Friday, March 16, 2012


It was time to sell Tally.

She lived with other horses in a generous pen and was easy to catch.

She was good for the vet and the shoer.

Her ground work was a joke. She was a flippin' circus pony. I could work her in a circle in an open arena, dictate the size of the circle, spiral her in, spiral her her out, control her speed, reverse in, reverse out, on and on, with her completely at liberty and the only motivation a flick of my fingers or a turn of my head. You could turn her left and right and all around on a rope, drag it over legs, through her legs, around her belly and flanks, none of it made her flick an ear.

Tally, of all horses, was teaching me that endless hours of ground work might be good for impressing clients, but in the big picture, had nothing to do with getting a horse broke.

Under saddle  she had three solid gaits, a good stop, decent spins and an easy lead change. She side passed, half passed, over and underpassed.

She would go out on the trail alone or in a group, look at cattle with healthy interest and although wary, was willing to meet new people.

Tally seemed to be at peace.

"She's still not right," my boss said. "There's a look to her."

I just shook my head. He never was one to admit he was wrong.

"I'm not saying she's going to be an easy horse," I explained, "but she's solid."

"Janet, I just don't think she is. She'll do fine if you want to keep her, probably more than fine, but she's not going to do well with anybody else."

"Boss, you know I don't believe in one-person horses. They're herd animals. They get eaten. Animals that live in groups and get eaten don't build solitary attachments."

He shook his head back at me and returned to his chores.

I was spending my mornings giving lessons at a busy stable in the middle of  town. I started taking Tally with me and sat on her while I taught. She dealt with the hubbub of kids, traffic, goats and tourists without much trouble. An occasional snort and cocked ear was about all she had to offer.

On the trail she got snorty when a jogger approached from behind, but there was no bolting, no frantic skitters. She just kept getting better. Tally still wasn't particularly social. She would tolerate an occasional scratch from a stray student, but for the most part would snort, blow and step away from anybody who wanted to "pet the horsie." It didn't bother me though, she had come such a long way from the terror stricken maniac I had started with, I didn't figure it was in her contract to be best friends with anybody.

One afternoon one of my adult students approached me while I was unsaddling and getting ready to head up the pass.

"I was wondering if I could talk to you about Tally," Tim said.

"Sure, what do you want to know?"

"I was wondering if she would work out for me."

I took a long pause.

"Well Tim, she rides well enough, but you've only been riding a year. She's pretty green and can be a lot of horse."

"I know, but she's so beautiful and you know I want to compete in reining."

"She hasn't been shown though, I've been looking for a good rookie reining horse for you." I turned away and loaded my saddle into the tack compartment.

I stepped out of the trailer and turned to face him. "I just don't think..."

My mouth was still open, but nothing was coming out of it. The short, shy architect was gently stroking Tally's ears. Her coarse little hammer head, from forehead to nose, was pressed against his chest.

"You're probably right. I sure like her though."

Tim scratched under her mane and Tally stood, hip cocked, tongue working, with her eyes half closed in complete and total  bliss. It was an expression I had never seen on her face before.

"I tell you what," I said. "I'll bring her out early Saturday morning and you can give her a try."

His eyes lit up and he smiled, not at me, but Tally. His fingers never stopped their rhythmical scratch.


  1. OMG I'm so happy for Tally....I'm grinning like an idiot and crying at the same time over here!!!

  2. This is a great story. We can all learn from this.

  3. Oh wow, took my breath away, I hope this ends happy for them both! As always can't wait to read more!

  4. Seriously!! I do NOT know why I started to read this post! It's the reason I don't start a series of books until the last ones scheduled to be out and I know I won't finish the others before the last one is out - Can NOT stand the wait!
    ps - a "shy" architect? haven't met one yet....

  5. d'awww, Tally found a guy! I hope so, anyway.

    I love that horse with hammerheads can still be beautiful!

  6. Oh I hope hope hope they live happily ever !

    I'm so curious to see what she looked like. It wasn't just you who found her beautiful. I think my tiny mare is beautiful even though she's got kind of a big head. Well her head is little it's just that the rest of her is tiny!

    So sweet how that horse cozied up to the man. Warms my heart.

  7. I'm PMS.

    Yeah, definitely PMS.

    That's why I'm tearing up and kind of sniffing....

    And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  8. Oh. My. Word.
    That made me tear up a bit. Can't wait to hear the rest.

  9. Loved it! Sometimes a horse just clicks with a person. And its magic to watch!

  10. I hope they work out! I'm really interested in Tally because everyone says my gelding is a one person horse. Some of Tally's characteristics remind me of him.

    You're a great story teller, I wish I didn't have to wait to find out how this ends!

  11. My heart just skipped a few beats! Anxiously waiting for the next "chapter"!

  12. I loved this post because it brings so much emotion (thanks to my current situation) and many questions about horse-human relationships.

    I would love to see a discussion on what you think horses are capable of in terms of bonding with humans. As a child and young adult I rode many school horses and owned a beautiful quarter horse for a time. I believe I had an amazing bond with one horse (possibly large pony) during that time. Perhaps oddly, it was not the one that was "mine." But I was a kid and didn't over-analyse it!

    Now, I find I don't really understand how the bond develops, even while treating a horse like a horse and not personifying everything. Can you discuss this happy medim?

