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Copyright 2009 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

Trouble with Tee

By Carolyn White, Olathe, CO

 

December 2009 Issue

 

     “Cheyenne Tee J” was already eighteen years old when I hauled her from Ohio to Idaho in the summer of 1984 to attend a guide school in Kooskia.

     My parents were worried sick as I pulled out of the driveway, and thought it was crazy for a young woman to be dragging her pet over 2,300 miles. But I was darn determined… and they knew it from experience.

    

     I’d figured on needing a ready-made horse in Idaho and, because I had owned Tee since I was eleven, it seemed logical to take her along.

     What I didn’t consider was how she’d react to new situations — like me, Tee always had a mind of her own.

     She was sweet as she could be when you were on the ground. She’d hold her hooves up for cleaning, open her mouth for the bit, and move out of the way at the slightest touch on her flanks. If I tied her up for grooming, she’d fall asleep in the sun. If I opened the door to a trailer, she’d jump right in.

     Get on her back, though, and you had your hands full. The mix of inbred-Appaloosa and Thoroughbred meant she was both quick and crazy. Put her around strange mules and horses? That was just plain asking for trouble, and we definitely got our fair share.

 

     The first outfitter I worked for left me alone in an isolated base camp on the Montana–Idaho border. Ten animals were penned in a small area which was surrounded by a battery-operated electric fence.

     With ears back and teeth bared, Tee chased all of them. They would slide into the wire and eventually learned that the current wasn’t very strong. Every morning after that, I had to drag them back, one by one, from where they’d been grazing throughout the forest.

     Our first day on the trail, I was told to ride at the end of the pack string and keep an eye out for any problems. Trying to hold back Tee was nearly impossible — she couldn’t stand not being the leader.

     When I got permission to ride at the front of the line, she literally raced up a series of mountain switchbacks, fidgeting and pawing when we had to stop to wait for the younger stock to blow.

     “That mare’s got plenty of energy,” their grizzled handler observed, spitting tobacco. “Maybe she needs to carry a heavy load.”

     But packing didn’t slow her down. She would trot every chance she got, making her mantied loads sway and her Decker slip. If the animal ahead didn’t go fast enough, she would bite at his rear. If the one behind got too close, she’d kick.

     As other guides joined the crew, they each took a turn on Tee just for the experience. She looked like she’d be fun with her prancing gaits, and she certainly was pretty, but no one ever gave her a second try.

     “I couldn’t get her to walk,” one complained.

     Another was more outspoken. “Your nag tried to knock me off under a tree. You can have her.”

 

     We were working outside of Red River when she really made a name for herself. I had been on a three-day camping trip with a bunch of dudes and was exhausted. After we dropped the riders off at a backcountry airstrip to meet their plane, Tee ended up in the string of empty saddle horses.

     For the next five miles, a mule tied behind her pestered her, and would not back off even when she swished her tail and humped her rear.

     When we stopped at a neighboring guest ranch to rest, and the owner insisted on taking my stock, I should have known better. All I wanted was a cup of coffee in the lodge, so I threw him my reins.

     He got caught between Tee and the mule when Tee lunged at the offender. Red-faced, the man returned to the lodge a short time later, asking his wife for ice. I learned that instead of connecting with her target, Tee had nailed a corner of the man’s male parts and had torn off a section of his jeans.

     I had a hard time living that one down. Word quickly spread (and grew, of course) throughout the folk of the Salmon River backcountry. “Did ya hear that ol’ Mike at Windy Bar got completely castrated by some vicious mare?”

 

     Even as she aged, Tee barely mellowed. She was 24 the last time I rode her. She tried to buck, something she had never done before. I was bringing her in from the pasture, bareback with a halter and lead rope. She was barely able to get her hooves off the ground, but it didn’t stop her from trying.

     The more I laughed at her attempts, the more determined she became, even squealing and grunting in her efforts to show me she was still in control.

     Nobody ever appreciated her personality or chose to focus on her good points like I did. I never worried about my safety when I was on her, alone in the wilderness. She maneuvered like a sports car, nimbly jumping over fallen trees, picking her way through deep, sucking mud, and taking tight turns without a single stumble. As long as she was in the lead, Tee’s behavior was nearly perfect.

     We covered a whole lot of miles together in the nearly 20 years that I owned her. If we aggravated each other every now and then, maybe it was because we were so much alike. Both of us like to be in charge. Both of us were headstrong and independent.

     When she passed at age 25, I cried my eyes out knowing that I’d lost a kindred spirit.

     Would I own a horse like her again today at my age? No way.

     But, did sharing my adventures, dreams, frustrations, tears, and triumphs with her do me any good? You betcha!

     I’ve learned that I’m easy to get along with, too… as long as people get out of my way.

 

     A freelance writer since 1987, the author spent seven years as a licensed guide and packer in Cascade, ID; apprenticed with three veterinarians in the McCall area; and has taught dozens of people to ride. Most recently, she wrote a weekly column for the “Western Slope Fence Post.”

 

Copyright 2009 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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