Road TripRead Now
August 28, 2022
Grace viewed a map that spanned Los Angeles and San Bernadino County wilderness areas. The distances seemed vast, but Grace wanted answers. Their wild horses were coming from somewhere. It wasn't the high country. And it wasn't Mojave...at least not directly.
So as the sun rose on August 29, they embarked upon a journey, leaving Chilao and everything familiar behind.
Out to the highway, passing the empty shell of Newcomb's Ranch, which looked as though a bear or perhaps coyotes had paid a visit.
Up Angeles Crest Highway they went, the little Jeep purring along...not particularly fast, but without complaint. They stopped at Carousel.
The wind played through the trees, an unfamiliar tune which made the girls slightly uneasy and aloof. They knew the sound of wind approaching but not its voice through this more dense cover of trees.
There was evidence of fire and next to it, luxurious green. They didn't linger long.
The Bobcat fire had run rampant through the mountains, spotting, skipping, crowning, missing whole swatches of forest and giving others the ultimate cleaning.
At Eagle's Roost, there was just enough room to squeeze the Jeep out onto the rocky soil. Grace and Skye surveyed the surroundings in silence. The fire had crowned, turning to blackness stands of old growth trees. After a while Skye spoke.
"The trees that are brown but still have needles...will they recover?"
"No. Almost with certainty no. Conifers need at least the top ten per cent of their needles to have a chance at survival. If they were lightly singed, it's possible the needles can recover and the trees can go on photosynthesizing. But when you see the trunk is black all the way to the top, that's too much. Their bark has most likely been compromised, and the limbs that supported needles are too damaged to support new growth."
On the highway again, they passed a structure, and in a few more turns came upon a set of tunnels. For a moment, Skye forgot about the fire scars.
Grace pulled in to a small vista point known as Jarvi. At Jarvi, She maneuvered the Jeep to overlook an incredibly steep and spectacular canyon.
"This place is amazing!" Skye exclaimed.
"Church" Grace said.
"Randy Emata likes to refer to this place as church. Well, the whole forest really, but this is one of the special places."
They pressed onward. The road demanded one's attention.
At 7,901 feet, they passed another structure, a sand shed for Cal Trans. They had reached Dawson Saddle.
"We made it to the top" Grace said, smiling.
The view was multi-faceted and expansive. Skye wanted to take in all of it.
"What is that?"
"I'm not sure what the correct geological term is" Grace said. "Inland desert perhaps. But it's the Antelope Valley, northern Los Angeles County into Kern County, and if we could see far enough, the Mojave basin and the Tehachapi mountains."
"Please please, let's stop."
Skye had to get a better look. She went to the edge of the precipice. The wind pushed at her back. She looked down...to an unfathomable drop of several hundred feet, and then down, down, down into a canyon miles below. Her knees trembled.
"Okay, take a good look, because we need to get going now. We've got a long way to go."
Down the mountain they went, toward Wrightwood. The approach was beautifully green. The town was set for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, flags flying from nearly every rustic, majestic, old, new, whimsical, tree-nestled home.
And the moment they had driven through the main part of town, the aftermath of another fire greeted them.
"This isn't the Bobcat fire" Grace said. "This is the one that was just a few weeks ago."
And at the base of nearly every desert chaparral plant, there was already green...profuse green.
"The burn interval was good here" Grace said. "That's why the vigorous new growth."
Fascinating though the fire ecology was, Grace quickly realized that her hunch about where Chilao's wild horses hailed from was wrong. This, Wild Horse Canyon, was hardly wild. Down every side street were homes. It was the desert side of the Wrightwood community. The name may have described the place fifty or a hundred years ago...but not in her lifetime. And so they doubled back.
They took Sheep Creek Road to Lone Pine Canyon. Ablaze in the orange-red spent flowers of chamise, glorious in its remote wildness, and a ten per cent grade, Lone Pine Canyon wound through some wild country, with the bone-dry Lytle Creek often at its flanks. And somewhere down here, there was a surprise.
They drove and drove for what seemed endless miles. When Grace finally found a place to turn around and head back, she glanced up to see the sign. She had found it. Navigating the Jeep down a wide dirt track, the girls began a three mile journey...over washboard road. Try though she might, Grace could not get the speed just right. And so they bumped, and shook, and rattled, awkwardly, down the often winding road.
