Thursday, February 19, 2009


Sonita hollered as I drove in. As always, she was ready to go. She paced up and down her run, carefully walking as close to the rail as she could. It had rained the night before and she refused to get mud on her feet.

As I worked through my chores I kept looking over at her. The new coat that came in with the harvest moon every year was thick and glossy. Deep cherry red, she was at her prettiest in the early fall.

Sonita became nervous under my gaze and she lunged at the horses on either side of her. Her muscles bunched and slid, smooth under her skin.

I went back to work, releasing her from my eyes. She settled and walked back into her stall for a bite of hay.

When I put her in the line-up, I was careful to tie her so the other horses were well out of her kick zone. She squealed a few times and settled in, happy enough to watch me ride the other horses and snake at them over the rail as I loped past.

"Hssss," I would mutter as I flashed by her and lifted my rein in a mild threat. It was just enough to get her to keep those bared yellow teeth at bay. My own version of horse whispering, I guess.

I brought her out to ride in the middle of my day. I was warmed up enough to deal with her and still fresh enough to survive what ever my little darling cooked up for our ride.

We walked around the perimeter of the rail. I made her bridle through the corners and past my tie rail, but let her spook and blow at the walls and shadows in between.

After we had made it around once each way Sonita had enough. She rattled her rein chains and savaged the roller in her bit. She began to strike out a forefoot every step or two. She didn't break gait, or lean on my hand so I caved. We picked up our lope.

I let her go around the rail at her own speed. Today she was content with a fast lope.
"Good girl," I said. This usually meant we were looking at a good work-out.

Sonita tried to come off the rail, afraid of the dark shadows against the arena walls. I pushed her into frame and loped her through the scary corners, driving her hindquarters forward, her shoulders into the center of the arena, easing the pressure building in her mind.

We went into our circles and Sonita relaxed into the zone. We loped our standard twenty circles each way, ending collected and correct for the last five.

As she stood in the center to blow, relaxed, alert and ready to go, I ran through my mental checklist of our strengths and weaknesses.

She still wouldn't stop worth a damn. I'd gone through a time thinking she wasn't able to. But she would park it as hard and long as necessary to turn a cow.

My inexperience as a cow horse trainer combined with Sonita's fierce determination to only obey if she saw a purpose had made it clear that World Show or no, we were going to take a hit on our stops.

She would still well up against my hand and look to the outside of her circles. I had never succeeded in getting her to focus on the track ahead. She was way too busy checking for her friends, the dreaded judges and something she may need to spook at.

Our spins were lovely.
Her feet never went off course. Her circles were clean and perfect, her run downs were true.

If the moons were in their proper phases and the stars were aligned in our favor, nothing could stop us on a cow.

We were qualified. We were going. Sonita was what she was and so was I. I sighed and loped her off.

Once I was satisfied we had done everything needed and Sonita had her edge off, I took her outside to walk in the fields behind the indoor arena. Sonita relaxed as soon as we came into the bright sun. As always, she was so much happier when we were outside.
I looked at my watch. We were an hour and a half into our ride. As usual, her workout had put me behind. I would be riding until at least 7 o'clock now.

Getting Sonita ridden was exhausting. We both needed the walk through the fields to regroup.
She still skittered and played, but most of her urgency was gone. She slowly cooled. I took her back to the barn, washed her down, threw on her cooler and brought her back to the arena to spend the rest of the day on the rail. Putting her up too soon still caused her to fret. I gave her a scratch, checked her legs for heat and went back to work.

That night as I started to put my horses away, one of my clients came out to help. (I had very well-trained clients)

"I'll take Sonita," Crystal told me.

Sonita nuzzled Crystal's hair and walked quietly next to her. Crystal was one of the few people Sonita liked, much less acknowledged.

I walked next to them and the two horses I was leading stayed carefully back and to the side. They knew to stay away from Sonita's teeth and heels.

"Are you excited about the Worlds? Are you getting scared?," Crystals friendly chatter brought me out of my thoughts.

"You know what, I'm starting to get excited," I said.

"You know what I'm scared of? I've decided to sell Sonita."

Crystal fell silent and stared. It was official. I had said it.


