to keep Loki company {horses are herd animals and should not live alone}. My little brother and I had a deep bond with them both. We would spray them with the garden hose on hot days and laugh our heads off as they kicked up their heals and dodged around the spray like kids running through a sprinkler.

How cute is it that my brother brought along his stuffed tiger to the group nap? (February 1998)


We would join them in mid-day naps in the sun- the horses spread out on their sides like huge breathing pillows and us laying right on top of them. We rode them through the woods bareback. We braided their manes and tails like they were fancy show horses. We told them things we didn’t even tell our best friends.

I trained Loki to ride and drive {pull a wagon/sled/cart/plow} mostly by myself and with the occasional help of a professional trainer if he was giving me trouble. He went through a couple naughty teenage-angst phases in which he earned his name {“Loki” was the Norse god of mischief and evil…} but for the most part he was a sweet, willing, hard-working, fun boy with a big personality and heart.

Loki’s first driving lesson with trainer Walt Monheim (January 1998).


He pulled the sled for our maple syrup operation like a pro. Fjords are “draft ponies”, meaning they have the strength and functionality of a draft horse and can be used for logging, farming, and other heavy work, but they’re much smaller and more compact than most draft breeds {Shires, Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, etc.} Their smaller size makes them easier to ride.

Teaching Loki the basic driving commands (July 1998).


Heading out for a winter trail ride. (January 2000)


In the first year that Loki was with us, my parents began adding onto our house. The construction was going on every day right next to Loki’s paddock. He would watch the workers curiously with his big doe-eyes and wait for them to take their lunch break and come feed him treats and talk to him. One day, we heard some loud clomping noises coming from inside the unfinished addition…

My dad leading Loki out of the house (March 1998).


Apparently Loki had gotten bored with watching from the sidelines. We came upon him, inside the house, calmly checking everything out. To this day I have no idea how he got out of the paddock!

Being an awkward teenager ain’t so bad when you have a best friend like Loki to go through it all with you. We grew, evolved, and learned about life together. I got a glimmer of what a horse’s perspective on the world looks like: mysterious, complex, and beautiful.

My brother with the stuffed tiger again… (July 1998)


And then I graduated high school and got accepted into a college that was six hours from home. It wouldn’t have been fair to the horses to keep them there without their main caretaker around. They would get fat and bored with no one to exercise them. Shadow went home to his family, and Loki was reluctantly put up for sale. It’s the craziest thing, selling an animal who is basically a family member. My heart broke that day when we loaded him into a trailer and watched him drive off to his new life without me. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again.

Fast forward to now. My husband tracked down the woman who owns Loki now. She is a teacher and a farmer in Grand Marais, owns about six Norwegian Fjords, and welcomed us to come and visit Loki!!

You can’t even imagine what I was feeling when I saw my boy again. He looks the same {maybe a little fatter…} and I dare say he maybe even remembered me. As you can see, he took a moment to breath in my scent as we touched for the first time in so, so long.

Dang, I love this horse.


He’s happy and healthy, living with five mares on 100 acres of beautiful rolling pasture. What a lucky guy!

His owner {I’m not sure she wants me to share her name, so we’ll just refer to her as The Wonderful Woman} offered to harness him up so we could take him for a little drive. I was thrilled. It made me so happy that Mike was finally meeting this horse I had told him stories about countless times.

Harnessing him up.


His velvet soft nose.


We hooked him up to a sulky {a small two-wheel cart} and TWW handed me the reins. Holding them in my hands and feeling Loki’s mouth on the other end was exciting. I have continued to ride all these years, but I haven’t driven a horse since I sold Loki. He was patient with me as I tried to remember all the cues.

And Mike got a ride, too. He thought it was pretty dang fun. Perhaps he understands my horse-craziness a little better now?

After Loki had worked up a little sweat, we brushed him out and gave him a couple treats. He closed his eyes and yawned a few times. Clearly, we were starting to cut in on his regular nap-time. I wanted to stay there forever, but it was time to say goodbye.

We thanked TWW profusely, gave Loki a little kiss on that soft nose of his, and headed back from whence we came.

…But not without stopping in the town for a hot bowl of chowder for dinner.

Grand Marais really is a lovely place.

Basically, the best day. Ever.


  1. Kitt says:

    Wow. That’s just wonderful.

