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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Solomon gets a friend and finds a glimmer of his joy.

So I came in and was offered tea (mmmm tea!) because ddranch and ddranch's wife are awesome people like that.

You know, I should find out if it's okay to use their first names in these updates. That would be less awkward.

Anyway, ddranch said "Well I have some new information about Solomon that I need to share with you."

Last night they put a 3 year old gelding in the paddock next to Sol's... And Solomon went nuts. Loco. He was weaving and pacing and weaving and kicking the walls of the stall. This is very much not a good sign. It is mental distress.

So today we needed to figure out why. Environmental stress? Yep. Was it because he was feeling competitive and another gelding was too close to his space? Was he upset because he couldn't be with the gelding, since they were in different paddocks?

Well, we put Solly in with this gelding. Here you can see them together!

And Solomon got a new friend. A new friend who is a pain in the butt that Solomon had to squeal at a lot, but the pacing and weaving were gone, and Solly was looking quite a bit more relaxed. You can see the bay following him around. Solomon puts up with more from the young ones, but he makes it clear that he is the alpha.

I went in there with them, and ddranch taught me a bit about establishing the "leader" role by walking at the horse and continuing to walk when one reaches him, lightly shoving him out of the way if need be. It is a simple method that doesn't involve pain or stress. Ddranch learned it from watching horses in a herd interact, and in fact I watched Solomon do the very same thing to the bay.

So after they got to know each other a bit, they came out and got tied to the trailer for grooming and, in Solomon's case, tacking up. The tacking up went very smoothly and quickly- Solomon did not flinch or squeal. Already he has learned so much! It doesn't have to hurt. Over and over we're showing him this, and he is listening. He also took the bit without any need for prompting or a gfinger in the mouth. He took it with enough enthusiasm that he also grabbed the chin strap, haha. This was another bit and bridle, which he got a little fussy about since Ddranch had to take it back out of his mouth and put it on him properly, but once the bit was in he didn't mind the single ear thinger on it.

Ddranch went to mount up, and Sol only spun in a couple of circles, and then stood quietly for mounting. BIG improvement!

So here's what we did. Ddranch rode Solomon, and I lead the little 3 year old gelding. I lead the gelding behind Solomon, who simply could not stand to not be in front. For now, that's okay. For now we are focusing on the positive and trying to find his joy. I think that we found a bit of it today! Youtube isn't letting me upload videos at the moment, but later on I'll have some shaky ones to show you... I was leading the 3 year old, hah. And panting. :p

We went across a meadow, and then we went right out onto the little road that runs past the ranch!

It is seriously pastoral and picturesque out here, let me tell you.

Solomon was alert but actually fairly relaxed. The only times he got upset out on the road were times when he wasn't clearly in the lead compared to the bay. He was looking this way and that, but responding very well. Just barely moving the reins from one side to the other and he would do serpentines, walking forward in a sort of "S" shaped path. We discovered that someone taught him that leg pressure means "move to the next gait." Of course, when he wasn't sure he was in the lead, he would voluntarily start trotting.
That's when we discovered that he has a lovely smooth slow jog. It's a floaty little trot where the feet look "dancy" but do not lift really high, and the horse's movement is slow and smooth. I think they like it in Western Pleasure maybe? Anyway, it looked pretty, and easy to sit. I know Solly can trot fast, but I hadn't seen much of this before.
He was a little eager to go back, wanting to trot, so there were more serpentines. Heh, ddranch didn't want to leave me in the dust with a high energy 3 year old.

So. Inside of an arena is stressful. Taking a walk is better. Having another horse along following is much much better. Solomon relaxes when he can be the leader. Ddranch even got him to collect from time to time. I didn't get a good picture of that, unfortunately, but it happened. Less ewe neck, more relaxation, and even some good posture. Not bad for ride 3, eh?

So we went back in, and up to a tree, where I stopped with the bay to take a break (that was a lot of walking for me) and let the little one eat grass. Solomon was not pleased. We got some ear pinning and at one point I think we got a little buck. Ddranch let Solomon graze for a moment, which seemed to help a bit, but Sol was very forward, wanting to get moving. I kind of got the feeling that he wouldn't have minded running, but baby steps, baby steps.

We kept on walking, and went over a few obstacles- down and up a ditch, which he managed, over a log which was no problem, and over a 2X4. Those obstacles were just fine. The bay stepped carefully over the log but went around the 2X4.

