Monday, August 11, 2008

Me And The Big K/Chapter 3

Sonita and I came out of the arena and into the damp, blowing wind. Steam swirled away into the gray sky. She jigged and danced nervous circles around me.
I jerked her reins and stomped off towards the stalls.
She stood quiet for the brief moment it took to drop her bridle and slip on her halter. Then she began her mindless dance, her anxious whinny blasted in my ear.
Her coat was wringing wet, the red winter hair curled like a 4H steer. Sweat trickled in a steady stream off her belly and down her legs. I'd be lucky to get her cooled out before our next set of classes in the evening.
I sat down on a hay bale and leaned against the stained, white, shed row wall.
A heavy mist melded with gray skies, and blurred the edges of the dirty, shabby, buildings. Amarillo in February pretty much matched my mood.
Sonita pawed the ground and kicked at her belly.
I pulled my hat over my eyes, and slumped into my own personal pity party.
The Big K led his horse down the row. I didn't have to raise my head to recognize the muffled clink of his spurs.
The jingle paused in front of me. Still surly, I tried to sink farther down into my Carhart. Sonita nickered softly at his horse, and the Big K's steps faded as he continued down to his stalls.
I peeked out from under the brim of my hat. The Big K had loosened Sonita's cinch.
Embarrassed, I got up and began fussing with my stall. My butt was wet from the damp hay.
It occurred to me that I should help him get his next horse ready.
Instead, I grabbed a fork and began sifting through the already clean shavings.
He was back within minutes, his three-year-old relaxed and confident, trailing at the end of his reins. I took my imaginary cleaning to the darkest corner of the stall, hoping he would keep on going.
"Come on out here." He said.
I walked out into the alley.
"What's going on?"
"I think I'm done." I replied.
"With what?"
"That psychotic horse." The dam broke.
"She's a freak! Did you see that mess? She looked like frigging Rudolph launching into those run downs! Do you realize I had 16 penalty points before I even did my first lope depart? What the hell! She's nuts. I'm selling the stupid bitch. I can't do this any more."
He leaned across Sonita's saddle, and idly picked at the saddle strings. She quieted under his weight.
"She looked pretty good on her cow."
"She bit the cow! How is that pretty good?"
"She was on it though." I swear he was trying not to laugh.
"You aren't hearing me! I'm about done!"
"You're being about stupid." He wasn't laughing now.
The Big K is pretty scary when he gets mad. His normal, easy going slouch disappears, and his eyes do this steely, John Wayne thing. It's easy to remember that he's not particularly well-broke.
I felt my anger fading, but my resolve was still strong.
"She's making me look like an idiot."
"Do you want to be a trainer? Or do you want to win?"
"Do you want to be a trainer? Or do you want to win?"
"Can't I do both?"
"Sure, once you train this horse."
"She's too much for me. I can't get her done."
"If you want to win, then go ahead and sell her. I'll find something nice and sweet, and we'll get you a bunch of ribbons."
The sarcasm dripped like the rain running off the roof.
The Big K came further across Sonita's back, and looked straight into my eyes.
"Train this horse. This is the horse that will turn you into a trainer."
He accented each point with a stroke down Sonita's croup.
"Quit being such a cry baby. Figure out this mare. Be a trainer.
Now get her settled, and come watch the rest of our class. Hold your head up, and support the rest of the riders. Watch the other runs, and learn something."
He mounted up, and headed back to the show pen.
I stood, leaning on my fork, turning his words over in my head.
Sonita began to buck in place, worrying over The Big K's retreating colt.
His last shot floated through the fog. "I mean it, train that horse!"
I sighed, and went to dig out Sonita's heavy cooler.


  1. It sounds very difficult - training her. i can't wait to read the rest of Sonitas story.

  2. Mugwump, your Sonita posts are a blast. I feel like I know the Big K; he's a clone of the guy I used to work for, just a tad more insightful. And Sonita, wow, what a challenge. I'm assuming you persisted and got her trained, but don't tell--I want to hear the story chapter by chapter. This is better than a book, cause I can't finish it all in one night (which I always do if I like em).