Where they found, at the end of that three and a half mile endurance test in the mid-day heat...a closed road.
Skye took a deep, uneasy breath.
"Let's go for a walk."
They went around the gate, and crested a small knoll. Skye was stunned. Amid the constant drone of high tension power lines, train whistle in the distance and the occasional homestead in the middle of this no-man's land...water. Giant cattails. An oasis.
It wasn't huge, but it was relatively deep as far as Skye could tell.
"I'm told it has something to do with a fault that runs through the region. You may have noticed the slip in the ground on our left as we were coming in. As distinct from the dry creek to our right. I don't know if I really understood it right, but anyway. Pretty cool."
"And plenty of water for horses" Skye said. "If you were thinking maybe this is where the horses came from."
The girls did not linger long at the water either. Originally Grace had wanted to go back home through Valyermo and Juniper Hills, the back side of the desert where she thought the horses might be coming from, but she changed her mind halfway through Wrightwood. They headed back up Angeles Crest Highway, veering left without warning onto another dirt road, one that went immediately up into an alpine meadow...and which, thankfully, was not washboard.
"Where are we?" Skye asked.
The country was easily as harsh as the desert...perhaps moreso, as it was steep. But it was as different as it could have been, with huge trees twisted by wind and alpine meadows full of rugged plants such as Skye might have expected to encounter in the tundra.
They came to a sign post and read the trail names. Wild Fire. Backdraft. Inferno Ridge. They paused in silence. Were they ever going to escape the sight, the touch, the theme of fire? A few more turns and another surprise. This was not just a recreation road. This was Mountain High Ski Resort, the base of which was in the western flank of Wrightwood. And there was nothing subtle about it.
Slowly they made their way another three miles up the mountain.
"Where are we now?" Skye asked, just as they rounded a tree-lined corner and came into Blue Ridge campground. It was small and quaint, and there was a short-axled motorhome and a truck with a trailer enjoying the solitude, the cool air, the view...and the bees.
The tree line also appeared to be the bee line. There was no shortage of them here, and they seemed to be thriving...or perhaps, working hard and fast in the short season of plenty that preceded the certain onset of bitter cold in not so many months.
The girls pressed on. Then rather suddenly, Grace turned the Jeep around. They could have pressed on another two miles, but Grace was satisfied. They had made it over the top of the mountain, down to sea level, and now back into the alpine region again. They did not need to go to the very end of the rod. This was good. This was enough.
They paused to enjoy the view. Ravens came, flowing effortlessly up the mountain on thermals, eager to see if there were hand-outs to be had.
It was late afternoon. They headed slowly down from Blue Ridge, savoring the green, the unbridled beauty, the harsh, windswept character of the land, the late summer flowers.
They paused once more at Jarvi on the way home. The East fire, contained to a steep mountain slope by the efforts of firefighters and the loss of vegetation from fires in 2020, filled the sky with smoke despite its containment status. The day's warm winds and temperatures fueled what fire remained. The reality of fire would not be avoided. They would have to embrace it, and be grateful for what they still had. Theirs was a landscape facing dramatic change. A few more fires and it would be a windswept, high elevation desert. There was no escaping that reality, not as a theory, not as a prediction, but everywhere and all-encompassing.
(The Bobcat fire of September 2020 tore through the Angeles National Forest almost unchecked as forty other major fires plagued California and the west. It was particularly devastating where it crossed into the footprint of the 2009 Station fire, burning all the new growth that was doing so well, and leaving the landscape too depleted to have another vigorous recovery. Fire interval is very important and an interval of 11 years was very much not enough. It was also particularly devastating where it walked through the high country, and down into the desert to destroy the Devil's Punchbowl Visitor's Center and thousands of acres of already stressed habitat in between. The high country - once covered in snow six months out of the year - is severely stressed due to the increasing temperatures and lack of rainfall. It is believed that climate conditions have changed so much that the high country will not recover from the Bobcat fire. Previous high country fires have not seen vigorous recovery. The Station fire offered a glimpse of what nature can do at a proper fire interval...but what we have seen since then has been one radical fire after another. Our local climate gets warmer and warmer, drier and drier, causing trees to die even without fire. It is a difficult scenario to witness, after seeing such wonderful recovery from the Station fire).
