My cell phone rang while I was pulling saddles from my last three rides.
"Hey Janet? This is Tyler."
"Still alive I'm guessing," I said.
"Who, me or your mare?"
"Well, I can tell you are, how's Tally?"
"She's doing just fine, you coming out to ride tomorrow?"
"Well I guess I'll see you then."
Tyler was every bit as much as a sparkling conversationalist as the Big K, they were certainly a good fit. My mood was high though, if it had been bad news I knew he would have gone into a little more detail.
That night I couldn't get Tally off my mind. She never left my thoughts as I drove home, she hovered in the corners while I asked my daughter about her day, chatted with my husband and got dinner going. I really needed to sell her, my board bills were killing me and I wanted to move my 3-year-old up to the main barn. Maybe she was truly coming around. Maybe I'd be able to find somebody who would want to buy a 14 hand, muscle bound, hammer headed, Foundation bred mare with a bad rap. Sure, why not? She was everybody's dream horse, wasn't she? I sure knew how to pick them.
Except she could be somebody's dream horse, I knew she could. There was a willingness to her, sometimes a softness in her eye that went straight to my heart and it was impossible not to admire her quick athleticism and strength. What in the world would I do if I was the only one to see it in her?
The next morning broke clear and windless, so I beat feet to load up Sonita and drive the hour and a half out to the Big K's. It was a perfect day to see how Tally had fared.
The miles flew past as I drove the narrow two-lane roads from the mountains to the plains east of the Springs. I was excited, hopeful and nervous, more than likely I was darn lucky not to run into or through anything I shouldn't have. When I pulled into K's place and parked I realized I didn't remember a single second of my trip.
Tyler and K were rocked back in two battered folding chairs, enjoying the sun like a couple of lizards on a rock. Tyler waited until Sonita was unloaded before he came over to chat. K stayed in his chair, giving Tyler time to talk to me one on one.
"She's going pretty good, I think you'll be happy," he said.
"Did she give you any trouble?"
"The first time I rode her out was pretty wild, but nothing like that first ride. Do you want to take her for a spin?"
He had a barely suppressed smile on his face and I could tell Tyler was proud of the job he had done.
"You know what? Why don't you ride her first and let me watch her go. I know she'll let me ride her." Neither one of us mentioned the fact I had never had her outside the indoor at my barn. We both knew I didn't have any other place to go except straight up a mountain and I would quit training before I admitted to the thrill of fear that had gone through me every time I had thought of leaving the safety of my arena. I was still a little uneasy at the idea, but Tyler had the makings of a good trainer, he didn't call me on it, he just smiled and went to get Tally.
He brought her out and she led quiet and calm. She pricked her ears when she saw me, but didn't knicker or tug on the lead rope.
I had Tyler saddle her with my rig so I could ride when he had finished his demo. Tally rolled her eye towards me when he tightened her cinch, but she seemed content enough. He bridled her with the same simple O-ring I rode with and led her to the middle of K's football field sized outdoor arena. K came and stood beside me as I rested my chin on top of crossed my arms and slipped one foot on the bottom rail of the arena fence.
He swung up with easy familiarity and trotted her out for a few circles. Tyler was a big guy, but Tally carried him handily, her strong back raised enough to keep the saddle skirts an inch or so off the saddle pad. Her neck stayed level and she powered along at a steady pace.
He asked her to stop in the middle and she parked it without a fuss. When they loped of she was flying at a good clip withing two or three strides.
"Whoosh," I said, "he's really got her motoring along."
"That's the speed she needs to be at," K said. "See how solid she is?"
K was right. Tyler was riding on a loose rein, completely relaxed in the saddle. Tally's feet beat out a solid rhythm and looked broke and happy, the faster speed suited her.
Tyler rode her through five or six circles each way, changed lead a few times and asked her to stop.
I headed towards them while she aired up.
"She looks good," I said.
Tyler stepped down and handed me the reins. "She's got a great feel," he said, "she could turn out to be quite the horse."
I made sure I had my game face on and stepped into my stirrup. Tally stood still as I swung up and turned her head to give my boot a friendly sniff. She felt the same as always.
I walked off a few strides and asked for a lope. She moved out quick and fluid as she always did and we were flying around the arena within seconds. I gathered my reins and she dropped into the slow and easy canter she maintained at home.
"Janet!" I heard K shout. "Let go of that mare's head!"
I made sure I was breathing and fed her some rein. Tally, bless her pea-picking heart, stayed at the same speed.
"Janet!" K shouted again.
Meet my Maker or tick off the Big K for hanging on my horse? I shook my head a little and clucked to her, touching her with my heel. She jumped forward, but this time I made myself stay loose. Tally sped around the arena, smooth as could be.
It was wonderful, it was exciting, she was a little engine chugging along the tracks, but there was no tension, no worry, just enough speed to make you know you were going somewhere.
"There you've got it!" K called out.
My smile got bigger and bigger. This horse was such a blast. Tyler still stood in the middle of the arena and we flashed past him. I caught his eye and he smiled back as big and broad as the possibilities I felt opening up for my crazy little mare.