Every Cowboy Knows The Magic
The Horses We've Known
By Del Gasche

Every cowboy knows the magic
That is carried within the soul.
It's the promise of each sunrise,
The blessing of each newborn foal.

From Cowboy Magic By Tena Bastian

And so begins Tena's first published book The Horses We've Known.

It's about the personal experiences she and her husband Mike ... whose friends call him Bear ... have had with various horses through the years.

"To me, working well with any horse is rather like a dance," she says.

"To make the dance spectacular, you must anticipate your horse's every move and respond accordingly.

"Use patience and kindness and literally make your horse your partner.

"Learn to love the dance and the result will be pure magic.

"We don't think of ourselves as owners of horses.

"We consider them partners, not property."

Tall and slim, cowboy-booted and -hatted, Tena is every bit the horsewoman.

And with her laptop computer open and her fingers flying over the keys, she's also every bit the writer.

But she wasn't born in Western range country.

She wasn't even born in the more restricted spaces of a Midwestern farm.

"I was born in the city ... in Toledo ... not exactly the wide open spaces," she says with a smile.

"And I was actually born in the very restricted space of an elevator.

"That was in 1958 at St. Vincent's Hospital.

"My mother was on her way to the delivery room, but I arrived before she got there."

Tena's family moved quite often and she attended several elementary schools in Toledo.

"We lived in the Swanton area for a while and Dad had a horse there," she says.

Then we moved to the Maumee-Monclova area.

"There was a Mr. Metcalf there who kept horses and I used to walk to his place and help clean stalls.

"He let me ride the horses as payment."

Bearback Ranch

Tena went to high school in Maumee and graduated in 1977.

"Then I worked at several outside sales jobs in the Toledo area," she says.

"I sold lots of different things ... from snack boxes to water softeners."

In 1983, she married Mike.

And in 1991, they built their house and stables ... Bearback Ranch ... on five acres a few miles southwest of Swanton.

They have two daughters ... Dusty and Jennifer.

Mike works at a factory in Toledo that designs and builds commercial store fixtures.

"We currently have seven adult quarter horses here and several foals on the way," Tena says.

"We specialize in the old foundation quarter horse bloodlines and two of our three mares are from Texas.

"We also have three geldings and our stallion, Beau.

"This Beaus Eligible is his full name and he's ranked as one of the top five palomino stallions in the world."

Mike learned about horses after marrying Tena and he's now quite an expert.

"He attended a course at Ohio State to learn about equine artificial insemination," she says.

"Now we collect the semen between February and June and ship it out by air.

"So Beau's been able to breed mares all across the United States ... 25 so far.

"We cool it and package it and then FedEx picks it up at our door and air expresses it out of the Toledo airport right away.

"The packaging and shipping are exactly the same as what's used for human organ transplants.

"Frozen equine semen has just been approved by the American Quarter Horse Association, but so far we've shipped it unfrozen and it's used within 48 hours.

"We've had 100 pecent success so far."

Horses In Print

Tena started writing when she was 14.

"Some of my poems and stories were about horses," she says.

"But not all of them."

She's had articles and poems published in several nationally distributed horse magazines.

And she gained international attention a few years ago with a project she did for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.

"I watched the absolute wonderment of handicapped children and adults as they engaged in therapeutic riding on real horses instead of being bound to their iron horse wheelchairs," she says.

"You could see in their eyes just how terribly important the horses were in their lives."

The experience moved Tena deeply and she wrote a poem about it entitled Iron Horse.

It was illustrated by local artist Deborah Hershey and printed as a limited-edition poster-sized print and used as a national fund-raiser for NARHA.

In The Horses We've Known, Tena writes about 20 horses, including Beau.

Besides that book, she's finished a trilogy entitled The Buckskin Mare, which is now with a literary agent.

And she's now writing her fifth book, a novel based on her Fulton County experiences.

"I didn't really get serious about writing longer works and getting published until about five years ago," she says.

"Now I take my laptop with me wherever we go.

"So while Mike's driving the truck and hauling the horse trailer, I'm riding shotgun with the laptop in my lap, in my own little world, writing about horses."

