Sonita and I scored high enough to overcome our 10 point gap and boost ourselves to ninth place in the Open Limited Bridle at the NRCHA World Show.
My daughter placed 5th in the Limited Youth class and ended up ranked 5th in the nation too. I on the other hand was ranked somewhere between 300th and 5000th.
We were pretty happy and I ended up getting bamboozled into buying a rat terrier puppy after one too many margaritas. His name is Charlie and he may be the best spent money I didn't have.
I'd love to show you my top ten photo with all my friends and trainers standing along either side of my horse (my daughters too) but I didn't have the money for the photographer.
It didn't matter.
I got to go home with a new confidence and an appreciation for my $900.00 dollar horse. Except she wasn't mine anymore.
Crystal was waiting for us when we pulled up in front of the barn.
As pre-arranged, Crystal unloaded Sonita herself and took her down to a new stall next to Crystal's good horse James.
She pulled her blanket and replaced it with a new one she had bought just that day.
Then we unloaded the rest of the horses and tack. We got a kick at the congratulatory signs and balloon's which decorated the barn aisle.
Again I was treated to one too many Margaritas. This time there was cake and a crowd of my friends and clients. It was a cool homecoming.
Over the next several days I didn't go near Sonita. The first three mornings she nickered the same greeting I had gotten every morning for the last several years. She would stand with her head thrown up staring at me.
She paced and hollered and fretted the first day.
The second day she watched me with a puzzled silence.
The third day she ignored me after the first initial greeting.
I was grateful to be behind on my work.
During this time Crystal groomed her, fussed over her and turned her out daily.
She had planned on giving her a well earned rest, but Sonita soon became so fractious she started taking her out on the trail for short rides.
By the end of the week I heard Sonita nicker a friendly greeting to Crystal as she came into the barn.
That was it. Sonita was weaned. She transferred her attention to Crystal within days and her loyalty within months.
As for myself I learned it wasn't the end of the world to sell a horse. My mare was well trained and well mannered. I had sold her to a rider I had confidence in. Sonita adapted well and once Crystal got her tiger by the tail she adapted too.
I realised it was a good thing. I turned my attention to the future.
Crystal has owned Sonita for more years than I did now. Sonita is fat, happy and still a total bitch. Crystal loves her to death. She hasn't shown her.
Sonita gets long days of turn-out with James, lots of trail rides and cattle work when it's available. The life seems to suit her.
This is Crystal with her favorite girl.
Maybe it's because of Sonita's age, or the change in her life, I can make any excuses I want. The fact of the matter is Sonita likes Crystal a whole bunch more than she ever liked me.
When I went to take this picture I hadn't seen Sonita for about a year. We walked out to the field and she came to me and began sniffing me. She snuffled my hair and sniffed me head to toe. She was especially interested in my Carhart. It occurred to me it might smell like Loki. She made it extremely difficult to take a picture.
I gave her a hug and she hugged me back. Then she gave me a cheerful, "Later, old friend," and went to stand by her owner.
One warm summer night, about three or four years after Crystal had taken over Sonita, we met at a local riding club. The club was getting a versatility class going and were offering a practice cattle class once a week.
The practices were open and I had come with my new bosses and a few clients and friends to see what was up.
The cattle were sour, the folks wanting to cow were green and the gentleman conducting the evening was pretty green himself. There was a long and odd list of rules involved in being allowed to work a cow. The gentleman was there to assist each and every one of us.
As is my habit when I come someplace new, I kept my mouth shut and followed the rules. I expected the people with me to do the same.
"Let's get out of here," my boss whispered,"this is nuts."
"The price is good and we don't have cattle until next month," I shot back, "just behave, ignore him and box your cow."
The night was endless. We had several horses to work and the unsolicited help just kept on coming. Even though we were soon earning our keep shagging the cows nobody could seem to be able to gather and kicking back the strays who kept escaping while the attempt at cutting was going on.
Crystal was her usual self, laughing and having a good time. She was completely OK with sticking to the box work and coming out of the herd. She hadn't worked herself up to trying Sonita down the fence much and never in public.
By the end of the night the ice had thawed a little and we were visiting back and forth with the "cow guy".
He invited us to stay after the crowd left and do a little fence work.
We were glad to.
Crystal rode over to me.
"Would you mind taking Sonita down the fence for me?"
"Why don't you take her?" I asked.
"I just want to watch her go, do you want to?"
I didn't wait for her to change her mind.
I slid off my colt and crawled up on Sonita. She turned around to sniff my boot and I gave her a rub on her neck.
"Are your stirrups OK?" Crystal asked me.
"They're a little long, but it won't matter. It's not like these cows have any gas."
"Let's go play a little," I told Sonita.
She walked off with her quick sure step, her ears pricked and her excitement mounting. I knew how she was feeling.
It was a beautiful night. There was only a little wind and I was comfortable in my shirt sleeves.
I asked Sonita to pick up her lope and we clicked right into place. She picked up her circle and threw a few dolphin bucks before she settled in. She kept looking over to the cattle pen and rattled her bit at me.
"Are you ready Janet?" The cattle guy called.
We trotted up to our cow and I let Sonita crawl right on top of the sour thing. She pinned her ears and snapped her teeth, just about snagging some hair.
The cow woke up a little a feinted away from us.
I decided to try to get some momentum going and let Sonita knock the heifer into one quick turn before we drove her through the corner and down the off side of the fence.
The surprised heifer thought she had found an escape route and all of a sudden we had a fence run going on.
I whooped and settled in as Sonita flew down the fence.
She checked nice as could be and we drove the cow almost to the far corner before she stepped by and slammed the cow through our first turn.
"Oops," I lost one of my too long stirrups through the first turn, "Ah what the hell, lets go,"
I told my old friend and we lined up down the fence.
The surly black thing bumped up against us, trying to angle her way back to the cow pen, but Sonita just body slammed her against the rail and we kept on going.
I lost my other stirrup through the second turn and I scrambled to keep myself in the middle as we pushed off the fence and began to circle.
We hadn't lost a beat of the rhythms we had shared for so long. I knew every stride and breath of this cool, cool mare. She knew where I was and what to expect of me every step of the way. I whooped again and settled back in the saddle, stirrups flying, as we circled up our cow.