Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A warm breeze came through the open side door of the arena. The air smelled fresh and clean,even though a hint of dampness warned of a building spring storm.

It didn't matter, for the moment it felt like summer was on the way.

Tally stood next to me, her little fox ears perked and her eyes bright. I scratched her neck under her long heavy mane and rubbed around the deep divots of missing muscle. She stretched her nose out and waggled her lip with a friendly grooming motion.

"I wonder how she got those," my assistant Kathy said as she led two fresh rides to the tie wall.

"We'll never know," I answered, "this isn't the kind of injury someone admits to putting on a horse. It looks like a bad day with a rope to me."

"It probably is why she's such a freak," Kathy added.

"Whatever Tally did to get herself torn up like that must have worked for her," I mused.


"Because she's always so sure a bolt will be a solution. Now we've got to quit talking about this stuff."


"Because I'm going to get up on her today."


"Oh, is he here? If you can get him to hang out until I get my first ride in I'd appreciate it."

I saddled Tally in the middle of the arena. She stood patiently, watching me with a friendly eye as I slung my colt saddle up and cinched her tight enough to stop it from slipping.

I swung the stirrups and banged them around on both sides. She raised her head and her chin tensed, more when I went to her right side, but her feet stayed quiet. When I flipped the lead rope to her off side and around her butt she followed it around in a quiet turn. When I did it again the other way her head dropped and she relaxed her mouth a little. Not as much as I would like on most horses, but pretty good for Tally.

The ball of my foot slid into the stirrup and I eased some weight into it. She turned her head and sniffed my elbow.

I grabbed a handful of mane with one hand and the saddle horn with the other and bounced around a little. Her head raised up, and she gave me a crusty look.

"She's got shark eye," Kathy said from her perch on the fence.

"I'd rather see a pissy mare than a scared one," I told her as I walked to the off side and repeated my bouncing up and down.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Kathy asked me.

"No, I'm ready to wet my pants, but it's time."

I went back to the left side and scratched her neck some. I tightened the cinch again. Tally stayed tense. This was where we usually ended the day, not where we tightened the cinch again. She always got worried when we learned something new.

I stood straight up in the stirrup several times, letting the majority of my weight balance over her shoulders. Tally stood frozen, her eyes becoming rimmed with white.

"Kath, be quiet," I grumbled as I reached over to pet Tally between her ears, "you're making me nervous."

"I didn't say anything," she protested.

I stepped down and switched sides. This time, once I was balanced over the mare's back, I took off my cap and waved it over her head.

"I can feel your freak out," I muttered.

I went back to the left side and pulled on the horn a bit. I checked the cinch again. I checked to make sure my breathing was even and deep. I gathered the lead rope and a handful of mane. In one motion I stepped into the stirrup and swung my leg over Tally's back.

She bolted.

There is always a split second when I get on a horse when I'm totally vulnerable. It's when the momentum of my leg is carrying me to sit astride the horse. It's the briefest of moments, but the only part of me in contact with the horse is the ball of my foot and my hands on the mane and horn.

Tally took off right there. She shot out from under me so fast I was still in the air when I realised I had no horse under me. I hit the arena floor with a thud and sat up in time to see her thick, beautiful tail disappearing out the arena door. I laid back in the sawdust and contemplated the clouds of choking dust swirling over my head. Tally's hoof beats faded away.

"Are you OK?" Kathy came scrambling over.

"Yeah, just a little pissed."

Kathy ran out the door and took off after Tally. I was still laying on my back, thinking about how sore I was going to be, when she made a breathless return a few minutes later.

"She's gone," she wheezed.

"She head East?" I asked.

"Yeah," she answered. "Should I get the car?"

"No, she'll come back. There's nowhere to go but Green Mountain Falls. She'll come back to the barn."

The boss came in, strolling his smarty pants stroll, a small smile playing across his face.

"Somebody forget to cheek their mare?" He asked and extended a hand to pull me up.