A Patient WayRead Now
August 5, 2022
Grace gently caressed each detail of the carefully crafted saddle. She was awe-struck. She remembered well coming to Redbird Ranch where there was exactly one functioning western saddle, and it did not seem like all that long ago. Now she rested her hand on a brand new saddle made by Shandi Gabriiella Cristel Bech, and within arm's reach to her right, a dressage saddle, an english saddle and a western saddle by Fiona Covert. And there were saddles gifted to them by Laurel Dedes as well. She felt loved and supported...she and Skye both...and what a strange world it was indeed, as many of their supporters she had never even met yet.
"This is gorgeous" Skye said. "It's going to look fantastic on La Barilla."
Skye was correct. And that wonderful breast collar, lined with soft sheepskin, would keep the saddle forward.
The sun slipped behind the ridge and the air cooled.
It was Grace and La Barilla's first outdoor ride, in the turn-out corral. Although Grace was eager to try out the new saddle, she opted for the same one she had ridden in last time. Riding outdoors would be enough new stimulus for one day.
Skye had come along on Loch'sha, who was calm and good natured. Grace went around the corral several times, steady, while Skye rode alongside and slightly behind. Grace moved to the middle, brought La Barilla to a halt. Sort of.
"Let's see what happens if you ride in a circle around me" she said to Skye. Skye walked Loch'sha in a circle around Grace and the golden stallion, close to him, but not crowding him. As Skye circled, so did La Barilla, keeping Skye and the appaloosa mare in sight.
"He wants to be facing you" Grace noted. "I'm not going to fight with him too much, he's really being pretty good."
"That wasn't too shabby" Skye said. "How about you circle me now?"
"We'll give it a try. In fact, we'll even try going to the right."
Loch'sha, calm as she was, also wanted to be facing the stallion at all times.
"You know, it's probably a natural thing" Grace said. "Of course they want to see what's going on. Then over time they get used to the routine and it's no big deal any more."
"Well I think he's doing fantastic and you should be totally proud of him. And this girl, too" Skye said.
"Are you going to ride him back to the ranch?"
Grace thought about it for a moment.
"No, I'll walk him back this time. This was good for today. This was enough."
It was hot, sticky and beautiful out. Clouds graced a blue sky and the humidity suggested the possibility of thunderstorms. The girls headed for the area, partly to stay cooler, sort of, and partly to be indoors in the event that the heavens did decide to throw around lightning bolts.
Loch'sha had worked out well yesterday as a calming companion, so Grace and Skye decided to stick with a good thing.
La Barilla was all dressed out in the new saddle from Shandi Gabriiella Cristel Bech. There was a confounding bunch of new stuff to get used to. Breast collar, back cinch, new smells, new squeaks. But it sure did look pretty. And the breast collar was doing a marvelous job of keeping the saddle up on his whithers. Grace used the long reins, working him back and forth across the arena. She really wanted to sit in that lovely new saddle...but she was, above all, not wanting to rush him. He was doing so well.
Grace lead La Barilla to the big outdoor arena to let him burn off some steam. When he was loosened up, she planned on riding him in the new saddle. The ground bustled with quail and chipmunks.
As she was turning out La Barilla, a chorus of coyote erupted, and they were very close by, at the fire station. Grace let La Barilla loose and went to watch the coyotes. As she followed one with her eyes, she saw movement to her left. Another coyote, a pup, was quite close.
La Barilla was full of himself tonight. Ten, fifteen minutes went by. He was still running, pawing, snorting, spinning, bucking, rearing, striking at invisible challengers. Every time Grace thought he was done, he wasn't.
Twenty five minutes in, Grace decided she didn't have the mental fortitude to ride La Barilla. She would walk him back to the barn. And then return to see if she could catch a glimpse if the coyotes, who were vocalizing in social behavior tones.
When she returned to the arena she found Skye on the old black mare.
"I couldn't get a bridle over her ears to save my life" Skye said. "This is a draft horse halter."
What a sweet old girl. Grace wondered if she'd be going to some kind of equine assisted therapy facility...or if she'd find a way to make this her happily ever after home.
"Do you want to ride her back?"
