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Montana Outfitter on Horseback Saves Boy From Grizzly Charge

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September 22, 2011

Montana Outfitter on Horseback Saves Boy From Grizzly Charge

By Hal Herring

Amid all the grizz stories coming out of the Rockies these days, this one stands tall. If you ever find yourself about to be keelhauled by 600 pounds of furious airborn grizzly, you can only hope that 25-year-old Erin Bolster is riding nearby on the mighty 18 hands tall horse, Tonk.

Check out this wild tale written by F&S Rut Reporter Rich Landers in The Spokesman-Review via Missoulian.com:

A young woman on a big horse charged out of the pack of grizzly bear stories this summer near Glacier National Park. In a cloud of dust, the 25-year-old wrangler likely saved a boy's life while demonstrating that skill, quick-thinking and guts sometimes are the best weapons against a head-on charging bear.

On July 30, Erin Bolster of Swan Mountain Outfitters was guiding eight clients on a horse ride on the Flathead National Forest between West Glacier and Hungry Horse.


"It's the shortest ride we offer," she said recently, recalling the incident. "We'd already led two trips that morning. It's always been a very routine hourlong loop, until that day."

The group included a family of six plus a vacationing Illinois man, who'd booked the trip for his 8-year-old son's first horse-riding experience.

The young boy was riding Scout, a steady obedient mount, following directly behind Bolster, who was leading the group on Tonk, a burly 10-year-old white horse of questionable lineage.

Tonk isn't the typical trail mount. Best anyone knows, he's the result of cross-breeding a quarter horse with a Percheron - a draft horse. Bolster is 5-foot-10, yet she relies on her athleticism to climb into the saddle aboard Tonk.

It was a pleasant ride until we came around a corner on the trail and my horse stopped firm and wouldn't move," Bolster said. "He never refuses to go, so that caught my attention quick."

But not fast enough to avoid the spike white-tailed deer that burst out of the brush and glanced off Tonk's left front shoulder.

As Tonk spun from the impact, Bolster saw a huge grizzly bear crashing through the forest right at the group in pursuit of the deer. Horses panicked and guests grabbed saddle horns for the ride of their lives.

"No amount of training could keep a horse from running from a 700-pound charging bear," she said.

Seven of the horses sensed the danger, peeled out and galloped back on the trail toward the barn.

But Scout bolted perpendicular to the trail into the timber, packing the 8-year-old boy.

"The deer peeled off and joined the horses sprinting down the trail," Bolster said. "So the bear just continued running right past me. I'm not sure the bear even knew the roles had changed, but now it was chasing a horse instead of a deer."

The grizzly was zeroed in on Scout and the boy - the isolated prey in the woods.

Adding to the drama, the boy's father, an experienced rider, could not convince his horse that it was a good plan to ride to his son's rescue. "The last thing he saw over his shoulder as his horse ran away was the grizzly chasing his boy," Bolster said.

With the bear on Scout's heels, Tonk's instinct was to flee with the group of horses. But Tonk responded to Bolster's heels in his ribs as she spun the big fella around. They wheeled out of a 360 and bolted into the trees to wedge between the predator and the prey. "The boy was bent over, feet out of the stirrups, clutching the saddle horn and the horse's neck," she said. "That kept him from hitting a tree limb.

"But all I could think about was the boy falling off in the path of that grizzly. "I bent down, screamed and yelled, but the bear was growling and snarling and staying very focused on Scout.

"As it tried to circle back toward Scout, I realized I had to get Tonk to square off and face the bear. We had to get the bear to acknowledge us.

"We did. We got its attention - and the bear charged.

"So I charged at the bear."

Did she think twice about that?

"I had no hesitation, honestly," Bolster said. "Nothing in my body was going to let that little boy get hurt by that bear. That wasn't an option."

Tonk was on the same page.
Read the Full Story Here.

Comments (26)

Top Rated
All Comments
from bdarak wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Amazing Story.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I've been in that area and seen a griz before. It chased my parents who were around the lake from where I was fishing, I watched the whole thing happen. Eventually it just peeled off when they reached an open beach. This is a great story though - that girl has GUTS!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That is one stout horse. Im sure the grizz thought better than tangling with that beast. Brave woman, brave horse!

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That took a lot of guts and quick thinking. Sounds like a heck of a woman..and horse.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

"Nothing in my body was going to let that little boy get hurt by that bear. That wasn't an option."
I would suggest that she is what we call a hero...not worrying about what could have happened to herself just doing what was necessary at the time to help someone else.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Steward, I agree with you whole-heartedly. Awesome story, awesome woman, awesome horse! Wow!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

May God bless that woman and her horse.