  1. Oh--the anticipation! I can feel something building, don't hold out on it too long! I feel like you're giving just the littlest hint, but then again, I hate it when people assume, lol. SO-I won't make any assumptions myself!!

  2. Oh- I was wondering when/ if this was gonna come out.

    I'm curious to see, because I can't imagine, from what I've read, anybody else understanding that horse.

    I felt that way about my red monster. I thought that if I ever sold him, he'd end up as an abused horse. Somebody, somehwere along the line, would get frustrated with him and beat the holy heck out of him. I sure wanted to sometimes.

    When he was younger, people at the saddle club used to ask me why I kept him if he was such a pain. I'd tell them that when he was good he was good. I hadn't gotten him to his full potential yet.

    Years later I felt justified when he was packing my tiny children around the show ring like an old pony.

    But, we had our challenges together... and I admit, he was not near as talented or as fiery as your little red horse.

  3. OMG! THATS IT! you cant just STOP it there....grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I need to know the rest of the story!

  4. Ugh. What an unbelievably hard decision that must have been!

  5. Having been through what you have with that mare, I'm not sure if I could make that decision! Ugh, cliffhanger; I want to know what happens!

  6. Tell me what happens!! Tell me what happens!!

    I can't stand the suspense!

  7. It occured to me last week that although my good barrel horse is on the market, I may not be willing to sell him. Reading through your post today just reinforced that point for me. My dear sweet tub turner has a few issues, nothing that just being a horse haven't remedied, but they are there. Just far enough below the surface when he's at my house that they don't factor into anything. It worries me to think what would happen if he went to live with someone else--a stall, limited turnout, no horse buddies to pal around with. He'd become a nut job again, and then it would come back on me, lol, and I'd be the "No good SOB that sold so-and-so that goofy gray horse!" ::SIGH:: I think one of the most important traits a good owner can have, is the sense of timing to know when to let their horse move on to someone else, if that's what's really best. On the other hand, it's also just as important to know when to keep them cozy and snug in their little pasture, as opposed to going to live in a situation you know they won't thrive in.
    I'm super anxious to see how Sonita's saga turns out!! Pretty please w/sugar on top---don't leave us all hangin!!!

  8. Ooh eeh, don't stop writing now D:

  9. Maybe I'm just latching onto random details because this was such a tense post (I just knew this would be the decider) but I'm thinking I may know who buys her and I really want to know if I'm right so please, please post again soon so that I know. I love the training discussions, but suspense can be murderous :)

  10. Yesyesyes! I was hoping for a Sonita story! You just keep us hanging in there, Janet. The good stories last longer that way...
    Now I'm off to watch the world cup in dressage, show jumping and driving in Gothenburg. Have a nice weekend everyone, I will for sure!

  11. Oooooo HorseOfCourse, I'm jealous! Have fun!

  12. Master of the cliffhanger, as always.

  13. I knew it was coming, but the words "I've decided to sell Sonita" still made my heart jump to my throat.

    Can't wait till the next installment.

  14. Mugs.. I have this visual of you sitting back looking at all of these messages with a grinch-ish smile on your face... :)

    Have your fun, but please, please please get on with the story.

  15. I think it's harder to sell a horse with issues, than a horse without (not for the usual reasons). I worry about them. Where they'll end up. No matter how many reassurances I get from a prospective owner, I worry.

    I have a lovely sorrel mare, with an apron face. She is beautiful and talented. She has some major issues. She is a great penning and sorting horse, also a very good barrel horse. She runs and wins in the 1D.

    A few years ago I was offered $16,500 for her. I really debated on it. That's a lot of money for me.

    In the end I opted not to sell her. I was afraid they'd mistake her fear for naughtiness, or she'd hurt someone. She'd never go after anyone, but she could really hurt someone when she gets in flee mode. You just kind of go with her, and ask her...'are you done yet?'

    My farrier tells me that's when two fools met. Them for offering, and me for turning them down.

  16. HorsePoor, your farrier is funny =)

    Mugwump, I too am curious to hear how things turn out with Sonita.

  17. Hurray another Sonita story!

    Eep on the last line. We all knew it was coming but... eep!

