For this trail ride two groups of local riders were privileged to experience one of the great historical Spanish land grant holdings, the 8,875-acre Rancho Tinaquaic. The Santa Barbara County Cattlewomen and the Santa Ynez Valley Riders joined up to go for an interesting walk across the property.
We covered 4.5 miles in 2 hours, which may seem slow unless you were there and saw how much of it was up and down rather steep hillsides.
The ride began with a discussion of the ranch rules, a sensible briefing before going out onto this beautiful private property.
Then we set out to explore the rolling hillsides, covered with end-of-summer dry grasses and dark green oaks.
We didn't follow established paths, it was more of an antic scramble with all sorts of different breeds of horses and mules following the leaders up and down steep hillsides and around valleys.
And always the horizon showed more.
There were stock tanks available for the thirsty animals, who after all were doing all the work of climbing those hills. Quarterhorses and paints, Norwegian Fjords and Arabians, and a handful of mules all shared a drink and then mustered on.
"If you're not the lead mule, the view never changes...." or so they say.
So most photos illustrating rides could be something like this, a variable group of companionable strangers getting acquainted as they share the experience of traveling across landscape on the animals they love. Since time immemorial this is how humans have traversed the known world, and it is good for the soul to get in a few hours of it in good company.
One of the few signs of human management aside from the roads and paths was this structure, which I presumed to be a water tank of some sort.
Some of the paths cut under the oaks, a welcome respite of shade, and where I expected to see cattle loafing, but I saw none.
Finally we ascended a particularly high hill and were able to look out towards the Pacific ocean.
This ranch is in a canyon inland from Los Alamos, not far from the sea, and it gave a scope and perspective to stretch that visible distance.
And then we were done.
Tobe mule had earned a good feed in the trailer on the way home, and I took my mule riding pal out to lunch at the bakery owned by a client/friend in Los Alamos, and then we settled in for the drive back to Santa Barbara.
Where the adventure had started early in the morning with me taking Tobe to the parking lot of Earl Warren Showgrounds to tack up, and where we saw the
Circo Caballero setting up their tents...... which anyone might presume was an equestrian circus. But it is not. Mexican gymnasts and jugglers and clowns, but no horses.
Although in the dawn light as Tobe patiently got dressed for the ride and thought his morning mule thoughts, maybe he was pondering whether he'd like to run away with the circus.
"Tobe the Wonder Mule......"
“Damn everything but the circus!. . .The average 'painter' 'sculptor' 'poet' 'composer' 'playwright' is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown's mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.”
--- e.e. cummings