Monday, February 8, 2010

Mouthy Mondays

The author of this cool little tale asked to stay anonymous.

I always honor these requests.

But it adds a touch of mystery. Why is she afraid to come out in the open? It's not her writing technique, because she writes very well.

Is she afraid someone who knows her on the track will read this?

Did she get the trainer in the end?

The plot thickens....

A Trackside Story, Standardbred Style

“Watch out, she kicks”

Those words floated up through my brain as I rolled up my jeans to look at the gash that now ran from my ankle, up my leg to the other side of my knee. Day two, and yes, she kicks. And bites, rears, strikes, and pins. Her name was Sweet n Easy Too, someone’s sick sense of racetrack humor.

I was determined not to quit, not so soon. It was my first real break at being a pro groom, I was finally in a big stable, one that raced A-circuit, Grand Circuit, Stakes, none of the B-tracks. Big name horses, big name owners, big name trainer.

I had my string of four, and as low man on the totem pole, they were the ones no one else wanted. Including Sweet n Easy Too.

She was a little bay mare, no white at all, a beautiful deep red with long black stockings, distinctive points, and as pretty as a bay mare can be when her ears were up.

Too bad for me that wasn’t often. I had no idea what made her the way she was, all I knew was she was barely 2, sour, and hated men. Women too, but not as bad as men. I was determined not to quit. I was determined to get along with this mare. I was determined to prove I deserved to be there.

Every day, I’d come in to pinned ears and a scrunched nose. “Mornin’ mama” I’d say, and toss her my apple core.

Slowly, we learned to get along. I didn’t care if I put her bell boots on with her feet around my ears, as long as she kept those feet to herself.

I didn’t care if she kicked the walls, as long as I wasn’t in between her foot and the wall she was kicking.

If she bit someone, I told them stay away from her stall, and I wouldn’t let them touch her.

You see, I liked her, I liked her attitude, and the moment she kicked my leg wide open from my ankle to my knee I was in love.

We were a lot alike her and I, plenty to be sour about, plenty of reason to be afraid of what might be done to us, and plenty of spunk to hide that fear. Before a month had gone by, she and I were just fine.

The day she reached over her stall door and tore the shoulder out of the assistant trainer’s jacket, I laughed.

He was a jerk anyways, rough with the horses and hard on them trackside.

He figured he’d give her a beating, and when I wouldn’t get out of the way, figured I could have one too.

Wrong move buck-o. The black eye and bloody nose was worth it. Head trainer fired him when he got up from the ground. I put him there, a couple of the joggers helped keep him there for a bit.

Good girl Mama I told her, before I went to clean up.

A couple of days later, a new trainer showed up. I had my girl out in the shed row, cross tied but she was still handy with those feet.

I told him “let me put her away, she kicks”, but he just smiled. He slid along the wall, she figured that was OK. He went to pat her, and I warned him, “she bites too”. He just smiled again, lifted his arm, and pet her on the head anyways.

My lovely bay mare made me love her even more that day, when she bit him as hard as she could, right below his armpit, and held on.

The new trainer, Craig was his name, I figured he’d be like the rest, break free, curse and swear and raise a fist like most men would do. He didn’t though.

He kept smiling, even though I knew it must hurt, and stroked her head. He patted her neck, and told her what a pretty girl she was. Confused, she finally let go, and much to our surprise he gave her a hug before he walked away.

There was at least one good man left in the world. We were both stunned.

After that, Mama and I were both in love, with the same guy. He was kind, he was gentle, and he let us be who and what we were without judgment. I think both my little bay mare and I did a fair bit of healing that spring, and neither of us expected it.

Mama started to show some speed, and suddenly it was OK if she was the way she was. She wasn’t nasty, she was sharp – sharp is OK.

She wasn’t sullen, she had attitude – also OK.

The owner was nice to me, brought me a coffee one day. I smiled, and shared it with my girl.

Craig brought in muffins; she and I shared one of those too.

“That bitch” turned into “that bay mare”, or “that bay mare’s groom” depending on who they were talking about. I figured that was OK.

The track was a rough place, but I proved I deserved to be there.


Shadow Rider said...

Gotta love those witchy mares!

B said...

Does this writer have a blog of her own? I'd love to read more stories out of her!!

Diane I. said...

Hahahaha.....Oh, I hope there is more to this story.
Very well written!!!

gtyyup said...

