January 3, 2022
Grace and Skye slogged on foot to the creek, in the burn footprint, where a rapidly melting layer of snow was still thick in some places, alternately icy, then hard enough to walk on top of.
They came to see who had made fresh and un-shod hoof prints in the snow. They did not have to wait long to lay eyes upon an absolutely stunning mare. She was energetically flanked by the stallion Grace suspected was sporting some draft horse DNA, Highlander. His mare was not remarkably cooperative, and Highlander's squeals attracted the attention of another draft-influence stallion...Petrichor.
There were some more squeals and some posturing and pawing, but all from a considerable distance.
Petrichor and the bay mare moved off. The dun mare seemed as if she wanted to follow them. The bay mare seemed reluctant to leave. Petrichor insisted. Highlander and the dun mare headed down the draw. The mare seemed far more interested in the other horses than her suitor. Perhaps the bay mare was known to her. Whatever was the case, she was keeping Highlander on his toes.
There was succulent new grass growing in the burn footprint. For a short while, the bay mare grazed. But it wasn't long before she started walking. Following Highlander and the dun mare. Petrichor followed his mare, uneasily.
Grace and Skye tried to follow, but the path the horses chose was more suited for hooves than boots. It was a sculptural jumble of rocks, mud, water tunnels, sand, ice and deadfall, uniquely beautiful and ever-changing...and dang hard to navigate. It was not long before the horses out-paced the girls and vanished into the soggy, blackened landscape.
January 8, 2022
They were in open country, and there wasn't any place to hide, so Grace and Skye just tried to be still. This time they were on the trail of Petrichor's band, and they were in for more surprises. Another new mare, with a jet-black foal. The stallions had more or less worked out territories. Petrichor stayed close to the ranch, and right now, it was good country to be a wild horse. The new mare and foal had probably wandered into his domain.
The mare put herself between Petrichor and her foal. Her instinct to be with a herd was strong, but her parenting instinct was equally strong. Stallions do not always accept foals sired by other stallions. The black foal was not a newborn...he was strong and agile.
The horses danced around for a while, the pale mare nervous about her foal. Eventually the bay mare started to move off, the foal started to follow, and pretty soon there was a loose sense of order.
While Petrichor and the bay mare were accustomed to Grace and Skye, the new herd members were not so relaxed. The girls followed on foot at a distance. watching the horses use the seasonal stream bed like a trail, wondering how common it was for a palomino mare to have a black foal.
Then, without warning, the bay mare changed her course and her calm tempo. In a few bounding strides she was out of the creek bed and galloping away, the rest of her herd close behind, disappearing into the boulder strewn landscape.
The rest of the day went by quickly. As evening approached, Skye stared at the most frightening thing an artist regularly encounters...a blank surface. In this case, watercolor paper. She was hoping to recreate the sunset she'd seen the night before but couldn't quite photograph. Or maybe the moon, with stars in the sky beyond.
Meanwhile, across the studio, a small herd of model horses waited patiently. Two of them would be chosen for this year's NaMoPaiMo.
It was Skye's first time using watercolors on watercolor paper. This was going to be harder than it first appeared.
January 9, 2022
Skye painted until the wee hours of morning. The second work was as delicate as the first one was heavy.
Outside a cold wind blew as the sun's rays crept slowly across the tree tops. Seemed like it had been blowing for days. And it appeared that Skye would be sleeping for a while.
Every ranch manager, no matter how good they are, will occasionally make indefensible decisions. Like going out for a trail ride alone on a windy morning...on a spirited stallion, using that squeaky, stiff new saddle that didn't have a back cinch and that didn't want to give on the left stirrup...without a coat, or gloves...
...all of which Grace forgot about fairly quickly when she came upon Highlander and the dun mare. Highlander and the mare moved away at first, Highlander flanking the mare. And then, Highlander spun around to face Grace and Gunner.
An excellent time, Grace decided, to spin around also.
