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.