Program reintroduces horses to Comanche tribe 5-6-07

LAWTON, Okla. (AP)
- The introduction of the horse into the Comanche
tribe's culture ages ago led to their rise through history as “Lords
of the Plains.”

Lynn Schonchin is hoping to reintroduce the horse into everyday life
and knot the ties these animals have with Comanche culture.

“All Comanches, young and old, are invited to take this class,”
Schonchin said. “I want people to be comfortable around the
horses,” he said while noting that the animals are “highly
perceptive, they pick up a person's fear or anxiety.”

Schonchin said the classes are a way for Comanche people to become
familiar with these equestrian counterparts.

The idea is to begin with basic skills such as approaching the horses
and getting used to taking care of the animals. Feeding, brushing and
hoof picking soon will transition to advanced interaction, such as
haltering, hitching and saddling the horses. When the time is right
and everyone is comfortable, then the riding lessons will begin, he

Horses run through the pasture at the foothills of the Wichita
Mountains adjoining the 60 acres of pasture land. A strong stock of
horses running free and feeding off the lush, green grass present a
flashback to a time not too distant.

Historian T.R. Fehrenbach has traced the Comanche's split from their
ancestral Shoshone kin to the introduction of the horse into the
culture. Within 300 years, the Comanche people became known for their
horsemanship and ability to breed a durable and unique stock of
ponies which helped maintain their nomadic lives and their abilities
to sustain through hunting and warfare.

Comanches are believed to have been the first native people on the
plains to utilize the horse extensively, and as such, they were the
source for other plains tribes of the horses that made the buffalo
culture possible, according to Fehrenbach.

Schonchin is the perfect candidate to lead this present day undertaking.

“My first word wasn't 'mommy' or 'daddy,' it was 'horse,”' he said.
Able to saddle and ride a horse before able to ride a bicycle, the
horse has always been a love of his.

Presently, there are 17 horses ranging from two 9-month old colts to
a 7-year-old Appaloosa named “Red Man.”

Originally, Comanche Housing had 27 wild mustangs they needed to be rid of.

The Environmental Program took the horses over five years ago and
since then have upgraded the stock to include thoroughbreds.

Standing out among the herd is a painted pony - an icon historically
affixed to the image of the Comanche warrior on horseback, firing
arrows while shielding himself by riding clinging to the side of the

“I think it's fantastic. People always picture the image of a Native
American on horseback. It's part of the imagery and our heritage,”
said Environmental Program Director David Tsoodle. He credits
Schonchin's efforts with the animals and the program to its support
through the tribal administration.

Students in the classes will have the opportunity to work with the
animals and help name the two colts, Schonchin said.

Also, they will have the opportunity to see Schonchin and Wombley
Smith break two 2-year-old fillies and get them ready for riding.

Schonchin said Smith is a good hand and comes from a similar background as his.

“We both grew up where it was like, find one (a horse), catch one
and hang on if you want to go to town,” he said.

While Schonchin's not expecting that kind of adeptness of the pupils,
the response he's received from tribal members lets him know there is
a desire by the Comanche people to rediscover that personal link with
the horse.

“It's really overwhelming,” he said.

A riding arena is a dream Schonchin would like to see become reality
and one day, the establishment of a Comanche Nation riding club.

Baby steps will come first.

With the Comanche Nation Fair looming in September, this year's theme
is “Comanche Moon: Legacy of the Horse.”

Along with Schonchin and Smith, it is hoped two or three students
will be ready to ride in this year's fair parade.