SEBASTIAN — With all the grief and grotesqueness in the recent world, Gabrielle Cuellar wants to create smiles and sunshine for others.
That’s why she’s shivering in the cold and wetness of a gray December morning helping her boyfriend get his horse ready for the 25th annual Sebastian Christmas ride/parade.
“I want to see something good in the world,” says Gabrielle, 24, as her boyfriend Daven Trevino brushes his young palomino in preparation for the trail ride.
She, Daven, and other stalwart horse riders are arriving at the traditional gathering place they’ve historically used to begin the trail ride to Sebastian: the Valero in Combes on N. 77. When everyone arrives at the gathering place, they’ll join a parade and deliver new bikes and other gifts to local children.
The trail ride is an annual event organized by The Cowboys Horseman Association.
“This is our 25th year,” says George Tovar, president of the association.
“We’re doing this to give back to the community, to the kids in Sebastian and surrounding areas,” Tovar says. “It’s presents, bikes, a little bit of everything.”
They arrive one by one, trailers and horses pulling in, the riders huddling in their jackets, eyes squinting against the cold and drizzle. They laugh and greet one another with strong handshakes and warm embraces, laughing for the joy of the day and the thrill of a group trail ride and the children’s smiles they hope to see.
“I am excited,” says Mike Cuellar, a club member who wears a hat with Indian beads.
People call him “El Indio”. That’s because of his complexion and his grandmother who was Tarahumara, and indigenous tribe in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
“It’s cold, but it’s not going to stop us,” Cuellar says. “We’re going to keep going.”
“I think the only thing to stop us was Covid,” says George Tovar.
They speak briefly of that dark time: Tovar’s father died, and Mike Cuellar lost many friends. There are brief glimpses into nothing, the narrowing of eyes, and the tightening of faces for just a moment, then the smiles return and conversation focuses on bridles and spurs and Christmas toys.
The grief of recent times is not lost on the young. Gabrielle Cuellar, Mike Cuellar’s daughter, seems to feel too well the raw senses of the world of her young life. It’s why she wants so much to be a part of this trail ride.
“Times are different from the last time I was here,” Gabrielle says. “We’re post-Covid, we’re able to get out closer to everyone, and the world’s changed too.”
The world has changed …
She spoke with a sad intensity of the many wars in near and distant places, the ravages of Covid and other diseases sweeping through towns and cities, and of hideous and unconscionable school shootings.
She seems now rejuvenated by the thought of the kids waiting for the riders in Sebastian.
“I just want to see them smile,” she says.
Now she helps Daven out with his palomino “Canela” as he removes the horse blanket. This is his first year to participate in the trail ride.
“I’m here because it is a cause for the kids in the community that we’re riding too and see the smiles on their faces,” Daven says. “We have done multiple parades throughout the year. I like just seeing the kids light up when we come up with the horses.”
Now, Canela seems invigorated by the cold wet air. She shifts around in the mud, raises her head and whinnies a shrill whistling sound into the air. Seems this gal wants to get started.
And so she does. Daven in his thick leather gear mounts her and rides across the parking lot, the