July 10, 2022, Angeles National Forest, Chilao
The girls went out pre-dawn to where Skye had seen Petrichor's band and the new, old black mare. They looked, and listened, but they found no horses.
They did see fascinating spider webs. They saw a young scrub jay learning to forage on its own.
They headed back to the ranch before the sun crested Yucca Peak. Grace wanted to work with La Barilla in the long rein rig while it was still relatively quiet.
They worked on turning. In a fashion. La Barilla a very smooth on his left turns, but he resisted going to the right. Instead of bending to the right, he basically side passed all the way around, 360 degrees. He was moving to the right...Grace just could not manage to get him to do it "normal."
"I think I am going to change his name" Grace said.
"Nascar. Like the racing series. Because with few exceptions, he only turns left."
All said, their second session was really quite successful. The stallion did what he was asked and appeared to enjoy working. It doesn't get much better than that.
While the girls worked horses, Gary Pickett's annual flint knapper's gathering had returned to Chilao School after a nearly three year absence due to COVID. The girls didn't know anything about paleo tool making, or rocks for that matter, but one of the knappers gifted them with a lovely slab of rock. It was thin, but still quite heavy. Grace was just fascinated by it. Skye had a million questions that Grace could not answer.
"I'm going to clean it off a little" Grace said in the fading evening light. "When you see it in the daylight it'll look even better."
Dawn was quiet, still and warm. Grace and Skye set off on foot. They were looking for Petrichor's band, and they had a hunch where they might find the horses. In the heat of summer, the horses seemed to prefer to be on the rock plateaus, where breezes were moe likely to find them, and insects were less numerous...until the sheer heat drove them to seek the shelter of trees.
Whiptail lizards seemed particularly numerous this year. The girls saw a healthy one as they made their way to Mustang Rock. They did not have long to wait this time. The black mare was still with the herd. And Petrichor was looking fit.
The pale mare caught wind of the girls. The bay lead mare paused. Petrichor halted, then moved toward Grace and Skye. The black mare moved closer, unafraid.
Petrichor got between his harem and his humans. He swished his tail vigorously, worked his lips and quivered his nostrils, conflicted. The black mare followed the other mares as they turned away from Grace and Skye.
A helicopter flew overhead. Grace watched the horses. There was no fear reaction. No one panicked. That told Grace some things about these horses. They had likely never been in a BLM helicopter round-up.
The girls kept advancing, slowly. They were able to get quite close.
Grace got a good look at the black mare. She was old, yes, and she did not look like a mustang, no. But she was also not showing ribs or a dramatically swayed back or prominent whithers.
Petrichor held ground between his horse and human harems. It was hot, and the sky was electric blue.
Skye watched the peacock appaloosa foal. It was calm like its mother, and such an unusual color.
"This is doable" Grace said softly. "We'll come back with a halter, or rope, or both. Maybe treats. I bet that mare will come right up to us."
"What about Petrichor?"
"I don't think he'll try to hurt us. He may not like it, but I don't think we need to be afraid. He's just barely wild. At least around us."
And so they left the wild ones to the wild land. For now.
They spent the heat of the day inside. Skye admired the slab of stone that gotten from the flint knappers.
"The rock is called Hartville Uplift, from Wyoming" Grace said.
"Did you polish it?"
"I washed it and rubbed it with lavender oil and sea salt scrub...because that's what I had. The stone will absorb the oil but at least for a little while the colors will show."
"Why is some of it so shiny and some so rough?"
"I don't know for sure. We'll have to ask the knapper that gave it to us...#wyopaleo.
Grace and Skye tidied up the tack room. It was too hot to ride.
"Do you think we'll ever get to go to Breyerfest?"
Grace thought for a bit before she responded.
"We'd have to figure out how to go with someone else. The boss can't go because too many dogs and other things to manage."
"Or NAN...do you think we'll ever get to show at the North American Nationals?"
"Well, we'd have to qualify some horses first, and any more it seems like we barely have enough time to ride them all. Anyway, don't worry, I'm sure the boss figured out how to bring back horses even though she isn't going. In a couple of weeks, we'll have a whole new bunch of horses to sort out."
"I'd put money on it."
The temperature had dropped to 89 degrees. Skye found Grace and La Barilla in the indoor arena, which was not much cooler.
"So now what?" Skye asked.
"He still doesn't turn right as good as he turns left, but I thought I'd try one more variation with the long reins. This is really the only thing we haven't done yet. I'm running out of ground work to do before I get on him."
"Are you nervous about riding him?"
"Maybe a little. I want to make sure everything goes smooth. I want to make sure he's ready. I don't want any surprises. Pretty soon though, I just need to do it."
