Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crystal, Fallon and Sonita

Crystal always had a weakness for babies. Not when they were tiny, with milk dripping from their whiskery muzzle as they peered from under their mother's tail. Crystal didn't fall for them when their baby coat began to fall away to reveal their true color either.

Crystal fell for the weanlings who raced in a wild herd around her. Her tender heart went out to the rowdy little boogers who were still sure the world was theirs.

She loved their curiosity and timid gestures of friendship. Crystal even loved the mischievous nips and carelessly thrown kicks from impudent colts and fillies who had no thought of halter, bit or saddle.

Which is how Crystal ended up with Fallon.

Fallon was slim-legged and delicate. She was a fairy-like filly with big eyes and a dished face. The little filly with a deep chestnut coat was a surprising stand-out from her solid boned, coarse headed brothers and sisters.

Crystal had said she was done with babies. She had bought her good Arab/Quarter gelding, James (his registered name is Bond, James Bond), as a yearling and had invested heavily in his training. He had become a solid minded citizen, but not without a lot of work, patience and money.

"Next time I'll buy a broke horse," she swore, "for what James cost to train I could buy a good one."

Of course that was before she met Fallon.

Crystal bought her and then kicked herself in the butt pretty regularly for doing it. When she brought her to me for training as a two-year-old she kicked herself in the butt and started writing checks too. Oh well.

Fallon broke out fairly easy, except for only running backwards for the first three or four rides. She was flighty and sensitive, but showed a lot of promise. Crystal took regular lessons and kept up with her filly's progress.

When Fallon turned three we started her rein work and a little bit of cow work. She was capable and willing with enough spook and blow to keep her interesting.

Crystal took her out on the trails and worked through many of Fallon's fear issues. It was starting to look like Fallon would make a decent show horse.

I got to show Fallon for the first time in the spring of her 4-year-old year. She looked at her cow in the herd work and ran a clean and decent reining pattern. She handled the chaos of a NRCHA, AQHA, NRHA combined show and was calm and relaxed about being stalled for the first time. She out-scored Sonita in her reining. Crystal was happy, excited and proud.

Her little filly had the makings of a competitive cowhorse.

One night I got a late call from Crystal.

"Hey Crystal, what's up?" I asked.

"Fallon's colicked. The vet is going to do surgery," Crystal's voice was shaking and I could feel her pain and tears through the phone.

"How can Norm do surgery? He's not set up for it. I'd think he'd send you to Littleton Large," I said.

Our vet was great and reliable but had a mobile practice. I was a little confused.

"I couldn't get a hold of Norm, so I'm using one of the boarder's vet, Dr. Death" she told me..

Of course that wasn't his real name, or the name Crystal gave me. It was the name this clown had earned after several botched cases where the only common thread was a dead horse at the end of the story. He was notorious for jumping into colic surgery.

I became very still.

"What's wrong?" Crystal asked.

"I think surgery is pretty drastic, I'd sure want Norm to look at her."

"I don't know what to do, he's prepping right now."

Interfering with a client's choice about a serious issue like this one is a treacherous road. As her trainer I knew I could influence Crystal easily. If Fallon died because I stopped her from operating on her filly it would weigh on my shoulders for the rest of my life. I stayed silent, trying to decide what to do.

"What would you do if it was your horse?" Crystal almost begged.

The panic and pain in her voice tore me apart. Crystal was my friend. Friends say what they feel, at least the good ones do, even if the outcome isn't ideal.

"If it was me, I would load my horse up and head for Littleton Large, I would trust the vets there to help me make an intelligent choice. I would feel safe there," I said in a rush.

"But Dr. Death said she could never survive the trip!"

I could tell Crystal was crying now.

"Crystal, why did you call me?" I asked as gently as I could.

"I don't really know," she said.

"If you called me because you have a gut feeling this man shouldn't operate on your horse, than go to Littleton Large. If you called me because you've made your decision and need support than I'll come out there and help you."

Crystal took Fallon to Littleton Large. The veterinarians listened to Fallon's gut, did some blood work and told her surgery might give the suffering little horse a 10% chance of survival.

Crystal had Fallon put down that morning. She told me she was done with babies.


Two years later, I was at the barn, saddling my second shift of horses. Crystal was hanging out, grooming Sonita for me and visiting.

"I've been thinking," she said.

There was something about her voice that gave me pause. I turned around and looked at her.

Crystal's eyes were huge, her face pale and strained. She tangled her fingers in Sonita's mane. Sonita jerked her head up and pinned her ears.

"I think I want to buy Sonita," she said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

Crystal drew in a deep, quavering breath, "Yes. I'm sure. I can give you a down payment now. We're taking out a loan. I can pay off the balance when you get back from the Worlds."

