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, January 22, 2009

Learning herd dynamics

So I think I'm getting better at interacting with Solomon in the herd, and dealing with the herd in general. :)
Generally the horses back off when I tell them to, I can navigate through the herd, and I am learning how to navigate Solomon through safely too. He has raised his rank in the past few months, which helps, though he's still not really high up I don't think. I have watched him pin his ears and move a number of horses off their hay piles. This works out okay because there are always more hay piles than there are horses, so when a horse gets moved he just goes to a different pile.
Mostly, however, it's learning which horse is higher, which is lower, which is a friend, what the mood of the herd is, and what mood Solomon is in. I certainly haven't mastered these things, but I'm learning. The fellow at the ranch I've been visiting told me that training, riding, and herd interaction are three distinct and unique things to learn in the field of horsemanship, and most people are not really good at all three. This was encouraging to hear really, because there is just so much to learn!

So one of the things that I have noticed since I have been establishing my dominance a little bit more and learning how to interact with the herd better is how Solomon will now defer to my judgment when we return to the pasture. Often the hay has been set down, and after I take his halter off, if he isn't mad about having been made to work, he'll stand and wait for me to continue to lead him. So I evaluate the way the herd is set up, pick a free hay pile that is in a "safe" place for him to go, and walk there. He follows me, head down, until we get to the hay and I stop. Maybe I say "okay!" which is my "at ease" for him, and he lowers his head and eats. Then I give him a pet, say goodbye, and back away.

Sometimes I stick around to watch though, because every moment I watch how they interact, I learn something. I learn who is in what place in the hierarchy, who is an enforcer, who cringes and runs, and who is aggressive. It's actually a very fluid thing and a dominant horse rarely has to do more than pin their ears at a horse to get him to move.

This last time I took a bit of hay and gave it to the old grey with ringbone. Poor baby is in so much pain, and everyone picks on him now. I feel so badly for him. He's walking all tender. I know his owner is trying to find a solution for him, something to make him better. I hope she does, and if a fix isn't possible, I hope he finds peace and mercy quickly. I do not know much of anything about ringbone though. I guess I'll research it.

Also, I think that hand-grazing him has also helped a lot. I make it a point to give him a really loose line, but to wander a bit. At first he fought, but now he follows, trusting me to find more nummy green grass! :D I'm going to be sad when it all dies again mid-spring.

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