Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tally 3

I opened the door to the arena and felt the wild scuffle it caused before I heard it.

I peered behind the door into the holding pen in back of the arena.

Tally was crouched in the corner, her nose pressed into the wall.

Her feet tapped a nervous dance in the shavings and her ears flicked back to me.

The dust swirled a hazy tornado in the pen.

I shut the door and backed away a step. She stayed in the corner, but her feet stilled. I backed another step and another. When I stood a good 20 feet from her she dropped her head and relaxed. She didn’t turn to look at me.

I turned and walked down the alleyway into the barn. Sonita nickered to me as I came around the corner. Loki stood attentive and relaxed, her ears forward and her eyes soft. The door clanged and banged as I stepped into her stall. Still skittish in her new surroundings, Loki walked out into her run and turned around to watch me.

I turned my back to her and looked across the aisle at Sonita. She raised her head up and snorted, impatient to start the day.

Tally was an interesting puzzle. I wondered what had blown her up.

Bill was an idiot but his intentions were good. I had watched him bumble through more than one horse and he had managed.Most horses blessed him with the same level of tolerance they give all of us as we find our way, they understood he was essentially harmless.

Tally’s terror was complete. Her flight reactions were stronger than any range colt or mustang I had worked with.

Loki came into the stall and whuffled my elbow. I reached a hand back and scratched her neck. She stood and relaxed as I scratched back to her withers, down her shoulders and under her belly. I slid my hand down her legs and picked up her feet, one by one. She sniffed my back and her lips grazed the fabric of my coat. This time she stood her ground when I slid the door shut and stepped into the alley.

I led Sonita and my first two rides into the arena.“I guess you get to stand tied today,” I told her, “somebody’s in your pen.”

Any day Sonita stood tied was a good training day for both of us. I had begun to understand I tried her patience as much as she tried mine.

I tied the other two alongside her on the tie wall and they carefully moved out of kick range. Sonita glared at them both and ground her teeth.

“Leave those babies be, you evil thing,” I said as I went to haul out my gear.

Tally whirled in place and landed with her nose in the corner again as I walked past. I caught a glimpse of her knee as she spun. It was swollen and weepy.

The boss came into and settled into his chair right as I started my first ride.

“That mare is sure athletic,” I said as I jogged past him.

“That mare is going to kill somebody,” the boss replied.

Sonita pinned her ears and threatened with a hind leg as I rode by her. My colt skittered and danced sideways. I started to swing the long end of my rein. I swung it in a lazy circle, fast and then slow, letting my little horse get used to the sight and feel as it whizzed past his ear. I came around the long side of the arena and headed around to Sonita.

“Watch yourself, he’s going to go,” I told the boss as we made our approach. Sonita gave my colt the stink eye and threatened him again, I swung my rein around and caught her a sharp one on the butt, once, twice, before she squealed and crowhopped out of my reach.

My colt spooked and leaped out into the middle of the arena. I urged him forward and got him loping. By the time we had loped a few circles he was ready to go by Sonita again. She acted like we weren’t there.

I let him come down to a walk and gave him his head. He walked along the wall, snorting and blowing the dust from his nostrils.

“I don’t know why you do that, you just scared the colt,” the boss told me.

“It’s OK, he’ll think about it and figure out what I did,” I said, “next time I pick up my rein they’ll both know what’s going on.”

I dismounted and led the colt back to the tie wall. He pushed his head into my hand as I went to slip the bridle over his ears. I switched sides and brought the crown piece over the other ear. I let him drop the bit and tied his halter on. I went ahead and pulled his saddle, he wanted to rub and I didn’t have more than a minute before he would be leaning into me.

I went and sat down next to the boss. He had brought down a thermos and handed me a cup of coffee.

“Thank you,” I said, “what’s up with the little bay?”

“I was hoping we could get her doctored,” he said.“We couldn’t get near her, we had to build a chute with panels and herd her in here. You can see how she’s acting now,” the disgust was plain in his voice.

He slid down into his chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him. His coat scrunched up around his ears and he held his steaming coffee mug with both hands.

“The vet said he’d have to rope her and drug her to treat the knee. It’s an old wound that healed bad. She must have reopened it when she trampled Bill.

“He didn’t think there was much point in fighting her, it’s been open too long. So if she heals, she heals I guess. What a waste of money.”

I looked over at the little mare. Her bay coat was shiny with sweat andher muscular shoulders and hindquarters popped with tension. She felt my gaze and started her nervous dance. I looked away and she stilled.

“What are you going to do with her?” I asked.

“Bill is still determined to work her,” I could hear anger and pride in his voice.

“I figure she can stay in here with you until Bill is up and around. Maybe she’ll get use to your coming and going and calm down.”

“That might work,” I answered.

“Don’t touch her though,” he warned.

“Not a problem,” I said.

I got up and walked stiff backed over to my horses. I decided to ride Sonita. I knew I would unsettle the colts.


  1. UGH.

    Mugs, could you do me a favor?

    Either win the lotto so you can have all the free time in the world to finish the stories that you start, or try a little harder to be less engaging so I don't get so caught up in the story.


    I've known a couple of people like this in my life. Maybe that's why these Tally stories leave me so edgy.

  2. I agree with Becky--I'm gonna grind my teeth to nubs waiting to hear the end of this.

  3. Dang you're good! I mean, really.

  4. First I love your writing, i is hypnotic and flowing. I am here with you. Okay enough of flowers. Your story tickles me a bit.
    For us professionalism = SAFETY for the handler AND the horse.
    My friend starts pretty expensive QH horses. You know what, he is not going to get them hurt! And he is NOT getting hurt himself, because a/ the owner would not be happy and he would get a bad rep then no work, b/ he would not be able to work!!!
    So basically SAFETY = Professionalism = Work = money!!!

    So who are these people? Are they Pro? Are they just loaded and ignorant?
    I am a bit incredulous. Do the pro in the USA behave like them? It is hard to believe! Sorry my friend calls me Saint Thomas.

  5. I'm very interested to see how this story plays out. I swear you get better every time!

  6. Becky- I don't even need to win a big lotto, just a little one...
    I try to remind myself, if I wasn't working my butt off at the paper my writing wouldn't improve and it wouldn't seem so sweet when I steal the time to write my stories.
    Muriel- there are people like this all over. They had owned and ridden everyday, back yard horses their whole lives. I'm not knocking them either, the whole family could sit anything with hair. They elders retired,opened a boarding stable and decided to start a breeding business.
    It's the assumption "I've owned horses my whole life," means they automatically knew how to train and breed that messed things up.

  7. Aurgh!!!! I was so so so hoping that this story wouldn't end, at least so quickly. Sigh....
    I think I'm in love with Sonita. I mean I could never work with a horse like that but I still love her personality. Love the whole stink eye and ears pinning. She has such a strong personality what a hoot. I could read about her all day long. Thanks for sharing all your horses with us through this great gift of yours!!!

  8. Oh Mugs... I'm with Becky. You DO need to win Lotto. Your stories are addicting and now we'll all have to suffer withdrawl while the next one is crafted.

    Big suffering sigh.

  9. I second Becky.
    And I want to know what happened to the man-eating monster from last post. I have no nails left, it's pretty awkward.

    If we just happen to click on a link whenever we visit the blog, it will be a mini lotto.

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  11. stillearning - Click the google ads.

  12. So heres what I was kinda sorta hoping. Do you see the training I was doing throughout the story?
    I mean I'm telling a story here, but it's also kind of a diagnostic on how I train......
    Is it coming through?

  13. I didn't see it the first time I read it, but now I do, although the first time I read it I was pretty darn tired. It will be nice to see the training in progress and in context like this.
    It's interesting how the boss wonders why you scared the colt yet does not consider the fear in the bay mare.

    Mugs, i've got a 6y/o gelding whose stopping and responsiveness in general has a lot of room for improvement. He will stop off my seat maybe after 20-30 metres. You have written two different ways of stopping: one for starting youngsters and the push-on-whithers style. So i was wondering which would work better for this situation.

  14. Tally seems like a verrrry sensitive mare. Looking at her puts pressure on. Looking away takes pressure off. If you had started with her instead of Bill she probably would've been a piece of cake for you to train.

  15. Yes I see, the training part is what's so cool about how you're telling the story.

  16. I read the story but absorb the training method, if that makes sense. In all these stories, your methods are pretty consistant and come through clearly. It carries over into a "what would mugwump do?" when I'm working with my own horse.

  17. Yes Mugs - I can see the space issue with Tally - moving in and out of her comfort zones.

    The colt's fear of Sonita while you were riding and how you dealt with it.

    And I was shaking my head in chagrin at myself because it would not be like me to get the colts all riled up by getting Sonita out to ride...

    I'm not a confrontational person and it's hard for me to get in and get after it when I'm riding - to ellicit that fear or a fight to work on an issue.

    Hard to explain - I DO work on issues because how can you progress if you don't... but I guess I don't do it head on like you cuz I think I'm more fearful and non-confrontational -

    Which is probably why things take me a lot longer and I don't get results as fast. Tho' I am persistant, determined and I hope consistant. So yeah, I can absolutely see what you are doing and why...

    I always wonder if I'd be a little more fearless if I'd had the opportunity to work with a lot more horses and see a lot more - probably not. grin.

  18. Mugs, I totally get what you are doing. Reminds me of Mark Rashid's early books of telling stories but training at the same time. I adore his books. Id you haven't read them I highly recommend Good Horse is Never a Bad Color, Horses Never Lie, and Comsidering the Horse. They books after that aren't as good IMO.

    Your writing reminds me of his, but I think you are better and really could compile a book of training storeis. I'd buy it!

  19. Okay, thats not fair. This leaving us hanging is not nice. I want the FULL story now please.

    Your writing style is AWESOME.. makes me feel as if I am right there. I would buy your book in a heartbeat, so when are you going to write one?

