Waking up in Sheila's bedroom, the sound of the cars on Corbett Canyon told me that it must be around 5:30 AM. The early light seeped through the lace curtains as I stretched my legs and imagined what the day would hold. At around 9:00 I walked Arizona to the trailer, saddled him up and walked to that big beautiful arena, saying hello to the cat on my way. What a glorious day, sunny and warm. I was even wearing a t-shirt for heaven's sake! Arizona had been out in the hills romping with other youngsters for most of the last six months, so I expected him to be a little enthusiastic about things. After a bit of groundwork, I got on. Smiling from ear to ear, I marveled at how quiet and smart he is. Soon, a sixteen-year old girl, Jessica, and her cousin came into the arena on two quiet, older geldings. Suddenly Arizona's focus was all about them instead of me. After a little flouncing and bouncing around, I said "QUIT THAT!" with a chuckle, followed by a little smack on his rump with the end of the mecate, and more driving with my legs and seat.. he came back to me and settled in just fine. I love distractions like that, because life is full of distractions, and he needs to learn to deal with it… and get over it. The next day, after some time doing circles and transitions, we rode out of the arena and around the barn a few times. Day three we rode all over that farm, all alone, just he and I. We rode past yearlings racing around the large pastures, past mares standing over their sleeping babies, past tractors and farm trucks piled high with cuttings, and past the breeding lab and around the stalls, full of curious horses, big and small. Finally, I stopped, I patted his neck and asked "well, now where should we go?". He looked left and right, and then quietly told he was enjoying this blissful day as much as me, and wanted to keep going. We went on and pretty much explored the whole property all over again.
I left Arizona at Sheila's while I went to the V6 Ranch for their Spring Ride. I need to be as capable as I can be on these rides, since I am one of the "wranglers". I have to admit that I am fully aware that I am not one of 'those guys' (those guys being Matt Allgood and Quentin Hall, the guy wranglers) I'm okay with riding a young horse, and I'm okay at a gallop across a meadow, and I'll happily go a lot of places with a horse that many people would never dream of going, I've even roped a handful of little calves and lived through it, but I have seen these guys riding all out, down a steep hill, swinging a rope, and catching a wild steer on the run with fire in his eyes. They'll do this on a three year old, laughing and goading each other the whole time. You won't find me doing something like that. Nope. For five days, Roy and I (and Martina Vala, on Zip's Amerigold, who is for sale by the way, on the Varian website) accompanied a number of guests all around the V6 ranch, across creeks, around lakes, through blankets of wildflowers, owl's clover, lupine, poppies, little dicks, buttercups, popcorn, bright blue eyes. Enhanced by birdsong, with just a whisper of a breeze, it was hard to believe we were not living a Disney movie. Five days of Barb's delicious meals and laughing with many of the guests that have been coming every year, for the past fifteen years. It's pure joy.
After a couple days doing some laundry and taking hot showers back at Sheila's, I was ready for my trip north. Before leaving town though, I had one stop to make. With Roy and Arizona waiting in the trailer, I walked through the tall Eucalyptus trees and through the gate, into the tiny cemetery. In my hand I had the pedals of three of the enormous roses that are blooming all around Varian Arabians. Kneeling down by Sheila's headstone, I laid the pedals down around her, brushing the twigs and dirt from her stone. Sitting there in the grass, I talked to her a little bit, but mostly I just remembered, and was grateful for our friendship. Then it was time to go.
I like to take three days to get home. It's easier on the horses and it's easier on me. I'm in no rush. In Woodland, California, I slept in my trailer, the horses in a huge pasture right outside my window where I could see them in the full moonlight. When we got to Bend, Oregon, and I took them from the trailer, they both looked around as if this traveling life was all so interesting, enjoying every day in another town, with other horses to look at, other grasses to nibble. In Walla Walla, I dropped some alfalfa into their feeders, and thanked them for being such good travelers. Walla Walla greeted us with huge tulips in saturated colors, in full bloom, welcoming springtime all over town. I fall into spring with arms wide open. Life is good.