Good enough. I had sold my horse.


SillyPony said...

Oh I'm SO glad you sold her to someone you knew! Mostly because it means that this story is NOT over with yet! Oh I really really hope for a happy ending on this one!!!!

The Epic Barrel Racer said...

Oh my goodness I started crying. I feel so silly lol, but I
know exactly what it's like to not only use a up and comeing "rockstar" horse but to also sell one that you've put a lot of work into and didn't really want to sell but knew it was the best thing to do.

lopinon4 said...

HOLY CRUD-BALLS!! I'm so happy that Crystal got her!! Dying to hear more of the story, Mugs.

The Epic Barrel Racer said...

Goodness, I need another cup of coffee, I meant to write "loose a up and coming"

texasnascarcowgirl said...

EGADS!!! these Sonita stories are going to be the death of me! haha I feel so stupid sitting here at my office about to cry over a horse story. Well, such as it is most horse stories make me cry.

Albigears said...

I need to read this blog before I put mascara on. I too am glad the story's not over yet!

Redsmom said...

How exciting! I am so sad for Crystal that she lost her young horse, but happy at the same time that she learned to love Sonita. Also, happy for you that you will get to know exactly where Sonita is; with a trusted friend.

mugwump said...

Redsmom!!!Read my comment to you on the Wordy Wed. post!

autumnblaze said...

Redsmom - I second mugs suggestion on the other post.

1) I loved that filly's name for some reason. I also, despite having NO business owning one, have a soft spot for youngsters just like her. I still don't know what it is. I almost ended up with a couple that had been donated to the vet school... luckily they auctioned at good prices to good homes or other people wanted to adopt them. People with more experience, I at least knew to get out of the way.

2) God that sucks. It's my greatest fear facing owning my own horse. I realize it's most horse owners greatest fears but ugh. On such a young'n it's just awful.

3) I'm glad it was a friend but part of me really never wanted you to part with Sonita. Some say I'm a dreamer...

manymisadventures said...

Wow, mugs. I swear these get better every time.

Sydney said...

aghhh, cliffhanger

naina said...

Poor Fallon. I'm sure Crystal knows she did the right thing in taking her little mare to the better vet. How old was Sonita at this point, when Crystal bought her?

As soon as I read the earlier post about Crystal's first ride on her, I knew she'd be the one to buy her!

mocharocks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mocharocks said...

Yaaaayyyy! That's what I was hoping would happen! (Although it's horribly sad that her filly died.) Of course, I'm sure there's more to the story to come, right? I hope it all works out...

badges blues N jazz said...

OMG! Wheres the rest of the story... Do we have to wait a WHOLE MONTH for the rest??? any pics to post of Sonita with her new mom?

mugwump said...

blues - I swear I will try to get the next Sonita srory out a little sooner...Of course we have some Q's and A's to get through first....
naina - Sonita was 6 I think...

Shanster said...

Nice post Mugs!

Cool since my trainer's sister is an equing surgeon at Littleton Large so it's a neat CO reference. And those who've been in that spot... so difficult. Especially with a young'un.

Such a good story!

Cheers - Shanster

Justaplainsam said...

YES!! I kinda had a feeling from the way you were writeing about how her 'first' ride went that she was going to find a new home, but, one with an old friend.

I cried too :) but in a happy way.

Laura Crum said...

That story about Fallon just killed me, especially since I just went through a similar scenario with my son's horse, Henry. Fortunately my story, so far, has a happy ending, with Henry making it through the surgery and becoming a riding horse again. But that dark night when he continued to colic through the painkillers and we endlessly walked him and finally made the decision to take him to the equine center, where they recommended surgery--that is not something I want to relive. I feel for Crystal. I hope she's having a ball with Sonita.

Heidi the Hick said...

Man, it'll be three years this summer that I lost my red horse to colic and I swear it still hits me in the gut when I hear a story like this.

At least I could say he was 21 and had lived one heck of a good life. To lose a young horse like that would be a whole different kind of awful.

SOSHorses said...

OMG you CANNOT leave us hanging like that! I am glad you knew where she was going and it wasn't' to some stranger but....

joycemocha said...

Yeah. I lost my first Shetland to colic when he was nine years old. Coolest little pony ever--thought the sun rose and set on me.

This was pre-colic surgery era except for very expensive performance horses (the early 70s).

I haven't been around a horse like him until Miss Mocha. She's nine this year. I'm irrationally worried.

Anonymous said...


mel said...