Grace thought about it.
"Naw, I could use the exercise."
Skye was still asleep. Grace examined the undercarriage of the little Jeep. Not that she was entirely sure what she was looking at, but what she could see appeared to be sound. Or sound enough, anyway.
The day went on for a long time, but when the shadows grew long and the air cooled, she saddled La Barilla. She hadn't really meant to go for a trail ride, but as they headed toward the indoor arena, the ravens were very active at the dumpsters. A bear had recently been through, getting into the trash and even into the garage of the main house. A bear on her third ride was more than Grace was looking for, so she veered east. Skye and the black mare veered east also. The ground was a little rougher than Skye would have liked, for both of them.
For Grace, the rocky ground gave her mount something important to focus on.
Grace watched the black mare move.
"What did it feel like when you rode her yesterday?" Grace asked.
"Her hind feet hit the ground kind of hard" Skye said. "We just walked."
"She probably has arthritis. Her back legs are a little bit stocked up. Walking her every day or close to every day will be good for her. Or even having her in a big enough enclosure that she can move around on her own."
It would soon be dark. They picked their way across the rocky ground as the wild birds made their final foraging rounds and the sound of hooves on hard soil filled the silence.
"Do you suppose we'll get to keep her?" Skye asked.
"Probably. I don't think the boss would see her fit to sell, except maybe to a therapeutic riding program, and we don't really know how well suited she is for that. She's awful tall."
"What do you suppose she is?"
"I think she's a Thoroughbred."
The last rays of sunlight burnished the landscape. August half way over. The evening was silent save for the scrub jays. This used to be the time when deer would emerge from their daytime hides. But it was rare to see deer any more. And that was just part of the changes. Changes that seemed to be bringing a more uneasy relationship between the wild things and the domestic things.
A breeze lifted the hot air and moved it about. Grace gave the little Jeep a test drive. It had gotten some TLC and was running much better. Some modifications had been made to the floorboard. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. The wind shield was still problematic. Grace had tried using caulking and plexiglass, but it had already come apart twice, and this time the angle wasn't right. But...it was progress. Sort of.
Skye watched the old black mare and realized what Grace had said about arthritis and motion was very true. Despite the mid-day heat, she took the mare, Deer Medicine and Cloud Medicine out for a walk. Not too long or too far, less than a mile probably, just enough to loosen up.
Skye had not expected she'd she Grace. In the Jeep. Grace hadn't expected to see Skye.
They mutually agreed the rest of the afternoon would be best spent in the shade. Grace got caught up on the happenings.
"So, apparently a bear broke into the main house on Thursday night" she told Skye.
"Sounds like there were no damages other than the window screen. It came for cat food."
Skye was both fascinated by and moderately terrified of bears. Or more accurately, of encountering a bear in a confined space.
"And...the boss entered the next Collective show even though we are the hosts."
"Is that legal?"
"As long as we aren't judging, yes. And we are not judging. But she says 'Any help you can offer with getting some horses ready for the show would be awesome.' "
"We could probably get some horse ready for their glamour shots tomorrow morning. Maybe the new horses?"
"Let's plan on it. The show is August 27, so this is the last weekend we'll have to do it."
The girls worked as a team, Grace and Skye bringing the horses to the arena, the boss photographing them with a variety of cameras, using one until it started acting up and then switching to another one.
They managed to get twelve horses out for their glamour shots.
The little paint foal seemed to enjoy the spotlight. Mom took it all in stride. The big grullas were more interested in pets and treats than photos. The new ponies were so much fun to watch.
"I think those are two of the cutest pony mares ever" Skye remarked.
"I agree" Grace replied. The air was warming quickly as they finished.
When the shoot was complete, the girls walked down the service road. The dogs had barked half the night, so what they found was no real surprise. A bear had gotten into one of the dumpsters. Now by daylight, other scavengers moved in.
"Why aren't these bear-proof dumpsters like they have in some of the picnic areas?" Skye asked. "It doesn't make any sense. All the trash gets brought here. These should be bear-proof dumpsters."
A coyote appeared from in between the dumpsters.
"Money." Grace said. "At least that's what I'm told. The Forest Service can't afford but a couple of bear proof dumpsters."
"That's so wrong" Skye said.
