Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scared or Mad - Tally

I rode Tally hard that morning.

She chugged like a little freight train, her snorts growing louder as she relaxed and lost herself into our workout. She turned into a little machine as she warmed up.

Her muscular little body surged with power and her natural cadence made it easy to get lost in the rhythm of her lope. She was deep strided and strong, making me feel like I was on a much larger horse as she carried me through the corners  without a lean or a wobble.

The bright little bay worked on her own to stay evenly balanced between my legs. She was the only horse I had ever ridden that took my concept of keeping an imaginary sliver of air between my seat and legs and made it literal. With just a touch she would reposition herself so no uneven contact came between us.

Tally was an incredible education. I had to be aware and soft all the time, my riding had to be instinctive, my timing blended with hers to the second, or the surge of panic I knew so well would come bubbling up through her, her back would hollow, her head rise in the air and her legs would begin to scramble.

If my middle was solid and my stinking, eternally sinking, right hip hadn't slid into the pocket of my saddle I could bring her back to me with a sigh, a touch of my calf. My riding improved on my other horses in leaps and bounds. The more instinctive and less intellectual my training became the better off we all were.

My heart ached at the thought of selling her, but my reserves were going fast and my time was becoming more precious as my business began to grow. I needed Tally to learn to accept other riders and I needed it quick.

My assistant Kathy had finally decided she was ready to give Tally a whirl. She wanted her tired and she wanted her on a longe line with me on the end of it.

So I worked hard to tire the mare that morning. Tally was hard to wear out. She had become addicted to our morning work outs, her need to move came closer to being satisfied the harder she went, so it was difficult to wear her down. Tally had flipped my standard release and rest reward system. Her reward was getting to move out, circling at a good clip, huffing and chuffing away. Right when I would think she was ready to stop, her heavy tail would flag a little and she would ask for more.

Finally we stood in the middle of the arena, sweat rolling of both of us in waves. Tally was bright and soft, but relaxed, and I was rolling around on a contact high that gave me confidence this mare could do anything.

"Why don't we start with you just getting up and down on her, we'll take it slow," I told Kathy as I slid down.

"Sounds good to me," she said. Her mouth was set and her shoulders stiff as she approached. "I still want you on the end of a rope."

We slipped off Tally's bridle and put the halter and longe line on. I tied the head piece tight and close to her ear, making sure the pressure on her face would be even, not too much on her nose, not too much on the poll.

She was puzzled. Kathy should be unsaddling her, taking her out for a rinse and tying her back in the line up, not getting her ready for another ride. Tally's eyes stayed soft and she rested her nose first on my arm, then Kathy's shoulder.

"Yep, I'm gonna ride you," Kathy told her.

"Live and let die," I said.

My long time friend glared at me, my compliant and congenial assistant gone in a flash, "Shut...up."

Kathy muttered something I couldn't quite hear as she put the bridle back on over the halter.

I stepped away, the longe line doubled in my hand, enough slack in it to tell Tally Kathy was in charge.
Kathy gathered her reins, stepped into the stirrup and stood up in one easy move. She balanced straight in the stirrup, over Tally's back, one hand on the swell, the other on the cantle.

Tally snorted and raised her head. Her eyes rolled white and she started to shift around.

"Janet...." Kathy said.

"Hold steady, she's just sorting things out, if she goes, just step down and stay at her shoulder. I'll pull her around if need be," I answered.

Tally rebalanced and sighed. Her head dropped as she relaxed and Kathy stepped off.

"That was great! Let's go again." I said.

"Can I wait until I don't want to puke anymore?"

"You're fine, hop on up there."

"I hate you when you're perky."

We repeated stepping into the stirrup several times until Tally started looking around and began to get restless.

"Do you want to swing a leg over or should we quit for the day?" I asked.

"If you ever want to see me again we'll quit for the day."

"OK, we'll go again tomorrow."

"Hooray, I can't wait," Kathy said. "By the way, I think you can put Tally up, I need to go have a cup of coffee."

The next morning began the same, except Kathy was feeling  little more positive and Tally was completely unconcerned when she stood up in the stirrup.

