Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scared or Mad/Tally

Things seem to be going OK with Bill and Tally.

She was tense and fearful all of the time, but she tolerated him and was getting easier to handle every day.

Bill would come into the arena in the evening as I was gearing down for the day. Tally would go to her corner and bury her head as far as she could.

Bill had gotten her to accept a halter and a saddle pad. She would stand trembling as he slid the pad on and off of her.

On this night he carried a saddle in and slung it over the panels of the pen. Tally skittered up the wall in a half rear, but Bill was able to talk her down and pretty soon she was haltered and tolerating the pad.

Bill stood at her shoulder with the lead rope slung over his arm and gingerly placed the saddle on her back. Tally froze.

Nothing twitched, you could barely see her breathe. He reached under her belly and caught the cinch. He talked to her soft and slow.

His niece, Taylor, came quietly into the arena, crawled up on the fence and perched over the water tub.

Taylor was one of my favorites in the pack of kids that roved the barn. She was a dark and broody thing, but she could ride with the best of them, was intent during her lessons and was kind to my daughter. At 12-years-old she was starting to give her mother a run for the money, but mainly, she was a good kid.

Tally was saddled and cinched and I hadn't seen her move a muscle.

The sharp smell of nervous sweat filled my nose. The air crackled with tension. The sweet sing-song of Bill's crooning seemed as out of place as a hymn being sung at a gunfight.

I was quick to move my last two horses into the alley. I tied them off and stood with my arms folded on the top rail of the far pen. I wasn't sure what was going to happen but I didn't want to miss it.

I was so focused on Tally I didn't notice Taylor until she pushed her hair away from her face. The eternally thick coat of arena dust that covered every inch of the indoor had covered her hands as she sat on the rail. A dark smear of mud streaked her cheek.

I thought through why her hands were sweaty about the time I saw her uncle nod his head at her.

I started coming around the corner as she carefully slid into Tally's pen.

"Bill, what the hell....," I said as I tried to head them off.

Bill stood with a solid hold on the lead-rope and Taylor quick-stepped up to the stirrup. Bill grabbed her arm and swung her on Tally's back.

Tally crouched to the ground and came uncoiled before I got my hand on the gate. She threw herself in the air so high I thought she was going to flip, but she twisted and landed cat-like for a brief moment before she launched again.

Taylor was still on but she had never gotten both her stirrups. She threw a terrified look to her uncle and then centered herself in the middle of the saddle as best she could.

Even in my panic I had a brief moment of pride, she was staying calm and thinking in the middle of an out of control storm.

She didn't have a chance.

Tally threw herself straight at Bill. He reached for Taylor but he was crushed up against the wall before he could grab her.

Tally bucked again and her hind legs rose above the stock panels. She hooked her flanks and came crashing to the floor of the make-shift stall. The panels bent under her weight and came down with her. Tally lay in a heap. A horrible, honking wail came out of her with every breath.

Taylor went flying into the water trough and was smart enough to stay there.

I saw Tally's back cinch was twisted around one of the panel pins. The lead rope was flipped around one of the bent rails. Bill started toward Tally's head to get the lead rope.

Tally exploded upward and brought the panel with her. She blew into the arena with the panel tied to her head and saddle. Blood spurted from her chest and legs as the panel banged and tore at her body.

She was able to buck her way loose when the back cinch broke.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We were all in one piece and Tally seemed to have survived the ordeal.

But Tally wasn't done. She continued to buck so hard she slammed off the walls of the arena. Her wailing turned to a rhythmic grunt and was only interrupted when she hit something. The broken saddle began to slide and she bucked all the harder.

I pulled Taylor out of the water tank and the three of us retreated to the remaining pen. She let me wrap my arms around her and shivered into me. We stood in awed silence as the panicked horse bucked and threw herself at the walls and the ground trying to get rid of the saddle. The dust churned so high and thick we could barely make her out when she wasn't right in front of us.

Finally the saddle slid over her haunches and to the ground. Tally bucked around the arena until she collapsed.

She staggered to her feet and stood spraddle legged. She almost went down again as she turned to face us.Her head hung to the ground and her legs shook. Blood trickled from her nose and mingled with a thick rope of saliva hanging from her slack lower lip.

