“What does that sign say?” It was a row of Konji. The traffic was slow on Hwy 92. Instead of whizzing by, all the signs, sculptures and plants for sale were providing some entertainment.
In her level, but resonant voice, Jackie replied, “That’s Korean. But even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t read it. I don’t know very much Mandarin. My brother and I went to Chinese school, but we hated it. The teacher was from Taiwan and used to hit us with a golf club. We told her ‘that’s child abuse! This is California, not Taiwan!’ Besides, Chinese is so aggravating. It doesn’t have an alphabet!”
Sophie said, “We have a boy who only speaks Chinese in one of our classes. He he started taking pictures of four of us when we were sitting around talking. We all got mad at him” Rachel added, “that’s so annoying!”
I said, “Rachel! For heavens sake. How would like it if your parents put you in a school where everyone spoke Chinese and you didn’t.” She said, “I know. During the whole year I was in China, I didn’t learn a single word.” Then she added, “Five years of Hebrew school and I don’t even know the Aleph Beth. The Rabbi completely gave up on me.” I know her mother has hired a tutor this year for her to work on her Mandarin.
Meera is also in the truck with us. She was busy on her iPhone posting pictures to her instagram page. She has many to chose from as we are on our way back from the beach.
I’m not fond of Poplar Beach, or any Half Moon Bay beach for that matter. The cliffs are twice as tall as other parts of the coast; the surf is up close and rough with a steep slope down to the water line. It feels ominous. If the surf gets to high, there’d be no where to go. Also, because of the rough surf, the sand is coarse and scratches rather than soothes the feet. The majority of the coastal beaches extend for only a mile at most and are broken up by rocky outcroppings. Like all bays, there really is only one beach and it is about ten miles of unbroken sand and surf. Poplar Beach, is one of only two beach access points on the coast between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, that has parking for horse trailers, the other being more than a hundred miles to the south.
We had a hot week. 93 on Monday. 101 on Tuesday. 102 on Wednesday. In summer, these temps do in riding for the day, but in fall we can squeeze in a nice ride between 6pm and the end of civil twilight, even on the hottest of days. Saturdays are another matter. With a high of 90 predicted and only three riders on the schedule, there was only one real option.
The last time we went to the beach, the saddles came off in the first fifteen minutes and didn’t go back on until it was time to head back to the trailer. Sophia and Jackie are not really into the full bareback swing of things yet so we brought a saddle for Jackson, but none for Stoney or CG.
For most people, riding at the beach means riding down the sand in one direction, then turning around and riding back. For people who don’t ride horses, but think that riding a horse on the beach is something that sounds like a peak life experience, the idea of riding on the beach means galloping through the waves. There is a wonderful picture that got sent around Facebook a couple of years back. A trainer was introducing a young horse to the ocean. The picture is taken from behind. What you see is a horse high up in the air, all four feet tucked tight up under his belly, on a beach facing the incoming surf, with the trainer holding the lead line. The person who took the photo is a professional photographer. He thought the woman holding the lead line was in mortal danger and was horrified by the horses reaction. Anyone who knows horses sees the picture and laughs. Unless a horse grows up living on a beach, this kind of reaction, though not quite so large, is generally what is expected from a first encounter with the surf. Stoney will stand with his front feet in the surf. Jackson will stand near the surf, but run backwards when it heads his way. I don’t know what CG does. She’s OK being at the beach, in fact running in the sand seems to feel good on her compromised body, but no one wanted to try and find out. Chavali becomes a complete mess as soon as she smells the ocean. The poor horse sweats from her hooves in fear so we don’t bring her, although Meera keeps lobbying for it just so she can see it for herself.
Fortunately, the girls are much more creative at the beach than simply “go for a ride”. The trot down, then race back, then trot down then race back. First Rachel on Stoney, Jackie on Jackson and Sophie on CG. Then Meera on Stoney, Sophie on Jackson and Rachel on CG. The girls discover a “big hole!”. Rachel doesn’t get the memo, races CG right at it. CG swerves to miss the hole, which was more like a small crater, sending Rachel flying into the sand. Rachel fell off three times at the beach, each time coming up laughing. “You don’t have to tell my parents I fell off.” Seems to me, being able to fall off in deep sand is one of the best parts of being at the beach.
At first I thought Sophie and Jackie would share Jackson. Sophie was a late addition due to a scheduling miscommunication. I knew that Jackie didn’t care how much she rode as long as she was at the beach. Jackie loves, loves, loves the beach. Meera loves, loves, loves the beach. Rachel loves, loves, loves the beach and almost never ever gets to go. In fact the family doesn’t do very much outdoors at all because her mother is allergic to sunlight. I was surprised that Sophie wanted to go, but guess what? Sophie loves, loves, loves the beach. She says, “I’m a water sign and water signs need water!” Not so sure of that logic, but I’m not going to argue with her affections. Sophie already has plans to retire in Half Moon Bay. But not only were we at the beach. We were at the beach with horses. As Sophie said, “Two of my very favorite things combined at the same time!”
