We were told she was once a horse on the Double R Ranch and was one of Robert Redford’s horses. We were also told that she was sold often because once she was one of the fastest barrel western racing horses in the USA, but then she began to drop her speed, and she was sold each time she added a second to her timing. Then she became ornery. Farriers couldn’t trim or shoe her, grooms couldn’t catch her, riders were bucked off. She was one piss and vinegar horse!
Somewhere in that long line of owners, she was sold to a 4H Club runner as a western schooling horse. They had discovered that if you were under 5 feet tall, she would let you catch and ride. She had a good couple of years with them and finally she became sour mouthed. No one could get near her with a bridle in their hands.
But – as greenhorns in the Pony Club arena, we parents did not have a clue about horses other than what we read on the internet. We approached each horse with a list that someone had posted online. This horse was in the affordable range, also was good with English riding, and luckily, was on its best behavior the day we showed up. Our daughter was only six years old and had been riding since she was 18 months old with a coach a few miles down the road. Every single horse at Eagle Feather was sweet tempered with soft eyes so we knew no better as parents. Victoria, our daughter, walked up to the horse and began to pat her nose and stood under the horse’s chin chuckling. Miss Smokin’ Tiller rubbed the top of my daughter’s head and gave her a large lick on her forehead. The horse was already tacked up (now we know that is not a good sign) and we threw Victoria up on her back and we swear the horse began to tippy toe with the wee one. To make a long story short – the two fell in love. Two more visits and we bought the horse.
Then came the day to call in the ferrier. Matt, our wonderful go-to ferrier, came out and within a blink ole Miss Tiller saw the cowboy hat, the plaid shirt, and saw him approach with a halter and she broke into a sweaty panic pushing the fence line.
“What did you do to this horse?” He asked in a perfectly reasonable manner. I began to worry about what we had bought. If that horse ever did that with my daughter on her back, that horse would be sold to the meat packing plant!
We explained that we had discovered that the only person that could catch this horse was Victoria. No one in a cowboy hat or plaid shirt could get near the mare. Matt, in his most polite way, took off his hat and walked slowly towards her. Nope. Still not happening.
“Ok, Victoria, go get your horse.” He handed the halter over to our daughter and low and behold, they walked over to the shoeing truck together.
Victoria talked to the horse and explained everything that was going to happen before the process began. Yeah, but – there is always a yeah, but. This horse was ornery, hated men, plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and anyone who wanted any control over her. Miss Tiller was not having any of this business near her. Snorting and kicking the ground, and pinned ears was just the beginning. We were so grateful to have Matt. He had dealt with difficult horses before and he was calm, firm, and fast. He talked to our horse and even though occasionally he used his firm voice, he also used affectionate words to talk to her. Our horse kept looking back and her eyes kept searching for something. Once done, Matt offered her a little treat and all was well. It should be that simple. No great tricks, no rough handling, just caring and reassurance.
He pulled us aside and we, as a team who loved this difficult Quarter Horse, had a conversation. Our conclusion was that this horse was once caught in barb-wire as her hind end was scratched up something fierce. She probably tried to run away and was caught in the wire fencing. We also concluded that some cowboy had mishandled her horribly hence the hatred of cowboy hats, men, and plaid shirts. Furthermore, this horse had evidence of being ‘wired’, where they put electrical shocking devices on the ears to make the horse run faster. That is probably why she didn’t like having her halter put on. She had ‘sour mouth’ because so many kids yanked on the bridle but luckily Victoria’s vice was that she had ‘feather fingers’. He gave us a few suggestions and said he would be pleased to return because he believes every horse deserves love, care, and attention. Now the ‘but part’, her hooves were great. He did recommend that his wife come by a few times and massage the old girl too.
If we had not had that conversation, we would probably have taken longer to figure this horse out. Meanwhile, little Victoria would skip down the field, grab ole Miss Tiller, get into the horse tailor, and prattle to the horse as we went down the road to Pony Club. There is a saying that there is no better teacher than an ornery horse that has to be asked twice to do something, should be twice as old and three times as experienced as a new rider. We could not have bought a better horse than ole Miss Tiller and thank you Matt, because no other ferrier would go near that old horse. And his wife massaged our horse before our competitions and we would bring home the ribbons! Yes, she has kicked a few people. Yes, she has been difficult. But – they deserved it, I reckon.
Thank you Matt and Teresa for making my daughter and her horse the winning duo in Pony Club – on the days Miss Tiller wanted to participate.