"Yeah, I guess somebody did." I replied. The fact that I didn't cheek my colts on their first ride had long irritated him. I figured he had earned the right to give me some flak today.

Tally wandered back to the field outside the stable about half an hour later. Her winter coat was flattened in salty, sweat-soaked waves. Foam dripped from under the saddle and across her flanks. I walked out to the field and stood between her and the barn. She spun and trotted a few steps to the East, spun and trotted back towards me.

I stood and waited while she sorted things out. Finally she dropped her head and walked over to me. After catching up the lead rope, I checked out my saddle. Other than a few scratches everything looked fine.

We walked into the arena and I carefully closed the door.

"What are you going to do?" Kathy asked.

"Ride her."

"Really? Do you think you should?"

I leaned my arm across the saddle and glared at her until she got back up on the fence. The boss picked up his usual chair and put it in the aisle on the other side of the gate.

Once more I thumped the stirrups and pulled on the saddle. Then I cheeked her hard, stepped into the stirrup and swung my leg over. Tally jumped forward, but spun around when I yanked hard on the halter. Her butt swung out and I slammed my foot into the off stirrup.

Settling myself deep in the saddle I let her face go and got ready to rumble. She sighed and relaxed. I lifted the lead rope and guided her nose to the left. After a brief hesitation she followed the lead and walked off. We circled the arena. Her walk was muscular and quick. My weight didn't hinder her at all.

I took a breath and flipped the lead over her head. We circled right. She skittered a few steps when she saw my hand guiding the lead rope, but settled into her walk and calmly walked around the arena again.

I exhaled and grew heavy in the saddle. Tally hesitated. I relaxed. She stopped. I pulled her head to me and cheeked her again. I dismounted, and immediately stripped the saddle.

"Well how about that?" I said as I looped her lead rope through a ring bolted to the tie wall.

"How about that." Kathy agreed.

I turned to the alley, but the boss had apparently left the building.


smazourek said...

That is exactly what my mare did to me the first time I swung up. Unfortunately my ankle broke when I hit the ground :( I'm glad it went better for you and Tally.

DarcC said...

Wowzer. Good for you for getting on again, I bet she wasn't expecting that when she came back! As ever, you leave us wanting more of the story!

Albigears said...


redhorse said...

It's like getting a present when I click on your blog and see "Tally" at the top of the page.

redhorse said...

It's like getting a present when I click on your blog and see "Tally" at the top of the page.

redhorse said...

okay, it's like 2 presents. How'd I do that?

Jess said...

I must have missed this somewhere, but can someone explain to me what "cheeking" is?

I cant wait for more stories on Tally. :-)

sahara4d said...

You know what it's like when you have a real good book that your's so good that the rest of the world falls away because your so into that book. And then you get to the last page and you say to yourself "Hey, where's the rest of it?" Yea, reading your stories are like that. But they are worth reading every single word. I really enjoy them and feel like I'm right there. Thanks.

mommyrides said...

Whoooo-weeeeee! Janet!!! Great addition to the Tally saga....

"Kath, be quiet," I grumbled as I reached over to pet Tally between her ears, "you're making me nervous."

"I didn't say anything," she protested.

"I can feel your freak out," I muttered.

Loved that!!! Though somedays I wish I actually knew someone who had more freak out going on than :D

gillian said...

Jess- I second that. What does it mean to "cheek" a mare?

Anonymous said...

someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but "cheeking" sounds as if Mugs was grabbing the cheekpiece of the halter and turning the mare's head hard around towards her. Maybe it helps the bolting thing?

EvenSong said...

Love the line about she "sat up in time to see her thick, beautiful tail disappearing out the arena door"! That's when you know you've lost the battle. Fortunately, it sounds like Mugs won the war, at least for that day--and it's sounding like in the long run, as well.
More, MORE!

mugwump said...

Thanks guys...

Cheeking is when you hold the horse's head pulled around toward you as you mount. And yes, grabbing the cheek piece of the halter or bridle is how we do it.

