Solstice Celebrations

“I have it!  I have a jacket! In my pocket!”

Maya was cold.  The wind that had been blowing the rain sideways had died down and the rain was light as snowflakes, but Maya’s pile had cease providing much in the way of protection an hour prior.

The weather report had said rain in the afternoon, but the water vapor satellite and radar said the heavy rain would be done before one.  The weather report also had a high winds advisory, with wind expected to die down by 10am.  The forecast was wrong on both counts.  The heavy rain was done by one, but the high wind started up around 10 and, at 1, when the girls were gathered at the barn, the wind was blowing their pony tails into their faces, the paddock was a clutter of swirling walnut tree leaves and Magnolia’s reusable, light weight bag with a picture of a carousel, when emptied, took flight and, we presume, now resides in some random tree in Los Altos Hills.

For Maya, Maggie, Shana and Julia, Friday was the first day of winter break and the ONLY place any of them wanted to be was on a horse.  Riding was particularly dear to Maggie,  “I’m going to be gone for ten days!  We are going to Mexico.  I don’t want to go to Mexico. I’m from Denmark!  In Denmark, Christmas means snow!”  Maggie’s parents obviously feel that Christmas without snow is just fine, but Maggie added, “If I have to go to Mexico, I just can’t miss the last day I can ride!” – Weather be damned!

The wind would die down, the question being when.  I told the girls we could hand walk the horses to the arena and if it was still blowing like the NASA wind tunnel, we’d have to turn around and hand walk the horses back.

On the walk over to Campo, Stoney jumped several feet in the air when a frisky dog scurried quickly up behind him, something that ordinarily he wouldn’t have given a second thought.  The girls have fifteen years of horse experience between them.  It was a dramatic performance, but the girls weren’t phased.  It did give me pause for thought, though.  “Maybe we should leave Chavali at the barn.”  “Well, yeah, duh” was the collective response.  Flighty on a good day, leaving miss spook bomb at home, despite her plaintive whinnies, was a no brainer.

As the girls got Velvet and Freedom ready, I rummaged through the tack room and found a plastic bag to cover and protect the leather of an expensive, new saddle, if needed, and also, without thinking, grabbed my fluorescent yellow bike jacket.  The wind made it unsafe to tie the horses, so sat on the mounting block and held the lead ropes of Stoney, Cowgirl and Freedom and Freedom got groomed and tack.  Dropping the plastic and the jacket on the ground was not an option due to the wind.  Neither was holding on to them with my hands.  I did what I often do with big, bulky items that I need to transport, but can’t hold on to.  I shoved them down the back of my bike tights.  This looks absolutely ridiculous, but is a solution for transporting things, like halters and plastic bags, that can’t be tied to saddles.

The girls were ready to go in about fifteen minutes.  Maya, Maggie and Julia were mounted.  Shana, who tends to procrastinate, was still flitting about.  I called her over and handed her Freedom’s reins, then stood up and turned to pick up Dante’s leash as I would be on foot.  Shana starts laughing with tears coming out of her eyes.  Less than a second later, Julia, who is one of the most contained, reticent people I know, starts laughing so hard she almost falls off the horse.  Clearly, walking to the arena with a giant bulge out of the back of my pants was not going to do.  I stuffed the plastic bag into one, already broken, jacket pocket and the bike jacket into the other.  Why I didn’t put the jacket on Maya at that point, I can’t say, though it probably had something to do with the internal debate about whether or not it was too windy to ride.  Julia and Maggie had water proof windbreakers on; green for Julia, pink for Maggie.  Shana was wearing the most stylish, yellow, body contoured, with artistically applied reflective “stripes”, jacket that could be imagined.  Maya just had on her turquoise pile.  Maya said, “I’m fine!”  I did not believe her.

The girls could be considered experts at riding the pathways of Los Altos Hills. Though the wind provided a challenge, the girls did an admirable and responsible job of negotiating the fallen strips of Eucalyptus bark, knocked over trash and composting bins and the occasional flying plastic bag.  The wind did indeed die down about five minutes after we arrived at the arena.

Julia galloped Velvet around the arena while Shana ate her lunch. Then Shana galloped while Julia ate.  Magnolia decided she needed to warm up so she put a lead rope on Cowgirl and, on foot, because Maggie runs faster than just about anyone I know, cantered Cowgirl around the arena and over jumps.  Maya schooled Stoney over canter poles.  They all took a turn riding Freedom bareback.

With these girls, under normal circumstances, I barely have to watch as they are all very experienced and capable.  But today, I stood inside the arena, at the alert the whole time, holding a horse or a saddle or a lunch as needed, all the while thinking I should check the arena shed for a jacket for Maya, but not wanting to turn my back.  “Finding” the jacket in my pocket set them all to laughing again.

With the wind died down and everyone out of town, we had a peaceful a ride back to the barns.  Magnolia, who has a lovely voice, sang Danish Christmas carols to us.  Because of the misty “rain”, our entire ride; to, at and from, the arena; was accompanied by a never wavering, full rainbow.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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