Skye claimed the appaloosa gelding. And Grace was fine with that. The only way to really know an older horse won't endure a horrific ending after a life of faithful service is to make sure of that yourself...to keep them.
She started by trying to get him cleaned up. Skye took one of the near-antique halters and a long leather line from the tack room. The leather was starting to crack, but she found a halter that fit. She washed the spotted gelding as best as she could but the scuffs and scratches he had all over his body didn't appear to be ordinary dirt. For the most part, they did not come off.
And then, for the evening, she found him a place in the barn, and put on a blanket...a little big for him perhaps, but he did not seem to mind. He was patient, kind, and appeared to be enjoying all the attention. He was sound...his legs were straight and unblemished, he showed no signs of arthritis.
Grace got a nice surprise when her second ever custom model horse won the MEPSA Mini Makeover contest. It had been Skye's idea to enter the contest, and Grace chose not to object...but she surely wasn't thinking she would win. Her prize made her feel a bit better about giving up her little roan mustang...a resin by one of her favorite artists, Kitty Cantrell, small enough to put on her night stand, and happily, another mustang. Mustangs seemed to be playing a big role in their lives lately.
Which is where the mystery comes in. Grace and Skye poured over a map of the back country, but no matter how expansive the forest, it was surrounded by development. So where wild horses were coming from in this day and age was a bit of a mystery. Grace figured the BLM holding facility in Ridgecrest was the nearest potential source, providing they had lost some horses (and all of them stallions)...but Ridgecrest is a solid 120 miles from Chilao.
Realistically, it was impossible that the horses were coming from Ridgecrest directly. But they were coming from somewhere.
On July 18, after a long and brutal heat wave, the sky was wonderfully cool with clouds. Grace rode out early on one of her favorite mares, Sheza Looker, in the hopes of catching another glimpse of the wild horses.
The morning ride did not disappoint. Grace watched from a distance as big rain drops came dancing down from the sky. A stallion emerged, one Grace had never seen before; a sort of dark palomino appaloosa, with big hooves and a generous profile; and the dust rose as the rain pummeled the parched soil. And so she named him. Petrichor.
Petrichor would not be alone for long. The little bay roan that Skye named Crazy was quick to approach the new arrival.
She watched from a distance as the smaller bay stallion tested and sought to engage the bigger, light colored stud. He was pushy, that horse named Crazy. The big stallion squealed and pawed back but seemed uninterested in all-out war. With a sudden lunge he pushed the little bay back...but he didn't follow up with an attack. Eventually the two stallions moved out of view, more or less in the same direction...like being together was better than being alone, but not exactly like old friends.
On July 25, Grace went out again looking for the wild horses. She rode out before dawn, borrowing Precious, one of Skye's favorite and most unflappable mares. Finding the stallion named Petrichor would not prove difficult. He seemed more interested in Grace than the mare. Wary but not frightened. There was a moment when, in their dust dance, Petrichor was very close, and held the upper ground. Grace kept moving to the left, talking in a calm voice, as though she knew him like an old friend on an ordinary day, no special effort to be soothing, just talking. He reached his neck out for a moment, almost touching her with his nose...then, as if a distant sound had caught his attention, he drew back and turned away, casting a glance at Precious as he trotted off in a big, stiff stallion trot. Grace wondered if he really had other business to attend to, or if he just felt the need to make an exit. Either way, it was a very good first encounter.