In the evening, out in the vastness of dry ground and aging boulders, as the sun's light lost its grip on the land and faded into shadows, Petrichor's band began to stir.
The small herd was spread out across the landscape. The black mare was slow. She was also hard to rush, as Petrichor learned the hard way. She may have been slow at the walk, but her bite and kick were swift.
The bay lead mare pressed on. Time to choose a place to spend the evening.
At home, Grace caught up on the day's news.
"Oh, the boss forwarded us a message from Jennifer Bray Buxton."
Skye lit up. "What does it say?"
It says "I was reading the newest Grace and Skye story and I wanted to let Grace know that although Olive likely has been through a BLM helicopter round up, she has zero fears of planes or helicopters. She lives near an Air Force base, and there are low flying jets and helicopters on a daily basis. No problem."
"That is VERY interesting! You know what I think?"
"What do you think?"
"I think someone needs to sculpt Olive, in her full floating imitation Arabian trot. Like maybe Maggie Jenner Bennett. That's what I think."
"Are you sitting down Skye? A model horse...no, a Pegasus for crying out loud...sold for sixty five thousand dollars in the Breyerfest auction today."
Skye had no response. #
Chilao School hosts a number of art, healing arts and cultural events throughout the year, including an annual flintknapper's gathering and campout with Gary Pickett. In 2022 we met some wonderful new folks and we were gifted with some lovely arrowheads and that great piece of Hartville Uplift.
Maggie Jenner Bennett is the amazing sculptor of a number of horses in The Art of Grace including La Barilla, Crazy and Highlander. Petrichor is a Breyer model sculpted by Ravyn Maddock. The black mare is a customized Breyer by Corina Roberts. Grace and Skye themselves hail from Field of Dolls Studio, Anne Field.
And in real life, a model horse customized to a Pegasus sold at auction at Breyerfest for sixty five thousand dollars, shattering by more than double the most money that a model horse ever fetched ($24,000 for a one of a kind Alborozzo in 2020).
June 15, 2022
Skye pulled together an assortment of leather and quality rope. Making a bosal for La Barilla would be straight forward if she could find everything she needed. Grace's addition was a length of white cotton rope. She envisioned using a single length to make both "riding" reins and long reins.
When Skye made the original bosal for deer Medicine, she wet-wrapped it in the very same soft leather that she used now, but she then tied the leather on while it was wet. This head piece she wrapped by hand, tying it with a permanent bit of artificial sinew at either end. It seemed to work just as well. Before long, she had the basic structure completed.
If making the bosal went relatively smooth, then cutting the blanket was its terrible balance. The material was difficult to keep straight while she cut it, and fuzzy, and the two sides ended up not matching. She was a bit embarrassed about the saddle blanket. Especially as it was going under such a nice saddle and on such a lovely horse.
June 16, just before dawn in Chilao Creek
Highlander's mare made her way to the water, air still cool from the night. From across the shrinking oasis, Petrichor and his band made their way toward Highlander. It seemed they were often in the same pasture land, same watershed, same rocky ridge. The bay lead mare from Petrichor's band veered away from Highlander and his mare, leading her small herd to shore on the same stretch of sand, keeping as much polite distance as was available.
Highlander reacted to Petrichor's approach, plunging into the water toward him as the sun made its way into the morning sky.
As soon as the stallions were preoccupied with each other, Highlander's dun mare and Petrichor's bay exchanged greetings.
There was a lot of squealing and posturing among the stallions. But no calling for war. Here, there was water enough for eveyone this morning. No need to risk injury.
After a few moments, Petrichor and his band moved out of the watershed, leaving Highlander and the dun mare to enjoy the water.
All the while the hummingbird tried to drive all of the horses away from his water...but no one paid him much mind.
June 29, in the tack room
It was late, and Grace was tired, but she was almost done. She still had to fix the twisted hardware on the cinch, but once she did, this wild mix of tack would come together and Grace would be one step closer to the day when she would ride La Barilla. But wasn't going to work. Although Grace was getting adept at straightening metal keeps, all of the girths she had at her disposal were too large. La Barilla may have a substantial head, but he was not thick in the barrel. She needed a smaller cinch, and she did not have one.
Skye broke the contemplative silence, energetically pushing a lovely box across the tack room floor.
"This just got delivered" she said excitedly. "I already took the shipping paper off. I couldn't stand it. It's from Anne Field!"
"Ah. It's my new hat."
"In a box this big?"
Skye was completely enamored with the box. She didn't even see Grace put on her new hat.
"What do you think?"
Skye had never seen Grace in anything but a tall white hat. The kind the good guys wear in the old western movies. The kind you see in advertisements.
"It's black!" Skye didn't really know what to think. Grace in a black hat. A low black hat with a Spanish kind of feel. It was...it was so...
