When I wheeled into the Big K's my stomach was jumping.
This was a big test for Tally. There was going to be no bail-outs on this ride.
I had called the Big K earlier in the week and asked him what it would take to get him to ride her.
"I'll see if Tyler will ride her," K had said."I'm not particularly fond of that mare and I sure don't plan on getting busted up over her."
"I don't know if it's fair to put Tyler up there."
"You think it's fair for me to crawl up on her but not Tyler? He's the help."
"Good point," I conceded.
"He's younger too."
"He bounces, we don't."
"He'll think it's fun."
"I get it K, I get it."
"Oooh, you're right K, Tyler's the man for me."
K was right, Tyler was more than a little excited when I asked him to ride Tally. She seemed to appeal to everyone and the general consensus was, 'if Mugs would just step up and ride the hair off her,' she'd be a good horse.
If Tyler could get her ridden down for me he could call me chicken as much as he wanted.
I let him tack her up so he could size her up. I was relieved to see he was approaching Tally like a professional. He wasn't cocky and he wasn't nervous, he got her ready like he expected her to be good, but kept an eye on her.
Tally relaxed into his confidence. Maybe this was going to work.
Tyler led her towards the big outdoor.
"You might want to ride her inside, at least the first time out," I called.
"Okay." Without hesitation, he headed for the indoor arena.
They might want me to step up, but Tyler took me seriously. He wasn't used to seeing me this wound up and my time on Sonita had proven I wasn't easily unnerved.The Big K and I followed on foot. I closed the arena doors while Tyler tightened his cinch.
"Give me a sec, Tyler," I told him, "I'm going to close the doors by the cattle pen."
"Do you think she'll jump?" K asked me, with a worried look on his face.
The gates to the cattle pen were only about a foot higher than the one she had cleared with Crystal.
"I'd feel better if we closed the big doors," I answered.
"I'll get them then" he said and crossed the arena to close the doors.
Tally stood quiet, at ease enough to cock her hip. She looked around when K slid the doors shut, but didn't seem concerned. K stopped and talked with Tyler for a few minutes. I wandered over to pick up on what he had to say.
"Stay deep and don't over ride her."
Nothing new there.
Tyler looked at me, a question in his eyes.
"She's going to try to jump out from under you at some point, she's quick and nobody else has been able to catch her. Once she starts running she really gets going."
"OK, I'll be ready."
He gathered his reins, put his foot in the stirrup and gave an experimental bounce or two. Tally's head came up, but she didn't step away, so he mounted in one smooth motion.
Tally took one step, two, Tyler stayed relaxed and open to her.
I saw it coming.Her eyes went hard and small, I finally understood what Kathy meant went she talked about "shark eyes." I froze as I watched her hind legs step deep underneath her.
K saw it too, there was no freezing on his part.
"Tyler, here it comes," was all he had time to say.
Tyler automatically deepened his seat, pushed his feet father into the stirrups and relaxed his back. Tally bolted forward, leaping into the air in anticipation of a pull.
When none came she shot forward and they were off. She blasted around the arena, once, twice, three times, her legs churning and her speed increasing with every stride.
"Son of a gun," K muttered and gave me a quick glance, "you weren't kidding."
Tyler picked up his inside rein in an attempt to guide her and Tally finally had the fight she had been looking for. She launched into the air again, shaking her head at the contact from the reins. Her balance was off and she teetered for a second with only one hind leg on the ground. Tyler threw his weight into her shoulder and the other three feet crashed back to the ground. Without missing a beat she was running again, this time careening out of control.
She ran straight into the wall, turning at the last second, intent on slamming Tyler's knee into the support beams. Tyler cranked the outside rein and lifted his leg out of the way, he blocked her turn just enough to make her hit with her shoulder instead of him.
She bounced off without thought and raced around blind, the only thing stopping her was when she would hit another wall with a resounding clang.
"Let her head go and find your middle!" K shouted.
My admiration for the young man grew when I saw him loosen his hold and rebalance himself. I couldn't believe he could even hear K, much less be able to let her go.
Tally settled back into her flight around the arena once she had her head back. Tyler found her rhythm and just rode. The dust was so thick it was getting hard to see them, but the pounding of her hooves told us she hadn't begun to tire.
Finally Tally began to slow. They flew past us and a wide grin flashed across Tyler's dusty face. He had her.
"Great, you're doing great," K called, now try and circle her."
Tyler picked up his rein again and this time Tally responded. They galloped a big, loose circle, by the time they made their third loop she had her head down and was working like she should. By the fifth she was chuffing her contended train sound and her eyes had gone soft.
"Wow, she does look good," K said to me.
I went to the bench on the wall and let my knees collapse. My hands were shaking and there were tears in my eyes. I was embarrassed to no end. K gave me a small smile and turned away so I could pull myself together.
"Now that you've got her, let's make her work," K told him," we'll see what Janet has been teaching her."
"Come through the middle and ask her to change," he said. Tally switched her leads in a single smooth and fluid stride. So it began.
The Big K and Tyler put Tally through a solid workout. As her focus shifted more and more to Tyler he stepped up the game. I held my breath when he asked for his first stop. She parked it sweet and solid.When he let her rest for just a split second before he put her back into her lope, the surprised look on her face made me laugh. She wanted to quit.
They stopped some more, then spun, then loped out and did a few turns on the wall. When all opinion was wrung out of her and Tally had given herself completely over to Tyler's legs and hands, K finally said, "OK, let her stop."
Tally stood with her head hanging and her eyes closed. Her sides heaved and the sweat poured off her. Her neck and flanks were covered with foam. I had never seen her so tired. I wanted to step to her head and rub on her, but K stopped me with a look. He knew me way too well.
"That was some amazing riding," I said to Tyler. "What do you think?"
"I think she's fun," he said. Sweat was running down his dusty face making rivulets of mud. his breath was deep but even and his hands were steady. Only a little twitch in his stirrups betrayed the adrenalin still running through him.
"I can ride her for you if you want."
We made our deal and I left her in Tyler's care.