38 Acres

“She wouldn’t even let me use her arena to try a saddle on and she lives across the street.  I don’t know how she exercises her horses.  They live in tiny paddocks and the barn is all walled off from the street so no one can see them.  People walk by my pasture all the time.  They love seeing Quila.”  I had been discussing with Carol my sadness at my realization that quite a few people don’t want the horses in the hills.  But my experience at with my horses at Jan’s barn mirrors Carols.  There is a parent who brings his children to the barn almost every morning, at the children’s insistence, to see the horses.  Unlike Carol’s property, which is on a moderately traveled thoroughfare, the Quail barn is out of the way and up a hill.

I don’t get to talk with Carol very often, but she coordinated the registration at Play Day so we got to catch up a bit.  The girls like to think they run Play Day.  In a sense they do.  They run everything that is important to them; the games.  However, as far as they know the registration sheets composed themselves and lunch magically appears from out of the sky.

Not to belittle their contribution.  Sophia, who is twelve, dedicated the whole day to narrating the games.  As I talk with Carol I hear her in the background. “Now, this next game has you riding your horse to the end of the arena, getting off you horse, bobbing for an apple.  Oh, wait, no, what? It’s not apple bobbing? Oh.  Sorry!  Wrong game.  Now, lets start over again.  This next game is carrot eating.  What’s carrot eating?  Does anybody know?”  Sophia was the only horse girl willing to MC, she gave up being able to participate and by the end of the day, after six hours working in the sun, she looked like she was ready to keel over.

While Sophie was frantically trying to figure out what was going on, Meera, Serena, Kate and Chloe were sitting on their mounts, looking bored.  The rest of the girls were milling about. “Do we need poles for this one?”  “I don’t know? I thought we supposed to get buckets.”  “How many carrots?  Does anyone know how many carrots?”

The girls had been thrilled to learn that we were short on parental help this year.  They said, “We will run Play Day!”  But as the day got closer and closer, there was still no sign of planning on their part.  I finally insisted that take a few minutes to list the challenges in Run the Gauntlet.  The last challenge they came up with was balloons.  I said, “who is going to bring balloons?”  Savannah said, “I probably have some around my house.”  No one thought about water for horses or food for the day or how to set up the obstacle course or where should they put the buckets, etc…  Sara and Skylar stayed after riding on Saturday to help.  After resting up a bit they spent an hour hunting for bugs for Skylar’s science project.  They then spent an hour and a half creating an artistically elegant sign.

Some Play Days run like clockwork.  Other’s serve to provide more in the way of amusement.

Erik rode his bike to get the balloons, but lost most of them riding back to the arena.  The mother who asked a fee reduction for her children in exchange for sweat equity and had promised to come do the photography, forgot, then apologized saying she “has ADD.”  Two fathers stopped me mid-stride to demand an explanation to why horses are afraid of mylar balloons.  A dressage trainer with her client and international level dressage horse showed up mid day needing to use the arena for a lesson.  The vegetarian sandwiches had turkey in them and so on and so forth.

As expected, the horses and kids all did really well, the only hint of an incident being when Meera started to get on a horse without a helmet. There were six of us who stopped her.

At the end of the day, Kathy LIccardo said, “I don’t know how you do it!”  Answer is, I don’t do it all.  In fact I did almost nothing for clean up.  Six adults stayed to help as the young riders who were “running the show” having either been picked up and whisked off to another activity or having ridden back to the barns.  But by the time 7pm rolls around, I’m near comatose and laid flat on the couch, the only reading material within reach being the Palo Alto Weekly, which occasionally has inspired articles, but which was not the case last week, leaving me with nothing better to do than peruse the real estate ads.  Standing out like a sore thumb in the center off a dozen pictures of enormous “Tuscan Villa”s and “private retreats”, was a picture of scrubby oak surrounding a dirt road driveway and the address of 222 Portola State Park Road.  My first thought: Did the property connect up to Jack Brook.

Thank you google maps! 222 Portola State Park Road property boarders the southeast corner of Pescadero Creek County Park, a hop, skip and a jump from a landmark turn on the Tar Water Creep Loop trail.

“Can you see the house?”  The advertisement claimed there was a two bedroom house on the property, but only provided one, blurry picture.  Erik brought the overhead view of the house up on the iPad.  “It’s got a flat roof.  Probably a 70’s tilt up”, which means a tear down or even an almost falling down.  Portola State Park Road is a road in name only.  “How would you go about building a house on that property?!” Erik said, “Well first you’d have to hire a contractor to come and build a road.”  Our conversation ended there.

Dream come true?  Would I want to live out in the middle of nowhere even if the horses loved it?  That’s not what I really want. I like what we do. I like that a half a dozen people come by one barn or the other every day to see the horses. I like that we get stopped every day to have people take our pictures.  A couple of weeks ago I had one woman get out of our car and ask to approach the horses.  The girls stopped and obliged.  She stroked Freedom’s neck for a bit, then started to hug him and to cry.  She’d just lost her partner of 25 years.  They’d owned horses.  As we rode off, she said, “you have no idea how much that meant to me.”

But I’d like to be able to do what we do and be able to relax a little bit. I’d like people to be careful when they move their trash cans.  I’d like speed bumps on Robleda and Purissima.  I’d like more than one signed horse crossing.  We usually cross the road “Pony Club style” because it is the most effective and efficient communicator of our needs, but at the arena crossing, the one and only official horse crossing, the girls always insist on crossing in a line, one horse after another, staying within the lines of the cross walk.  It feels so good to have official recognition.  I don’t even mind picking up the manure, though I can do with out the woman who became slightly hysterical as she explained to me her panic at the thought that her son might ride his bike through manure and then track it home to their garage thus exposing the entire family to tetanus.  (!)

Most of all I’d like the girls and the horses to be welcomed and accepted.  Why not?

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