It’s been a while since my last update. Part of that is because there hasn’t been much to talk about. Grayson is coming back into work. His feet have been looking good (KNOCK ON WOOD), but he suffered a muscle tear in his lower back when his feet felt good enough to throw his own party. Luckily, that also seems to be resolving, and we got to jump a bit a couple of weeks ago.
Obviously, Grayson had the MOST FUN EVER doing the little jumpies. He proceeded to simply keep jumping things BIGGER and ROUNDER as he realized that neither his feet nor his back were doing to hurt him. Then proceeded to nap in the shade. Standard Grayson-ness. We didn’t do a ton of work, but it was great to feel him enjoying himself and get to ride him over some fences again. Clearly he was game for it!
Of course, then I went on vacation, and Southern California was hit with almost 2 solid weeks of temps over 100 degrees. Usually, in our area, the temps drop as soon as the sun goes down. You can have a 102 degree day where it is only 65 at 6am, but that wasn’t the case for those two weeks. Mornings started out in the 80s with a ton of humidity and the temps skyrocketed from there. Obviously this meant that not much has been done with Mr Grayson, but he continues to do well, so that’s enough for me.
But the fire!
A fire kicked up NE of the barn and nearly directly west from my house. At first, the fire was miles and miles away, and other than some ash in the air and a smokey horizon, there wasn’t much to be concerned about. Then a tropical storm started going up the coast. This was causing strange wind patterns, and it seemed like every night, the fire was doubling in size. By Thursday, my barn was in an evacuation warning zone with the fire department expecting 55 – 75mph wind gusts that could blow embers up to a mile and had a chance of ignition of 85%. (If those stats don’t scare you, you should probably move to California.)
Some of the older horses were evacuated early for fear of smoke, and I got a text asking if I minded if they took May. They had an extra spot on the trailer, and she is the definition of an easy keeper to take. If there is anything I learned from the experience, when someone asks you if they can move your horse to a safe location during a fire warning, just say yes.
In the afternoon, I signed out of work early and headed down to the barn. Again, the fire was still very far off, and my barn was in the very corner of the evacuation warning zone, so we got organized, counted the trucks and trailers available to us, and started ensuring we had safe places to take horses. I groomed Grayson. I figured I didn’t want him going somewhere else looking completely homeless. (He is a great sweater, and the combination of hot weather and no work meant he had layers of sweat, water and dirt on him. On a gray… it was nasty) Then I put a strip of hot pink duct tape in his mane with my name and number on it. I also grabbed my saddles because, if we were in a rush later, I didn’t want to have to worry about grabbing them (or leaving them).
At the time, it didn’t seem that an evacuation order was imminent or even highly likely, so the Husband and I headed home to give our puppy a potty break and have some dinner. I was just considering showering and rolling into bed when the order came for a mandatory evacuation. So off we were again.
The fire still wasn’t visible, but there was a ton of ash starting to fall from the sky. We helped load horses. I handed off my extra water buckets to other people who needed them, and we packed up all the hay/feed/etc that we thought we may need. It was decided that Grayson would go with May’s leaser and her other horse to her property. She had a very large round pen, and they are good buddies. Of course, Grayson wasn’t thrilled about loading into a narrow, dark trailer in the middle of the night, but we convinced him fairly easily.
It was an hour drive up to a very pretty, gated equestrian community on the top of a mountain. Grayson got a walk around the round pen to ensure he knew where the barrier was. I showed him where the automatic water trough was, and we threw them some hay. Both boys were happy to have a buddy and totally calm in what could have been a very stressful situation. By the time we got home, the clock had ticked well past 1AM on Friday morning.
To the surprise of no one, I slept horribly the rest of Friday morning. Lots of nightmares and tossing and turning. Matt and I continued to have our phones with full ringer volume on, in case someone needed our truck to tow some horses to safety. We were all just holding our breaths and hoping that the rain from the storm would provide more relief than any destruction the winds caused.
And we got really lucky. Friday was quite windy, but it brought with it a very steady, soft rain for the entire day. That kind of soaking rain that we haven’t seen in Southern California since I moved here. I opened my window a bit while I worked, and checked in on my horses. (Both of which were eating and relaxing… to the surprise of absolutely no one.)
By Saturday, the order was lifted to a watch and the horses that were very close were returned home. Later that afternoon, the watch was entirely lifted, and Grayson returned home.
While we were spared everything over than some lost sleep, I am so incredibly thankful for my barn, trainer, and the community down here. When we drove back to the barn when the evacuation order was imposed, nearly every large parking lot had rows and rows of trucks hooked up to trailers. They were all volunteers, standing at the ready to evacuate whoever needed it to wherever they needed to go. My own trainer and her team drove official evacuation vehicles and picked up everything from horses and cows to goats and alpacas. (And almost some tigers before it was determined that they were too unsafe to transport.) They went down narrow dirt roads and wrangled feral animals throughout the night and in awful conditions. I’m sure more than a couple of four-legged lives were saved by their efforts.
I had more than a couple of people offer their trailers to us, and I never worried that my horses would be left behind to fend for themselves in a blaze. It was truly a full community effort that crossed disciplines and locations. I will say though, I hope we never have to do it again, and never come closer to disaster than we already did.