"Do you want to get on and walk her around? We can make it her regular cool down," I asked her.

"That will probably work," Kathy told me. She seemed calm and relaxed when she threw her leg over Tally's back. Tally stiffened, but offered no resistance.

Tally was stiff and white-eyed, but she listened to the unfamiliar hands on the reins.

"It's like riding a little bulldog," Kathy said.

"Bull terrier? French Bull Dog?"

"More like a Boston..."

Tally bolted. Her hind legs suddenly powered under her and she was off like a shot. Kathy grabbed the swells with both hands and deepened her seat. I set my legs and balanced the longe line across my hip so I could power Tally down as she took off across the arena.

She didn't leave. She cut across the circumference of our circle and headed straight towards me. I frantically started gathering in the line so she wouldn't get caught up in it. The mare's eyes had gone cold and hard, like dark little marbles. As she shot by I saw Kathy pick up the reins and pull. Tally leaned into the bit and pulled back. The leverage lifted Tally's front end off the ground  and she pushed off with her hind end. They were burling straight into the arena wall.

I got my line squared away and put some steady pressure on the halter, trying to stop the blind bolt without pulling horse and rider over.

"Get off her face!" I shouted.  Kathy was white  faced and silent, there was nothing in her world except Tally. She couldn't hear me.

I don't know if Tally felt the pressure of the longe line or decided against crashing into the wall, but she veered away, gathering even more power through her turn, her legs thrust deep into the arena as she took off up the side, so close she slammed Kathy's knee into a support beam.

When she hit the end of the longe line I felt her gather for another leap.

"Hang on!" I shouted, but Kathy had enough. She let go and flew into the arena wall as Tally ripped into yet another turn.

The air was heavy with dust and I could barely make out Kathy's still form on the arena floor. Tally stood about twenty feet away, stamping her foot and twitching her tail in irritation.

I ran over to Kathy and knelt down next to her.

"Kathy? Kath? Are you all right? Oh God, let her be OK."

She groaned and rolled over in the sawdust.

"I am never riding that bitch again."


  1. Is it crazy that I kinda wanna ride this horse?

  2. OH LAWD! Shadow I will be the first to say yes it's crazy ;)

  3. Ouch... Oh my knee twinged just reading that.

  4. Why do I always feel like I need a stiff drink at the end of a Tally story?

  5. Oh dear... not a good start. Poor Tally, and poor Kathy... and how hard for you to have to watch!

  6. HOLY ______ <-- Insert non-family blog friendly word.

    I had a mouthful of Subway sandwhch that just sat in my mouth, getting all soggy and unchewed throughout the entire reading of that story.

  7. I've had a horse decide to charge me: this tank of a warmblood. I'd turned him loose to let him play, as per his owner's request, and after I sent him out, he turned and came at me like a boomerang from hell. It was one of those "holy shit horses are big" moments. He didn't feel pissed off as much as he did dominant, insofar as his general attitude, and it was scary enough with that. Tally sounds like she was trying to kill you.

  8. Shadow Rider- So you get my addiction...

    Becky- Don't write with your mouth full!

    Accendora- She was just cutting through the middle of our circle,a habity I despise and the reason I now to teach my horses to wait for me to come to them after I say "Whoa," and not to face me or "join up."

  9. God I hate that moment when you've had enough and let go. That fraction of a second that you're in the air takes an eternity, and all you can wonder is, "How bad will it hurt?". Sucks to give in.

    Darned Tally stories always have my heart in my throat.

  10. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

    Somehow getting back to work is much, much harder. Write a book, girl. I can't take this serial approach!

  11. Ditto to all of the above. I was so happy to see a Tally story. Now I'm no better off than I was before.

  12. Shadow... how many have you ridden that WERE like this? Step on one or two and then say that again...

    I hate the powder keg feeling ones (mental powder keg) that you're never sure if they'll blow. Tally had proven that she'll blow and it took a special sensitivity and rider she trusted (go Mugs!) to get anything safe and productive out of her, and even then, you know it's in there...

