From where I sit in the sunny spot on the couch, I can see Culebra peak in the Sangre de Christos rimming the San Luis Valley to the east. The watershed from this mountain range gives life to San Luis, San Acacio and many other small towns. It also gives life to the ranch where Esperanza now lives among many horses, most of them tall paint quarter horses, many of them roan paints, the ranch’s specialty. I imagine that Esperanza might be gazing east to the Sangre de Cristos just as I am.
Henry drives me east across the valley, south to San Luis and then back west again to the ranch where we idle at a locked gate. While I call and text Pat to see if we got our wires crossed, we watch a black pony trot along the shoulder of the road until he’s distracted by a beautiful blue roan horse who appears to be a stallion, probably a young one. They sniff and squeal and snort through the fence. Beyond I can see the rest of the multicolored herd out in the field. Meanwhile Esperanza is in a pen with some yearlings and an elderly red paint mare. I can’t wait to see and touch her.
Turns out the gate is not locked if you know which wire is really holding it shut. Turns out the closed gate is to keep the black pony out.
I can see that Esperanza has settled into her portion of the herd, seamlessly changing from leader to follower as they mill around the pen and the wind swirls. Snow flurries darken the northern sky, setting off the sculpted white massif of Mt Blanca. Turbulent up drafts and downdrafts give the celestial conductor plenty to handle.
Meanwhile Pat drives up in a four-wheeler and asks “does Esperanza pony?” “Let’s find out,” I reply.
Henry sits in the back and holds the lead rope as we drive from Esperanza’s holding pen to the round pen so that we can work with her. She trots alongside the four-wheeler like she’s been doing it her whole life.
I show Pat the groundwork that I have been doing with Esperanza for many years so that she is respectful, attentive, and polite both from the ground and while she’s being ridden. First I pick up all four feet. To be more accurate, I run my hand down each leg in turn and ask her to pick up that foot and rest it in my hand until I set it down. I walk around her body with one hand on her, scratching her favorite places. I grab hold of her tail with one hand and draw it to me as I back up saying quietly “back, back, back.” I know this is not a conventional lesson for a horse but you’d be surprised how many times it has proved its usefulness.
Then I circle her to the left and then to the right at a walk and at a trot. With my wobbly legs of late, I’m a little worried that I will stumble but I do okay and later Henry tells me that he saw my posture improve and straighten, and my breathing deepen. Pat repeats every move easily. Then we take off the halter and ask Esperanza to do everything again but without any gear on. I suspect this is where we will pick up next time.
I can see that Pat, a small woman, will find in Esperanza a good fit. They connect, human to equine, heart-to-heart. This is exactly what I had hoped for.
Later, Pat tells me that she and Rick went out to the field where they have placed Esperanza and Sierra. They wanted to make sure that the horses had found the water. Pat relates that Esperanza bypassed Rick and walked right up to her. Hearing this makes me laugh and clap my hands in glee like my mother used to do. Nothing against Rick, of course, but that clear demonstration of preference, of knowing what she wants, and having the courage to go after it is something I appreciate in my women friends and in this alpha mare.
Time, people, animals, things…all go as they go. All threads of life drifting, sometime near for a long while, sometimes not.
We are down at our casita in Mex now and each time here there are fewer dear faces left.
But the myriad colors they have painted on us remain.