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.

Friday, September 5, 2008

First lesson, yay! :D

Wow, it was great! :D

So as it turns out, Solomon needs a saddle with an extra large tree. Yeow, and he hasn't even built up muscle there yet. Uh I have an Appendix draft, haha!

He may well be more than 1200 pounds now. Need to do the measurements and the math.

Anyway, what a difference a properly fitting saddle makes!

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself.
My new instructor is... very direct. But not mean. So that's all good. :)
So now I will have to be a lot more disciplined with Solomon. Awh. Well, it has to be done. So I'll do stuff from the proper side, because that's how it's done, though I don't think it's bad for him to learn to do anything from either side. Still, I'll obey. :)

So I learned to lead him with more control. I learned how to back him up, and once he understood that I was serious, he suddenly totally knew how to back on the ground. In the saddle, we'll have to see next time.
I learned how to tack up. She wants me to get a skinnier bit. I'm resisting that a bit, though I guess it's okay, if it's still gentle. Just because it's a little difficult to get him to open wide and take the bit, but I think we'll wait and see. Well, if she can show me a bit that is kind enough, I might go for it. Perhaps one that is sharper would make things go faster, but I'd like to try more willing obedience first. Or maybe I'm just too gentle?

Anyway, once we had done some ground work after tacking him up, I got on him. I actually did pretty well mounting up. I did the three-time bounce and all that, and I took care to slide in and not thump onto his back at all.
The saddle fit Solly SO WELL! It was very well balanced, and I felt quite secure. We worked on getting my legs into the right position- it's a bit of a challenge becasue of my back, and most of all it is a challenge because my legs are really stubby, and the saddle (and his back) are really wide, and my legs are really fat.
I told her, "hey, I'm not putting myself down, I'm just stating the truth here- I'm fat, and my legs are fat, and legs that are as padded as mine tend to want to turn outwards, not bend inwards." I think I did a pretty good job though. I'm not sure I was quite able to get my heels under my hips, but I got pretty close. I kept my toes in okay, and I kept my heels down. We had to raise the stirrups up really high- I think maybe as high as they could go, and I could still only just reach them. Stupid stubby legs.
My teacher told me it was okay to let the reins have a little "give" to them. This was a relief- the BO was telling me to keep their pretty taut, which just didn't feel right to me. That's English though, and we're doing Western. She also let me guide him with the reins the way I had guided him at the old place- keep one rein in the same place, and just touch his neck with the rein that was on the opposite side from the direction I wanted him to turn. She did get me looking exactly where I wanted to go, which helped him read the cues my body was giving. I need to learn to not move my shoulders to one side or the other, and not lean, really. Not like a motorcycle. Heh.
But all-in-all, we did well. Solomon was taking direction from me quite well, except we need to work on a more immediate stop. He sped up and slowed down well, and he turned when I told him to. He walked where I wanted him to walk. While we did learn to back effectively on the ground, we didn't try backing in the saddle. We'll probably do that when I learn how to ride a little better.
It felt really good though. Though I was a little self-conscious, learning and not wanting to mess up, trying to do a reverse properly and all that, it felt more natural than my last attempt. The saddle felt better, even though it was huge. Well, Solomon is huge, so! Once he muscles up on his topline and shoulders, he'll be even bigger around than before. I better get used to it.
It was a really good lesson though. I felt like Solomon and I really connected.
Now, dismounting, that was a challenge. The saddle has a REALLY high cantle and horn. I have REALLY short, stubby legs, tendinosis in both ankles, and a couple of herniated discs in my spine. My instructor asked me to dismount to the ground. Well, I'd learned to dismount on a much smaller, less sloped saddle, but leaning one ay and swinging my leg over the back without my foot in the stirrup (like in an emergency dismount) wasn't happening. Then my knee threatened to pop out of joint. Hah, fun! Then my instructor asked me to stand up in the stirrups, which I did, but my legs are so short that there was very little different between me standing in them and me sitting in the saddle. Maybe an inch or two, kinda sorta? Heh. Somehow I managed to dismount almost gracefully, however. I did take my foot out of the sturrip once I got my leg over- getting dragged around doesn't sound fun to me.
We untacked Solomon, which he stood well for, and then I took him back to his paddock where I curried him and checked his feet, just like I did before the lesson. We ran over time (oops, sorry!) but we covered a lot of ground without having so much input that I wouldn't be able to remember it all. Managed to go back to the pasture in the dark tonight with me in charge but using Solomon's eyes. I could sorta see, and he knew how to get there, so between us we figured it out. :)
My friend was very supportive, and I'm so glad she was there. She saved me from forgetting my helmet at the mounting block, she got me my bridle, and she was able to give me good input about the lesson, not to mention a ride to the stables and back home again. Yay, thank you! We had rose tea after.
Later that night I ended up going out to a CLUB. Ye gods! I went to a goth club in FLIP FLOPS (my boots were full of shavings) with horse drool in my hair, no makeup, and horse hair on my shirt. And yet AGAIN someone picked up on me. Screw makeup. All I need is horse drool.

