April 30, 2022. It was upon them. MIM 2022, the Tiburcio Vasquez Challenge Chilao Live Halter Show. As members of the hosting entity, Redbird Ranch, Grace and Skye could not show any of their horses. They got to enjoy the show, the horses, and as the day wore on, the riding.
Guest's horses were turned out in the arena to the pleasure of the crowd. Grace took Jesse for a spin. He was focused and on task. She was keenly aware that the last time they'd had an event at the ranch was the time that she'd busted a cinch and taken a fall off of Jesse. She made certain the tack she put on him was sturdy and unlikely to fail.
Tara Reich was the artist behind the most exotic horse and hair cut Grace or Skye had ever seen. The horse appeared to be an Akhal Teke cross, lacking the iridescent glow but clipped to look like a Pegasus, wings folded down against his side. He was stunning. All of Tara's horses were crowd pleasers, beautiful, spirited and interacting with a great deal of personality.
Horses at liberty occupied the arena in the morning. Later in the day, performance horses dominated.
Grace and Skye got to spend a little time with Dahlia. She was quick witted. You had to pay attention when she spoke, because her words were few and well chosen.
Grace got to ride a reining horse, one of Tara's. Dahlia suggested she hold the reins like a butterfly and use only her body weight to offer cues.
Skye fell in love with an aged Lipizzan mare (owned by Janice Kall).
Dahlia saddled up the fiery winged steed on May 1, Sunday morning. The show was over and there was time to for riding.
Skye brought Dani Girl down just so she could ride too. One of the judges was still there on Sunday. He yelled something to Skye about minors and head gear. Skye was used to his yelling. Dani Girl not so much.
Skye didn't actually own a helmet, but Tara loaned her a hat. It got mixed reviews. The guy they called Screaming Man seemed pretty pleased with it, even if the judge wasn't.
Grace got to ride another pretty incredible horse, owned by Julia Turner. He was fast, unusually marked, incredibly responsive and versatile. Poles, barrels, reining...this was a fine tuned horse.
Around noon, as the day warmed, it was just too nice to ride in the indoor arena any more. Dahlia, Grace and Skye rode to the outdoor arena. There, Dani Girl got her first glimpse at young cattle, and she seemed quite at ease with them.
Grace got to do some more riding on Tara Reich's reiner.
Dahlia looked relaxed no matter what was happening beneath the saddle.
Grace turned down no opportunities to ride. Tara and Julia had some very fine horses. Finally, the day's heat chased the girls back to the arena, where it was time to say goodbye to their guests. The girls returned home tired, but smiling and full of good memories.
It had been a long but really fun weekend.
"Did you sell anything Skye?"
"Oh! No, I didn't. I had kind of forgotten all about it. I was having so much fun."
May 9. Grace and Skye rode out as the sun was cresting the ridge. They hadn't seen any wild horses in some time, and Grace had a hunch she knew why.
They rode across the strange Chilao monolithes, with its highways of flat stone. The stone's face was full of life, with colorful lichens and lizards emerging from crevices. They rode slow and easy over the rocks.
Deer Medicine was calm and sure footed. Dreamboat picked his foot falls carefully. His steps were deliberate and measured.
The sun was just about to crest the ridge. Soon the night's cool air would be chased away. They came to the place Skye called Mustang Rock just as the sun arrived.
And as Grace suspected, there was no water. Not even a trace in the pools at the summit. There was life though, to be sure. And the sun felt wonderful after a rather cool pre-dawn ride.
Dreamboat stepped carefully around the edge of one of the dry pools. Skye rode into one of them. No local water, no local wild horses. Mystery solved, they headed back to the ranch.
They changed horses and went back out to the big outdoor arena. From the north the girls watched the sky, with its weird tendrils of white drawing upward. Mare's tails, Michelle Seipol called them. Grace has less kind terms to describe the things she did not believe were natural clouds. Boney fingers*, she'd heard the boss call them once, and she liked the description.
From the south, beautiful, natural clouds began to spill across the sky.
Grace and Cookie brought the rather diminutive range calves in for inspection. They'd been brought up for MIM, but before they were turned out again, Grace couldn't resist working them a little.
"I remember one of the first times I saw you ride" Skye recalled. "You got on Cookie with a neck rein. And nothing else. You made it look like you were born on a horse."
"I was showing off" Grace laughed. "I wanted the job. And Cookie is that good."
"You work with them a little" Grace suggested to Skye.
Mista Spot did whatever Skye asked. And he seemed to understand the idea of holding the cattle in an area. But he wasn't as young or as athletic as Cookie.
Grace decided to put Skye on Cookie. Skye did not hesitate.
"Which one should I choose?"
Cookie was quick! With very little direction, Cookie singled out the blondie.
Skye had a natural seat. Even though her feet did not reach the stirrups, she quickly figured out how to sit Cookie. When they took a break, Grace left Skye watching the horses for a few moments. She had a surprise, she said.
Skye took in the sights as she waited for Grace. The northern sky turned white. The southern sky still lovely. The lizards and insects. The flowers emerging from the parched soil.
Grace had a surprise all right. She came back with Mojo, and the Argentine Criollo bull. Cat and bull followed her. She lead the bull into the arena without a lead rope...using only a tuxedo cat.
And then she stood there in front of him. And nothing happened. Even Cookie and Spot looked a little concerned.
"I talked to his previous owners" Grace called over her shoulder as she walked away from the cat and the bull, and Mojo followed, and the bull started to follow too.
"His name is Toro Toro Taxi."
Skye clung to the fence, regardless.
"And he's been handled since he was just a little baby. We've been scared of him for no good reason."
Skye came down off the fence. All that snorting and pawing and those deadly horns...were, according to Grace, nothing to fear. And she was willing to prove it by turning her back to him.
In the sky, the things Grace called boney fingers descended toward the clouds. And the girls watched the sky, and marveled too at spring emerging in the ground.
They heard the cry of a red-tailed hawk and saw it streak across the sky, landing about half a mile away, and then as quickly as it landed, lunging down toward the ground.
It was so far away, they could barely see it, but still, it was exciting. Skye had stopped feeding the birds because every time she did, coyotes came out to see what the fuss was about. The birds reluctantly got the memo, but every now and then, thy still followed her around, vocalizing.
For a time in the afternoon the clouds piled across the sky. Real clouds. Moisture bearing clouds. The girls watched the ever-changing sky. They felt the breeze and drank in the moment. They hoped. The wished. They prayed for rain.