After Rachel took the steam off of, and came off of, Cowgirl, Sophie decided she’d give bareback CG a try. A naturally cautious person, she said she was going to keep her at a trot. But the deep sand softens the gaits profoundly. In a very short time, Sophie found she could canter along, bareback on Cowgirl, with the best of them. Meera, who had tried to convince me we should even leave Jackson’s saddle at home, decided that bareback on CG and bareback on Stoney was not what she wanted. While Jackie took pictures of Rachel and Stoney in the waves, Meera headed off down the beach on Jackson. She went way, way down the beach, as in, is that little speck in the distance Meera down the beach. I admire her desire to explore, but it did make me a little nervous. Sophie gallantly offered to follow her on Cowgirl, which she did before I could say anything. I sent Rachel after both of them and Jackie and I started to trudge along on foot after the riders. Meera found what she was looking for and met us half way back with the good news that she’d found a jumping log. There were then jumps all around except for Sophie who positioned herself at the base of the log for it’s picture taking opportunities. But the horses only trotted the log and this got boring. Sophie had been to the school dance the night before, then on a sleepover with four friends. Never one to have great endurance, I was concerned she’d not be able to hold up, but she’d done remarkably well, until now. After three or four jumps, Sophie was no longer taking pictures, but had instead become a horizontal human addition to the jumping challenge. She’d given in to the temptation to lie down and had started to doze off, cozied up next to the log.
Although the girls would stay until the sun sets, the horses are the ones doing the running through the sand and three hours is more than enough of that. By 2:30 we were back in the truck and heading to the barns. After untacking Jackson at Campo, Sophie headed home to “watch some TV and take a nap.” Jackie, having gotten up at 6:45 because of her brothers baseball game, probably did the same, though with no TV. Meera and Rachel were stuck getting a ride home with me, which involved parking the trailer in Portola Valley. Meera also looked tired. She told me she’d slept until 8:30 that morning. I said, “but what time did you get to sleep?” She crinkled up her nose and got a wicked twinkle in her eye and said, “Oh, 12:30”, which probably means 1am. I would have preferred her parents pick her up, but she’s the kind of person who thinks the world will end if she isn’t the last person to leave the party. I gave up trying to do anything else with her long ago.
There are two other horse girls who love the beach, Kate and Savannah. In fact, the whole idea of going to the beach in the first place was to placate Savannah Yee. When it comes to squeaking wheels, no one squeaks more persistently than Savannah and all I need to do to put a stop to it was to take her to the beach one last time. She has minimum days on the 15th, 16th and 17th of December. She said if we can’t work out a beach trip soon, we can go then. I’m guessing she’s never been to a Northern California beach in December. Even though she’s scheduled to ride on Saturdays, she couldn’t come. It was the same day as the Westwind Hoedown 4H mini horse demonstration. She’s spent three years training Tex the mini to pull a cart and this is her one day to show it all off. Not being able to go to the beach was painful for her, but her she is loyal to Tex.
Yesterday’s high in Los Altos Hills was 80, not 95 and thank heavens for that for Savannah’s sake. When I returned to Quail after helping Sophie with Jackson, I asked Rachel, “Do you know when the mini horse demo is?” She did. It was at 4:30. It was now 4. “How would it be if I dropped you guys off at the Hoedown and then came back for you after I’ve parked the trailer?” The classic jumping, squealing and waving of hands was the clearly affirmative reply.
I got back to Westwind around 5. It took a while, but I finally found Rachel and Meera in the round pen, sitting in Tex’s pony cart, being pulled by Kate, who also participates in the 4H mini horse project, and being pushed by Savannah and Kelly. Getting them to separate from their 4H friends was like taking a bone from a dog. After succeeding in that, we had to run the fun horse related activities gauntlet set up by LAH rec. We left Westwind around 6. Next stop was Quail to feed, then Campo to muck and Mountain View to take Meera, who was so tired she’d stopped making complete sentences, home. She tumbled out of the truck and stumbled to her door. It was 7pm when I finally dropped Rachel off at home. She said, “Another two hours and it would have been twelve hours out with the horses and barns!” This child has it in for me. If I’m not mistaken, she’s hatching a plan. It may involve several of the horse girls moving into my house for the summer. It definitely involves spending twelve hours at the barns.
Even though it is a long and exhausting day for me, I get to have conversations with the girls that don’t take place otherwise. Also while driving home from the beach, Sophie continued talking about how the music at the school dance was too loud and it hurt her ears and she didn’t like school any ways because she didn’t like sports or academics or the social scene so there was nothing there for her but lunch with her friends and on Friday she didn’t even get to skip PE because there was no “health”. Health, it was explained to me, was where you sat around and talked about feelings or parents or sex or nutrition, but mostly it was just “you have to eat eight servings of vegetables a day and two sliced of bread and this is just stupid because the bread in our house tastes like sawdust” etc… Even though it sounds like a good idea to be able to talk about your feelings in junior high, they don’t actually do this. Rachel said, why would they talk about how they feel when they don’t trust the people they are talking to?
It was Rachel, my thirteen year-old task master, who insisted I write a post about our trip to the beach. I’m betting she wished I’d written more about what the girls and horses do on the beach like ride barefoot, which makes Rachel feel like she is “doing something illegal like riding without a helmet only with my feet.” But it’s the stories the girls tell that interest me the most and if she wants the posts to be any different, she’s going to have to start a blog herself.