  3. If I hadn't been expecting RC to be crowd shy I probably would've felt the same way at our finals.
    (He ran to 1st barrel, saw the crowd and promptly stopped - hard - with a "who the heck are they and why are they here?!" expression) lol

  4. I love the Sonita stories! Keep em coming. You always make us feel like we are standing there with you, its amazing.

  5. For all that he's rough around the edges, Big K sounds like one hell of a horseman.

  6. You're such a fantastic writer -- I felt all of your emotions so much in this story I almost cried in sympathetic frustration and burst out laughing about her biting the cow. Sorry, that's kinda funny! I've had my own little pity parties, riding down the rail on a loose rein, contemplating giving up. I've been mortified at a show, too, although just a local show, by my idiot, so I feel your pain. I somehow dug deeper and found my "try" some more. I know you do that, too. Keep on writing.

  7. When's the movie comming out :)
    Love your blog!

  8. Sherry Busch pointed me to your blog and I love the stories. Would you be interested in doing a radio interview via phone? I'm here in Colorado Springs and my website is where you can find my contact info. Please let me know if this is something you'd like to do and we'll discuss...Laura

  9. This is very interesting reading. You will remember I mentioned the Statue Filly and how Trainer Wannabe who started her responded to a bad ride at an in-barn show by throwing her back in her stall and leaving.

    And yes, that did teach Statue Filly that balking in the show ring got her put away in her cozy stall with the remnants of breakfast. But hey! Trainer Wannabe couldn't possibly look foolish in the show ring, and what was more important here, training the filly or looking cool?

    Statue Filly, as I noted, was lucky to find a follow-the-leader trail riding home where her bombproof nature is appreciated. I doubt she'll ever get around a show ring. Sonita, on the other hand...well that's your story to finish. :-)

  10. Omg. I know EXACTLY how you feel! Well minus the crazy biting/spooking part
    My first horse was a very hot, but smart horse. She got into the ring and puffed up and didn't stop until you drug her (or the other way around) out of the ring. She was a total pistol. Today even as she gets older she takes classes. People groan when they see her coming off the trailer with me on the lead line. Sure her back is a little swayed but I look at the over 100 ribbons she has given me and it's amazing. I remember coming home the first season I showed her. I almost cried because I was this young kid against adults that had perfect, quiet, carbon copy quarterhorses and here I was with this fired up prancy morgan mare. Of course they won.

    Last show season I came home with 24 first places, 3 seconds, 2 thirds and a fourth. It's amazing how much she has taught me and how still she stands in the show ring now for me. Give her someone else and it's like my journey all over again.

  11. I want to be you when I grow up.

  12. Leah Fry- No you don't. I'm poor, and very crabby.

  13. But you have horses. What could be a better lifestyle?

  14. Just wanted to tell you again how much I love this blog, I check in every day for updates :)

    You write beautifully and I'm learning alot.

    Thank you

  15. >>But you have horses. What could be a better lifestyle?<<

    Having horses and a sugar daddy ;-)

    I'm not even that high maintenance. I just want another nice crew cab dually and aluminum slant-load trailer before I the rig I sold when I (insert maniacal laughter) "got out of horses."

    Yeah. That worked great.

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  17. Having horses and a sugar daddy ;-)

    Oh yeah, they are nice to have too!

    I better work on getting one of those.

    I got this bumper sticker inside my tack trunk it says "Every woman should have two animals. The horse of her dreams and a jackass to pay for it all"
    ahhh how true.

  18. Fugs said- >>And yes, that did teach Statue Filly that balking in the show ring got her put away in her cozy stall with the remnants of breakfast.<<

    You are so right. Should I have taken Sonita back to her stall? Hell no. At the time, I was so beaten down by that horse, I didn't think anything would work. I was about belly up.
    Also, the Big K was big on letting me figure things out on my own.
    He rarely offered advice. That conversation was a huge effort on his part. Part of why I took him so seriously.
    I normally had to present him with a well thought out question, or learn through observation, and experience.
    I was enough of a dumb bunny then to not know what I should or shouldn't do, most of the time.

  19. Oh no, we're not high maintenance. Just multiple horses, no time for anybody but our critters and blogs....we don't ask for much. :)

  20. Hi again, Mugs. I went back and reread your post about Fobby the stud and your training steps with him and his owner. I'm thinking my old gelding could benefit from some ground up, start back at square 1, training like that even though he's older. He has gotten away with a lot for a long time before I had him. A respect-establishing program would be good for both of us, now that he's settled in here and trusts me some. I'll stay safe -- he's basically a good citizen, never kicks or bites, but I do resort to bribing him with carrots which I should stop doing. Thanks and I'll keep you posted.