Well, and confidence. It's amazing how much less intimidation a 140 pound human is after spending the day with a 1200+ pound animal that you know could accidentally kill you at any moment.

I met up with Fernando, who DJed at a club called "Shrine of Lillith" 11 years ago. I was the first person to set foot in the club. The first customer. The first on the dance floor. We caught up. Talked about the old days a bit. Talked about how we had changed. How we were the ones that lived. I saw a lot of people from the old days, but there were a lot of people missing too. So many friends dead. Bike accidents, suicides, murder, and so much death because of meth. I ended up getting angry. Meth. It's killing us, as a culture, and actually it's everywhere. Every small town. Every big city. It's evil stuff.
I danced tonight. I couldn't believe it, I could really dance. Tomorrow I will probably not be able to walk. The sciatica has been coming back lately too. But I rode a HORSE and I DANCED and I'm still ALIVE.
Life is good, and I am so very blessed. And I can thank Solomon for so much of it.
I love my big old baby boy.


Puh-leeze said...

I want to move out there just so I can hang out with you!

Anyway, it's great that you had a positive lesson. I would encourage you to not only accept what the instructor says, but also to keep the questioning part of yourself. Too many people blindly follow "the trainer" and then wake up one day to discover the horse is completely screwed up. So keep questioning.

How to accept what she says and continue to question? In this particular situation, she might believe that a slightly thinner bit will make your cues more obvious to Sol. Then, when you are both more comfortable with what is expected, you can go back to a gentler bit. (This is not to be taken as a recommendation to slap a twisted wire or Spanish Spade into every horse's mouth, of course.)

Here's the deal. It may actually be easier on him, if you are tentative about your hands at the beginning, to give you what you want. Some horses freak with a constant "nag, nag, nag" that they don't quite understand. Firm direction, even if slightly harsh, is often better at the beginning. Certainly you don't want to be see-sawing on his face the whole time, but I can't imagine that would be your style.

Best to both of you. As the saying goes: If you can stand, you can walk. And if you walk, you can dance. I'm glad for you!

Evergrey said...

Awh, I am really a big dork, haha! But if big dorks are fun to hang out with, you'd be quite welcome! Ever come around the bay area?

Yar, I mean I like her, and she even said that we may not agree on all things. I will give what she says more weight than, perhaps, random boarders, and I like her, she has already taught me a lot of good stuff, but of course I will continue to research and think for myself. He's my hoss, ya know?

A thinner bit might work better for stopping him. Then again, just taking a lot of time working at it will probably do the same thing. If he likes another bit better though, I've no problem with trying it. It's weird actually- french link snaffles are kind of hard to find around here. I haven't seen one yet!

Puh-leeze said...

I haven't been out thataway for a few years, acos I am a Masshole :)

I used to come out for New Year's every other year, but that's been history while I'm in law school. Got quite a few friends there, though. Maybe '09-10.....