Skye was having far less adventure in the studio. Three out of three pieces did not come out as she envisioned them. Especially the last piece. It got away from her quite entirely, and she was completely perplexed. What on earth to do now.
Skye went looking for Grace, and found her in the new tack room, having just finished putting a waterproof sealant inside of the terra cotta pots that they had finished painting just as the Bobcat fire erupted in September, 2020.
There were 27 sets of hand painted pots. And one finished set. Over the coming months, Grace planned to finish all of them.
"We have plenty of time" Grace explained, "but I thought I'd start preparing now for the upcoming shows...Models in the Mountains, and eventually The Collective..."
"I forgot how pretty these are!" Skye said. And she forgot all about her own painting troubles for a while.
"Do you want to help me get them photographed?"
The girls had narrowed it down to four potential horses for NaMoPaiMo. Grace gave the arab mare a good study. Skye was thinking this was her number one NaMoPaiMo choice. She wanted to try chestnut, or bay. And she wasn't completely sure, but she thought she might want to try paint as opposed to earth pigments.
Grace was leaning toward the mustang stallion resin she had received as a prize for winning the MEPSA Mini Challenge. It was a highly accurate and detailed sculpt. They both loved the resin drafter, and the resin draft foal, but both of those models still needed a lot of work. They were kind of stuck. Grace resolved the afternoon's dilemma.
"Let's prep them all" she suggested. "We still have a little under three weeks to register. Maybe by the time we're done prepping we'l be able to make up our minds."
Skye had pretty much decided on the arab mare. Just not what color, or if and how much white. Grace was still on the fence.
January 16, 2022
Grace and Skye listened for the sound of hooves, or breath, or the crackle of brush.
The plucky sabino mare that had briefly belonged to Petrichor took the lead. Crazy brought up the rear. The horses traversed a rock ledge that lead to a small meadow, moving single file down the rock face.
And there was a new mare in the middle.
The sounds Grace and Skye waited for came in the form of squeals as Crazy pawed at the soft earth. Grace noted that the sabino mare was looking rather plump. Something seemed to be upsetting Crazy. The small herd milled about while Crazy pawed and postured. Then, they moved away, departing as suddenly as they had appeared.
The new mare looked much too calm to be in Crazy's family.
When the girls rode down to where the horses were, they saw droppings...probably those of another stallion, hence his squealing and displeasure. The new mare raised a lot of new questions. Could she be related to the sabino mare? These family groups that were forming now had thus far seemed random...Highlander's mare and Petrichor's mare seemed to know each other. Petrichor's second mare, the palomino with the black foal, assimilated smoothly. Maybe it wasn't random at all. Maybe these family bands were reassembling after some sort of disturbance.
After the horses moved off, the girls passed and pondered. The day was lovely. Like winter was done and spring had sprung.
The girls had other plans for today. But a 30% chance of showers turned into actual rain. That almost never happens. Indoor projects would have to keep them busy. For days, as it turned out. Because once the rain was over, the wind came, and the wind did not stop until January 22. And when it finally did, it was night already.
Skye fussed with a terra cotta deer.
"Weren't there three of those?"
"There are" Skye replied. "I...just can't remember where I put the other two."
"You are way too young to be forgetting where you put large, heavy objects."
Grace was bored. Really bored. All of the NaMoPaiMo candidates were in what Grace sure hoped was their last coat of primer. Maybe they would need another coat of primer but please, please, no more prepping. It had been far too windy to be outside, and cold. She stared unenthusiastically at wood siding selections on the internet.
"Okay" Skye announced, "I'm going to try something with this doe. But she's tippy. How can I fix that?"
"Make a base for that leg with two part epoxy. Make it like grass or something."
"Should I paint her first? No, I should make the base first, right?"
"I think I would make the base first. Otherwise almost certainly you'll do an amazing job painting her, and she'll fall over and break."
At least it would keep Skye busy for part of the evening.