Grace took the hat off, placed in on a saddle stand.
"Okay, never mind the hat. Want to see what else is in the box?"
The box held some wonderful things by Field of Dolls Studio...two new bareback pads, pretty in pink.
"These are so nice. And now we have enough in case we ever have company!"
While Skye marveled at the workmanship and fell in love with the colors, Grace examined the girths carefully. They were small and well padded.
It would require another slight change in direction...the saddle's girth leather would need to be modified to fit the smaller buckles...but it would work. They'd have a long rein rig made of western, english and bareback elements, and the customized remains of a soft, cuddly poncho...but it would work. Finally.
Skye watched the moon slip silently down below the horizon.
"Are you going to take La Barilla to the arena in the morning?"
"Yes" Grace replied. "It won't be first thing in the morning...I'll let him have breakfast and then turn him out for a bit. But yes, tomorrow morning for sure."
Skye wanted to get out before sunrise and see what the recent thunderstorm had done to the land. There was flooding not far away, but they had none of that. At Redbird Ranch, there was thunder, lightning, and hail. Precious kept stopping, and Skye looked and listened, but she did not see or hear anything.
The terrain seemed even rougher than Skye remembered it. Was Precious stopping because the rocks were hurting her feet? Then Skye saw what might have been the reason.
Petrichor's band came into view. Petrichor looked fit. Skye did not recognize the black mare. She looked old. She was tall...quite a bit taller than all the other horses. She seemed to be getting along fine with the other horses. But there was something about her.
Skye watched her move. The rough ground was difficult for her. It had been difficult for Precious also. Precious was also older. But it was more than age. Skye made up her mind. This was not a mustang.
Petrichor watched Skye and Precious for several minutes. Then he moved his band away.
The sun burst over Yucca Ridge. From pre-dawn to brilliant daylight in an instant. Skye left the wild horses and headed excitedly for home. She had to find Grace.
Grace had La Barilla in his new rig. She had tied the stirrups up across his back to keep them from flapping around. Skye wanted to blurt out about what she had found, but she waited. Soon she was absorbed in the moment. Grace released the stirrups.
"You're just in time to hand me the bosal" she said, slipping off the halter.
The bosal had been fitted with a single length of rope that made both riding reins and long lines. The cotton rope was brand new and un-worked, and a bit stiff because of it. The texture of the fibers were soft, but it would take a little work to make them pliable.
Grace handed Skye back one of the long reins.
"Run it through the stirrup and go behind him with the rest of the length." Skye had seen the same long rein videos that Grace was watching. She knew what to do.
"Now set that rein on the ground and come pick up this one."
So far so good.
"Now if you want, take up both reins, and I'll lead, and you walk behind him. Just keep the long reins slack, but not touching the ground. If you don't feel comfortable, let me know and I'll take the reins."
"I'm good" Skye said calmly. She had not for a moment expected this. To have the reins. To be the one behind La Barilla in his first long line session.
Grace chatted away in a calm, no-bother kind of voice.
"I'll have to read the rules again. Minors under 18 are by law not allowed to ride stallions, and last I recall they cannot show a stallion in any discipline, including halter."
Grace and La Barilla made a turn. Skye maintained her position behind the horse, applying no pressure to the reins.
"So it's possible" Grace continued, "that for all intents and purposes, this here training session with you at the reins never happened."
"Okay" Skye responded. She was too focused for a long-winded response. And just for the moment, she had forgotten all about the black mare.
"Let's trade places." Skye took the lead now, walking with La Barilla, just in front of him and a bit to the side.
"How does he look Skye?"
"He looks very relaxed, really. I'd say the most relaxed I've ever seen him."
"Turn left, a little bit in front of him...he'll follow you."
Skye started her turn and as she did, Grace exerted the slightest pressure on the left long rein, and the stallion turned. They worked for just a few more minutes before Grace decided to end on a high note.
Ample praise closed out the lesson.
Home again, Skye told Grace about the old black mare. About how she was sure it wasn't a mustang, about wanting to catch her.
"How are we going to catch her?" Grace asked.
"The same way you caught Petrichor! Just walk right up and put a rope around her neck!"
Grace recalled catching Petrichor. It was a one in a million, once in a lifetime thing...and he could barely walk, which was the real reason he was catchable. That...and Grace wasn't so sure he'd always been wild. He'd been following them around for months before he went lame.
"If you approach him, I bet anything we can do it. It has to be you though. He's okay with me but...he loves you."
Skye marveled at the moon and the stars. The night was clear and the moon was just a few days from full, and so very bright, yet the stars were still visible. She thought about the black mare, out there somewhere. Skye would ride out again as soon as she could to find her.