"Bill, you stupid son of a bitch," I said in a low voice, "what were you thinking?"

I took Taylor up to her grandparents house and told the boss what had happened. On my way home I kept thinking about Tally. If she wasn't crazy before she sure would be now, but I was stunned by her strength and power. She was amazing.

The next morning I came in late. I walked into the arena and saw Tally was gone. I stepped outside and looked in the pens.

I didn't see her anywhere. My stomach dropped.

I hunted up the boss.

"Where's Tally?" I asked.

"Bill loaded up his horses and went home," he told me, "he figured it was time. He took Tally too, I don't know why he likes her so much. That mare is going to hurt someone."


SillyPony said...

"going to" Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God.

Anonymous said...

Oh holy crap. So glad Taylor was okay, I thought for a minute that it was going to end REALLY badly.

Poor Tally. I accept that Bill meant well, but I don't understand how he could be so clueless.

Shanster said...

Wow oh wow oh wow. WHAT was he thinking bringing a kid into the mix? Man.... I know I do dumb sh*% but I don't think I'd ever do something THAT stupid.

Wow - what a scene you created in my head. Like watching a train wreck and can't take your eyes away.

Is that the end?

mommyrides said...

"then centered herself in the middle of the saddle as best she could.....
she was staying calm and thinking in the middle of an out of control storm."

Wow, if there isn't a world of life advice in those two statements!!! Stay centered in the saddle, stay calm, and stay thinking.

Amazing post Mugs! I was holding my breath the whole way!!! I hope this doesn't signal the end of Tally!

barrelracer20x said...

Ok, so when's the next installment of the story?!? I can't wait---OH! It sounds like that mare had tons of heart....

DarcC said...

Holy crap. There are few things in life scarier than a horse in total panic mode. Poor Taylor, Poor Tally. What an idiot Bill is/was. What about spending some no-pressure time with the horse? Take her out to graze even, create a positive experience and re-establish trust before trying to ride again.

The definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I hope the cupcake story has a happier ending.

GreatGotlands said...

Great post; but it nearly made me throw up! How could someone BE so stupid?!

I'm just nauseaous with the thought of what his carelessness did to the poor horse, and what it COULD have done to a kid.

What a sad story. I don't know wether I should hope that she was euthed soon after or went to someone with a hot clue!

RussianRoulette said...

I started getting goosebumps as soon as you mentioned Taylor... I'm glad that she ended up being okay.

Poor Tally. I hate having to just watch when people do stupid things with their horses and you can't do anything about it. Talk is one thing but at the end of the day someone else gets to make the decisions.

lopinon4 said...

You know you're reading good writing when you're as nauseous as you would be if you had actually witnessed this. Just incredible. Ignorance is so friggin scary.

kel said...

The only thing I can say is "HOLEY SHIT".

Anonymous said...

Okay I NEED BOOKS Mugwump!!! That way I can sit my wump down and read cover to back. I love to read and I could read your stuff all day!

Lulu said...

Sh*t, that was hard to read......

Diane I. said...

Please (PLEASE) tell us the father eventually accepted what a clueless idiot Bill was.

You know you are a good writer when your readers hold their breath. I did, and I betcha I wasn't the only one!!!

DeeDee ( said...

okay. I may have to go back to bed after that one. My mind is sooo fried and my guts so wrenched. Great writing, moment to moment to moment.

G-d just had me pay for a horse at my ranch to go to a better owner. The original owner had him (curious, intelligent, athletic) is a small stall and paddock since he was 2 (now 4). She could not handle him at all - just screamed at him and anyone else around. Had had horses in the past that were tolerant, dull horses and couldn't understand why this one wasn't the same. I am praying G-d does ths or Tally.

badges blues N jazz said...


Wazzoo said...

You need to write a book. I would read it a gazillion times. You have a amazing talent!

Holly said...

Oh Dear God....

that was physically painful to read.

I was terrified for Taylor and damn near crying for the mare. I can't imagine how completely frightened she must have been.

*lets breath out in a poof*

Half Dozen Farm said...

Oh Man - terrifying to read. I was so scared Taylor was not going to be okay. I don't think I took a breath at all.

Poor Tally. Poor, poor Tally.

I'm truly amazed you didn't go punch Bill in the face! I don't usually condone violence, but in this case...

gtyyup said...

