My Tale of Tio Lalo by Sylvia Evans

August 29, 2011

My introduction to Tio; our history together and some short stories about a loving, gentle, athletic and beautiful Morgan… 

I was working for Beneficial Finance in San Luis Obispo when Dick and Phyllis Nelsen came in for a little loan to tide them over for a while.  They brought with them a Morgan horse pamphlet, which I grabbed, and instantly fell in love with the breed. 

Dick and Phyllis kindly invited my husband and I to their ranch in Paso Robles to see their horses.  Oh, lust! 

Tio was there in the barn.  Dick called him out – telling him some people were here to see him.  He sauntered out, stood square with head up, turned around, again, then stood like he was posing for a picture.  When he thought we had seen enough, he sauntered back into the barn.  What a ham. 

I oh, so wanted him, but he was way out of our range as we were both in school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  We couldn’t afford anything Dick and Phyllis had, but they knew of a Morgan filly for sale that we could afford, her name was Sundowners May Day. 

She was 2, so I had a project.  She ended up a pretty good Western Pleasure horse.  We also later bought Sundowner, her sire who was now a gelding.  That was how I got my first Morgan, and my introduction to Tio Lalo.

Years later, I was looking for a better show horse, and somehow came across the fact that Jimmy Rogers (Will Rogers brother), the owner of Tio, wanted to sell or lease him again.  A short digression here, Jimmy Rogers had a career as minor actor.  At least one role was as sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy with William Boyd.  I actually saw the movie on TNT before so many of these great movies were uploaded to the internet.  Back to Tio.  Jimmy and I agreed on the lease, and he delivered Tio. 

I hadn’t told my husband about the trek into this new venture, so I managed to keep Tio hidden in the back yard (not easy, I assure you!), until I made good arrangements for a place to keep him.  About a month later, he found out about Tio and I had to take my husband to see him.  This was the one thing he congratulated me on doing. 

While I had Tio at this place, I used to drive up (it was in a hilly area) with my son, Richard, and we would go riding.  About 5 minutes into the ride, Richard would fall asleep.  Tio would never break a walk as long as Richard was aboard.

I was getting Tio ready for a show, you know, bath, trim, all that stuff, and I had Tio in front of the electric outlet, so I could shave a bridle path when Richard (about 2) came toddling along.  There was a little drop to the aisle where I was shaving Tio and Richard slid down it.  Tio saw him coming and gently lifted his left rear leg (he actually grazed the side of Richard’s face) and held that leg up while Richard walked under him, patting his stomach all the way, sidled between Tio’s front legs (Tio had his head down watching this kid) hugged his head, turned around and walked back under the horses stomach (patting) and off to play.  Tio lifted his head and watched him and didn’t lower his back leg until he was sure Richard was far out of danger.  We finished trimming without further incident!

Red Fox Stables hosted a “Versatility Show”.  There were 12 classes.  There was one entry fee and you could show in any and all classes, if you wanted.  I entered Tio in 9 classes, but I was late and missed one.  So, of the remaining 8 classes, he won 6 (Trail, Stock Pattern, Jumping, Hunting, 1/4 mile Race, Pulling) and placed in the other 2 (Driving and English Pleasure).  He competed against Kings River Morgan and Great Hills Atlantic – to name the two I can remember.  I think there were about 10 horses entered in all.  He was a smashing hit there as he was just so calm and business like about it all.

Just after this show, we bought a house where we could have our horses (Tio and Mayday).  We were building an arena/temporary corral and Tio was tied to a tree so he could munch the tall grass.  I lost Richard.  I ran to find him, and there he was, playing with Tio’s tail.  He was leaning against Tio’s back legs and had his tail divided in two.  He opened the tail, swung out and said “Peek a Boo”, then slammed back against the back legs closing the tail.  Tio was watching and so not moving. 

Now the arena/corral was ready, so I got the kid and the horse.  I let Richard lead Tio back to the corral.  He put the rope over his shoulder and pulled.  Tio came along at first, but then gave the rope a gentle pull to lower his head down to eat and Richard went tumbling.  I let this go on for about 3 times, then I held the end of the rope and kept Tio from doing that, he came along carefully so as not to step on Richard.

I went shopping (alone for once) and left my husband to babysit, while he watched football.  With that on the tv screen, you know how much attention he was paying to the kid.  At half time, he discovered Richard was missing!  He went running out of the house and there, taking their sunbath were Richard and Tio.  Tio was laying down and Richard had taken off his clothes and crawled up on Tio’s stomach for a nap/sunbath.  Tio was flicking the flies off both of them with his tail.  My husband picked up Richard and Tio just raised his head to make sure all was good, then went back to sleep.  What an incredible horse!

Even though Tio’s get are wonderful, I don’t think any measure up to this great animal.

I met Beth Richards, when I began working with her daughter, Katherine, on riding instruction.  I was teaching at the time.  Eventually, Beth Richards ended up with Tio.  She had the money to buy him and planned a great breeding program around him with those wonderful mares from Steve.

About 9 months later, she was planning to promote him and her daughter in the show ring.  We were getting ready for one of the shows, when I started having nightmares about Tio (who only drove because we asked him to) having a fatal accident, while hooked to the cart.  I told Beth and warned her to be especially careful driving. 

Well, they never made it to the show.  He got very ill and died overnight.  Beth called me about 9 in the evening to tell me that Tio was still alive and that the vet had just been there to give him another treatment.  When I hung up the phone, I had a vision of him breaking out of his stall and going to the big water trough, where the mares gathered, and then dying.  The next morning, Beth called and I told her he was dead and where he was. 

I still see that time, and remember those dreams like they were last night.  He died May 5, 1972, and I remember because it was Cinco de Mayo.  He was 16 years old.  Beth had him buried on her ranch.

After his death, I bought Mary Mels Joker, and later (from Diana Foit), Discreet Lee.  “Melvin” was a 3/4 brother to Omar Shariff.  Another very good Morgan.  Discreet Lee was a Champion Western Pleasure horse, and my blind student’s ride at my horse shows…but that is another story. 

I hope you enjoyed my Tio Tales.  He was better than people realized at the time.

by Silvia Evans