As they approached, the coyote trotted away, up an embankment, and across the school driveway.
"No wonder we can't get rid of the coyotes" Skye lamented.
"It's not just because I used to feed the birds."
"No, it's a lot of things" Grace explained. "It's trash, and water in the spring, and lots of rodents. There's always a lot of rodents around buildings, so in that respect, coyotes offer some balance. But mostly, it's the easy pickings. Remember last year? The coyote den was in a culvert under the road right next to the campground. And the first place the coyote tried to den was the culvert right here, at the dumpsters, right next to the school! She could have walked less than ten yards to get dinner. We're lucky she denned on the other side of the fire station, and not right here."
The process of photographing horses was actually quite a lot of work. They had to be clean, they had to present well, the lighting had to be right, the cameras had to work. It was hot, there were flies and dust and horses wanted to roll and so much running back and forth. But the outcome - the lovely photos - were quite intriguing to Skye.
"I know it's hot and sticky and flies and coyotes and stress while we're doing it, but I love to see the end result."
Grace had to admit, they'd gotten some good pictures, even if the boss was lamenting about broken cameras.
In the afternoon's heat, Grace and Skye went to the indoor arena to meet some new and rather different horses. Finally out of quarantine, Grace and Skye turned out a beautiful mare from Denmark, a gift from Shandi Bech.
She looked like she might be Spanish, perhaps a Lusitano. Grace wasn't sure.
"We'll have to do some homework" she said. "She has that faint barring, like Simba, but I think he's a double dilute."
The mare was stunning, whatever she was.
There were other new arrivals. The Zafirah mares. It was difficult to define them with words. They seemed quite aware they were beautiful. And they were not small in stature.
"These two are for sale" Grace said. "I hope they go to fantastic homes because they are gorgeous."
Not all the horses the girls bought down in the relative cool of evening were new.
La Barilla was the last horse they brought down. Grace practiced moving in between poles and turning back at the end of them. The scent of so many mares seemed to add to his animation, but Grace was beginning to get more comfortable with him.
Her hands softened. Her neck and shoulders were more relaxed.
They were starting to look natural together.
The air was cooling. The night would be pleasant. The girls took advantage of the golden hour, which any more was the transition between the time when you might see bears and coyotes to when you almost certainly would see bears and coyotes. But the campgrounds were full of campers, and that would keep both scavengers busy, at least for a little while. They took a short trail ride, on the new golden mare and La Barilla.
"So how many rides is this?" Skye asked. Grace had to count out loud.
"I rode him twice in the indoor arena, and once on the east side of the property while you were leading the old black mare. Then we rode in the big arena with you on Loch'sha. Or maybe I got that out of order. I ride him in the indoor arena last night. I feel like I'm missing something. Ride number six?"
"How is your ride?" Grace asked of Skye.
"Oh she's dreamy. Super responsive. I feel like I need to be careful not to cue her to do something by accident."
"You should consider changing his name" Skye said rather unexpectedly.
"Because it reminds me of pasta or spaghetti sauce."
"But it has meaning. He may be a direct descendant of a herd of Spanish horses that rain wild in central California until the early 1900s. They were called Barilla mustangs. They were either buckskin or palomino. So, probably Lusitanos."
Grace was thinking to turn around and head back the way they came. But La Barilla didn't seem put off by the terrain ahead. He placed his feet with care.
"I keep thinking we'll see Petrichor" Skye said. "It seems like such a long time."
"I know" Grace said. "Apparently there's still water in the little lake at Singing Pines. I wonder if that's where the horses are. And I wonder where the bear and the coyotes are getting water. They don't seem to be going away any time soon."
"Now that you're riding your dream horse, do you still think about Petrichor?"
"Funny. I do. I don't know what I'd do with him, but I do think he'd make a great riding horse. I know. I'm crazy."
July 17, 2022
The evening began to cool. Grace, having spent most of the day disinterested in going horse hunting, made the rather sudden decision to get the black mare.
She changed her mind three times about which mare to ride, settling on Precious. She forgot her hat. And she forgot fly spray. The flies and mosquitos were brutal.
But she had chosen their spot well and as night fell, Petrichor's band made their way to the dry creek valley, where they would spend the night. The bay lead mare was wary. Petrichor brought up the rear, the black mare well behind the others. He broke away immediately to engage the girls and their mare.
