From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

The Horse That Taught Me to Fly

Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.

George Herbert

The man who shoes our horses, forty-two-year-old Marty Rice, is about 6’3” andweighs 225 pounds.With a tapered torso and sleeve-ripping biceps, Marty looks like Michelangelo’s David, only with a cowboy hat and chaps. Rough and tough would be two bull’s-eye descriptions for Rice, a local legend when it comes to riding, roping and breaking horses that send most people over the fence in fear.

Marty was at our Almost Heaven Ranch when one of our Quarter Horses, GloLopin, reared backwards and pulled the lead rope off the hitching post so hard and fast that it literally smoked. After we had gathered ourselves and got GloLopin calmed and restrained, I noticed Marty wincing in pain at some of the chiropractic maneuvers required to shoe a horse. I asked Marty what was the matter.

With a smile on his face, Marty told me that a friend of his, Dave Colson, had recently asked him to go to famed Ray Hunt’s colt-starting seminar in Wyoming. Marty was unable to go, but asked Dave to bring back the videotape no matter what the cost.

Marty has two boys, Andy and Matt, that are big, buff and love horses just like their dad. As requested, Colson brought the Rices the colt-breaking videotape andMarty and the boys sat down early one evening to watch the tape.

Marty was a big fan of Hunt’s and everything on the videotape about breaking colts made perfect sense. It seemed like a miracle when thirty people in a row broke their colts without hardly breaking a sweat, let alone any bones, and rode them off in victory.

The longer the tape went on, the more eager Marty was to stop the tape and start breaking a horse in order to showAndy andMatt just howwell this newtechniquewouldwork on the horses they broke for a living. Yet, Marty was not wanting to break just any old horse, but already had the perfect one in mind.

Outside was a four-year-old stud reigning-bred horse, of championship stock, that Marty described as “having a lot of action.” Because nobody had been able to get near Little Double Pine, as he was formally known, let alone on him, Marty was able to purchase himformuch less than the asking price. Break him and there was money to be made on this horse.

With dollar bills dancing in his head and newfound confidence swelling his chest, Marty stopped the training tape, jumped up and started putting on his cowboy gear. Yup, Martywas going to go out and demonstrate for the Rice family just how easy and profitable this new colt-breaking technique really was.

Well,Marty’s oldest boy, Andy, wasn’t quite as confident in the one hour lesson they’d just received on the boob-tube and cautioned his dad, loudly, “Dad, I don’t think that horse is ready for this yet and neither are we.”

Marty replied with a tip of the hat, “You just watch.”

Hearing the commotion,Marty’s wife, LaRae, said, with her hands on her hips, “Marty, if you’re going to do something stupid letme get the video camera.”Marty said, “There ain’t time. I’ll have the horse broke before you get it ready.”

Marty strode through the round pen gate and sallied up to Little Double Pine with the saddle, tossed it on, hooked it up and jumped on to duplicate the effortless horse breaking he’d seen on the tape.

What happened next could best be described as “fast forward.”

Little Double Pine started bucking while Marty gave him his head like he’d seen on the Hunt video. About the third buck,Marty lost his hat and started yelling out instructions to the boys.

“Andy, pick up my hat and when I come around hand it to me.”

“Matt, run over to the barn and shut off the fencer,” which was charging the hot wire they’d run around the inside of the round pen to keep the stud inside.

As Marty made his second circuit of the pen on the bucking horse, he noticed Matt over at the fencer switch and assumed he’d shut it off and the fence was now dead. Marty turned Little Double Pine into the fence knowing he could no longer buck against the panels.

Sensing horse-breaking victory, what Marty didn’t realize at that instant was his brother Bill had moved the switch for the fencer when he re-wired the barn and Matt had flipped a switch that no longerworked. Thewire running inside the pen was still full of juice and Marty’s mount was about to be.

AsMarty careened into the fence, his hand hit the hot wire. A gazillion volts coursed into his hand, through his body and out his leg onto the sweaty flanks of the horse.

Instantly, Little Double Pine acquired a gift that wasn’t on the video Marty had just watched, a gift he was about to impart to Marty as well. The gift of flight!

The horse vaulted into the air like an Olympic high-jumper and Marty rode him up like an elevator. With his back scraping the clouds, Marty came off Little Double Pine at an odd angle and started heading straight for the murky stock tank, looking like those awkward birds that careen out of the sky and plunge into the ocean targeting an unsuspecting fish.

AsMarty’s flight path neared the tank he put his hands out to catch the edge of the tank but his momentum jammed his thumbs, knocked his arms back to his sides like folded wings and Marty high-dived, face first, into the stock tank, his right upper torso careening off the hard plastic lip.

Besides his rib cage, what broke Marty’s fall was his open mouth sliding along the bottom of the tank until his head hit the side and he stopped. All joking aside, this Rice definitely snapped, crackled and popped.

With the breath knocked out of him and with his arms still behind him, Marty panicked as he thought his own family would see him drown in a 150-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank in his own corral. Finally, Marty righted himself, surfaced, crawled out of the water, bent over, grabbed his knees and tried to squelch the pain in his ribs and thumbs and catch his breath.

Concerned at the unplanned human moon shot and reentry they’d just witnessed courtesy of dear old dad, the boys yelled out from opposite sides of the round pen, “Are you okay, Dad?!”Marty just gave them a head nod and that’s all it took for the boys to break out laughing so hard they nearly cried.

Dried off and loaded up with painkillers (Tylenol and Busch Light), Marty got to tell what it was like to experience what astronauts feel upon launch, how weightless he felt at the zenith of his trajectory and how helpless he felt as he plummeted toward Earth, orwater,with no chute. At the endMarty told his boys, “Andy,Matt, have you ever wondered what the bottom of a stock tank tastes like? Well, now I know.”

The colt-training video? Gathering dust on its way to a garage sale. The horse? Marty is undecided, but Little Double Pine will have earned a new name. Cessna, for the beginning of the flight or Stock Tank for the ending.

Marty Rice as told to Marty Becker

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