It's essentially a one-rein stop, before the horse is moving.

Without reins.

So I guess it's just an old cowboy term.

Anonymous said...

Why American men should boycott American women

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.


Swiftlys view of the world said...

Just so you know Anonymous, we aren't interested and I wouldn't bother with British girls either until you get a grip.

Mugwump I just love it....your 'stories' are addictive.

strivingforsavvy said...

woo hoo!!

nagonmom said...

Thank you for the Tally post.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Sounds like Tally knew that she needed a good all out run to release some tension before your first ride. Probably not a bad idea, except for the part about you hitting the ground of course =/

Redhorse, I second (or third) your comment. Checking on this blog regularly provides those powerful random re-enforcers that we respond so well to =)

QHHaflingerGal said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog and I'd like to compliment you on your writing. Well done! You mentioned something about a ball cap. Just a question - were you wearing a helmet? If not, have you heard about Courtney-King? I know riders think it will never happen to them and then there are all the fashion objections about bubble head, but helmets are becoming more Westernized and less bulky. It takes a second for something to happen and take or change your life. You sound like you are very talented in writing and riding. It would be a shame for those gifts to lost, and I want to continue to enjoy your blog.

KD said...

You know... getting a Tally story makes me want another Cupcake story. And then....maybe another young Janet and Mort story. Pretty please with sugar on top.

Juli said...

I LOVE Tally stories. It's interesting that she reacted so badly to mounting, but was better once you were settled in the saddle. Poor mare. I imagine she never would have been an "easy" horse, but she sure could have had it much better with proper handling from the beginning.

Now, I'm waiting anxiously for the conclusion to both Cupcake and Tally. *sigh* I hate waiting....

Becky said...

Mugs--- Most people I know who back young horses will tip their head with the reins.... why would you cheek them directly from the halter/bridle? Wouldn't you lose leverage for mounting and also some control of their head?

Hmmm.. or is it that if they're so green they need to be cheeked that they won't know to respond to the bit?

mugwump said...

Becky- I don't normally cheek my horses. I leave their faces alone as much as possible.
My first 3 or 4 rides are in a rope halter.
I don't say my way is how anybody other than myself should do things.

flyin'horse said...

Regarding QHHaflingerGal's comment about whether you were wearing a helmet or not Mugs, I did google Courtney King-Dye and read about her story. In spite of having two accidents on a bolting horse, one involving a concussion, I've never worn a helmet on any kind on regular basis. Guess I don't like being told what to do, who knows why? Anyway I have to say after reading her story I plan to dust off my helmet and start wearing it. Anybody interested here is her website
And Mugs, love the stories, keep 'em comin'. Even if you don't wear a helmet! LOL

LazyShamrock said...

For those of you expressing concern about a lack of helmet, I believe these are stories from (ahem, ahem) years ago (when helmets were rarely worn) and Mugs is still alive and telling us the tales...

Thank goodness!

cdncowgirl said...

I'm guessing mr Anon has recently gone through a very bitter divorce

NOCODG said...

As always - nice post Mugs! Thanks for explaining cheeking... I was gonna ask. :)

Anonymous said...

My Arab gelding did the same thing. Right as I was swinging my right leg over, right when the leg was in the arch over the saddle, off he went. Left me flapping my arms trying to fly, like some Saturday morning cartoon character. There was a nano second where I literally hung in the air. As I started to laugh over my flapping arms and my perdiciment, I hit the ground. I don't know how, or why, but I slid a wee bit. Ended up with road rash on my back and one elbow, and a blowing Arab at the other end of the arena. Li'l devil....*shakes my head and smiles*

I did get back on, and no cheeking, and walked him around a bit, letting him decide when to turn or go straight. Got off of him, hoping me legs would hold up, and praised him to high heaven for all his bravery. Just like a man to need constant and insistent praise.....just look at Mr. Anon....

gtyyup said...

Another excitement filled installment of Tally...she sure was a spitfire, but she obviously respected you too.

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