  2. Pam says:

    I’ve been checking in often to see what the surprise was…now I’m all teary at how sweet and wonderful it turned out to be!! What an amazing gift!

  3. Viola says:

    What a wonderful surprise! We also had a dog, that I loved very much, but my mother gave it away when I was 12. Recently I visited her again (I had to put ads in the newspapers to track her down) She’s old and grey now, but it was soooooo nice to see her again! I can imagine how you felt :)

  4. MelD says:

    I really feel for you, loved reading this!
    I bought my Haflinger as a 3 yr old in 1987 when I was 22 after wanting a pony throughout my girlhood. Like you, we taught each other the ropes and had lots of fun together. I just couldn’t sell him when I had my kids exactly because he was a member of the family… so even though I didn’t always have much time, he stayed. We are now enjoying his retirement together, he is 27 and as adorable as ever!!
    Your photos are gorgeous, so glad you could show your husband this part of your life; mine, too, has learnt to appreciate what it means to me.

  5. min hus says:

    What a handsome horse and a lovely, lovely story. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Mary says:

    I remember Loki! I’m so glad you got to see him again. Definitely brings back memories of riding up in Eagle River!

    When I graduated high school and went off to college I sold AJ, and it was so hard. He is close by where I live now and is doing great as a horse that kids ride for lessons and shows. I knew he’d be happier jumping than being a pasture pet though.

    Equine ditsaphrenia – there’s no cure for it and it’s hard to explain. Just a love of horses that doesn’t ever seem to go away!

    Perhaps I’ll see future blog posts about Moo and Jack (I’ll never forget his bowing for carrots!)?!

    Thanks for sharing this story!


  7. Terry says:

    What a beautiful “coming full circle” story! I’m so glad you got to reconnect with Loki, and share that part of your life with Mike. A fitting way to celebrate your first anniversary. You are blessed with lots of good guys in your life!

  8. So sweet and beautiful pictures to boot. This still-a-horse-girl-at-age-32 thanks you for the post!

  9. Becky says:

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story! I cried “warm fuzzy” tears; your story is very touching!

  10. Caitlyn says:

    I am so glad you got to see Loki again! I thought the story was going to end with you taking him home with you. Ah well.

  11. FMIL says:

    I loved reading this story, Tonia. You are a talented writer. Even though I’ve heard the story of Loki before, the way in which you summed it all up captured my heart and brought me to tears. What a wonderful anniversary surprise! You and Mike are perfect for one another…here’s wishing you many, many more memorable anniversaries! xoxo

  12. FFIL says:

    I just read this at work. How am I going to explain why the big bad boss has eyes full of tears. This was one of the sweetest stories I have ever read, and Mike- you are a winner.

  13. Carly H. says:

    I challenge anyone to read this without shedding a tear. What an amazing story– & surprise!! Bonus points to your husband for that one!

  14. Cathy Schroeder says:

    Oh MIke that was just so nice. I remember Loki like we were up there yesterday. My girls would love to go up there and have Tonia and Danny show Loki off. I knew he was always watching over me when I had to go into that dreaded chicken coop to get the eggs. I love all the pictures and I’m sure you could come of with a picture of Danny and Hobbs circa 2011. And no one handed down that Bears sweatshirt to you I’m sure you wanted it! Love your fleece hat too Tonia! Great story and what a wonderful anniversary present. Much better than the plastic snowmen Pat and I were planning on giving you! Love you both! and Loki!

  15. Sister Laura says:

    Yup. Tears here too. This was a veeery sweet story- good job brother!

  16. Devin says:

    The perfect post. Loved. every. word.

  17. Tricia says:

    Wow!! That was one good surprise. You had me in tears. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Tonia says:

    You’re all so sweet! Thanks for sharing in my happiness and leaving your heartwarming comments. We all have memories and stories and special places in our hearts for the animals in our lives, don’t we? There’s something so unique and special about the human-animal connection. They teach us about ourselves, life, and what it means to love someone in spite of of their faults.

  19. Rachel says:

    Wow a wonderful surprise. It is incredible that you were able to get back in touch with your horse after so many years. It must have been an amazing day for you.

  20. Brittany says:

    Awwwww, your hubby is so thoughtful!! That is SO awesome that Loki remembered you after all these years. I had tears in my eyes reading your story. :o)

Leave a Reply