March 18, 2023
It was a good day for riding, no excuses necessary. The grass was as lush as the girls had ever seen it. There was water everywhere. And both of them wanted to look...however futile the search might be...for the missing wild horse that they called the pale mare.
Ladyhawk was giving Skye quite a ride. She was snotty and prancy and full of herself. And the dogs were on to something.
Highlander's band emerged from the remaining snow field. The girls rarely had the dogs along when they went looking for wild horses, and Highlander didn't look too pleased about them. Grace called the dogs back.
Petrichor's band came into view across the swollen creek. The black foal, presumably now an orphan, looked no worse for the ordeal.
The bay mare, accustomed to the girls now, paused before turning away from them. Petrichor held ground on the creek's edge, watching Grace, Skye and the dogs, and watching his herd.
Highlander was approaching. The bay mare moved to greet them. Grace and Skye suspected she was related to the dun mare, as they frequently ignored the rants of their respective stallions to greet each other. Petrichor was not ranting this time. Just swiveling his ears, swishing his tail and occasionally stamping his hooves in the water.
Grace watched Skye's horse dancing along the creek's edge. "I think Ladyhawk has a crush on your stallion" Skye said.
"I can't blame her" Grace replied softly. "Let's hope she doesn't pitch you in the creek and go join his band."
Highlander and his mares made their way across the creek.
The girls watched quietly. There was a lot of behavior happening that they hadn't seen before. First of all , the two small bands were almost always close together, but not this close. Secondly, the dun mare had an attitude, and she should have been the lead mare, but the new pale horse...grey or palomino or palomino going grey, they weren't sure what to call her...was the first one to go into the creek.
Whatever her color, she was a big girl, well put together.
"She's a...dunalino with the grey factor...maybe" Skye mused softly.
Grace wasn't really sure.
Highlander was the last to cross.
The stallions stayed apart. The mares mingled as they chose. The bay mare seemed to have more or less adopted the black foal, or perhaps it just appeared that way because the black foal was never far from her and her own filly. That was natural. What else was he going to do?
There was no fighting over mares. Just some stamping and snorting, head tossing and eye rolling. From a distance.
The girls could see the shadow of the black foal's last few ribs. They sought to recall if he hadn't always been on the lean and lanky side. In any case, he did not appear to be suffering.
The girls put some distance between themselves, the creek and the two bands of horses. The cloud cover grew ever thicker as they watched the horses interact.
Back inside, Hobo and Skye exchanged greetings upon the girls' return. Hobo had a gash in the pad of his right front paw. It was healing quickly, but home was a better place for him today.
Skye was surprised to turn around and find Grace with covers pulled over herself.
"Are you okay?"
"I just have a chill" Grace responded. She had a bit of a sore throat too, but perhaps it would pass.
"Did you hear about all the damage to the highway from the last big rain?"
"I did" Grace said. "And there's more rain coming."
"Are you sure you're okay? The dogs don't seem to think you're okay."
"I think they just want the nice soft blanket. And the pillows...and for Baron to get off the bed because he's too big..."
But then, maybe Grace had the right idea. It was nice and toasty under the covers.
It wasn't supposed to start raining for at least another day. Grace and Skye hauled in senior feed and bedding straw, and as they approached the ranch, so did the rain.
What an amazing winter it had been. Rain and snow right into spring.
The wind blew and the chill of it turned the runoff into ice. The going would be slow, so the girls started early.
It was noon by the time they'd finished the second trip. The winds had stopped, the sun was out, the roads were no longer icy...and their first load of live cargo had for some reason chosen to head for the worst of the mud. Grace followed them, cautiously as she could, but when they got into the deep mud it was hard to navigate. They hit something that jarred the trailer hard. They heard a metallic clanking sound.
"Can you see anything?" Grace asked.
"No, I mean, the trailer is still following us, I see that..."
Grace tried to think of a comeback. They hit another bump.
"This is good enough. I'm stopping here."
Seven calves fit in the first trailer load. The remaining five wasted little time trying to catch up with them. They were clean when they went into the trailer. That was short lived once they got to Chilao. They seemed to love the water.
Despite being a very colorful bunch, Grace and Skye quietly observed that in a few moments, they seemed to blend into the landscape. Perhaps because all it took was a few moments to get covered in mud...but even the mostly white ones become one with the scenery.
Some of them it was easy to tell who their moms were. Some of them not so much.
"I can guess who some of them are...I mean whether or not they have Hereford moms" Skye said. "Do you remember who is who?"
"Pretty much" Grace said.
The black one was a pure criollo. No guesswork there.
"This..." Skye's voice trailed off.
"This is so good. This just feels...I don't know. Right. Good. I don't know how to explain it."
The calves explored the back pasture, the snow quickly giving way to mud and seasonal streams. Skye was pretty sure the grey was pure criollo. She couldn't exactly articulate why.
The girls watched the calves, mostly in silence. The Criollo, and particularly the Raramuri, were better adapted to arid environs than the more common European breeds like Hereford and Angus. Crossing them was not as ideal as having pure Criollo cattle, as the behavioral traits that made the Criollo a better fit for the western landscape might get lost in the mixing. But their weren't many Criollo cows in southern California.
"Do you want to go for a hike?" Skye asked.
Grace was pretty much exhausted from the driving. And it wasn't over yet. They still had to get to dry ground. It took her a long time to answer.
Grace hadn't really wanted to go for a walk. She was tired. But the day was glorious and there would be plenty of time for sleeping later. Before long, they heard horses. Skye couldn't quite see, and Grace was silent.
Crazy's band. And they were close. Grace's eyes widened. Skye knew something was happening but she had no idea what. She moved, slow and silent, up the rock face. They had never gotten this close to Crazy before without his awareness.
Skye could see the mare they called Lady Godiva. They were down-wind of the horses. She crept a bit higher up the rock.
Babies! And it looked like they both belonged to Lady Godiva. Roans, both of them. And the smaller one looking an awful lot like Crazy.
The bay roan foal was quite a bit smaller than the blue roan. But no less lively!
Crazy went into high alert mode. Grace nudged Skye and pointed down the rock face. Both girls ducked down as quietly and quickly as they could. Crazy was too close, and with brand new foals. Not a good time to test his patience, which he did not appear to have much of.
Skye couldn't see again. Grace got ready to switch places with her.
And then a gust of wind sent her hat flying. They froze for a moment. The hat fell into the snow, and stopped.
The horses passed right in front of them.
The foals enjoyed a frolic in the snow under the watchful eye of their herd. The horses moved past them, the girls remaining undetected.
"Well" Skye said, "are you glad we went for a walk?"
Grace laughed. "I suppose."