Be sure to check out the whole story. Awesome!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bennyp22388 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I think I'm in love.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Can't beat teamwork. I'm pleased to read that she bought the horse.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Wow on so many levels! That is such a great story. I know Erin could care less about it but i hope she gets a medal and I hope Tonk gets a life long supply of carrots. Hero status

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Thank goodness for whoever had the odd idea to cross a draft horse with a ranch horse. Maybe his mix will be standardized into a new breed, the bear trail horse.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kris24 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Love it!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from willisriverbuck wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I am not sure which I impresses me more, the horse's bravery or the woman's bravery. Good job Erin and Tonk! I think I need a horse now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

nice story of bravery.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from danny6114 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

THAT, is a helluva woman, and horse!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Boudreau wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That lady and horse showed attributes that are REAL HARD TO LEARN. Really well done. Straight out courage and smarts under pressure!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

The article says you can't carry guns or pepper spray because it might spook the horse.

Off road motorcycles don't care if you carry guns or pepper spray and need to use them while straddling them. They also go where you tell them to go. Well, most of the time.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Stealthy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I'd marry that girl in a heartbeat if she would have me! I love the Tonk too. Way to go cowgirl, keep living free and good luck to you all your years.
Love, Danny

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kahrdcarrier wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

WHY THEY NEVER SAW THE BEAR AGAIN
She: How was work today? Bring anything good home?
He: You won't believe it. I was chasing some prime little venison on the hoof and BAM! It turned into a little boy on a pony. Well, it looked pretty good, so I kept chasing it, then BAM! it turned into this big f#$% white horse with a madwoman screaming at me. I thought if I went around, it would turn back into the little boy (Really honey, the boy would have been delicious. I promise.) But nooo, The huge f#$% horse was still there. Darn near ran over me. And that's why I don't have anything for dinner tonight. Really.
She: Been eatin' more of them spoiled berries again, haven't ya boy. (What an idiot. Thinks I'm a fool. I should have married that old silverback . . .)
He: Uh, Honey, I been thinkin' about moving.
She: Ah yeah, Why don't you do just that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dtownley wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I knew we had girls like this in our country and I am glad she was a hard charger for the the young fellas sake and his Dads piece of mind. NICE WORK YOUNG LADY !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael G. Bender wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Incredible story. That young woman is to be commended for her dedication to the people in her responsibility. Even though she was sitting on the perfect horse for the job, it still took a train car load of courage and dedication to charge that bear. They are powerful and have HUGE claws. But the rules of nature were on her side, thankfully. In nature if an advancing creature appears larger or more powerful even predators like the grizzly will avoid confrontation because they somehow know injury in the wild can be fatal. On the horse she looked larger then the bear and it chose to bug out rather then risk injury. I have heard of people holding a jacket over their head to make themselves appear taller and larger then a bear. It must have worked because they lived to talk about it.

When I read she bought that horse I felt some goosebumps creep up my spine.

That was the only way that story could end. I hope the girl and horse have many years of good riding together.

WOW!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from john barrett wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Amazing Woman, and a truely Amazing Horse! Both Hero's in my Eye's!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from AlaskanExile wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Montana used to be chock-full of people like this, when I grew up there. I'm glad to see there are still some left.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 410skeeter wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

this is one swell young lady.
any fella would be proud of this one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tanker boy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

God bless this courageous woman and her wonderful horse! This should be national news as it is the finest news any of us will see or hear for a very long time! Brings tears to my eyes and a chill! Wow! What a great pair of heroes! What a great consequence! The angels were very busy that day.... Thanks to all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Winkmeister wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Great story. My introduction to the West was working a summer out in Yellowstone; wish I had spent every summer of college out there-- tell your friends and family members of that age to work in Canyon Village (highest elevation development: opens last + closes first = mostly college kids). This story reminds me of the great guys and gals that ran the trail rides-- the wranglers were a force unto themselves; enjoyed every spare moment I could with them-- got up early to learn to work with horses, and campfires in the corrals at night.
Tight Lines, Straight Shots..., Firm Reins.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Steward wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

"Nothing in my body was going to let that little boy get hurt by that bear. That wasn't an option."
I would suggest that she is what we call a hero...not worrying about what could have happened to herself just doing what was necessary at the time to help someone else.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That is one stout horse. Im sure the grizz thought better than tangling with that beast. Brave woman, brave horse!