I'm glad to say that I don't think I know anyone as stupid as Bill. This sounded like an excerpt from a fiction story...but sadly enough, I know you didn't make it up...

Sydney said...

Oh my god. Wow. Brains, where are some peoples!?

Queso said...

Oh my gosh, how terrifying! You are an amazing writer Mugs, I think I was yelling at the computer screen at one point! I was so worried that something horrible was going to happen to Taylor. I hope all this finally knocked some sense into Bill. If I were there, I probably would have ripped him a new one. I really hope this story has a happy ending, but I'm beginning to doubt it...

nagonmom said...

Bill was a chickenshit stupid idiot. What kind of "trainer" cons a kid into backing a horse that bloodied the "trainer" earlier? Lucky kid. Terribly unlucky horse. I confess when I read of Tally, bleeding and in pain on the broken panels, part of me hoped she would die quickly, with as little pain as possible. I cannot foresee a happy ending with the insensitive bullheaded machoblinded owner she seems stuck with. Did I mention you should write a BOOK?

Helen said...

I'm just nauseaous with the thought of what his carelessness did to the poor horse, and what it COULD have done to a kid.


What a sad story. I don't know wether I should hope that she was euthed soon after or went to someone with a hot clue!

*Nods again*

You said it.

Bif said...

This is a prime example why I don't like people.
What a F*&^%NG idiot.
He needed to be shot, simply for being too stupid. Know your limits, don't traumatize and ruin another living creature because you're too stupid to know the difference.

Lopinon4 said, "You know you're reading good writing when you're as nauseous as you would be if you had actually witnessed this. Just incredible." I concur. This made my blood boil just reading it.

Had I been there, although not a violent or homicidal sort, I would have been very tempted to kill the idiot myself. The father would have thought the mare did it =D Even if the mare was put down for it, she would have a better life than what that a***ole was putting her through. Although I'm sure HE thought he was kind.

Wait, Taylor was a witness... It wouldn't have worked. Never mind.

Mugs, can I send my doctor's bill for high blood pressure to you? ;~)

Charlotte. said...

I love all your stories, Mugwump, but after all your Sonita stories these Tally ones are certainly my favorites. I've really gotten into them.

I hardly breathed while I read this - my heart was in my throat. Poor Tally (and poor Taylor!). Everything that Bill could have done wrong he did, and unfortunately it's Tally that has to pay for it.

Katharine Swan said...

I felt so bad for Tally, reading this. She was obviously terrified and NOT READY. It sounds like Bill could have worked with her and got her to be less afraid, but with an experience like this that fear will be much harder to overcome.

Becky said...

Mugs--- man. You have talent. I really mean that, and I don't say that lightly.

As for the story... You know, as pissed as I am at Bill, he's almost sad in his ignorance. Reading about him... it's like watching those idiots who try out for American Idol, completely ignorant of their lack of talent. The thing is, it sounds like he was actually trying, to the best of his ability.

The problem is that he obviously didn't have any.

The one that really makes me nauseous with anger is the dad. He's the real guilty party here. And he was your boss to boot. Ugh. It makes my teeth grind just to imagine being in that situation. I'm glad this is a story of where you used to be, and not where you are now.

Anonymous said...

Why would someone do that? After that experience wouldn't you think they would get out of the horse business or at least give up on that horse. OMG OMG OMG! Loved the writing but Bill seems to be quite the jackass. I really hope that Tally turns into a nice, safe, sane trail horse.

Breathe said...

Incredible that man made it to adulthood. Sometimes Darwin misses.

Well written, hope there's more to be told.

Laura said...

holy crap... Glad that girl wasn't hurt. Yikes. Stupid Bill for asking her to get on that horse. Kids are so trusting of adults. Ugh.

That poor, poor mare.

Great storytelling, Mugs!

SOSHorses said...

Hey Mugs, I have been trying to send you something through email and it is coming back undeliverable. Is your mail box full?

mugwump said...

I have to be quick today, the newspaper calls...Bill had a habit of putting kids on 2-year-olds. He felt they were lighter (true), the horses weren't as afraid of the (true, at least at this barn) and he would control them on the ground.

This worked most of the time, the horses they bred were mostly laid back, Foundation bred, easy going things.