Up on the flat near the flowery hills I paused with the bay again, and Solomon again got angry. Hm. So... is it because we were near his paddock and he wanted to go in? Is it because the gelding wasn't following him? Was he jealous because the gelding was grazing while he was working? Was there something else up on that part of the property that made him angry? These are questions we'll need to find answers to.

We went back to the paddocks and untacked. The bay went back in his paddock, and he was not happy to be in there alone. Already he wanted his buddy back!

Ddranch said "so it's up to you how much you want to get him cleaned off. He can be brushed or he can be hosed off."

"He hates baths," I said, to which ddranch replied "well let's do it then."

So I had learned to slowly work my way up the legs before, but I hadn't learned to then soak the chest and neck first. Ddranch remarked upon his fear of being sprayed in the face, which I had noticed early on in my work with my horse. He didn't actually mind the rest of his body being hosed off though! He seemed to almost enjoy it. Still worried about face spraying, but ddranch managed to spray most of his neck with no serious dramafests from Sol. That was great!

So I was thinking. What's the difference?

He was tied on a rail for this bath. Previous baths had been in the cross-ties, which he does not like.
He was out in the open with no walls or roof. Previous baths at Hossmoor had been under a roof in a confined space. The previous baths at the place I got him from were on a concrete pedestal thinger, pretty out in the open but still cross-tied. So we're thinking he'd been cross-tied and had his face sprayed in the past. Who knows, they do all kinds of weird stuff in Charro. I'm sure spraying the horse in the face is part of some sort of Charro training. They hit horses with chairs, jump up and down on their backs, whip their legs, and use shock guns on them. Why not spray their faces too? Ugh. But the bath was a success, and ddranch says that come summer he'll be looking forward to the baths!

I sort of squeegeed him down with my hands and arms. No flinching, and the sweat patterns had been even on him too. HAH, Solomon is working hard enough to sweat now!
Solomon decided he'd had enough of the bath and untied his lead rope. It took a bit of convincing to get him to give me the rope back. Yeah, that's my horse.

So of course you know what he did next...

Heh. Yep. That's also my horse.

There were two flakes of oat hay waiting in the paddock. The bay was eating his flake when we went in. Solomon ambled over to the other flake and took a couple of bites, then he went to the bay's flake. Now, this would be a telling moment. If he felt aggressive towards the bay, he would pin his ears and chase him off the flake. I had a feeling that he would share though, as he did with Venus and Bobby, who were under two and two respectively... and I was right! They grazed off the same flake together. Awwh! <3

I went and sat on the porch, enjoying the view.

Yeah, that's part of a pasture.

So we have a new goal for Solomon. If if IF he continues to improve so much, and if ddranch feels he is ready, then in 5 weeks he'll go to an event and work cattle! Won't that be exciting? I really want to see how he does with them. He seems to want to work, once he isn't worried about being beaten and tortured. He's a hot horse. I am also thinking of picking up a couple sacks of LMF Gold or some other LMF feed that will give Sol a bit more energy and nutrients since he's working out now, as well as glucosamine and msm for his joints.

At the very end of the day, I pulled Sol out again for a bit of hand grazing. Earlier he had taken the halter like a bridle, grabbing the noseband in his mouth. This time went better, haha. He is really starting to go into "work" mode I think.

Anyway, he was a bit of a punk about grazing before I said it was okay, or trying to graze as I was leading him, but we got it sorted out. I laid on the grass (after having sprayed some Ultrashield on myself... there was a big fat tick crawling on my hand last night) and let him graze. It was nice and relaxed, and he was a good boy about it, not tugging on the rope to test me, and of course not stepping on me.

What an awesome day. Soon, in another 4 or 5 rides I guess, maybe sooner, I will ride Solomon, and ddranch will ride the bay, and we'll go out on a couple rides together! YAY!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Training, day 2.

"Okay Ev," Ddranch said, "We're going to start a routine today. We're going to act like Solomon here is a regular cowhorse."

Solomon was haltered and he was tied to the trailer. His feet had already gotten a little trim, evening out his heels. Ddranch had me groom him and trim his fetlock feathers off. He also had me trim a little bridle path. Oh that reminds me, I have a piece of mane in my pocket!

Okay, hair removed.

