Temps have been in the low 30’s at night for the better part of a week now. Jan has attached an electric pipe heater to the tap at Quail to keep it from freezing. Michael, father of Maizie and Chloe, says he’s always amused to hear a California girl complain about cold weather. But he said this to me after finishing the feed at Quail around five by telling me that he and the girls were chilled to the bone.
It’s not all that warm during the day, either. On Wednesday, the last half hour of the ride was spent with everyone complaining about their cold hands and feet. I carry hunting gloves in the bike basket. Rachel snagged herself a pair, but Jackie and Savannah refuse them. Savannah says they make her hands feel suffocated. It’s also that time of year that we have to belly warm the bits. With the cold weather, Stoney’s winter coat has grown in. At the age of seventeen, his winter coat is now almost completely snow white.
Saturday was a little more rushed than usual. Savannah had a sleep over she wanted to go to and needed to be back at Quail by 2:15. Kate had had a long week and needed to go home by 3. I was suppose to leave for Carson City at 3:15. Jackie likes to be out at the barns as early as possible and got to Quail at 9:30, but she’s fine on her own. Chloe showed up 9:30 also. After years of waiting, Chloe is finally old enough, 8, to ride regularly and I can finally fit her into the schedule. No holding that girl back! Having woken up realizing I hadn’t packed, I managed to forget entirely about Jaya until I was almost at the barn and got so alarmed that I rode my bike to the wrong barn, making me fifteen minutes late with Jaya having also shown up by the time I got to Quail.
Like it or not, I often have to pack Saturday with novice riders and that was the case with this day; Jaya, Arya and Chloe all in one go. Being only half their final height, the young ones can’t do much more than pick hooves and buckle girths. With hard packed clay in the hooves, the young ones can barely make a dent in the hoof dirt, though I must say all of them are getting adept with the girth buckles.
When we arrive at Campo, Savannah has already gotten blankets off and haltered Chavali and Jackson. All the Campo horses wear blankets in this weather except Chavali, not being particularly bright, refuses. Jackson especially appreciates the blanket. With all his metabolic issues he’s unusually sensitive to both heat and cold. The cold in particular aggravates his arthritis. It’s worse for the horses to be stuck with blankets when it heats up than not have them at night so I won’t blanket if they can’t be taken off in the morning. I don’t have much help with this. Lisa, who owns Velvet, says she can’t ever commit to being able to come out before 11am. The Jensen’s refuse to take them off. The girls would do it, but they are at school most mornings. I’ve been able to take care of this task all week with Saturday having landed in Savannah’s court. Savannah being Savannah I did not have to tell her to take them off. I can’t wait until she drives. It will solve a lot of problems. Along with hoof picking and girth buckling, the younger riders are able to contribute by mucking the Campo paddock. Busy with teaching Arya how to lift a hoof, mention the paddock needs cleaning. Savannah needs no more direction, grabs a fork and the wheelbarrow and heads into the paddock, Chloe and Jaya in tow. As she latches the gate after her, I ask her to take extra care. As I will be gone for two days, there will be no cleaning of the paddock again until Tuesday. Savannah glowers at the horror of the thought. If she could drive, that would be different.
We are finally all tacked and ready to go by 11:30. Savannah says, “wait! There are seven people and six horses.” I explain that Kate is there to help and will walk. Savannah says, “Then Kate can walk next to me!” which Kate gladly does.
We arrive at the arena shortly after noon. Rachel it there waiting for us. The younger riders love Rachel’s enthusiasm and energy, but Rachel, like most of the older riders, has limited patience for those who can’t ride or pick any and all hooves with ease or catch bridle and train a horse to ground tie. If they are young, it’s even worse. There’s another ten minutes or so of arena instruction for the young ones before they leave. I ask Rachel to please be sedate until they are done, but sedate just isn’t in her playbook. She stands next to Stoney, legs crossed, looking like she’s been pilloried. Her trial ends soon, though, as Jaya and Chloe depart and Arya and I get to work setting up the grid.
I’m not quite sure what all the girls did for the next hour. I remember coaching Kate on canter with Chavali and Jackie getting a lesson on Dancer from Savannah. Rachel was bareback on Stoney, but doing what, I don’t remember.
At 1:30, Tera, Savannah’s mom show’s up. At Savannah’s request she’d brought mini-pumpkin pies and whip cream to celebrate Savannah and Jackie’s birthday, which is on the 30th. After finishing their pie, I said to Rachel and Savannah, “Now you two need to go and you need to go fast!” Rachel says, “what?! We barely spent anytime here at all!” Compared to our usual Saturday, that’s true, but I can’t get the horses home unless the girls ride them and Savannah said she needed to leave at 2:15 sharp.
Arya, Kate, Jackie and myself leave about ten minutes later. I have to put enough distance between Savannah and Rachel and us so that Cowgirl will not hear Stoney and Chavali and decide she would rather be with them and us and take off.
When we get to Quail, Rachel is looking downright peevish. Anything less than six hours on a Saturday for her is deprivation. I explain to her that sometimes things like visiting my dying father on his 80th birthday take precedence over staying at the barns till the cows come home. But she’s right, everything does feel rushed.
For once I’d like to be able to leave town and not have it be an ordeal. I spend so much time trying to arrange for feeds and horse care with half a dozen different people, all of whom need instruction, that I end up like I did that morning without even time to pack. It was only at the last minute that I’d arranged for Michael and his girls to feed the Quail barn on Saturday. Maya, who I was counting on, hadn’t checked her email and had yet to get back to me. Even with all that, the care in my absence is not ideal. Jackson’s owner will come out and give him his meds on Monday, but that’s all. The other horses will have to skip a meal because I can’t get anyone to feed their lunch, nor is there anyone to blanket and unblanket. Rachel, Savannah, Meera and Kate would do it in a heart beat, but they are dependent on parent drivers who are already either over committed or plain just don’t understand. Sara lives close enough to bike over, but her mother won’t allow it so she can’t help either. It’s going to be 34 overnight tonight in Los Altos Hills, too cold for Jackson’s arthritic hips, Velvet’s aching joints and Dancer’s thin skin.
Erik arrives at Campo with Dante to pick me up as Kate and I are finishing up the lunch feed. I have to bike back to Quail where the car is and where I will leave my bike for a few days. Jan is driving up as I am walking my bike up Quail. She says, “It’s sure been cold. I left Stoney’s blanket on this morning because it was too cold to take it off.” Him, I do not have to worry about, but I can’t help thinking about how owning property where the horses and I can both live would make caring for them a whole lot simpler.