    I was scared to death of selling my guy. He's big and nutty and the combination... After 8 years he followed me around like a puppy dog without a lead, I'd hop on him bareback with a halter and jump the moon. He still loved to run, he still loved to scare people.

    When the girl who was going to buy him got on he took off running and she couldn't stop him. Her mother coached her from the rail, "turn him halfway, now smaller..." She fell in love. Since that was the EXACT same way I met my goofy guy I decided they were the right choice.

    2 years later when I was just starting cancer therapy I received a hand-written letter from the girl who bought him. She was still in love and promised to keep him forever.

    I miss my horse every day. To this moment with only $400 in the bank I wish I had found a way to keep him. Yet I am so glad that he went to someone who loves him and understands him.

  18. Horspoor--
    I can identify w/you 100%.
    My barrel horse isn't too bad, but he's, uhm, quirky. He doesn't have any problems at all once he's under saddle, just some things that pop up denpending on how he's managed I guess you could say. Keeping him cooped up in a stall makes him a nervous wreck, he drops weight like a supermodel before a photo shoot!! I'm the same way, I'd worry about him too much to let him go to just anyone. I've had several people, friends of mine even, that have tried to get me to price him to them, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

  19. barrelracer20x,
    My horse doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Really quite sweet. If she's used regularly, and sanely she's fine. Time off is not a good thing for her.

  20. I love Sonita stories! Her description reminds me so much of my old sorrel gelding, Dude. I tried to "fix" him for a year and gave up. A friend of my daughter's rode him and they had a blast. Too bad she already has her own horse. If he ever went, it would have to be a very special match.

  21. Mugs description of Sonita reminds me of my filly now. I DID sell her once - for only four months then went into debt to buy her back. I can never sell her now, I dont think anyone else would "get" her.

    she would end up hurting somebody, in a slaughter house or (GASP!) as a broodmare passing on her LOVELY temperment!

    Im still waiting for next installment...hint hint hint

  22. I think it's ironic that reading the end of this post was actually a relief.

    See, you had such drama and tension worked up in the writing that I had myself half convinced that she must have died tragically somehow, since that's how it would go in a fiction piece.

    Sometimes I guess it's a blessing that real life isn't like the movies.

  23. horspoor-
    my guy is the opposite, funnily enough. Time off makes him mellow, lol. Just keeping him cooped up brings out his downfalls, he isn't mean at all either. I didn't mean to imply that your mare was, if that's the way my comment was taken, sorry!

  24. No, I didn't take it that way at all. I just worry when I tell people she's a froot loop, they often think she's mean.

  25. Oh man, you're killing me here. I hate the way you leave us on the edge with all these cliffhangers. But I love it too. Ugh! This is the book I would buy immediately if you ever choose to put all the chapters together and sell it online (hint hint)...

  26. You know my daughters BH doesn't like time off. He doesn't appear to care if he is running or not but if she doesn't ride he gets very surly. So long as he gets his attention quota for the day he is an angel.

  27. She is going to *torture* us all weekend!

    Hey, my picture? LOL!


  28. when does the book come out??? I would love to read this again, all at 1 time! I don't think you can sell her! She is in your blood!

  29. Horses and Turbos-
    1. I like it.
    2. It's really embarrassing.
    3.It will make me a target for all the folks out there dying to prove I am full of B.S.

  30. Why would anyone think you are full of BS? All they have to do is try what you suggest. You never say you are the end all!

    Must be they are *internet horse trainers*...much like our *internet drag racers*. Talk the talk, but never have gotten down the track. Sure have a lot of *expert* advice, though!

    I'll save it for special occasions...don't want to embarrass you, it's really just for fun!


  31. I just love the Sonita stories. My heart is in my throat though. Or maybe the pit of my stomach. I'm not sure. I have been down that same road. Please don't keep us waiting too long.

  32. Hello, from one of your loyal lurkers!

    I hate to break my silence just to ask something of you, but....

    Do you have more photos of Sonita? I would love to see any if you have them!

  33. If you don't mind me asking, what was Sonita's registered name? Or, if you don't want to say that, what state was she born in? Just curious...

  34. eek - don't stop oh no don't sell!