Tom is an expert horse wrangler who has a unique gift to understand them and great success in helping them overcome trauma. It’s his one obsession and how he spends the vast majority of his time—that and ranching. He confesses that in his first marriage, he fell hard and fast and then assumed his wife could be content living on the ranch where he had grown up, and has no desire to leave. She wasn’t. But he has since stayed close to his roots, cherishing his solitude (it’s forty miles to town) and sense of routine. He prefers to know things, rather than speculate on them, and where he senses potential in this horse, he also asks Grace to tell him everything that happened in the accident, so he has more understanding of what’s going on in her horse’s head. When Annie first calls him up and begs him to take a look at her horse, Tom says no. He continues to bluntly tell her no until she turns up on his doorstep, having driven thousands of miles to ask him for five minutes of his time. This extra effort convinces him to take a look, negotiate a deal, and then start a patient course of training. Tom is quite up front about what he will and will not do, what he does and does not like, and what he expects from each of them (participation and a commitment). He expects to “give and get.” But he also has a fierce sense of individual morality; he tells Annie not to answer for her daughter, and expects Grace to tell her own story, in her own time, when she feels most comfortable doing so. He doesn’t pressure her about it. His sense of right and wrong falls into flux when he falls for a married woman, but he also refuses to be the “other man” that ruins her marriage to a “good man.” So he distances himself. Tom has a unique ability to sense what Pilgrim is feeling and communicate with him in silence, enabling them to find trust in each other.

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Tom has high standards and principles, and an instinctual sense of what he can and cannot accomplish. He “just knows” that he can help Pilgrim and commits to doing it, but only after he has established the rules and boundaries of the family’s relationship with the horse, and their active participation in the training process. Though he falls deeply in love with Annie, he also does the virtuous thing and distances himself, asking her to make a choice but not urging her to destroy her marriage on his behalf. He can be blunt and confrontational, but also peaceful, calm, and fond of a life that does not include much drama (outside the horse pen, anyway). Part of his method is to take “the slow path,” let the horse dictate the pace of his healing and growth, and calm him down each time he feels upset.