Thursday, January 7, 2010


Sonita and I scored high enough to overcome our 10 point gap and boost ourselves to ninth place in the Open Limited Bridle at the NRCHA World Show.

My daughter placed 5th in the Limited Youth class and ended up ranked 5th in the nation too. I on the other hand was ranked somewhere between 300th and 5000th.

We were pretty happy and I ended up getting bamboozled into buying a rat terrier puppy after one too many margaritas. His name is Charlie and he may be the best spent money I didn't have.
I'd love to show you my top ten photo with all my friends and trainers standing along either side of my horse (my daughters too) but I didn't have the money for the photographer.

It didn't matter.

I got to go home with a new confidence and an appreciation for my $900.00 dollar horse. Except she wasn't mine anymore.

Crystal was waiting for us when we pulled up in front of the barn.

As pre-arranged, Crystal unloaded Sonita herself and took her down to a new stall next to Crystal's good horse James.

She pulled her blanket and replaced it with a new one she had bought just that day.

Then we unloaded the rest of the horses and tack. We got a kick at the congratulatory signs and balloon's which decorated the barn aisle.

Again I was treated to one too many Margaritas. This time there was cake and a crowd of my friends and clients. It was a cool homecoming.

Over the next several days I didn't go near Sonita. The first three mornings she nickered the same greeting I had gotten every morning for the last several years. She would stand with her head thrown up staring at me.

She paced and hollered and fretted the first day.

The second day she watched me with a puzzled silence.

The third day she ignored me after the first initial greeting.

I was grateful to be behind on my work.

During this time Crystal groomed her, fussed over her and turned her out daily.

She had planned on giving her a well earned rest, but Sonita soon became so fractious she started taking her out on the trail for short rides.

By the end of the week I heard Sonita nicker a friendly greeting to Crystal as she came into the barn.

That was it. Sonita was weaned. She transferred her attention to Crystal within days and her loyalty within months.

As for myself I learned it wasn't the end of the world to sell a horse. My mare was well trained and well mannered. I had sold her to a rider I had confidence in. Sonita adapted well and once Crystal got her tiger by the tail she adapted too.

I realised it was a good thing. I turned my attention to the future.

Crystal has owned Sonita for more years than I did now. Sonita is fat, happy and still a total bitch. Crystal loves her to death. She hasn't shown her.

Sonita gets long days of turn-out with James, lots of trail rides and cattle work when it's available. The life seems to suit her.

This is Crystal with her favorite girl.

Maybe it's because of Sonita's age, or the change in her life, I can make any excuses I want. The fact of the matter is Sonita likes Crystal a whole bunch more than she ever liked me.

When I went to take this picture I hadn't seen Sonita for about a year. We walked out to the field and she came to me and began sniffing me. She snuffled my hair and sniffed me head to toe. She was especially interested in my Carhart. It occurred to me it might smell like Loki. She made it extremely difficult to take a picture.

I gave her a hug and she hugged me back. Then she gave me a cheerful, "Later, old friend," and went to stand by her owner.

One warm summer night, about three or four years after Crystal had taken over Sonita, we met at a local riding club. The club was getting a versatility class going and were offering a practice cattle class once a week.

The practices were open and I had come with my new bosses and a few clients and friends to see what was up.

The cattle were sour, the folks wanting to cow were green and the gentleman conducting the evening was pretty green himself. There was a long and odd list of rules involved in being allowed to work a cow. The gentleman was there to assist each and every one of us.

As is my habit when I come someplace new, I kept my mouth shut and followed the rules. I expected the people with me to do the same.

"Let's get out of here," my boss whispered,"this is nuts."

"The price is good and we don't have cattle until next month," I shot back, "just behave, ignore him and box your cow."

The night was endless. We had several horses to work and the unsolicited help just kept on coming. Even though we were soon earning our keep shagging the cows nobody could seem to be able to gather and kicking back the strays who kept escaping while the attempt at cutting was going on.

Crystal was her usual self, laughing and having a good time. She was completely OK with sticking to the box work and coming out of the herd. She hadn't worked herself up to trying Sonita down the fence much and never in public.

By the end of the night the ice had thawed a little and we were visiting back and forth with the "cow guy".

He invited us to stay after the crowd left and do a little fence work.

We were glad to.

Crystal rode over to me.

"Would you mind taking Sonita down the fence for me?"

"Why don't you take her?" I asked.

"I just want to watch her go, do you want to?"

I didn't wait for her to change her mind.

I slid off my colt and crawled up on Sonita. She turned around to sniff my boot and I gave her a rub on her neck.

"Are your stirrups OK?" Crystal asked me.

"They're a little long, but it won't matter. It's not like these cows have any gas."

"Let's go play a little," I told Sonita.

She walked off with her quick sure step, her ears pricked and her excitement mounting. I knew how she was feeling.

It was a beautiful night. There was only a little wind and I was comfortable in my shirt sleeves.
I asked Sonita to pick up her lope and we clicked right into place. She picked up her circle and threw a few dolphin bucks before she settled in. She kept looking over to the cattle pen and rattled her bit at me.

"Are you ready Janet?" The cattle guy called.


We trotted up to our cow and I let Sonita crawl right on top of the sour thing. She pinned her ears and snapped her teeth, just about snagging some hair.

The cow woke up a little a feinted away from us.

I decided to try to get some momentum going and let Sonita knock the heifer into one quick turn before we drove her through the corner and down the off side of the fence.

The surprised heifer thought she had found an escape route and all of a sudden we had a fence run going on.