All of today was both training and evaluating. What he knows, what he doesn't know, what he is comfortable with, and what he is scared of.

After the little trim, Solomon had a bridle put on!

(He is tied by his halter, not the bridle.)

Solomon took the bit right away. No finger in his mouth even, if I recall correctly. I was very proud of him for this. I was also proud of myself- this is something we worked on for a long time. There was a time when you would have to chase him around and around, and when he would toss his head every which way. Now he opens his mouth and in the bit goes!

After that, Ddranch pulled out a saddle pad. Solomon spun away from it and his eyes got wide. Ddranch let him sniff it. He put it on him, and then he had me put it on him, and toss it on his butt and neck. He relaxed pretty quickly and dealt with it.

Next was the saddle, which he also got to sniff a bunch. The saddle fits! The rear cinch is a bit snug, but otherwise it's a good fit. We went from a 30 inch cinch to a 32 inch cinch at some point in the process.

Ddranch had me move my hand underneath the saddle, all along the tree so I could feel the pressure on a proper fit. The front (the twist I think it's called?) was more snug than I had previously thought it should be. Now I know where to place it and how it should feel. Very useful! And I am relieved that we have something to use that fits.

After he was tacked up, including carrying a pair of chaps on his saddle, he got loaded into the trailer and then backed out.

And THEN we went to the round pen. Oh yes, there was a lot of work in the round pen. Solomon kept trying to come in and face Ddranch. He started calling Solly "Pat," as in Pat Parelli. "This horse has gone through two extremes," he said. "He's been cowboyed really roughly, and he has been touchy-feely Parellied to death too." Now, you can learn good horsemanship from both the cowboy camp and the natural horsemanship camp, but as I said before, you can also do both things very wrong, and end up with a confused, scared, and unhappy horse, which is what happened to Solomon. Solomon also didn't want to roll back on the rail... he always wanted to turn facing Ddranch, and he always wanted to pivot on his forehand.

So the roundpenning that was done today had a number of purposes. "You won't get vertical flex on a horse until you teach them lateral flex," he said. Hm, I htink that's the order. I'll have to ask! But he had one rein tied to one side of the saddle. Light enough that if he flexed and lowered his head properly there was no pressure. It seems that this had not been done before, and it was very confusing to Solomon! He did start to curve his neck more properly however. Here are a bunch of shots. He has a lot to learn yet, but progress was made!

I can picture question marks over his head here. Quite the predicament!

So you can see that at certain points his head was in a better position than at other points. It is important for a horse to carry his head properly while working. A head that is held high in an "ewe neck" position makes for an imbalanced horse. Their back is hollowed and their muscles are not worked properly. This can lead to issues with the back, the spine, the neck, the legs... pretty much everything! Just like humans working out, horses need to have proper posture to not hurt themselves, and just as athletes need training to learn how to work out properly, horses do too.

Here is a link that explains a bit about neck positions. I found it to be a good read and useful. It talks about posture in regards to dressage, however it is useful info, I think, for any rider. As it is talking about Rolkur and being behind the vertical, it also discusses the neck being arched and the chin being tucked TOO much.


Okay, so, back to Solly. Ddranch has decided that Solomon is afraid of mounting because someone was mounting from the ground and hauling on the horn of the saddle, causing a painful mount. It's pretty doubtful that the saddle fit him properly either. So many puzzle pieces are falling into place. I have been hearing bits and pieces about his past, and I can look at what I know and say "that was happening there at that point, and maybe back there as well."

So Ddranch put his foot in the stirrup, and Solomon swung his butt away. Ddranch did NOT take his foot out of the stirrup, but hopped on his other foot, sticking to Sol's side. Solly spun and spun and spun, but Ddranch just kept hopping away. I really should have gotten a video of that. This was quite perplexing to our big grey boy. His trick was not working! Why wasn't it working? OMG!

Finally he gave in, and Ddranch lifted himself up so he was standing in one stirrup with his hands planted on the saddle so that his weight was not pulling it to the side. At this point, Solomon stood still. The scary part was over. The saddle was not hauled sideways, pulling on his wither. I can say that I didn't cause this with confidence, as I have always tried to be quite careful with mounting, and always from a block. I just can't get on from the ground, and why stress my ankles and his back? But once that first mounting step was over, he stood quietly.