Skye had brought a length of rope which, with any luck, she would slip over the black mare's head and then fashion a quick halter with. Petrichor was livelier and more animated than either Grace or Skye had anticipated. They wondered for a moment just how smart their plan was.
Petrichor seemed more uneasy than he ever had before. He wheeled toward his herd, and then back toward the girls. The black mare was walking past them. If Skye was going to catch her, she would have to make her move.
She kept an eye on Petrichor while a horse fly made repeated attempts to land on her. She had to keep her cool. Grace wasn't sure what to say to the stallion. She'd always spoke to him in an ordinary voice, like an old friend. What to say to him now?
"Hey big guy. We're going to take that old mare off of your hands. It'll make life easier for you. She's slowing you down. You just hang tight for a few minutes and it'll all be done and over."
As Skye suspected, the mare looked a bit as if she'd been wondering when someone was going to bring her in. She was tall, but when Skye held up her rope, the mare put her head down to receive it. A nose loop and two quick knots and they were ready to head home.
Petrichor left Grace and Precious and turned his attention to the black mare. For a long and agonizing moment, they were at the mercy of Petrichor, and there was nothing anyone could do. It would be very much not ideal to leave the old mare with a make-shift halter and a length of rope hanging from her head, but whatever happened next was up to Petrichor...and the old mare.
Grace held her breath.
"Come on girl." Skye gave the mare a tug. She paused, uncertain. Petrichor snorted and swiveled his ears back several times, shifting uneasily, tossing his head, tail moving wildly. And then he turned away, trotting toward his wild mares, who immediately moved off, Petrichor taking up the rear. The black mare drew a deep breath, turned toward Skye, and never looked back.
She was none too pretty, but Skye was already in love with her. Funny kid, Grace thought, somewhere in her past there must have been some wonderful elders, human or animal.
The walk down to the indoor arena as darkness fell was uneventful. The mare lead well and entered the arena as if she had done it before.
"Now what?" Skye asked.
"I haven't got a clue where we are going to put her" Grace replied. "Let's leave her here for tonight. We'll give her some food and water and...hopefully by morning I'll have an idea."
It was too hot for riding. Skye decided to try her hand at watercolors again. She brought two big sheets of watercolor paper to the tack room. One a little more started than the other.
"I messed up on the darker one a little. I started with the black instead of working light to dark. I think it will be okay though. And this lighter one...I don't know what it's going to be yet."
"Maybe this is just going to be your watercolor style" Grace said. "One bold and dark and one soft and delicate. You've got a great start on both of them."
"The darker one is going to be that sunset we saw on Sunday, with the faint purples and the trees and the yucca silhouetted in the foreground."
"I'm sure it will be lovely."
Skye worked on the painting for untold hours, using the technique she so admired in the images by New Graham, marker over watercolor. Whatever the art words are for when the thing says what you wanted it to say, and it doesn't need to be any more than that. That's what Skye would have said, if she knew the words.
When Skye first woke, she thought there was a lovely cloud cover easing her into the day. But it was smoke. There were fires burning in other wilderness areas and open spaces to the north and the south.
It would be a good morning to take it easy, and see how the black mare did with the rest of Skye's horses. The mare had been in a stall of her own for several days, giving her time to get acquainted at a safe distance. Sometimes it just takes a bit to get used to your herd mates and neighbors. Donkey and Dinky had grown quite accustomed to Baron.
The black mare was really big. The black mare was much larger than Deer Medicine, yet they had a similar way of going. Deer Medicine was an Anglo-Barb, a Thoroughbred and Spanish Barb mare. Her foal Cloud Medicine had Anglo-Barb on both sides, but a higher percentage of Thoroughbred from his sire.
Grace watched the horses move. She was struck by this thought. Somehow, in that rather ordinary moment, she had this sensation, this understanding...she and Skye were living the life, in a changing time. The smell and sound of horses and the dust of their foot falls and the sun through the veil of smoke...somehow just for a moment it all seemed magical. Not ordinary at all. Like a dream. A dream that countless thousands of children had and never experienced.
And it looked like tiny little Dinky was starting to get the hang of things too.
