Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Scared or Mad/Tally 4

My work at the barn progressed steadily. My student load increased, horses kept trickling in and the boss had started letting me ride their buckskin stud River.

He was home from the trainer for the breeding season and needed regular exercise. Since Bill had loaded up Tally and headed to his home in Canyon City they had no one who was comfortable enough with the horse to exercise him.

River was the first stud horse I had ever consistently worked with. My previous experience with stallions was starting a 4-year-old Morgan cross for some friends while I was in college.
My friends kept this horse with a herd of equally indiscriminate looking mares in a mountain pasture outside of Ft. Collins.

Having equal amounts of youth, inexperience and bravado I broke out the colt in the pasture with a halter and a bareback pad.

Since the stud had a kindly nature and the gods seem to have a soft spot for children and idiots on horseback I managed to get the job done.

River was a different story. He had been in training for most of his life. He was big, buckskin and meaner than a snake.

“That’s the way studs are,” the boss told me, “he has to be handled with respect.”

I soon learned to slip into his stall quietly, halter him with an elbow ready to guard my face and body, slip a stud chain across his nose and tie him short and high.

River was quick with his feet and quicker with his teeth. He could sense the first second of inattentiveness and turn it into a rodeo.

Once a week the boss and I would haul him out to the trainer, Devin’s, and I would get some help riding him.

I was learning about the world of pleasure horses and the basics of reining. I was also learning how to stay alive when I handled the Riv.

“I have never handled a worse horse on the ground,” Devin snarled, “this son of a bitch needs to be gelded.”

River didn’t behave like the other horses in the all-around trainers barn. They stood quietly in their stalls and rarely nickered. If tied in the cross ties they never fussed or became impatient. The studs stood with their heads low and their eyes averted no matter what went on in front of them.

They sure didn’t act like the horses I’d been around. I knew I had a lot to learn and riding Riv was a way to learn it.

One afternoon I was at home jogging him around the indoor, thinking about my seat, Riv’s cadence and his drive. The slow, even jog was mesmerizing. As usual the boss slouched back in his folding chair with his legs crossed. His hands were busy repairing a bridle as he watched us work.

“You know, Bill says he’s really getting on with Tally,” he said.

“Good to hear,” I answered.

“He’s about ready to ride her,” he continued.

“Great!” I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

I put Riv into a lope and started to work on transitions. I wanted to be too busy to talk about Tally.

The little bay mare with the coarse head and doe eyes had stayed in my mind. My anger had no place on the job. The horse belonged to the people I worked for and the decisions involving her were theirs.

I wrapped my legs tighter around River and rolled my calves. He lifted his back, hung his head low and drove deep with his back legs.

This pleasure gig threw me. The harder I squeezed with my legs the slower he would go. It was wild. Learning to ride a horse with the reins two feet longer than I was used to was also pretty amazing.

“You think you’re up to showing him?” The boss asked.

My heart started to pound.

“I’ll sure try,” I answered as we loped past.

“Good enough,” he smiled, “I’m going up to the house to tell Carolyn, she’ll be pleased.”

I slowed Riv to a walk after the boss left. I couldn’t believe it. They were going to let me show their horse. I was proud and scared at the same time. What if I couldn’t control him? What if he ate me? What if I looked totally stupid?

I was to excited to deal with the Pleasure stuff any more. I started on my circles, forcing myself to look ahead, keep my speed up and think round and perfect.

River picked up on my energy and crow hopped a little. I snapped him down and put my mind back on what I was doing.

We were kicking up dust with our stops when the boss walked back into the door.

“I need you to feed,” he said.

His dark eyes had sunk deep into his face. The boss’s normally sun bronzed face was haggard and gray.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Bill’s in the hospital. His horses all showed up at his neighbors place. The found him all busted up on his property.”

“My God, what happened?”

“Tally’s running the neighborhood in a saddle and bridle, what the hell do you think happened? I’m going to kill that bitch.”

He turned and stalked out of the arena, his shoulders stiff and tightly drawn together.


Justaplainsam said...

Love the pleasure stuff :)

OMG I feel bad for the owner and his son, but will they never learn? I hope Tally was ok..

rheather said...

Wow. Just wow.

So no matter how stupid Bill is, it's never his fault? Now I'm wondering if Bill is still alive or if his not learning from experience finally killed him?

And riding River seems to have gotten you towards being prepared for Sonita. It's fun to read about but I'm about 20 years too old to think of trying to do it-so thanks for the vicarious thrills!

An Image of Grace said...

Argh! Another cliff hanger! Thank you for continuing with the story. I will be checking daily for the next installment!

Sydney said...

Agh these cliffhangers are killer.

nagonmom said...

Thank you! A smile spot in my day. Although I do wish you could go save Tally, flying in like Superman in a cape! (Doubt she would have taken to that well, on second thought.)

Beth said...

Seriously! You are going to leave it there! Will we ever know how it all end?! ;) If I am learning nothing else from your blog it is patients. :)

Fyyahchild said...

I rode in my first WP class on Saturday so it was very cool to read about the Riv. I never thought I would like pleasure but I do. I'm getting used to being at a barn of stock type all rounders who are just calm and sweet all the time. :)

On another note - I wanted to mention my TB, Tax has been in full training for h/j for 2 months now...and he's amazing. I was planning to sell him but now I don't know. I'm taking lessons again and we'll be showing him this summer too before I decide what to do.

My bitchy gray mare? I leased her to a trainer who has been using her in their lesson program and she's been an absolute doll for the kids. That's right, children. They've been using her to build confidence in a girl who fell off a pony. That's how good she's been. I knew she just didn't lke me. I will see her at a show this weekend with her new little riders and I can't wait!

I also have another cattle drive Saturday and I'm taking my paint mare, Grace. It will be nice to get out of the arena and I should have details up next week.

mommyrides said...

Welcome back Mugs! What a story! The whole time I can feel my breath catching and my own anxiety level rising. I'm just way to old to ride that type of horse and maybe even too chicken to read about it! :D

River reminds me of Tally in so many ways. Was wondering though, if River was in full-time training with this trainer was he mad/scared when he went there or was he turned into it by being there.

"River didn’t behave like the other horses in the all-around trainers barn. They stood quietly in their stalls and rarely nickered. If tied in the cross ties they never fussed or became impatient. The studs stood with their heads low and their eyes averted no matter what went on in front of them."

This just doesn't seem like normal horse behavior to me. These horses sound defeated. So was River mean to begin with or was he just fighting to save himself?

Shanster said...

Another nice post Mugs... I like that you show the uncertainty in your mind cuz I sure have plenty o' that myself! grin.

When I finished the story my thought was, "Aw hell...."

strivingforsavvy said...

Poor Tally.

HorseOfCourse said...

Nice to see you back Mugs!
(Hope everything is OK?)
These cliffhangers are giving me a haunted look though.
I hope you indulge us with the follow up soon? Hahem.
Did I hear Cupcake?

phaedra96 said...

This whole situation is so sad; but saddest of all is the Dad who cannot see how damaging his son's behavior can be. He is still blaming the horse....

lopinon4 said...

Wow. I missed ya', Mugs! Your cliffhangers give me stuff to think about other than the problems in my life. :)

badges blues N jazz said...

now I have to hang ont he edge of my seat and wait for therest of the Tally story AND the River story!

mugwump said...

Fyyahchild - I just love hearing about your Tax and your mare. It's so good to hear of a happy outcome for these horses. I know it's been tough on you.
mommyrides- I didn't know either...these were my days of just beginning to see the differences in the horse world.

glenatron said...

I love the oblique way this post is described. Very effective storytelling.

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