It was August 7, 2021.
Skye left before dawn, slipping quietly past Grace who had spent half the night staring at her new resin horse. Her theory was, to catch up with a mustang, you should ride one; so she took Ladyhawk, and let the spirited mare more or less lead the way.
Thunderstorms earlier in the week had left pools of clean water in the rock outcroppings of the high desert and conifer forest interface. Petrichor had come for a cool morning drink.
Ladyhawk seemed distracted by something on the ridge above. And there he was! Petrichor!
Skye had hoped to catch a glimpse of the stallion. She was getting an eye full as the stallion approached, snorting, shaking his head and displaying, but not showing aggression. Ladyhawk was tense beneath her, but she also seemed distracted. As if they was more than just the big appaloosa stallion to keep an eye on.
And then, just as the sun crested the ridge, the sound of hooves against granite, and Grace's calm, even voice.
"Get up on higher ground."
Sweeping in between Skye and the stallion, Grace and Cookie locked on to their target. Stallion...steer...whatever. Cookie was ready to outmaneuver her subject. A high desert dawn dance ensued
They drew closer, wary but ever less tense. as if the stallion would soon reach out his nose again, as he had the first time Grace came close to him. But just as Grace thought he might, Skye startled all three of them.
Ladyhawk saw it first. All eyes now fell upon the big cat. While the mountian lion focused on Ladyhawk and Skye, Petrichor circled behind it.
The cougar moved swiftly to face the stallion, crouching again. It was no small cat. And it was not backing down.
Petrichor circled the cat, always facing him, moving ever closer. Still, the mountain lion held its ground. The seconds seemed like an eternity. Grace nudged Cookie forward, and she went willingly.
Still the cougar did not move. Skye rode in on Ladyhawk.
For a fleeting moment the cougar focused its attention on Skye and Ladyhawk. Petrichor seized his chance, lounging at the big cat, striking with his powerful front hooves. It was over in a second, the cat spinning and bounding away, over a steep granite precipice and away.
Snorting and shaking his head, Petrichor trotted toward the edge of the rock face, as if to make sure the big cat was gone. Then he relaxed, dropping his head, moving away from the girls, back up the water pools to fill hiself with cool, precious water.
Back at home, the girls were a mixture of exhausted, and very awake.
Skye bubbled with youthful enthusiasm. "I think that was the most exciting ride yet..."
Indeed. What a morning it had been!
(A little fun fact. You will always see the Frenchie and the Sheltie together because they both have vision issues and they rely upon each other to see. The Frenchie is almost blind, but we may be able to correct it with surgery. The sheltie is older and probably has cataracts, but still gets around pretty well).
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.
It was the best of times. And it was a busy time. There were horses to be prepared for the show ring. They would need to be photographed to their best advantage, and for that, Grace needed the weather to cooperate. And she also needed to restore wind-ravaged fences and arena footing.
In the high desert, you either live in a place that collects soil, or a place that loses it, based on the wind. And the ranch was prone to losing soil, such that keeping arenas soft and full of good riding material was no easy, one-time task.
When it was too hot out for riding, shoveling sand and building arenas, the girls stayed inside, working on the life-size Bremen Singers resin by Kitty Cantrell.
All the while the girls worked to prepare the horses already in residence, there were new arrivals coming. Grace brought home a trailer full of horses in June, most of whom were disbursed. But two of them stayed on...an Andalusian stallion, and an aged appaloosa gelding.
The Andalusian was fabulous. And really big. There was no headstall that would fit him, and he came without a lot of information...like, his level of training, his temperament, his breeding history...so Grace went out of her comfort zone entirely, making a rope bridle after the fashion that Skye had taught her and climbing on the big mulberry grey steed bareback.
She told Skye that if it didn't go well, he too would be for sale.
The rope bridle offered vague instruction to the stallion. Reading Grace's body language, he moved forward, in a graceful, measured ad highly animated fashion...a passage. Therein were the answers Grace sought. This was a highly trained horse. Easily worth his price. At least for now, he would stay.
Skye didn't want to know what Grace had paid for the appaloosa. She just wanted to make sure he stayed. He was obviously a mature horse, very quiet, with gentle eyes. He was covered in scratches and little scars and caked on dirt. Once upon a time he had been someone's performance horse, but that time had passed, and now he needed some love.
The appaloosa appeared to be sound. Skye's first ride on him was a night ride, under the stars. Grace chose Ono, who was coming along so well under saddle. It was, they were told, the time of year when the Milky Way was visible in the eastern sky. And indeed it was. So were a million other stars. Perhaps they would have seen even more had they traveled deeper into the forest, further into the darkness...but the beauty and magic they saw was enough.
Several hours later they were riding again, at dawn. Skye let the appaloosa rest and chose Precious, a 1996 Thomas Bainbridge quarter horse mare, for their next adventure. Grace had seen hoofprints that were not of her own making. She had a hunch they were the hoof prints of a wild horse, or horses. And she had a hunch of where to go looking for them.
The squealing and clattering of hooves on granite gave them away. There were two wild horses, stallions; a chocolate palomino the girls recognized as Highlander, almost certainly with draft influence, and a smaller, wirey, active bay roan, scarred form head to toe, dancing along the edge of granite escarpments and testing the big palomino tirelessly.
And then, sensing the presence of the girls...perhaps by sound, or smell, or even the slightest movement form their hiding place among the rocks...the stallions turned as one and fled, the squealing and sparring forgotten as they headed back into the chaparral.
Redbird Ranch is hosting its first ever online model horse show. It is the inaugural show of a series that will be hosted by multiple model horse hobby people and culminate in a Championship Show.
Grace and Skye will be helping to get the word out in the model horse community. You can learn all about the show here:
We also have an event on Facebook: