We awoke hungover.
“Why am I always waking up hungover when I see you,” I said to Sara while we drove to Osoyoos, 50 minutes from Penticton. We both laughed out loud.
On a chilly Sunday morning we made our way to Indian Grove Riding Stables where Aaron Stelkia runs his trail riding business. I was so excited to finally meet my new horses I could hardly wait.
“You’re going to love them,” Sara said while I daydreamed about Coyote and Smokey.
When we arrived there wasn’t time to see anything. Stelkia and his workers were getting ready to move cattle to another pasture and we were enlisted to help. I was told my horse for the day was a sorrel standing in the corner and when I went to grab him, I realized it was going to be an interesting day.
“Don’t let him get by you, cut him off,” I heard one of the workers yelling behind me as the big-boned animal ran by with wide eyes.
I eventually caught him and he was a ball of nerves… as was I at that point.
Tacking him made me realize just how green the animal was. It was touch and go with the brush, the saddle pads, the saddle. He didn’t want anything to do with me.
“Have you guys ridden this horse much,” I asked Caley, the manager of the trail riding business.
“Yes, he has had a couple of rides,” she responded.
After I tacked him I made him lunge some circles around me and then prayed, put my left foot into the stirrup and turning his head to the left with my reins I jumped on. He did a few circles nervously before I stopped him. I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I asked him forward gently. He didn’t buck thankfully.
All day I stood on the tips of my toes in the stirrups waiting for the sorrel to explode. He would be fine, pushing cattle for several minutes, when all of a sudden with no heads-up, something would make him take off at a gallop. I would hold on for dear life until I managed to stop him. It was a fun day to say the least. We pushed cattle in the only desert in Canada, the northern tip of the Sonora Desert. The views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular.
“This is my home, it’s beautiful,” Aaron Stelkia said from atop his four wheeler.
“Some people call it a waste land, but when you come out here on the back of a horse you see its beauty.”
Aaron is a short man of pale complexion and bright blue eyes. But in his strong gaze, it is evident to see his indigenous roots. His mother is Native and his father came to Canada from Europe. It was such an amazing opportunity to get to know Aaron and learn from him for a few days.
After the work was done we all met at a local diner for dinner. I got to know Caley and Jordan who work for Aaron and Aaron’s mother, Jane. When dinner was over, we drove back to the stables. Aaron kindly allowed Clara and me to sleep in an empty bedroom next to Caley and Jordan, underneath his new apartment.
“My house burned down last year so now I’m living here,” he told me for a while.
After putting our things away I was so excited I went to see my new horses. I very quickly realized Coyote was WILD, WILD, WILD so I grabbed Smokey. When I went to tack him he was worst than my sorrel gelding a few hours earlier. Much worst.
Eventually I managed to tighten the cinch and began trying to put the bit in his mouth. It was as if he had never seen one before.
That’s when I began to worry.
When I checked under Smokey’s back legs, I saw he was not gelded yet. He was still a stud. This is when I really began to worry. I tied him back up and went to look at Coyote. It was like approaching a grizzly. He was like a ball of nerves and he very quickly told me with his head not to get closer while letting out a loud snort. I ducked and looked under his back legs from a safe distance. He was also a stud.
“These horses are two wild and unbroken studs, I’m screwed,” I told Clara after I untacked Smokey.
That night, laying in bed I stared at the white ceiling for hours trying to figure out what to do. We no longer had a motorhome as support vehicle. My horses were nowhere near ready to start this journey and we only had two weeks before I had to drive to Alaska.
“How the hell are we going to do this,” I whispered to the universe before I dozed off.