Dateline October 23, 2021. The whole of the day was glorious, but it wasn't until late afternoon that the girls were able to go out for a ride, and as they did a cool mist soon moved up the mountain, swallowing the sunlight. They were hoping to catch a glimpse of Petrichor. They were guided by the sound of snorts and squeals and hooves on rock.
As mysteriously as the bay mare appeared, Petrichor had a second mare, and she was full of herself. The bay mare remained unflappable. The new mare, wildly sabino, appeared to have one blue eye. But it was difficult to tell. She didn't ever hold still for very long.
The bay mare retreated, if you could call it that, up into the rock escarpment. Grace and Skye stayed below. Petrichor watched Grace and Skye...flicked his ears and for a moment seemed conflicted. But then he turned his attention back to his mares, trotting away.
The appearance of the horses...first the new stallions, and now mares...it was all so mysterious. The Angeles National Forest was huge, but it was more or less landlocked. There was no direct or easy way that horses were finding their way to Chilao. And the new mare...her features were neither similar to Petrichor, or the bay mare. But on some level, the facts didn't matter much to Grace at the moment. She was just thrilled to see Petrichor, with a band of two mares, healthy and thriving.
The sun sank into a moist veil and the air quickly cooled as the girls headed home. Grace seemed to be at peace.
The following morning, Skye convinced Grace to go checking on a rather different equine...Donkey. Skye was concerned about Donkey. Her appetite was excellent, her functions were normal, but she was just so quiet. Grace looked her over. Ran her hand all down her spine, looking for some indication of pain and finding none. Her belly was certainly round...no doubt her appetite was good.
"She could have arthritis" Grace said. "You could try walking her every day, maybe just a little bit, just to help keep her joints moving." It seemed like sound enough advice to Skye.
The overnight forecast called for a 90% chance of rain. So as it grew late in the day, Skye made sure her senior equines were warm and settled. They loved her voice, and seemed content together. There was just enough room at the end of the barn that they could all lay down if they chose to.
Light rain and blustery wind came in mid-morning. Skye wandered up to the storage room...and found quite the surprise. A sign reading "Studio Skye" and a staggering assemblage of art supplies. But she only had a few moments to marvel at all the supplies and the chalk board sign. The Double Trouble Duo was on the move.....and headed for a painful lesson. The shepherd pups came barreling toward two big cats. Skye tried to intervene but Hobo more or less pushed her back in his own effort to avoid a feline confrontation. White Dog stepped in, a bit of a surprise, putting his own body between the cats and the mischievous pups...and the pups turned their attention elsewhere.
The pups abandoned their play abruptly when they saw Grace and Baron. Skye was equally joyful.
"Does this mean I get to make this space my studio?"
Skye asked a valid question. Some items had been removed from the storage room, but many remained. It was a little confusing.
"Yes it does. By and by we can get the rest of the stuff out."
Grace was pretty certain Skye would flourish here.
There was a lot of space making and re-imagining going on. Grace never said a word about renovating the old tack room. Skye, preoccupied with having her own studio space and being worried about Donkey and chasing wild horses around with Grace...never for a moment suspected anything. The space was big, and light, and smelled like fresh wood. And 22 pumpkins.
"We have all these pumpkins because why?"
"So they don't go to waste. Most animals will eat them. And the seeds are really good too."
Twenty two. That's a lot of pumpkins, Skye pondered.
The walls and the floor of the tack room were unfinished. Grace decided she could put a sealer on them herself. Maybe she could get started on that tomorrow. The weather was warm and summer-like at the moment, but sooner or later the weather would turn cold and it would be good to have the tack room done before it did. The tack room seemed extra big in the morning. Skye had help with the sweeping in the form of the shepherd pups.
Grace had linseed oil, but no proper rollers to apply it with, so she improvised. It would take most of the day, starting with the walls and working their way out of the building with the floor, to get a nice protective coat of linseed oil on the wood. But the result was lovely.
Grace proposed they reward themselves with "a different kind of ride." It had been a while since they'd taken out the big boys, Ananda and Snoqualmie Wilde. Afternoon shadows and cooling air chased them across a quiet landscape.
Back home, Skye decide to test the viability of the withering pumpkins, while Grace finalized a class list for the first online show of The Collective. It was condensed, to be sure, but it needed to be manageable. A starting point. She took Cory Hartung's advice and doubled the number of halter classes. She grouped performance classes in ways that might cause some unrest. And she took her own road entirely with a selection of scene classes. And then she stared at the screen for a very long time, hoping she got it good enough.
The temperature dipped below fifty degrees just before dawn. Grace borrowed one of Skye's saddle bags and took a ride at daybreak. She took several smaller pumpkins with her. Pumpkins are staggeringly heavy and a bit awkward to ride with. But if you drop them hard enough, they split themselves. And perhaps, Petrichor and his band would find them, some extra nutrition to supplement their wild diet.
Skye woke up with a similar idea. She chunked up pumpkin and piled it on top of a wheelbarrow full of pellets. Everyone appeared willing to try something new.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the high desert not too far away, Petrichor's honeymoon phase was coming to an end. With mares came responsibilities and conflicts. He would have to guard them from other stallions, and heaven knows there were plenty of bachelor stallions around. One in particular was making his presence felt. Crazy became a more or less continuous nuisance, and the confrontations became increasingly serious. He was not going to give up, ad he was tough, wirey and tireless.