Oh my, that was great...I want some more!!!

I hope Ms. Anon will share~~

crochetyolelady said...

YES,,, loved it. Please ask her if she will share her blog? thanks!

Shanster said...

What a great post, I really enjoyed it - wonderful story! Thanks for sharing anonymous!!

Wormwood said...

I have an unreasonably soft spot for the 'nasty' attitudes; I have no idea why, always have though. My very first experience with horses (beyond the petting zoo fiasco) was going to a riding camp when I was seven.
The camp director made the mistake of introducing himself on day one - I tracked him down at dinner and told him I would like a 'spirited' horse please. My counselor laughed out loud when she read the mount list; I was assigned 'Tonka', who bit, kicked, and was generally misanthropic. And I loved the hell out of that horse for the whole week.
Whomever this writer is, I'd LOVE to read more of her stories!

lopinon4 said...

Would love it if the writer would come forward, hope she has a blog, too! GREAT STUFF!

DarcC said...

Great story, the author certainly earned her stripes! I would love to read more, about the same horse or from the same author. Thanks for sharing!

Olde New England said...

I’ve been lurking on this blog for about a year. Really enjoy it, as it’s literate, informative, realistic, and interesting all at the same time. And there’s no mean-spirited cussing and swearing about anyone who doesn’t “drink the cool aid,” as well as a refreshing absence of the rainbows, butterflies, and tinkerbell stuff too.

One thing I despise about most horse blogs, missing at Mugwups, is the extreme level of gratuitous anti-male sentiments. As a liberated woman, I can’t stand that BS. I continually hear that all the problem horses hate men because all the men are cruel abusers, kill buyers, and money-grubbing professionals who lame horses and rip out their mouths to get a blue ribbon. This very interesting post showed a guy in a good light for a change, and she admitted that her bay mare hated men and women. I hope she “got the guy” and hope her bay mare was successful on the track.

And I know I’m preaching to the choir to the civilized and level-headed ladies on this blog. But for every man in the horse world there are probably 999 women. So if a horse has been abused or mis-treated, what are the odds that it was a woman, not a man!

Susan said...

Good story. It would have been easy to hate a mare like that.

Amy said...

:) I LOVE this story, thank you so much for sharing it!! If you would be so kind to update us anonymously- have you been able to stay in contact with the horse? And the good guy?

And good for you for kicking that jerks ass, I bet he felt salty when a chick laid him out!

mugwump said...

Everybody I wrote her (anon) and told her we were dying for blog as far as I know.

Olde New England- Thanks for your kind words, we try. When I was little and learning to ride there were a few boys who wanted to learn too. Then about middle-school it was all girls. Then in high school the cowboys started to appear and there were enough of them to make life interesting.
When I first started training it was all women. The majority of the trainers I knew were women and all of my clients were women and little girls, with a brother or two thrown in.
Once I got into cowhorse it became obvious this was a very male dominated sport.
There are plenty of non-pro women, but most of the trainers were men.
I have known an equal measure of women who were cruel and kind. Same for men.
But, many women are drawn to horses who have had terrible experiences with men.
I am constantly amazed at how many of us come from pasts with abuse. I think that's where the uneven bias comes from.
I don't worry about it though. We have a few guys who read this blog and both of them hold their own.

DeeDee ( said...

Okay, loved the story, loved the writing.
Yes, we want more. Is there a way to share a blog 'secretly'?

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story of redemption and hope. And beautifully written. This is one horsey lady that should have a blog, she already has a whole list of readers waiting to read more!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

Albigears said...

I read it once, then read it again with blurred vision. Thanks for the story.

AareneX said...

Loved, loved, loved the story--I've got one of "those" standie mares too: too quick with her feet and teeth at first. She's better's been a long road. Sounds like the writer has been on that same long road.

Now, pardon me, I must read it again and then send the link to a few friends.

TalkTeke said...

I REALLY hope she will send in more stories!!! What happened with the trainer? How did the mare do? MORE!!!

Unknown said...

Any guy who'll smile after being bit in the armpit is a keeper.

Great story, well told.

Bif said...

Olde New England,

As Mugs mentioned, a lot of trainers in different disciplines tend to be male. My friend's walker was truly afraid of all men on the ground, but didn't mind being ridden by one, so in specific instances I'm sure it is memory related. Also, there are a lot more male farriers than women, and in my area, still a lot more male large animal vets.

