Tuesday, May 17, 2011


"She's a one person horse. It happens sometimes," the boss said. "She's never going to let anybody else ride her."

"She doesn't have an option," I said. "I can't afford to keep her.'

Riding Tally was like riding a cat. She flowed. Her muscular little body never was thrown off course by my weight, yet she read every shift and tried to accommodate.

There was no spook to her. Nothing fazed her. Dogs, vehicles, other horses, it was all the same to her. She learned very quickly. Once she understood what I was asking she gave it her all, every time, 100%.

She was so quick I wasn't completely sure I could stay on her through a fence turn. I had never come off, but it was just a sense I had about her. I always felt if I asked for more I might just get more than I could handle.

I moved her out of the dusty, isolated stall in the arena, and into an outside pen. She had fresh air, room to run and companionship. The boss made sure he was there to watch the first time I went to catch her. He was sure he'd have some fun to share with Bill. I had to work hard to keep the smirk off my face when I went right to her and she followed me to the gate with a bright expression. Just to rub it in a little I didn't halter her until we got to the gate. I wanted to be sure the boss knew I had her.

I had crossed a line with Tally. We had become friends. She would nicker when I drove into work in the morning and would leave her feed to say "Hi." It made me feel wonderful. It made me almost believe there was a way to reach any horse if a person had enough time, patience, education, and help.

There was only one problem. She was still terrified of every other person on the planet. She didn't want anything to do with men, women or kids. Nobody else could catch her. She barely tolerated my assistant grooming and saddling her. If I wasn't in the arena when Kathy got her ready there would be a huge ruckus.

When Tally blew it wasn't pretty. If she sucked back she would throw herself forward and crash into the tie wall. She had scrapes and scabs on her head, chest and legs most of the time from flailing against the wall, or a tie rail, or my trailer. She was starting to look like a horse tripping victim from the Mexican rodeo.

When the boss fed she would go to the far corner of the pen and wouldn't come up to eat until he had moved to the next group of horses.

"Why don't you keep her?" I was asked by more than one person."She only likes you. She'll never be OK for anybody else."

It was a lovely thought, but I couldn't afford her. I would have to sell Sonita in order to keep her and I couldn't go there. Plus I didn't believe in this one man horse nonsense. Sonita had tried the same thing and she was over it. Tally could learn to do the same.

I started working her hard and tying her up wet, foamy and tired. I'd let her stand by herself for a few hours and then Kathy would bring her a drink. We'd wait until the end of the day and I would put up every horse except Tally. Kathy would unsaddle her, groom her crusty coat, untangle her mane and turn her out.

She barely tolerated her at first, but as the days went by she began to appreciate Kathy's quiet, gentle touch. Tally's eye grew softer, her head stayed lower and her chin began to drop a few tense little wrinkles.

One morning I was running late. As I drove up to the barn I saw Tally was missing from her pen. Kathy's car was parked outside the indoor arena and I jumped out my car and blew through the door.

There stood my morning line-up, saddled and ready to go. Sonita, James and Tally. Kathy was sitting in a chair, holding a coffee mug, a big old Cheshire cat grin on her face.

"We've got time for a cup," she told me. "There's a fresh pot in the office."

I went and got myself some coffee and came out to sit next to Kathy. Sonita shook her head and stamped an impatient foot at James, he pinned his ears and swung his butt out of reach. Tally stood, mild eyed, and watched them bicker.

"How was she to catch?" I asked.

"It took me about five minutes, then she just relaxed and walked over to me. She's been perfect ever since!"

"Great," I told her. "Now it's time to see if you can ride her."

I felt guilty as I watched the Cheshire grin fade from Kathy's face.

Sometimes it really sucked being my assistant.


redhorse said...

Tears in my eyes, I'm so happy. I hope Kathy's ride goes as well as the rest of it.

Di said...

Love it! Thanks

rheather said...

Oh wow.

After Cupcake's sad ending, I keep steeling myself every time a Tally story comes up.

Now I've got hope again, darn it!

burnttoast said...

Your sense of humor would have made being your assistant pretty funny at times! I too am hoping for a better outcome for Tally.

deedee said...

loved the description of your riding her and her moving so beautifullly!

Becky said...

You were Kathy's "Big K". Awesome.

By the way, I feel comfortable enough with you to let you know that I'm vaguely annoyed you don't have any photos of Tally. I'd love to see one.

Quick question - would you say there's a correlation between her "no spook" and her explosive "fear" of other humans? If you were to see that kind of behavior in another horse, would it lead you to believe the horse was angry, like the Big K said Tally was?

As fascinating as your stories are, I'm definitely still trying to understand the lesson behind it all - scared vs. mad.

Shanster said...

Nice post! Keep writing!!

Val said...

I like your strategy, like good cop, bad cop.

mommyrides said...

Woohoo!!! Way to go Tally.....there has got to be a better ending here than with Cupcake......there has just gotta!!!!

Accendora said...

I get the nasty feeling that the mare is waiting for her to drop her guard.

Anonymous said...

its all about trust.

Tally has learned she can trust both Janet and Kathy.

I do hope this story has a happy ending, for Tally's sake.

Breathe said...

Learning to trust one person is hard. But learning to trust the second one is almost as difficult.

But then, the possibilities open up.

I hope this was true with Talley.

(I'd want to be your assistant, but would probably soil myself regularly)

Anonymous said...

I have to say thanks!!

I have been having a hard time lately with people with the one horse I am working with.

He was run up a shoot as at 2 year old and put a halter on and tied to a post. he was then halter broke, then turned out till he was 4, ran back up the shoot. put the halter on, drugged, gelded, and tied to a post. halter broke.
then sent to me.
I spent the first two weeks feeding, watering and reading a book outside his pen. right by his food. I thought at two weeks he did great on coming up to eat with me sitting there by his hay reading.
then the next month was spent sitting inside his pen reading. he eventually started ignoring me, and then investigating me.
long story short it has taken me 6 months to finally get to the point of getting on him. I still have a long way to go with him but i know it is going to pay off.

so thank you for this story. It has renewed me to continue working with this boy.

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