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from bennyp22388 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I think I'm in love.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael G. Bender wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Incredible story. That young woman is to be commended for her dedication to the people in her responsibility. Even though she was sitting on the perfect horse for the job, it still took a train car load of courage and dedication to charge that bear. They are powerful and have HUGE claws. But the rules of nature were on her side, thankfully. In nature if an advancing creature appears larger or more powerful even predators like the grizzly will avoid confrontation because they somehow know injury in the wild can be fatal. On the horse she looked larger then the bear and it chose to bug out rather then risk injury. I have heard of people holding a jacket over their head to make themselves appear taller and larger then a bear. It must have worked because they lived to talk about it.

When I read she bought that horse I felt some goosebumps creep up my spine.

That was the only way that story could end. I hope the girl and horse have many years of good riding together.

WOW!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from bdarak wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Amazing Story.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That took a lot of guts and quick thinking. Sounds like a heck of a woman..and horse.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kahrdcarrier wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

WHY THEY NEVER SAW THE BEAR AGAIN
She: How was work today? Bring anything good home?
He: You won't believe it. I was chasing some prime little venison on the hoof and BAM! It turned into a little boy on a pony. Well, it looked pretty good, so I kept chasing it, then BAM! it turned into this big f#$% white horse with a madwoman screaming at me. I thought if I went around, it would turn back into the little boy (Really honey, the boy would have been delicious. I promise.) But nooo, The huge f#$% horse was still there. Darn near ran over me. And that's why I don't have anything for dinner tonight. Really.
She: Been eatin' more of them spoiled berries again, haven't ya boy. (What an idiot. Thinks I'm a fool. I should have married that old silverback . . .)
He: Uh, Honey, I been thinkin' about moving.
She: Ah yeah, Why don't you do just that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from AlaskanExile wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Montana used to be chock-full of people like this, when I grew up there. I'm glad to see there are still some left.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jakenbake wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I've been in that area and seen a griz before. It chased my parents who were around the lake from where I was fishing, I watched the whole thing happen. Eventually it just peeled off when they reached an open beach. This is a great story though - that girl has GUTS!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Steward, I agree with you whole-heartedly. Awesome story, awesome woman, awesome horse! Wow!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

May God bless that woman and her horse.

Be sure to check out the whole story. Awesome!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Wow on so many levels! That is such a great story. I know Erin could care less about it but i hope she gets a medal and I hope Tonk gets a life long supply of carrots. Hero status

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Thank goodness for whoever had the odd idea to cross a draft horse with a ranch horse. Maybe his mix will be standardized into a new breed, the bear trail horse.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from danny6114 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

THAT, is a helluva woman, and horse!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dtownley wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I knew we had girls like this in our country and I am glad she was a hard charger for the the young fellas sake and his Dads piece of mind. NICE WORK YOUNG LADY !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from john barrett wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Amazing Woman, and a truely Amazing Horse! Both Hero's in my Eye's!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Winkmeister wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Great story. My introduction to the West was working a summer out in Yellowstone; wish I had spent every summer of college out there-- tell your friends and family members of that age to work in Canyon Village (highest elevation development: opens last + closes first = mostly college kids). This story reminds me of the great guys and gals that ran the trail rides-- the wranglers were a force unto themselves; enjoyed every spare moment I could with them-- got up early to learn to work with horses, and campfires in the corrals at night.
Tight Lines, Straight Shots..., Firm Reins.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Can't beat teamwork. I'm pleased to read that she bought the horse.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kris24 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Love it!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from willisriverbuck wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I am not sure which I impresses me more, the horse's bravery or the woman's bravery. Good job Erin and Tonk! I think I need a horse now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

nice story of bravery.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Boudreau wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

That lady and horse showed attributes that are REAL HARD TO LEARN. Really well done. Straight out courage and smarts under pressure!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Stealthy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I'd marry that girl in a heartbeat if she would have me! I love the Tonk too. Way to go cowgirl, keep living free and good luck to you all your years.
Love, Danny

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 410skeeter wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

this is one swell young lady.
any fella would be proud of this one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tanker boy wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

God bless this courageous woman and her wonderful horse! This should be national news as it is the finest news any of us will see or hear for a very long time! Brings tears to my eyes and a chill! Wow! What a great pair of heroes! What a great consequence! The angels were very busy that day.... Thanks to all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

The article says you can't carry guns or pepper spray because it might spook the horse.

Off road motorcycles don't care if you carry guns or pepper spray and need to use them while straddling them. They also go where you tell them to go. Well, most of the time.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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