    I have sold Jazz. Yup. I did. My new cowhorse is 100X the horse and I think WAY more like Sonita in that he is quick, catty and SUPER "aware" of everything. When I am moving around him he wont take his eyes off me. there is a huge bonus though... NO ATTITUDE!!! Hes really quite jumpy and spooky. After 14 months of training, he STILL throws his head up, sucks his bottom lip in and hollows his back whenever you have contact with him physically. So, I am curious to see how this Tally story plays out.

    He is Brave in some things, like when he spooks, he will immediatly want to go check out the scary thing or look at it. But doesnt seem to have confidance. I was loping around and there were two people in my arena and I went to lope between them (big gap) and WHAM, he slammed the brakes on. Was scared to go through them.

    Also, loping by another friend, the horse threatened him a bit as we loped by (ear pinned) and he went sideways. Besides just hauling him out and getting him used to other horses, do you have any other suggestions? sorry for being so long winded!

  20. Okay, I've re-read Tally's story a couple of times now(hoping for a different outcome?) and my heart still freezes.

    I think I see where you're heading-I'll be using ideas for my do-not-touch pony. Tho' I'm already being sneaky and making her do all the touching.

  21. Mugs, I can see what you mean.
    I have driven a car over 20 years, it does not make me a NASCAR driver, or a mechanic!!!

    In Italy or Europe, horses are quite expensive to keep, so nobody will breed for making money. Because HEY! it is very clear nobody makes money out of horses. This is rule NUMBER ONE!
    You either marry a rich heiress (quite often seen, heiress is usally older that young horse-trainer ;-P), or you make fortune, then you play with horses!

    Over here horses are a game for weathly, bored people.
    People with real passion usually do not have a penny in their pocket!

  22. Whew...I worry things aren't working, glad to see they are , you realize I experiment on you guys, right?
    Shanster- I rode Sonita because I was so mad at my boss I knew I'd freak out my babies.
    Sonita was old enough to take my unsettled feelings.
    I am very Zen-like with my babies. I think a constant even temper they can count on creates the kind of horse I can count on later.
    Once they are broke and have gained confidence I expect them to deal with my moods and inconsistancies.I want to know they will behave no matter what stupid thing I may be doing out there.
    The babies? I don't ride them for long and I make sure my head's on straight before I get on. If I'm emotional and can't get a handle on it I don't ride.

  23. Thanks Mugs for making that comment about noticing the training that you are doing within the story. When I read I get so lost withing the story that it doesn't occur to me to be looking for training tips at the same time. But now I know differently and I will read for enjoyment first and then go back and read for education! I liked that you teach patience by your horses up to wait while you ride the others. I think I will try that with my Arabian, who has real issues with staying still. Anyway, thanks for showing me that I can learn from the stories as while as the more obvious training discussions.

  24. Happy to be your guinea pig any time Mugs. grin...

    O.k... got it. Thought it was a lesson to teach them to deal when you were on Sonita - stand tied - put up with commotion etc. Which I'm sure they learn as well while you are working whatever horse they may be worried about.

    I don't see you as emotional in your stories at all - you always seem to take everything in stride like a cool cucumber.

  25. Shanster- Here's the funny thing. I wasn't necessarily aware of the auto-training I did.
    It's writing about it and discussing training with friends that made me see what I did and still do I guess.
    Figuring out what made my horses behave like they do so I could teach others is what made me see it.
    We all train our horses with every move we make, whether we want to or not.
    So by taking control of how we are we take control of our horses.
    It took me a long time to sort this stuff out.
    I still am.Of course that's what makes horses so addicting.

  26. Yes - I thought of you and this post because I was cleaning stalls this weekend up at Rex's barn. There is a new horse. I'd heard he's been kicking and pinning ears and striking... he's 17hh and big so not a lot o' room in the stall to clean.

    Cuz of the Tally story I took noticed how i used my presence - eyes, posture, moving into his space to get him to back off and when he did i wasn't "pressuring" him anymore only cleaning. When I needed him to move again I pressured him a bit and i would NOT at all have thought about it before... it does become so automatic.

    interesting! (oh and he was good - stood quietly with a couple disgusted looks at the hairless pink monkey in his stall)

  27. Careful Shanster, that kind of communication ends up with the horse falling for you....

  28. OK, I'm confused. Several blogs have links to your blog and they have a different title "Cupcake 2/Scared or Mad". When I click on the link it takes me to Tally 3. Is there another post I can't get to?

  29. Heh - not a chance. He was purchased by Rex's mom... a Grand Prix trained horse that she bought for a "bargain" out of Canada.

    One woman's bargain is another woman's (me) financial catastrophe!

  30. Mugs, I saw the Cupcake 2 headline in my dashboard to but it looks like you took it back down?

    I did pick up on the training that was "built-in" to this story, and like it, you worked it in seamlessly.

    I have been reading a lot lately about being more "mindful", and not just to do with horses, about everyday life, how we go about our daily lives on auto-pilot. This blog has been my wake-up call about how much more deliberate (aka mindful) I need to be with my horses, and more importantly, how to go about it. You do an excellent job conveying how you process situations as you train. Thanks and keep the stories coming!