    Interesting thread on CoTH related to this One of the points I made was: When you've been more than just ran off with ~ when they reach the stage of no brain ~ the completely blank mind or the terror filled mind, that is the worst feeling. ...the fall wasn't nearly as awful as the bolt. I can still remember the relief I felt as he finally fell, "Thank God I am finally getting off this f-ing horse!"... If you'd rather have a rotational fall at 25 or 30 mph than stay on the horse? That's what riding a bolter is like.

  13. I felt my own shiver of familiarity at both the powder-keg description and the decision to bail out. Yikes.

  14. You are so good at this!! Take the gift and ride it Mugs!
    And I always have my heart in a twist anytime I see a Tally story. I have such hope, but after the rescued colt...

  15. Cupcake, that was the rescued colt. I had to go back to find his name. His outcome broke my heart.

  16. Urgggg...I just got that shaky feeling in my legs and gut reading this, I crashed off a bolter and still haven't quite recovered mentally from it.

  17. I must be sick too...I LOVE conquering horses like that. You get them to trust you and work for you and they'd walk through fire if you asked them to. Its generally an, um, interesting road to get there, but once you are its amazing.

    My first horse was a bit of a lunatic who didn't trust anyone. He'd been given about a thousand reasons not to and had a tendency to do the panic bolt when frightened. It took me a good 6 months to get him to stop doing that (with me...), but once he decided I was okay, he was awesome.

  18. Tally sounds rather a bit like my mare, and it can be god damn horrible to be the person on top a horse like that!

    But, I've also discovered that once you find the right buttons to push, they can make the best horses. Stick a different rider on though, and my girl gets very upset, she's definitely a one person horse!

  19. I can only think ot two good ways out of this situation for Tally. 1, to become Mugs' horse. 2, humane euthanasia. To be sold on to new owners with less knowledge than Mugs... I hate to think of this happening to her.

  20. Oh well, I'm glad she wasn't trying to charge you. Small favors... I hate that cutting in thing, too.

    I don't know that I agree that Mugs had won the mare over. Even her rides sound like the horse was lying in wait.

  21. I'm with Accendora on this one. The mare's lying in wait. The bit about her shifting to keep the balance going so that she's no more than a whisper of, that's one of those horses who's got some fried brain wiring, bad. I wouldn't trust a horse like that one.

    Sensitive is not a problem. I've got that. But I prefer sensitive with reliability, and my mare will take care of me if I'm not feeling good or stuff like that. I've been on a similar horse, and fortunately nothing crazy happened. Don't care for the feeling, myself.

  22. Well CRAP! That didn't go well =/ Sheesh...

  23. Holy crap... there is nothing scarier to me than a horse that crashes you into something because it's blowing up so bad it has NO IDEA that something is there until the very last second...

  24. Wow I know my knees hurt after that! Mugs, Becky Bailey had a comment to your post on WP on the fug. board but couldnt get signed up to post it. Nothing negative just wanted to share more about OHK and his life after showing. Its on the pleasure horse form, under the Fugly post.

  25. Actually, quite a few. My first horse (as an adult) was like this. She was a rearer, bolter, and if she was gone, nothing could stop her. Horses like this are scary, challenging and dangerous, BUT when you finally reach them and it comes together, the universe sings..

  26. There are no words to describe just how scared I felt reading that!

    I think you just wrote out one of my worst nightmares come to life.


    For the record I agree with Kathy. Especially the last statement. oie

  27. I've been bolted with like that a couple of times, once on a pony as a child (adult companion caught up and grabbed the bridle) and once on an ex racing mare (I bailed). It's a very strange feeling almost as if one is in a dream, or should I say nightmare.

  28. Mugs,
    I LOVE your stories and am still waiting for you to tell us you are writing a book :). Anyway, wondering if you could put a plug- or a review, for the movie BUCK, either here or on fugly. I just saw it and was absolutely amazed. There were some gaps in his story, but I thought it was very well done. It would be good to discuss it.

  29. I forgot to breathe while I read that. When's that book coming out again? I will promote it for all I'm worth here in South Africa.

    LOVE the new pic.