Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sonita/ Here We Are

Even at two in the morning the barn at a major show is always thrumming. The overhead lights stay on 24 hours a day and time becomes meaningless as the show wears on.

Horses look out into the barn aisles and whinny,to their stable mates, to the horse being led past, to their caretakers, to the huge, confusing world of eternal light.

Restless trainers check their horses and the nervous or flat out terrified ride in the half-light of the show pen.

I slipped into Sonita's stall and rubbed her hip, letting my scratching fingers search out her favorite itchy spots. She tweaked her tail in irritation and moved a step from me. She had pulled most of her feed from her feeder and stomped it into the shavings. Her head stayed buried in the corner.

My mare was sick of this place, we had been here a week, she was tired and stressed. She wanted out of the box stall, out of this noisy world that never let her relax, never let her sleep. I knew how she felt, I didn't know how many more nights I could spend in a motel room filled with the smell of dirty clothes, teenage girls, boots, dogs and assorted pieces of tack.

I leaned against her and pushed my icy hands under her blanket. I couldn't figure how it could be cold and muggy at the same time. The joy of winter in Stephenville I guess. Sonita sighed and shifted her weight from one hind foot to the other.

"Let's get out of here, you wanna?"

I grabbed Sonita's halter and tied it on. She plodded behind me, her head hanging, and lugged on the lead.

The foggy night air swirled around us as I led her out of the barns. Sonita threw her head up and drank in the clean air. Wide awake, she jigged by my side and her tail waved and snapped.

We walked back to the trailer and I dug out an extra horse blanket and my Carhart. Sonita kicked her heels in play as I lead her farther into the fields. When the darkness swallowed us and I could just make out the white of her face I stopped.

Sonita stood and looked at me for a few seconds before she dropped her head to graze. I snuggled into my Carhart and spread the horse blanket on the ground.

I lay back on the blanket and watched my mare graze. A kaleidoscope of images went through my head as I watched her. We had been through so much together. We had come so far. My squalling, nasty, bitch of a mare had gotten it together and channeled her incredible energy into where we were right now. It occurred to me I had learned to channel a few things too.

A brief ripple of fear ran through me, but the rhythmical rip and chew, rip and chew, as Sonita grazed in the dark made it easy to put tomorrow off until tomorrow.

She stepped by my blanket and snuffled my hair, making sure to leave plenty of slobber. I reached out to push her nose away and wrapped my hand around her coronet band instead. I could just feel a light pulse beating slow and steady.

I remembered to wrap the lead once around my hand before I slid into sleep. I dreamed of horses running.


  1. Thanks for a Sonita chapter. It will replay in my head as I sit on a lawn mower instead of my horse.

  2. Whew! That one came QUICK, and I was overjoyed to see it!! Mugs, it's hard to believe that you didn't hold onto Sonita...the two of you were clearly bonded. What a beautiful evening with her, and you described it with such emotional detail.... SIGH. Okay, hurry up on the next installment!! :)
    BTW, congrats on finding a barn close to work! WOOHOO!

  3. All I can think about is that you dreamed of horses running because Sonita was running while you slept! Ahhhhh!
    You sure are way-too-talented with the cliffhangers...

  4. For some reason this one made me tear up. I think I could feel your tension and frustration. It is so tough to go from our daily routine into the show routine without both horse and rider showing stress. The only bad part about horses living in the moment is that we can't explain to them that it's only temporary, that the lights and the stress and the stall confinement are just temporary and they'll be home soon.

  5. Really really loved this one.
    Thanks Mugs.

  6. Yet another great post, but she was so happy to be out of that stall.

  7. I love stolen moments like that... in the midst of craziness. Fantastic! Yet another cliff really are too good at that.

  8. Enough with the cliffhangers! Actually I love them because I fear with every new installment, that it is going to be the last chapter in the Sonita saga.

    You are great at capturing those connected moments with your horse, the peacefulness, the tranquility. I positively shivered at the description.

    Can't wait for the next chapter, though I will be perfectly happy with another cliff hanger. I desperately want to know how this story ends, but even more than that, I don't want the story to end.

    Write that book already!

  9. AMAZING!!! Love this blog... I would buy your book in a heartbeat if it was out!

  10. Staying at a facility that is so unlike home while you're showing is tough. I've done just what you did to get away from and give both of us a chance to decompress. Absolutely live your stories!

  11. Sorry about the typos. I LOVE your stories!!

  12. it felt like the beginning of a goodbye between you and Sonita....sigh

  13. Also, question:
    Why are the lights on 24 hours in show barns?
    To me that seems like the pros of that system wouldn't outweigh the cons of stressing all of the horses (not to mention people) out?

  14. jayke- I have had my first go at 7 am,(in reining) which means being at my stall by 4 am. Then I have my last run at 1 am (cowhorse) same day. This is not unusual at all.
    I know the people who compete in all-around stuff have this kind of thing happen too.
    So, lights are on 24/7.

  15. I LOVE Sonita stories!!!

    Keep them coming! Keep them coming! My favorite part of your blog.... In fact, I like bloggy Wednesdays because I know there's a pretty good shot at a Sonita story.

  16. Loved this chapter Mugwump! It took me back to my National competition days. I showed the all around events and my barn would often go to the fairgrounds in the early morning hours around 3 am to practice. In those hours we had the arena mostly to ourselves and could focus our riding more. Although getting up at that hour was painful, I loved those moments so much - that stillness and the essence of the show while everyone slept. Sometimes after finishing up, I'd just sit and watch in the silence. I also used to take my horse out to the front fields at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in the late afternoon and let him graze in the setting sun. Those stolen moments amidst the craziness are that much more powerful. Thanks for the nostalgic trip!

  17. Lovely story, Mugs.
    How marvellous to be able to get a "time out" from all the stress, just the two of you.

  18. Loved it. Yes, it does feel like the beginning of a goodbye. Why do I feel like you're going to make me cry before this is over?

  19. I loved this Sonita installment! It gave me the shivers and reminded me of all the small moments I've had with my horses. I just hope you didnt dream about running horses because she ran away!!!

  20. wow...i love how you trust her enough to sleep like that...idk if I would trust my boy...he's rather mischeivous.

  21. I couldn't do the stress with showing like that. Another great post for Sonita...always awaiting for more!

  22. I know we have all said this and I myself have before. When I read your stories I can close my eyes and watch it in my mind like a movie. I can see your brown carhart, the extra canvas blanket, and the stars in the night sky. I can hear the soft steady breathing of Sonita as she enjoys the stolen grazing time with the only person who has ever really understood her.

    You are such a talented story teller and I know when you finally decide to write a book, it will be a fantastic read.