Tena and Teddy prepare for a ride during the winter of 1997, a year before the 14-year-old gelding died. Her love for Teddy is the reason she wrote The Horses We've Known.


Ted E Bear

Chapter nine in The Horses We've Known is about a remarkable creature named Ted E Bear.

"Teddy died three years ago and he was a 14-year-old quarter horse gelding," Tena says, holding the book in her hand.

"He was a grade Montana cow horse who was afraid of cows.

"There's no telling how many owners he'd had before I bought him.

"A horse-trader friend of mine bought him and sold him to a family with two young girls.

"And just as Teddy was afraid of cows, the girls were afraid of Teddy.

"My trader friend told me about him and I bought him.

"He was about seven years old ... a scruffy, washed-out palomino color ... and he had feathers on his legs that made him resemble a Clydesdale.

"He was 15 hands tall and he had a long mane and a long tail ... with thick hair that curled like dreadlocks.

"He wasn't a pretty horse, but he was put together well and I could see that there was a good horse under the rough exterior.

"His eyes told me he truly loved the company of people.

"But because of his past, he didn't trust people at all.

"When I brought him home, Mike laughed out loud.

"He couldn't believe that I'd actually paid money for him.

"But Mike loved the challenge of gaining Teddy's trust.

"If we handed Teddy an apple, he immediately assumed it was a bomb.

"But if we let him watch us take a bite out of the apple, he would accept it and eat it.

"He was that kind of horse.

"Mike desensitized him by exposing him to every possible stimulus imaginable.

"It was a funny thing to watch.

"When Mike came home from work each day, he'd grab raincoats, plastic tarps, blankets, pots and pans ... anything that was handy and different.

"Then he'd visit Teddy and spend hours just getting him used to those things.

"Eventually, he was afraid of only two things.

"He was absolutely afraid of balloons and road kill.

"And he never got over those fears.

"There was nothing that could get him to pass near road kill and we were never able to change that.

"But nothing else bothered him and that's what makes a great horse.

"Horses aren't born like that.

"You have to take the time and teach them.

"You have to earn their trust and confidence.

"You have to share love with them."

Number One Horse

Thanks to Tena and Mike, Teddy became a first-class horse with a great personality.

He got over his fear of cows and successfully competed in everything from halter classes to barrels and poles to team penning of cattle.

"Mike taught him to cut cows by teaching him to work with our dogs first," Tena says.

"It was a riot to watch him cut a cow out of a herd with Mike telling him to, 'Get the dog! Get the dog!'

"Teddy was just an incredible horse ... incredibly fun to own and spend time with."

Teddy died in June of his eighth year with Tena and Mike.

"He was a sturdy horse ... like a rock ... and never sick," she says.

"But he got colic and ... in spite of our local veterinarian doing everything he could ... it got worse."

She and Mike hauled him to the veterinary facilities at the University of Findlay's Center for Equine Studies.

"The vets did everything they could and we waited for hours," she says.

"Teddy's condition simply got worse.

"He was slowly dying in front of my eyes.

"Then they told me there really was no hope for improvement and it was time for me to make a decision.

"And there was Teddy, who loved me unconditionally and wanted very little in return from me.

"He was such a large part of who I was and I knew a part of me was dying with him.

"As I handed the lead rope over and let go of him, every second I'd shared with him came flooding back to me.

"Every moment of every day that I'd shared with him now hurt beyond belief.

"I can't begin to describe the intensity of how badly it hurt to walk away.

"I didn't look back, but I could feel Mike's presence behind me ... not speaking, just letting me know he was there with me.

"I cried harder than I'd ever cried in my life.

"Only later did I understand just how completely helpless Mike felt as he watched me cry.

"Teddy was a rare and special gift and he taught me many things.

"The death of someone you love is the greatest challenge you face in life.

"And deciding to let him go when it's time is the most difficult decision you ever have to make.

"I loved Teddy dearly.

"He's the reason I wrote The Horses We've Known."


Editor's Note: Tena speaks to groups about writing and her experiences with horses. If you'd like more information, call her at (419) 826-5129, e-mail her at bearbkra@aol.com or send us a note at News@FarmlandNews.com