The indoor arena was cooler than the atmosphere outdoors, and less smoky. Grace walked La Barilla, fully tacked, dow to the arena. The only thing he hadn't had was a bit in his mouth, and Grace didn't have a starter bit anyway. He had lead, lunged, long reined, carried various saddles, worked on ground manners. It was time to get in the saddle, if only for a very brief ride.
Grace pulled herself up and swung her leg over. La Barilla side stepped away from her weight. The saddle slipped a bit off center. The weight of a human was awkward. La Barilla moved sideways, trying to center himself.
So far so good, but not the saddle. Grace needed to straighten it up. She dug her right foot into the stirrup. stood, gave the saddle a pull to the right. The weight and all the shifting was strange and new to La Barilla and he was not sure how to respond.
Grace was able to get the saddle back in more or less the right position. She looked forward, sat down, and let her mount move. He went forward, albeit with uncertainty. And in a fashion, they went down the rail.
This was a moment Grace had dreamed about for a long time. Once around the arena, not quite from end to end, letting her mount move forward in his highly animated fashion, letting him feel her weight, letting him experience this new thing, keeping her hands flexible on the bosal reins, trying not to give him any new sort of input, just what he had already understood from the long rein, keeping her own weight centered on her hindquarters, moving with him as he sought to find balance.
They kept the ride short, ending on a high note.
Late in the afternoon, the new horses had begun trickling in. There would be a total of seven or eight, according to the boss, and this new group would be widely varied. The little reddish pony was exceptionally sweet. She also had a little mischievous streak, grabbing the end of Skye's braid as they ran in the arena together.
The other horse that arrived wasn't terribly tall, but he was a heavy draft horse, with a round, sturdy back.
"I've just got to sit on him" Skye said.
"Can you get him to come a little closer to the wall?"
Grace pressed her left hand into the big horse's shoulder, and made a leading motion with her right hand. He moved, slow and deliberate, closer to the wall.
Skye climbed the arena wall, then slid onto his back.
"And not too excitable" Grace added.
The trailer came in the late afternoon, as clouds gathered and the humidity rose. The rest of the new horses had come. The horses were relieved to be out of the trailer. And what a mix of horses. There was a pair, nearly identical, that reminded Grace so much of Petrichor.
Skye was quick to spot the foal.
There was an impressive bay. A dressage horse? A jumper perhaps? Mane and tail still braided.
Skye kept seeing hearts in the gathering clouds. And far in the distance, the first soft rumble of thunder.
What a very mixed herd! Exactly what they were, Grace had no idea. But she was fascinated by them. There was a very handsome pony in the mix. And another...a large pony or a small horse, Grace wasn't sure, but he was very active.
Grace watched the horses, and the clouds. Ever so often a restless breeze would lift. There was a 50% chance of thunderstorms, and after the last storm, which damaged nearly every power pole for a mile around, Grace wasn't going to take any chances.
Grace watched the horses looking for a hierarchy to emerge, but she wasn't really seeing any. Knowing who had leadership skills would be helpful in the event that the weather changed quickly.
Another rumble of distant thunder. They would lead the horses to their new stalls soon.
Skye greeted the momma mare, and she was calm and sweet. Her foal, on the other hand, seemed used to being the center of attention, and made sure Skye knew it.
The big silver horses were indeed calm and docile like geldings. Softly, Grace heard the thunder again. They would take the horses two at a time to their new stalls. No need to rush as long as they started now.
The new horses seemed to be attracting the attention of the locals. Instead of more thunder, a rainbow. Skye was surprised to see a bevy of quail...parents and their adolescent offspring...in a pine tree!
And so July came to a close, sweltering heat and thunderstorms, new additions to the growing herd at Redbird Ranch, and one of Grace's dreams come true, her first ride on La Barilla.
Hi, my name is Corina, the official story teller for Grace and Skye. Grace owes her beauty, style and charm to Anne Field, Field of Dolls Studio. Skye does too, for that matter, as Anne fostered her for a while, giving Skye a complete makeover in the process. The horses, dogs, cats, saddles, bridles, furniture and so forth are the work of many artists. I'll do my best to acknowledge them as we go from day to day.
This is the ongoing, unfolding story of grace little, manager of redbird ranch, and her little sister, Skye