Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tally 4

The light in the arena was always beautiful in the early morning.

Cool white beams broke through the dirt encrusted, corrugated plastic windows high above me. Dust puffed in clouds around my feet as I crossed the sawdust floor to slide open the door. When I stomped the dust danced in the light high above my head. When I stepped as soft and careful as a Lakota scout it would still catch sparks of light as it puffed around each foot.

I coughed as I inhaled the first lungful of dust of the day. Fairy dust my ass.

I latched the end gate and leaned out into the cool air. The boss was singing a lonesome cowboy tune, the kind I liked, filled with vast empty plains, jingling spurs and good horses. I could just hear him over the Daewoo as he chugged down the row of corrals, tossing hay and feed to the boarded horses.

Goose pimples covered my legs and I wished I was wearing my jeans and boots instead of shorts and running shoes.

I left the big door open as I hooked up the sprinklers and started to water the arena. Tally watched every move I made, just as she did every morning, studying me between mouthfuls of hay.

Once the sprinklers were chugging away, in a vain attempt to beat down the dust, I crawled up the bars of Tally's pen and sat on top of the fence, right next to her feeder.

I opened my latest in the John Sandford "Prey" series and began to read out loud to her." 'We heard you found a whole bunch of skeletons.' Her jaw dropped open...." I hadn't enjoyed the series as much since Lucas had met Weather. What a cheesy name. But it was a pleasurable enough way to pass the time.

Tally spun away and stood in her corner with her face to the wall. Her feet no longer danced in terror and her head no longer lowered to the floor. Instead her heavy black tail twitched in irritation and she kept swinging her head around to glare at me, her nose wrinkled and her big doe eyes hard as marbles.

I kept reading aloud, gesturing and raising my voice in dread or excitement as the gooshy parts dictated.

"Your going to give the poor little thing nightmares," my boss's teasing voice broke into my one man show.

"Leave me be, I'm training here," I said, only half joking.

"Well, it's only been two months, and at least you've managed to piss her off, even if you can't touch her."

I shifted around until my back was to him and went back to reading.

He broke back into his song and headed into the barn to clean stalls.

After ten more minutes of fussing Tally sighed and came back to her feeder. In order to eat she had to put her head directly under my legs.

I immediately scooched away a few feet and quit reading out loud. We sat together in what I at least hoped was a companionable silence for another twenty minutes or so.

I finally climbed down the fence, and although she snorted and flipped her forelock, Tally didn't leave her hay.

Hmmm, progress, I thought as I went to turn off the water and close the big door.

I closed the door and leaned up against it. The only time I could really stare at Tally was from here, at the end of the arena.

She looked good. Her legs had healed and the scars were tight and clean. She was muscled and sleek from the regimen of good food and our early morning workouts. Her tangled and matted mane and tail made my fingers itch and her muscular back made me ache to ride her. I understood Bill's impatience. If I hadn't seen first hand what happened when Tally was forced I'd have been tempted to try the same.

I was at complete loss. My experience had not prepared me for a horse like this one. She kind of hurt my feelings. I was used to the horses I trained liking me. At least eventually. Tally continued to size me up like she was figuring the best place to plant a hoofprint.

I clung to one sentence I had been told by Ray Hunt. "If you have the feet, you have the horse."

In my mind everything I did with Tally was about gaining control of her feet. I was flying by the seat of my pants.

"Time to rock and roll," I said. Tally raised her head and looked straight at me.

I opened the gate to her pen and she flowed past me. Tally was able to go from head in the feeder to a full smooth gallop in two strides. Her little hammer head stayed level with her flat, meaty withers and her tail hung straight and heavy.

I stayed out of her way as she blew around, getting the kinks out. She whipped through the puddled water without missing a beat and snorted in play at the banners on the walls. She ran through the middle and switched leads without a ripple.

"You're killing me, mare," I called out in frustration and gathered up my longe whip to start another futile workout.

I walked just past the center of the arena and stood in the middle of my great big imaginary round pen.

Tally flicked an ear at me and blasted to the other end of the arena to stand by her pen.

I immediately charged her, screaming and yelling, brandishing my whip like a mad woman.

She waited until I had almost reached her and raced towards the other end of the arena.

She stopped and waited for me, her eyes sparkling. It totally pissed me off to see that Tally, did indeed, have a sense of fun. I still gave her a slow count of ten, willing her to understand the safe place was down at the end of the arena with me.

I walked back towards her, whip dragging behind me, my pace even and determined. I stayed a little to the left of her to give her a way to run away from me.

I had given Tally a vicious lesson about running past me. She could run away from me but never past. The mare was never going to run me over. She knew it and I knew it.

In return I always gave her an escape. I knew I had to keep the feet moving. Which had led to our current conundrum.

As soon as I had reached the midpoint of my imaginary round pen Tally took off for the other end. I ran screaming and yelling at her again.

And so on. We kept this up and would only rest when I stood by her gate, hand on my knees, wheezing as the fast drying dust began to suffocate me. I pretended I was letting Tally air up in the safe spot.

Tally stood on the other end watching me. It cheered me to see she was covered with sweat and

I regrouped and we began again.

I stood tall and relaxed and headed toward my selected center.

She stood tensed and ready to go. As soon as I was even with her hip she began to trot off.