I whooped and settled in as Sonita flew down the fence.

She checked nice as could be and we drove the cow almost to the far corner before she stepped by and slammed the cow through our first turn.

"Oops," I lost one of my too long stirrups through the first turn, "Ah what the hell, lets go,"
I told my old friend and we lined up down the fence.

The surly black thing bumped up against us, trying to angle her way back to the cow pen, but Sonita just body slammed her against the rail and we kept on going.

I lost my other stirrup through the second turn and I scrambled to keep myself in the middle as we pushed off the fence and began to circle.

We hadn't lost a beat of the rhythms we had shared for so long. I knew every stride and breath of this cool, cool mare. She knew where I was and what to expect of me every step of the way. I whooped again and settled back in the saddle, stirrups flying, as we circled up our cow.


  1. What a beautiful story. I (once again) have tears in my eyes reading about your ride with Sonita, years later.

    Even though selling her must have been hard there must be such a sense of satisfaction that she is so well trained and so well cared for.

  2. About the best ending I could have hoped for :)

  3. I have (impatiently, I admit) been waiting for this story.....

    Well, done, Janet, WELL DONE!!!!

  4. Ahhh.
    What a perfect, bittersweet ending.

  5. Wow - what a truly great story! Thanks so much for putting the imagery in my mind... loved it!

  6. At first I was annoyed that there was no more "drama" about the world show. I thought, after all that suspense you just tell us the placing and that you went home? But I see now that you gave us the good stuff. I was right there with you the rest of the story, a little misty eyed. Excellent ending. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. I hated to see this story end... but loved the ending.

  8. Great ending... When does the next one start?

  9. :)

    Big :) :)

    That was beautiful.

  10. >camera pans, microphone slide up<

    huge crowd, standing, applauding, whistling, stamping, waving

    >fade to black<

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sonita stories... This one in particular got me thinking.

    I had one horse I had to rehome that made me realize it's a situation I don't want to ever HAVE to be in again. He went to a good older teen, and she enjoyed him a lot.

    I went to a show to watch them a few months into her ownership, and while we relaxed and hung out in front of his stall, he hung his head over the door the whole time right by my shoulder. Later she mentioned he seemed subdues and depressed the next week...

    They sold him on to someone else, and I saw him a year later. We went for a ride, and like you and Sonita, there is nothing like an old friend that you trained from go and know as well as yourself. He called after me twice as I walked away after that visit. That broke my heart.

    He was euthed due to colic less than a year after that visit, only 15 years old.

    I would never be a good horse trader, if it's a horse I bonded with and loved. It's just heart wrenching.

    I'm so glad Sonita, who has brought all of us readers (in addition to the actual people in her life) so much pleasure, had a great owner after you, and this ride story... awesome!

    I am Boyfriend

  12. I would LOVE to have seen that last time you rode sonita after that cow. Amazing story as usual. (I love sonita's blaze. i'm so glad she has her crystal too)

  13. what a perfect ending - taking a ride for the pure joy of the ride and of the sport! I wished the story didn't end...

  14. I saw the post title and was excited and scared. I had to pour a glass of wine before starting to read. You certainly did not disappoint! Damn, you capture the nuances of life so well.

  15. OT-

    The dog in your avatar is TOO cute! I assume it's name is... RuckusButt?

  16. OOoooohhhh that was good. Why is it I get teary eyed every time I read one of these stories? I wish it wasn't over. I want it to go on forever.
    Thank you for sharing.

  17. It's hard to know when to let go of a horse when your training. Some of them you get too attached to. I finally learned this summer with the number of horses I was riding that it wasn't wise to get too attached and even though I was personally caring for them they were never "My" horses.
    Wonderful story as usual.

  18. Whew! That was a long time coming! Well worth the wait, though! Thank you for the awesome imagery and heart felt emotions!

  19. That was both beautiful and heartbreaking. I'm a one-horse-first-time owner and I just cannot imagine handing my boy over to someone else.

  20. Awww...really hits my sentimental place. I know there is no way I'd be that strong to be able to ride an old horse.... instead I'd be a blubbering mess! I am so glad your story ended this way, with Sonita finding a great, loving home.

  21. I love a (tears streaming) happy ending! Thank you! Strong work!

  22. Awww...I can't believe it's over! So well written, though, and I am truly happy for everyone. What a great ending!

    What is your next story about, Mugs?

  23. Ack, I shouldn't have read this at I'm teary eyed at my desk.

    Perfect story. I so completely wish it wasn't the epilogue.

  24. Thank you guys. Thanks for reading, thanks for getting me to remember.
    Clue of the day...Tally.

  25. What can I say... just a wonderful, perfect end to a gripping story. Loved every word.

    (Aren't you glad you put all the sweat and frustration and determination into training that incredible mare?)

    Looking forward to reading about Tally!

  26. Aw, what a great ending! I must admit, I hate that the story has come to an end. I love reading about Sonita and certainly have a talent for telling their stories. :)

  27. That is an excellent ending to what I consider an amazing story. It's as close as I'll ever get (or even want to get) to that level of competition. All of the emotions are so real when you write. Bravo!


  28. I just have to say I am so glad that Sonita could move on and bond with her new owner. I think it would have broken my heart if she had mourned for you. This has been a wonderful story and I thank you for sharing it with us all.

  29. Im glad everything worked out, even the selling of Sonita. It sounds like she has a great home now, even if she isnt with you.

  30. Best wishes for 2010 ! for all horse lovers

  31. ahhhh.... makes me wish I had a cow to work at home.. I miss it. Cant wait for summer.


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