My Nokota was very leery of all people other than me when I first got him, but particularly worried about men and vets. Due to an infected tooth which required lots of time with a very good and caring dental vet, and the super nice chiro vet (both men), Bif loves vets now! Even one he had never previously met, he let take all sorts of liberties he never would have before he built that bank of positive experiences.

He is still leery of farriers. One rasp swatted him the second time he was worked on, even though he KNEW he was new to all of it. Bif nailed him in a sensitive area the first time I wasn't around to hold him, and I am not sure I blame him. The one and only time he has ever offered to kick a human, much less connected.

When he was at a big expo, he let many hundreds of people pet him. The 5 or 6 times he backed further into the stall and wouldn't let himself be touched, it was a man (and you could almost see their "cowboyin'" aura). Real cowboys are OK, and a whole lot different than those wannabes ;-)

I think the pie in the sky answer is to have more owners and caretakers who are educated and respectful of the animals in their care, regardless of gender! The only way to get that is to not patronize trainers and other horse professionals that are not respectful in their dealings with the animals. Now if we could just find a way to take money and "blue ribbon fever" out of the equation...

I really enjoyed this story, and would love to find a place to read future installments!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous author here, wow, you guys have moved me to tears. I answered Janet, but have decided to post here what I sent her, so here you go, and if I do start up a blog, I promise Janet will be the first to know.



I saw the first dozen or so comments, I am shocked!! You can tell them that no, I don't have a blog, but I'll be sure to send you another Trackside story or two, Standardbred style ;) Maybe I will start up a blog...

What makes it hard, is that my good bay mare did not have a happy ending. I wish I could lie and say she raced fast, and earned a spot on a brood mare farm. I wrote that story to honour what she gave me, and to honour her memory, she deserved better than what she had.

I'll write something else up for sure though :) And thank you so much, I wasn't sure that it was a good story, and I wasn't sure people would like it at all. I wasn't even sure you'd post it... you have no idea what a thrill it was to see it up and out there, and people reading it and enjoying it! Well, though, maybe you do ;)

Thanks so much for the huge and joyful boost to my day, and to the memory of Sweet n Easy Too,

The groom of Trackside Tales, Standardbred style

Anonymous said...

I love Standies.

CR said...

Olde New Englandd--

Totally get what you are saying. So many times the horse must have been abused (and it has to be a man) if it has a nasty temperment. I'm being sarcastic.

I see this in dog rescue as well. If a dog is fearful it means it was "abused." In fact, many dogs just have sucky temperments. I have two dogs that are related, one rolls over if you look at him wrong. had him since he was a puppy and raised him just the way I did the other. never had a moment of mean treatment in his life but if he ever had to have a home where no one knew his history I'm sure it would morph into "oh he was so abused, that's why he acts like that."

It's weird, but I think some people get off thinking they "saved" an abused animal instead of one with a sketchy temperment. It's so easy to say "he was abused" to excuse bad behavior.

I'm not saying that's what happened with this bay mare, but just wanted to say I get it.

I rescued an egyption mare who I knew her full history. Never been abused but wow was she pissy. Just plain didn't want to be ridden, and would make horrible ugly faces to avoid it.

Mug's mare Sonita was opinated, and if somehow she got lost in the world of placement someone might say "she's that way because she was abused."

Scamp said...

Great story, Anonymous! I wonder if we all have a grouchy "problem child", a horse who didn't encourage us but who we managed to come to terms with... and still have warm memories of...

Unknown said...

Great story, brings out many emotions!

Unrelated to that, a blog post from Mugwump about abuse would be great.
A sentence I have heard a thousand times is "this horse was so horrible when I got him!". And I just think "...really? Why exactly did you buy a horse that was so horrible, unrespectful, and oh so clearly abused?"

Because, as we all know, some horses are just difficult from the very beginning. And some are really nice and easygoing, but they have learned that they can scare the crap out of new people. So they need just some time to adjust to new enviroment, and when they do settle in, the new owners get all "oh look, I tamed the monster he used to be!".

Aargh. I'm sorry if this message makes no sense, english clearly isn't my first language and I'm really, really tired. :)

Michelle said...

Great, great, great story! This fantastic author needs a site of her own! Please!

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