My dream of once again owning a paint horse came true with the birth of Tru Tahlequah Miss, born Mothers’ Day, 2012. What a life-changing event this has been! My love of horses, and my fuzzy memory of how it was to catch and ride one of our horses here on the ranch, led me down the primrose path, so to speak. Here we are, once again living on what was the old ranch headquarters, with enough acres to support a few head of livestock. What we needed was a horse, of course!
JBS Terrific Miss, the dam we rented from my niece Sue, is a solid with just enough color to qualify as a registered paint. Sugs Tru Luck, a magnificent black and white tobiano, was the sire. Our little filly, soon nicknamed Tilly, took her colors from her maternal grandfather JB Classic, a sorrel overo. With two blue eyes, she made a pretty picture when she arrived. I soon forgot my dream of a blue-eyed black and white paint like the one I rode as a girl. Tilly would have to fill the bill.
Tilly faced a dramatic event when she was weaned from her mother and loaded to travel from Colorado to Wyoming. Her best friend Sue would soon depart and leave her in the land of strangers, without the care of her dam and other horses she had known. What was a filly to do?
As it turned out, Tilly wasn’t alone. We placed her in a corral and barn with a six-month old steer who was in the same predicament, bawling for his mama and miserable. The steer was baptized Abraham, but his nickname immediately became Feed Lot. Born on the place to a longhorn cow, he was such a pretty calf I couldn’t part with him. So began a tempestuous relationship.
Feed Lot likes to bully and snort, pawing at the ground and shaking his head, but he acquiesces when Tilly pushes hard. She was particularly feisty on this day and insisted they go up the road. She came at him from several directions and he eventually found it hard to ignore her.
The first couple of years with Tilly were a learning curve I was unprepared for. First, she seemed prone to allergic reactions, minor infections, major infections, minor injuries, major injuries, the vet was on speed dial–and still is. Overall, she is in good health, in between crises. Her personality and attitude range from sweet and docile to ornery and pushy. I have to keep reminding myself she is after all female, and very much like dealing with a 5-year-old child.
As a three-year old her spring training was postponed due to lameness, a major infection in her gutteral pouches (similar to our sinus cavities) and missing the window of opportunity with the potential trainer–a crusty cowboy who gets busy in the summer months. One more year as a pasture pet will do no harm, right? I read the history of the famed Lipizzaner stallions and learned their training did not begin in earnest until they were 4-years of age. Besides, half the fun of owning a horse is the daily interaction of trying to figure out what they will do next.
After countless hours of round pen exercises, desensitizing routines and grooming, it was time to try something new. A bareback riding pad seemed like a harmless addition and she had no reaction to it. Moving right along.
A new halter with her name on it came from Santa, but she is more interested in eating the wreath I hung on her barn. Can’t believe that would taste good!
Trailer training became an ordeal. All the coaxing in the world would not do the job. It took a cotton rope strung across her butt and pulled tight to convince her there was no way out. In the meantime we lost a few battles, tore up some equipment, raised a few blisters, wasted a lot of horse cakes and bribes and thought we would never overcome her stubborn resistance to taking a ride to town. It may have had something to do with all those trips to the vet for some pretty terrifying procedures, but we did some rides just for fun and she never seemed to remember those.
After a lengthy experiment with the trailer opened up to her corral, loaded with a sack of hay, a bucket with her apple and some supplement feed, this was her reaction.
Tillie reacts with displeasure by bucking, kicking and letting me know she isn’t happy. It’s not hard to figure that out.
We borrowed a junior saddle from a neighbor to add more weight and substance to see how Tillie would react. After getting her all cinched up, I longed her around the corral and she crow hopped a little but didn’t really have much of a reaction. So it goes.
Cannot believe this pair needed a drink so badly they drained the bird bath! Feed Lot is letting her get the better part of a tiny drink and she didn’t leave any for him.
Her first bridle has a snaffle bit and she was resistant to having it in her mouth. I left her tied up for a period of time and she wiggled and maneuvered to try to get it off. No surprise here.
Feed Lot has grown into a 2,000 pound critter to be reckoned with. He occasionally acts up and everybody runs for cover or a fence to climb, but most of the time he is docile and just likes to eat. He is very protective of Tilly, however, and that can lead to problems.
Tillie’s last training session ended up a mixed bag. After three months with a renowned horse rowdy, she came home and we went for a few rides around the place. The one that became memorable was a day we encountered Feed Lot near the barn yard and he pitched a fit of some sort. I guess he didn’t like Tilly to be ridden and leaving him behind, who really knows what goes through a steer’s brain?? He started making a nuisance of himself and Ord grabbed Tillie’s reins to lead us out of harm’s way. We made it about half a mile away and Tillie caught me completely off guard, lowered her head between her front legs and pitched me up and then down. I landed with a kerthud on the ground–never even touched the saddle horn to hang on–never pulled the reins to lift her head–just took flight so suddenly it left me shaken, breathless and dazed.
As near as I can recall, this was kind of how Tilly approached off-loading me. Ord was riding in front and when he turned around all he saw was her hind legs in the air and I was somewhere in between. I made it back to the barn and climbed up on the corral while he mounted her and rode her back the same route we had been taking. She did not give him any trouble. She never gives HIM any trouble! We decided to call it a day and I made it back to the house, back straight, shoulders erect, head upright, all the while holding in a silent scream for a pain killer. The following week the orthopedic doctor shook his head when I explained the reason for my lower back pain. He was trying to imagine a woman my age being thrown from a horse.
I am struggling with a number of choices. Get on and try riding her. Hire somebody else to work with her for a period of time. Consider breeding her for a foal, which would be big fun, more hay, more work, and more expense (two horses on vet panic button). Tilly turned seven on Mother’s Day and to date is what is derisively referred to as a “pasture pet” by horse people. I have to consider what she has cost, not just in terms of money, but pain (broken finger when she pulled a knotted lead rope through my hand; smashed big toe that she accidentally stepped on that has taken two years to grow a normal toenail; and my lower back pain which Tilly is partly to blame for.) But then, there have been a variety of assaults over the years in this area!
This painting of Tilly and I got away from me. The artist, Luke Anderson, offered it to me and I waited a bit and it sold from the gallery where it was hanging. So, I begged him to paint me another one and here it is.
Whatever choice I make with Tilly, we are in it together ’til the end. She is a magnificent animal and I believe she trusts me to make the right decisions for her.Now if only I can learn to trust her and take another ride!