Hi, I'm Ev. I'm training to become a horsewoman. These are my adventures and misadventures. I'm green as hell, but so far, so good. I'm now learning from Bo (and sometimes his wife DeDe) at D&D Ranch in Pope Valley. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity, I feel quite blessed, and I feel that they, and horses, have really turned my life around.
Solomon is my baby- a big old flea bitten grey Appendix gelding who is very kind and way too smart! I love him so very much. He is a rescue and was meant to be co-owned rehabbed, and maybe rehomed to a good home. He turned out to be over 25 years old with injuries that ultimately do not make him riding sound, so he is retired.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I suck at riding, but it'll get better.

Well, the cattle cutting saddle didn't work out. It fit Solomon okay, but it had zero padding on it, which for someone my size is pretty painful.
I had my new horse friend come out, and she rode Solly around bareback and then in the saddle. She did great on him. He was nice and calm and relaxed with her. I hope to become as comfortable and natural on a horse's back as she is someday. Solomon was really responsive, though he has some issues that we're going to have to train out of him. In a way it's reassuring that it isn't just me, but in another way it means more challenges are ahead. He doesn't always stop when he's told to. Sometimes he walks over to the fence instead of stopping right away. He also doesn't actually seem to know "back" from the saddle. If he does, he's doing a good job of playing dumb about it. Also he likes to avoid being mounted from the mounting block. He expects it to hurt. Once a person is on his back and not hurting him, he calms down, but before that he isn't happy about it. No bucking or rearing.
He did threaten to go dashing back to his paddock when I went to dismount. Oh wow, bad horse. We really need to work on that. So it was discouraging- the BO came out to advise on the fit of the saddle, and ended up giving us a brief lesson. She is great and I hero worship her but it's also really intimidating and I think I did worse riding than I would have alone, maybe. Also the way she taught me to signal with the reins was the exact opposite of what they told me to do at the old place, so I kept getting confused about which side to put where to turn him. I think the next time I ride him I'll see what works best with him for me. I'm also going to take some formal lessons with a formal instructor, but for the basics my hoss friend (not sure if I should mention your name or lj name or what have you or not?) said she could certainly teach me.

I need to figure out what I'll do for a saddle though. I loved the tiny little synthetic saddle from the old place, though the new BO says there's no way it would have fit me properly. It was COMFORTABLE though! It didn't hurt at all. :< So I am not sure what do do there. It was also a little harder to balance on the cutting saddle, though it's true that I didn't use the stirrups on it because my shoes were inappropriate according to the BO, heh. I need riding boots proper I guess. I mean, I don't put my weight in the stirrups, but they did help me balance more than I realized I guess. Meep.

So anyone who is larger and rides- do you find that you have to have a giant saddle? Or is a shorter one okay as long as you put your weight in the right spot?

Today we shared some watermelon with Solomon. He took the rinds and managed to scrape ever bit of fruit off them, leaving just the hard green skin, and then he spat the skin into his water barrel. Silly hoss. He fought me going into his paddock because he wanted to rush right in and grab the fresh flakes of hay. I made him stop and wait a bit before going in, kinda, though we really had to wrestle. Not the safest thing in the world, especially since his paddock entrance is the kind they use for cattle, with a bar at the top that he could hit his head on. Eep.
He has this problem because at the old place they just left his halter on (until I raised a stink about it) and would just take the lead rope snap off when he was close to his stall, and had him just run in. Yeah not so good. So he is used to just speeding up and running into his place, especially if there's food in there. I really need to break him of the habit. He usually does fine, but when there's food he still has a problem. My new hoss friend brought up the fact that it isn't safe fighting him right in the doorway about it, because he could hit his head. I could also get pinned, which wouldn't be good. So. I need to get him under control before we're right at the door.
Okay then. Tomorrow Solomon and I are going to work. We'll work on three things.

1. Stand at the mounting block and stay still even when someone goes up the steps and touches his back.
2. Consistently backing up with the verbal command "back," WITHOUT having to push on his chest. I know he can do this because he does it no problem when there's a treat to be had. He'll back up if he thinks I'm putting something in his bucket. From there, we can combine the verbal command with signals in the saddle until he understands that they are one and the same.
3. Stopping before going into his paddock if I tell him to, consistently.

That's a lot to tackle, and we'll probably spend a good amount of time at it, though not TOO much time. We'll take breaks in between "working" time for chilling out, eating, and grooming. Mix in some positive stuff with the work, and give him time to let things sink in. I don't think doing the same thing over and over and over for hours will have a great effect- we'll both get sick of it, and it'll make him more obstinate. Heh. I am not in a big rush to, I don't know, show him or whatever. We have time to do it in a way that will be effective long term.

I may use some treats, because he responds really well to food bribes, but I want to use more positive re-enforcement and making obedience the path of least resistance. We might do a little more "stand" work too, though he responds pretty well to that, it doesn't hurt to re-enforce that too.

So, yeah. Overall a positive day. I felt discouraged about my terrible riding, but I am just starting out and it's the lack of self-confidence that's telling me to just give up. Regular exercise is good for both Sol and I, and should anything nasty happen to me (whale falling from the sky and squishing me, etc) he'll have a much better change at a good life with solid ground and saddle manners.


Puh-leeze said...

Har, long reply today.
1) I am a bigger girl and I simply have a bigger saddle. My horses were all bigger, too, but I rode in an 18" Albion with a wide tree. This is an English saddle, and we measure from the point of the cantle; it's *supposed* to be the length of your inner thigh. I know nothing about measuring a Western saddle. What I do know is that it is much more important that the saddle fit Sol than having it fit YOU. If you find one that fits both of you, fabulous, but until you are actually comfy and confident I think it's more important that the saddle fits HIM. My opinion, of course.

2)I would wager dollars to donuts (watermelons?) that Sol doesn't want to stand at that mounting block because something bad happens when a human gets on. Or, someone has flopped down on his back so hard that he's gone "Whuffffff!" and skitched his back out of the way. I might practice leaning on him until he learns that nobody is going to either flop on him or cowboy around as soon as they are astride. Many horses - especially rescues - have trust issues, and it might be different for him on the ground (where it seems he is learning to deal) as opposed to having a person actually ride.

3) Of course you suck at riding. It takes PRACTICE. I have yet to see that natural amazing do anything with any horse rider that wasn't riding at age 3. So don't worry about it. You're learning and you have the desire. That's the important thing.

Hugs and carrots.

Evergrey said...

Yar, thank you. I agree with everything you've said, from the feeling I've gotten with Solomon. And I also agree that the saddle fitting HIM is way more important than comfy for me, though if it's so painful that I can't sit on it for more than a minute or so then there's not much of a point to buying it, ya know?

A friend might give me an old English saddle of hers that she says might fit Solly well, and is a comfy saddle to boot. So we'll see. :) We're going to do just that thing with the mounting block this evening. He'll get a carrot chunk if he stands for me. :)

Puh-leeze said...

Hell no, don't buy it! Many peeps are quick to say "Use mine whenever you want, if it fits him and I'm not using it." If you clean it after you're done, there might even be extra carrots in it for Sol. Of course, some drama queens don't want you touching their stuff at any time. I'd ask the BO.

I have no problem with food bribes, although some say they are the devil. I say that if he's not mouthy and shows no signs of bad behavior, like diving/grabbing for treats, then use whatever works.