But he never took into consideration how dangerous it was because he had learned this method from his parents.

It was a crazy thing.

They came from a long line of people who had always had horses but never had any outside help.

They were oblivious to anything another trainer did.

mugwump said...

SOS -I'll check

glenatron said...

Normally I want to know what happens next with your stories, but I really can't see how this is going to end well.

Beautifully written and horrifying in content.

Anonymous said...

Putting a child up on a two year old is one thing, but this poor mare has a HISTORY...And, am I reading this right? was the first time he had saddled her since the original incident. What on earth was he thinking, not letting her at least move around with just the saddle and no kid??? Is there more to this story??? Do you know what happens to this mare after she leaves?? (Please say yes....Please?)

Mary said...

With all due respect: I would really like the next part of that story. Now. I mean it. Not three days from now. Not two. Tomorrow is good. Tonight is best.

Second thing, you have got to write these up into a book. It's time. We are all here to support you. But it is time. NH (Natural horsemanship) is wandering off into the places that sponsor the Shopping Network. Even my sport of dressage is wandering off...blindly closing their eyes to what money and fame are doing to the horses. A re-setting is in order. A re-callibration of a kind that has to do with physical perception, reflection, and awareness of the horse. And ourselves. Living our way to understanding. And your writing about your training experiences are all about that. --Just putting it out there.

stilllearning said...

"Beautifully written and horrifying in content."


Can't see this one ending well.

strivingforsavvy said...

There was no way that horse was ready for a rider. When a horse is so tense they stand frozen they are going to explode. The horse has to be calm and confident about the saddle and stirrups and all the noises and movement that comes with it before a rider should be introduced. Now, sadly, it will take even longer, because of this horrific experience. I hope she can find someone willing to give her the time she needs.

mugwump said...

mary- you sound like my editor

Justaplainsam said...

So when does she kill Bill? Poor horse, a smart man would have walked away or asked for help.

rheather said...

The first time I read this, at the part where Tally hits the panels I thought she gutted herself and my first thought was 'At least she won't be tortured by this well meaning idiot anymore.'

But no, she lived on for what?!!! I'm with everyone else on the more! now! (I'm liking the Cupcake story-a lot-but you've got him and he's not in danger of dying from good intentions.)

Joy said...

This made me cry. That poor horse. I can't see how this might end well in any way. And like everyone else, next installment immediately, please?

Heila said...

Ok breathe... in.... out... it's not that difficult... Mugs when your book is published, please make sure that South Africa is on the distribution list or that it is available on Amazon right away. All my horsey friends will be getting one for Christmas. (This coming Christmas please!)

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I'm a bit late replying..I *was* hoping for more this weekend.

I read this and went and hugged my mare. In the wrong hands, this is where she may have ended up.

Poor Tally. Can I have her? I just want to take her and let her have some peace.


CR said...

At what point do you step in and just do what you can to stop a potential wreck? A child was involved and she could have been killed. I'm not sure what I would have done as hindsight is 20/20. Thoughts of losing my job may would have stopped me. I don't know becuase I have not faced that situation. Or maybe it is just hope for the best outcome, sort of in disbelief things could go so wrong.

but it would have been very hard to watch my student get on a horse that is potentially explosive, and I would have felt terribly guilty if something had happened.

How did you deal with this afterwards? I mean, inside?

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Gee, are so late that you might just need to give us two or three in a row to make us happy!


KD said...

I was reading this episode so fast, I had to reread it to make sure I didn't miss any nuances. For some reason, the picture of you holding that wet child to you really stands out.

mugwump said...

CR - I guess I wasn't clear. As soon as I realized what was going on I stepped around to grab Morgan. I just didn't get there.

mugwump said...

And no, your job doesn't cross your mind in a situation like this.If I was slow to reavct it was simply because it never occurred to me Bill would put her up on Tally.

eventer79 said...

A powerful reminder lest we forget that every time we pick up the lead rope, we are messing with lives. And not just our own, but the people around us and even more so, the huge, vibrant one at the other end of that rope that doesn't always process and react the way we think it will or in any way we can control. And we can destroy any of those lives in such a short instant of bad decision making. I think if many people really understood what a responsibility that was, they'd never pick up that rope.

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