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5 minutes reading time (970 words)

Andres Castano

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Roverto was leading a young mare across the road when I drove up. She was following politely, but would startle, flinch, at something to the right, then at the gate, then at a sound from the house. I watched this perfectly put together little bay in awe. She simply could not be any prettier.

Earlier that morning, I'd stopped by the little graveyard in Halcyon, walking through the tall Eucalyptus trees and up to the western edge of the headstones to Sheila's grave. After some time, I placed both hands on the stone, closed my eyes and invited her to come spend the day with me, to see through my eyes, to smell through my nose, to feel through my touch. With each big inhale of air, I could feel her spirit with me, enjoying the smell of the sea air, the eucalyptus trees, the air of California. I opened my eyes to a powder blue sky with wispy white clouds overhead. A tear ran down my cheek. I miss her so.

In the parking lot at Oceano Beach, I slipped off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans and walked south. It was early but there was a nice breeze. Seagulls drifted in the updrafts overhead and sandpipers skittered at the water's edge. The waves rolled in just as they have been doing for centuries. I walked. There was not yet the ATVs, the motorbikes, or many people, I had the beach pretty much to myself. I imagined Sheila as a youngster with Judy, or with Jack, or with friends, racing hell-bent and bareback along this long stretch of white sand. An echo of hoof beats racing by put a smile on my face.

It was after my walk that I drove out to the ranch.

"Andres?" I asked, looking at the handsome face of the man from the Major Mac Videos of late.

"Yes." He put his hand out to shake mine, wondering who I was.

I told him that I was a visitor and would like to just be a fly on the wall and watch him as he worked the horses.

"Yes, of course!" He said.

I told him that I had been a friend of Sheila's, and that we'd ridden together, mostly after cattle or in the hills. He told me Jaime was still not back to work and that this little filly had not had much work since he'd left, about a year and a half ago. Her name is Faddaja (Audacious ps x Elite Lady Fadjur). Her huge dark eyes watched us, as we talked. Roverto groomed her body and spoke softly to her. Walking back to the round pen, Andres and I chatted about Sheila, about her philosophies, about his life and experiences since coming from Columbia ten years ago and how happy he was now to be working with such quality horses and how much he wished he could pick Sheila's brain and talk about the horses. He commented on what a difference he'd noticed in these Varian bred horses.

In the round pen, he slipped off the halter and with nothing more than a subtle suggestion from his body language, suggested she go off to her left. With regal air, she trotted around the pen, head high, nostrils flared, stepping brilliantly and beautifully. Watching him.. and her, I caught the moment that she just barely started to relax. Instantly, he took a step back, relaxing his shoulders. She kept up the trot, but one ear came toward him, her neck relaxed, and her pace slowed just a bit and her stride lengthened a little. He never took his eyes off her, he never broke concentration, he was never aggressive or intimidating, just completely with her in her world. When she was relaxed in one direction, he did the same in the other direction, following her feel. A couple of times, when she stopped and switched around to the other direction on her own, he stepped in quick, with the flag, and turned her back to the direction he'd sent her. It was not in anger, or force, it was more like he was protecting her from doing the wrong thing. His intent was purely in her best interest. His energy stayed even. At the precise moment, when she would relax and look at him, he stepped back and invited her to him. In a few short minutes, she was completely focused on him, completely relaxed, following him around and not paying any attention to the tractors driving by, the horses whinnying around the ranch, there was nothing in her world more interesting to her, than him and her. It was like music, so beautiful.

No doubt Sheila would have really enjoyed working with Andres. One can quickly add up that horses are in his blood, in his every moment.

When he was finished with her, it was about 12:30, time for Andres to have lunch. I found Roy up in the pens by the lab. They'd brought him up from his winter vacation on the hill with Jubilation and bathed him, groomed him, and had him ready for me. He's having the summer off, and this was my last day in California, so I didn't feel that one ride would do him any favors, so I just went in and checked him out from nose to tail, head to toe, burying my face in his mane like a 6 year old girl. I told him that we'd bought him a house with pastures and arenas and that I'd be picking up Arizona (who is in Arizona with Jeff Derby) and him in April and bringing them home again soon.

He looked deeply into my eyes, into my soul, and then sniffed again at my pockets.

Roy is forever hopeful. 

Jeff Derby
WOOLY BUGGERS

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Wednesday, 08 July 2020
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