092011 erin bolster

Wrangler Erin Bolster and Tonk, a Percheron mix.

Courtesy photo

Erin Bolster, the western Montana wrangler who rode her horse to the rescue of a boy being charged by a grizzly bear, is headed for "Late Night with David Letterman" - and her horse is making his national television debut, too.

In fact, the Letterman show has pushed back Bolster's scheduled appearance to allow extra travel time for her hero-horse, Tonk.

Bolster and Tonk became national heroes after the Spokesman-Review and Missoulian carried the story of how she and her horse went head to head with the big bear on July 30 near Glacier National Park.

So when Letterman came calling, producers asked if Tonk could also make the trip to New York City.

"They decided they really wanted Tonk out there, and they want to make him and me a bigger feature," Bolster said in an email to the Spokesman-Review. "So, in order to allow Tonk a more relaxed five-day trip to NYC (in his own climate-controlled van no less) and to schedule me on a date when they could allot me two segments, the producer set us to film and air on Oct. 11.

"I'm quite excited and I think Tonk will be a real treat on camera."

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

The group included an Illinois man and his 8-year-old son; it was the boy's first horse-riding experience, and the ride was to be easy and gentle.

Bolster was leading the group on Tonk, a burly 10-year-old white Percheron-quarterhorse cross-breed. Tonk isn't a typical trail mount, standing 18 hands high, the largest of Swan Mountain's wrangling horses.

All was well that morning until a grizzly bear came crashing through the forest right at the group, in full pursuit of a deer. The horses panicked and headed back down the trail, along with the deer.

All except for Scout, the horse packing the 8-year-old first-time rider. Scout headed into the woods, with the grizzly bear in pursuit.

Tonk and Bolster spun around into the trees to wedge themselves between the enormous bear and the boy, who eventually fell off his mount.

Bolster screamed at the bear, and convinced Tonk to square off - face to face - with the grizzly.

The grizzly bear charged.

Tonk and Bolster charged back.

The grizzly backed down and disappeared into the forest. Bolster collected the young boy off the ground, and led his horse with her back down the trail.

Ten minutes later, they found the other, shaken riders - including the boy's extremely worried father.

The grizzly bear has not been seen since.

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