"Ahhhh!!!! You bitch!" I screamed and began my charge, wobbly knees and all.

Tally headed towards the gate but veered right and began to come around me.

I slammed my mouth shut and quickly went neutral. My war cry turned to a strangled gargle.

She trotted around me and stopped at the safe spot. I forced myself to breathe slow and even. I looked at the air in front of her, willing her to stay with me for a few more seconds.

Then carefully, I looked at her hip and followed by pointing my longe whip at her hip too. She trotted off, her ears flicking back and forth and her head raised.

I waited until her shoulders headed toward the gate and her ears left me to point to home.

"Hey!" I yelled and raised the whip.

Tally altered her course and came around me. She stopped in the safe spot and looked at me again.

I turned my back and gave her a release. I counted to ten, turned to face her and she waited until I looked at her hip and pointed the whip.

She trotted off. This time she kept her ears on me when she began to shear off toward her pen.

I whistled, sharp and short and she came around.

When she came to her safe spot I pointed the whip at her hip and she skittered a little as I pushed her through.

Her ears flicked and her eyes were bright. I wished she would relax the hard knot of her chin, but Tally was only thinking things through. She wasn't one to hand anything over.

She went around me at a slow and steady trot. Her head dropped back to level and we circled. Maybe not the eighty foot circle I envisioned, but it was pretty darn fine. I breathed deep trying to steady my pounding heart and shaking hands.

I dropped the whip, stepped to the left and turned my back to her.

I could feel her land in her safe spot, her breathing was up, but steady like a well exercised horse, not a frightened one.

I walked to her pen and opened her gate. Normally I would stand aside so she would feel safe enough to enter, but today was a whole new day. I had her feet.

Tally snorted a few times and kicked out a hind foot in irritation. I was breaking the rules.

"Do you want me to start reading again?" I asked her. "I've got all day."

She paced back and forth a few times and finally began to sidle up the long wall. I looked away, but kept my hand on the gate. As she walked past me into the pen my extended fingers just brushed her side.

Tally jumped into her pen and turned to face me. She extended her nose towards my face and I froze. She sniffed me slowly and carefully, my eyes, my ears, my hair. She sighed and went to her hay.

I went to my car and gathered my spurs and jeans. I walked down the barn aisle and picked up a bucket. I was sticky with sweat and dust and looked forward to an icy cold clean up before I got into my jeans. As I filled it with water the boss came by with his wheel barrow.

"Are you all right?" He asked. His face was puzzled and concerned.

"Couldn't be better," I answered and headed to the tack room with my wash water. Sometimes I just didn't get him.

When I looked in the dusty mirror I was confused to see tear tracks snaking their muddy way down my dust covered face. I had no clue I was crying.


  1. Geeze Mugs, that last line just went "yank" on my heart strings! You're freakin' awesome.

  2. That's it. We're getting you an agent.

    Terrific story, well told

  3. Go for it Breathe...I'm a chicken sh.....

  4. When I saw the title "Tally 4" at the top of the page I was thrilled. Another chapter! I knew it would be good, but you exceeded my expectations again.

    I'm with Breathe, time for an agent.

  5. I agree with Breathe. Love it!

  6. Yes! Another amazing chapter!
    You must have had the patience of a saint to keep at it for so long, with so little progress. It's good you had seen what she was capable of, and gave her the time she needed.
    I agree...time for an agent.

  7. Wow!! BOOK! Sigh. You are amazingly good at this. Thank you for advancing Tally. Thank you for advancing Tally's story.

  8. Damn fine chapter. The ending really got me. As ever, you leave us wanting more!

  9. You had me in tears, too. Wonderful writing. I agree - you need an agent!

  10. Someone got up and put on her "I'mA Writer" pants before starting this chapter.

    If we're all very, very good and behave very, very well, will you show us a photo of Tally when you finish the series?

  11. Becky- I don't think I have one...

  12. Mugs, you keep it up and in a few more months your going to have a book without you even thinking about it.

  13. SO lovely Mugs - you really capture
    the magic that happens with horses.

    Thank you :)

  14. I can't add anything to the writing or Tally comments, so I'll just ask one question, what do you think of that effin Flowers? **grin**

  15. You are a really great writer... thanks for sharing!!

  16. omg... I wish the only thing you had to do was write stories on your blog!!

    You have a true talent..


  17. I'm hooked on these stories, make's me happy every time I see there's a new one.

  18. Oh wow!
    I love how you and Tally are working it out.

    My PTSD Pony has finally realized that getting startled is not the end of the world. Funny what a relief that is....

  19. Oh my...she's comin' around...Tally I mean. Awesome usual, waiting for more.

  20. Shadowlake - I love that effin Flowers....

  21. You don't have write a lot, but would you please (because there was a LOT of solid (gold) rules in that pc) just state the guidelines. Where was her "safe spot"? How did you decide where to put it? She had to keep moving until...? Just the so we/I can see how this was working. I think I understand, but I dont' want to assume...

  22. I agree with Breathe and redhorse: time for an agent.

  23. I have some balance questions to answer too, so next post (that's the post after the omne I just put up) will just be training answers to your questions...OK?

  24. I can hardly see the screen for the tears. This is fabulously written.