    P.S. Could you post something about how you teach a horse (that panics when he hits the end of the rope) to stay tied and not pull back and break halters and ropes? Thanks.

  21. Big K was right.

    I learned the most from my most difficult horse. He was impossible, but we found how to dance together. He taught me because I listened. I had to realise he was not a horse to train, but he was horse to teach. I was the student. I did not figure this out tell after he was gone. We danced together for over 6 years together, the impossible horse and I. They make great stories, if you live to tell the tale. I never did figure out how to train that horse- he trained me. But we could do day one in the round pen. I did get somewhere, just not where I wanted. But I learned a ton. I will never train another horse the same as I did before Kiy.

    mountain mollie at

  22. I had a horse like that. He made me a trainer by teaching me stuff no coach ever could. People still talk about us in my home town. That *&^& crazy chestnut and how Sam did so well with him. lol

    I often wonder at people who grow up showing 'made' horses then become 'trainers' after they teach a few lessons. There is a trainer in our area trying to make it to the big time. But only rides horses broke buy a big name trainer in the states, and sends the rejects (ring sour, bucking broncs) to other local trainers under the "Im too scared" excuse. They keep fixing her mistakes and she keeps pulling in the clients.

    So when is the book comming out?!?! I want more!!

    Please? ;)

  23. Here's a question for you (which is totally unrelated to this post, and more prompted by your comment about hanging out with a trainer while they give lessons):

    Do you still take lessons from and/or audit the lessons of a trainer whose methods you do not always agree with?

    I know that nobody is going to have the exact same outlook on training as I do (and considering I'm so damn inexperienced, it would be extremely vain of me to assume that I'm always right). I'm very, very open-minded.

    However, there are some things I really disagree with, among them seesawing to achieve a headset for dressage (or on any horse of mine), backing up as punishment for mistakes under saddle, misusing strong bits as substitutes for training, etc. If a trainer I come across at the equestrian team barn practices any of these techniques, do I take what I can out of it (especially since I would not ride my own horse in the lessons), or do I search for a trainer whose philosophy aligns more closely with mine?

    I can see the benefit in both situations. Even from a trainer I disagree with (silently), I am nearly positive I could still learn something. However, I also don't want to spend time learning from someone whose mindset is fundamentally different.

    Just curious, since I know you are willing to consider so many different sources of horse-training wisdom.

  24. manymisadventures- I have trained with many people I disagree with.
    I have worked with some abusive S.O.B.s.
    I have a line I can't cross, and if a trainer regularly goes there, I can't learn from them, so I don't go back.
    But, I have kept my mouth shut and learned a lot from people who use pretty tough methods.
    Example- Draw reins. I've seen mouths sawed at, and heads kept down between a horses knees.
    I see the look being forced, I see a horse dumped on it's front end, and hind legs trailing behind.
    I see the trainer have to fix all the problems caused by the artificial methods.
    I then see the trainer win, and I mean win big.
    So, I think, how do I get that look with out creating all the problems?
    How do I get true collection and drive, by teaching the horse, instead of ramming it home?
    Then I modify what I saw into something my horse and I can live with.
    But I wouldn't know what I was searching for unless I had seen and understood how that winning maneuver was created.
    So I watch and learn.
    Be aware, I am known in my circle as way too soft on my horses, and have not had the success my tougher peers have.
    Because I stay respectful, and truly try to understand methods I personally can't condone, I have been shown many techniques from lots of different trainers.
    They know how I feel by the way I train, but they're still willing to talk to me.
    What can I say, it's a minefield out there....
    And I never talk smack about a trainer behind his/her back.

  25. Does that mean I should stop making fun of big R's farmer mannerisms? or is it OK if we do it to their faces?

    (Confusing the words congregate and conjugate is one of my favorites "they didn't want a bunch of old guys conjugating in the hallways")

  26. gillian-I'll make fun of people behind their backs if I'm willing to do it to their faces too.
    So how bad they could beat me up is always a factor....

  27. Fantastic that you share your experiences! I've just started reading your posts/stories. Look forward to each one now.


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