  13. Aww...that one made my eyes leak.

  14. Wow.....holding breath for the next chapter.

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  16. My horse is a complete ho. He loves everyone, and practically has a fan club. Sometimes I could wish for a one-person horse. :)

    I had tears in my eyes reading this - I so hope the next installments give us a happy ending for this little horse.

    By the way, thank you Mugs, I love your blog and check it every day for updates.

  17. Ok, now let's hear the fat lady sing.

  18. I just love tally stories!!! Wish you would put more on faster I check everyday for them. I have a one person horse well more like a womens horse but only who she picks. My husband has only rode her once when I was riding my appy. She was jeouls I was working another horse and not her so she let him ride bare back and bridless. So hubby thought he could do it anytime he wanted. He tried it again and she went into a bucking fit before he got a leg over. She will fall asleep while I braid her mane and tail but if he walks up she wakes up pins her ears and gets ready to attack!!! If he feeds her she rears up and tries to kick him. Its a love hate relationship. He loves how pretty she is and how sweet she is to me and she hates him. Don't know why but she dose unless she is jeoulous of me working the others.

  19. Tally...she's got lots of surprises in her doesn't she!?!?! Always hoping for stories to have good endings.

    That Kiger mustang that I sold late last year...he didn't like the trainer he went to (a very good, experienced mustang trainer BTW), the buyer gave up on him two months into his training without ever getting him to her place or riding him, but the gal that bought him from the buyer is in seventh heaven with's like they were a match made in heaven...go figure~

  20. Trying to believe in the magic here. (Cynical squint to the contrary.) Really hoping.

  21. Oh dear god I hope that worked out for them. Be a good girl, Tally. Don't blow this chance!

  22. Sometimes WE don't choose, they do. I've found that out time and again. I sure hope it works out for those two!

  23. One part of me is thinking, "Oh man, this is SO cool!"; and the other part of me is saying, "Oooooh maaaan is this gonna turn out bad."

    I had a wonderful ride today, should write about it, so I'm thinking a happy ending and not the 'ooooh maaaaan' ending.

  24. I just went back and read the original Tally posts. We don't ever know why Tally is we

  25. burdfour - That's the problem with true stories. I can only tell you what I know...

  26. I NEVER cry...NEVER. Not when bambi got shot, not when marley was put to sleep, when they shot old yellar, not even when edward asked bella to marry him...but this, THIS made me tear up and cry! So glad to know I am not the only one!

  27. Awwwwwww...
    You never can tell.
    Our old dog is an aloof creature who has no time for other dogs out walking. She used to have one special friend, then its family moved away.
    Then we got our younger dog. Now they spend their time alternately wrestling and licking each others faces. And she's still just as "meh" about all other dogs out on the paths.

  28. I used to think my mustang, Rocky, was a one-person horse. He always tolerated other people, but he really only seemed to like me. That was until my daughter came along. Now, I am beginning to think I was just the middleman. He was meant to be hers. He has a softer and more patient way with her. It is very touching, and makes my heart very happy to know that my first horse is now her first.


  30. I believe in happy endings so I'm gonna hope Telly has Her new home.
    About 15 years ago while looking at sale horses, I saw a young arena sour sorrel gelding walk over to my wife and do the same thing. We bought him on the spot. After years of trail riding and 4-H duty, He's her go-to horse for fence mending, the one she rides bareback, our horse we put newbies on, the guy who ponies the young ones, even though he's older now he is the leader in the pasture, he is never mean and will even help out with equine crowd control around the gate or when you need "protection" with cart full of hay.
    My wife says he picked her.

  31. I too have one of those one-person horses. It took me a year and a half of constant work with her to earn her trust, and when I finally did? There aren't even words to describe it.

    I'm all verklempt over here too, thanks Mugs! Even Tally was, well, Tally...I really sympathize and identify with her wounded spirit. I really, really hope she got her happily ever after.

    That said, I sure hope the shy architect doesn't get his ass handed to him by the lovely hammer-headed mare! ;) By the way, where are pictures of her?!?

  32. Cathing up (again)
    I just loved this, Mugs. Hope for a nice Walter Farley ending...

    What do you think, can our horses choose us?
    I feel that something happened when I ended up buying my present horse.
    She was at that time not backed at all, and did not fit my requirement list. Still I had this strong conviction, urge, inside me to buy her and I ended up doing so.
    Have not regretted it one day. She is the best.

  33. Tally reminds me of the mare I had. Not as bad as Tally, but my parents told me she was crazy and I needed to get rid of her before she killed me. I bought her as an unbroke, 7 year old. She had been handled, but never riden. She wasn't even a proven broodmare. I had her for 3 years and had fallen off her 7 times in the 3 years.

    I sold her last year, finally. I had a very hard time with the thought of selling her because we had a bond and she was so smooth to ride, but every now and again she would panic, without warning and off I'd go.

    The lady that bought her started a business of taking people out on trail rides. My mare is her client's favorite. The mare has even done a 30 mile endurance ride.

    I saw the mare about a month ago, just after she was coming of a 2 hour ride. Her owner said, she has never panicked with any of her clients.

    I guess, she just wasn't for me.

  34. I really thought you were going to admit that Big K was right....she wasn't ready.... then bam, she found her person. I'm such a wuss...

  35. It's funny, as I was reading this, I found myself glancing to the bottom of my screen hoping this story wouldn't stop. Dang it! You have such a wonderful way with words. I always save up to read your blogs. Very enjoyable for me. Thank you!