My horse passed away from colic while I was away on my college internship. That was really hard- I couldn't say goodbye. I was told my parents and the vet spent 2 days trying to save her before she was ET'd. She was a big morgan mare that was 24 at the time of her passing. i miss her every day. She rests next to my first pony under a big maple tree in the front field at my parents farm. I feel for what Crystal went though. Sometimes life (and life with horses) sucks. I'm super exicted that she bought Sonita. Please don't make us wait too long Mugs!

Akasha said...

Yay, I'm so happy your Sonita/training stories are back. That's the reason why I read your blog (my favorite parts of it anyway) :)

Redsmom said...

Its cool. I'll get her to sign a release. She offers to do so in her Craigslist ad. Plus, I'm a lawyer. Thanks, though. Its a good reminder for everyone not to be too trusting.

surprisewind said...

This made me think, "Hmmmm."

My 'favoritest' horse ever was out of a mare named Fallon Firefly. The description of Crystal's Fallon could also fit my mare to a T.

Of course, this was eons ago in California so I know the odds of them being related in any way are slim to none. This just brought me a huge wave of nostalgia.

She wasn't really MY mare, and we didn't have her very long (she was a resale project I made the mistake of falling in love with)... but if there was one perfect horse out there for me, she was it.

Londoner said...

For a moment there I thought Fallon would be saved - but then I remembered this isn't a fairytale. However, glad Sonita found a good home - very bittersweet this week mugs!

gtyyup said...

What a heartbreaking story for Crystal and Fallon...everyone's nightmare.

But, you sure did leave us on a cliff...but, we know you'll be back with more ;~)

HorseOfCourse said...

All those twist and turns in the story, and the suspension.
And in a real life story too!
Don't let us wait for the rest too long, Mugs...

Bambi said...

Bittersweet ><
I'm glad she has a good new-mommy now, though!

Mugs, I has a queation!!

My 4 year old half Arab gelding is usually surprisingly laid back and attentive. He does have, however, one small, really weird quirk.

Every now and then, when I'm riding him (English, btw) he will stop, and stand perfectly still. If I ask him to move forwards, he backs calmly up. I'm not asking him to back at all, and have zero contact with his mouth.

No matter how I try to get him to move forwards, he just calmly backs. If I try to turn him, he backs with this neck bent to the side. I can not figure this one out!
Do you have any insight?

onetoomany said...

Oh man the part about Fallon colicing just wrenched my heart and clenched my stomach. Two years ago my mare coliced through two shots of banamine given in two hours at an overnighter show and I thought I was going to have to shell out the 5/6 grand for a colic surgery or.... Lucky for me I ended up trailering her back to our clinic and the second she hit the stocks at the clinic she pooped and perked up. Trailer rides sure do wonders. Turned out well but I hardly remember what happened in between the start of colic and the getting her to the clinic as I was just bawling (no, I didn't drive as I probably would have crashed). Now whenever I hear colic surgerys I just cringe.

Mugs- Not sure if you're stocked up on questions right now but I have one. My mare is making me pull my hair out with her herd bound self. It's currently causing us a lot of issues and while I can correct each issue as it comes, I'd rather work on the root of the problem but I'm not really sure how to go about it as I've never had a horse this herd sour. She is not the most extreme, mainly because I think she knows there are consequences of trying to push me around. I have a feeling though she'd happily run me over on her way to her buddies if I wasn't strict with her. She does the basic stuff, dances and screams when she's tied alone. She's all over the place and screams when she's ridden alone. She used to try to pull me all the way out back to her paddock but she learned a harsh lesson about that. So basically what do you usually do for the herd bound challenged? Unfortunately I cannot seperate her from a herd at paddock as I board and my boarding barn owner will usually bend over backwards but I don't want to completely inconvenience her.

Justaplainsam said...

Oh mugwump.... Do I ever wish you lived closer today!!!!!

Took the new horse to a clinc, the guy doing it really likes her, thinks we could have a good chance at QH but doesnt think her mind could handle the pressure of the training that would have to take place to finish her...(and she really is a kids horse to have fun on! not my next 'Jr' horse)

'Best' friend is telling me there is all this stuff wrong with the horse, (which the AQHA trainer and world champ breeder doesnt think is even an issue) but I think she doesnt want to get beat... People talking about me behind my back the "oh I heard she could only do halter horses"

Im so tired of the SHIT!!!

I dont want to ruin a perfectly good horse, I really wish the gossip would stop, and if I beat my friend will she still talk to me? It was an issue when I even wanted to show last year, even though it was a different curcit....

Oh god some days I think I should give it all up.

gillian said...

I had a more general question a while back about confidence. What gives a horse self confidence, what gives them confidence in you? What can you do to try to build either sort of confidence? Its a theme already in a lot of your posts, but its something I've been pondering a lot myself and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Jenny said...

I hope this is not the end of the Sonita stories

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