You see, Solomon is not a mean horse. He is a horse who anticipates and EXPECTS pain when being mounted and ridden, but he does not want to hurt people. His trust was betrayed, and betrayed numerous times, as an older horse. He EXPECTS to get spurred, hard. He EXPECTS to have the bit yanked on. He EXPECTS a lot of things, because that was just the way things were.

After mounting, Ddranch sat on Solomon, speaking to him soothingly and stroking him, letting him know that things were okay. And then he rode. He walked, and he trotted. He did a lot of turning on the rail.

Solomon can be a very smooth ride. He wants a light touch. He will steer with a very light neck rein. He will respond best to that. He doesn't yet trust that he won't get yanked on, however. Even the lightest touch with feet makes him pin his ears. But it really doesn't seem to be caused by pain. It is the anticipation of pain.

Now, for a while back in the fall he was doing better. He wasn't really up to weight yet. He hadn't really come into his own again yet. And then there was the injury, and the stall rest, and the series of saddles that just didn't quite fit right. Ddranch feels that the issues he has were not caused by me. I think I certainly didn't help improve the issues. Imaginethewolf, she was good with him and good on him. But I was too new, too green. We're now working on making Solomon a beginner horse, but it will be a long time. Right now, Ddranch says it's hard, riding him, because there is no joy. Solomon hates being ridden. We need to find a way to convince him that life is good, and that riding doesn't have to hurt. He needs, Ddranch said, 50 rides with no pain. But he thinks he'll progress well.

Solomon's mind was blown a little bit today, and when things got overwhelming for him, ddranch backed things way down. But the ride, overall, went a lot better than the first one. Solomon responded well, though he did not whoa well. That has always been a challenge with him. Before he ran through the fence, we got him halting a lot better than he had been, but it still wasn't consistent. Now in a new place with new people he needs to learn again, but I think with a good rider and horseperson, the learning will stick.

Watching this, I am thinking, "man, look at the butt my horse has now!" And he isn't in condition yet! But here he is being turned on the rail because there is a kind of a halt to it, and it occupies his mind and body, preventing him from pulling a lot of his tricks.

There was much comforting and encouragement!

At the end of the ride, he was trotting in figure 8s! And here is the very end of it:

Sol was pretty calm then. The ride was over! He was still alive! And he didn't hurt! Amazing...

Hey, maybe this riding thing isn't so bad after all!

We untacked him right there in the round pen, and he stood well for it, ground-tied. The sweat pattern was good. I brushed him and then hand grazed him for a while. I laid in the grass and held the end of the lead rope. He was a good boy, and he didn't even test it. He trotted with me when I jogged a little bit without needing any prompting, too.

Ddranch rode Reiny Day next. Reiny Day is young- he's 3, heading for 4. He has a lot of energy. Ddranch called out to me, "Ev, I have a goal for you! This is it-" and then they GALLOPED across the meadow. They galloped, and then Ddranch whoaed, and Reiny Day stopped.

"Hey, I like that goal a lot!" I called back. Solomon kept munching on the grass, totally unconcerned by young whippersnappers charging about.

Next I walked Solomon around some more. We went up and down some embankments. He told me that really gravely roads made his feet a little tender. At least I think that was what he was telling me. He might get front shoes sometime soon. We found a little cottage that was under construction, and it had paper on one side of it. The paper made very loud and scary noises blowing around, so I took him to see it. He spooked at it a couple of times, but he also did not try to run or pull the rope out of my hands. He sniffed the paper, even. We will be visiting Mister Flappy Paper often in the next couple of weeks, I think.

I loaded him in the trailer and backed him out again twice. The second time we stood in there for a short while, and he backed out very well.

Then Solomon went back into his paddock. He had his feet picked, and he was robbed down all over. I can hug his butt. I can stick my head under his belly. I can pick his legs up and stretch them and swivel them around. I can massage his tail and he will lean into it. I love the velvety soft skin on the underside of his tail.

Then Ddranch added another thing to the routine, which daily will include trailer loading, taking up, and riding. He showed me how to put a hand on his jowl and a hand on his shoulder, press very lightly on the jowl-hand and pat with the shoulder-hand while walking forward at a 90 degree angle to the horse. The purpose of this is to not only get him moving at my command, but to also teach him more about pivoting on his hind feet instead of his forehand. At first he obeyed ddranch better than he obeyed me, because he knows that he can raise his head up out of my reach. Insistence and not giving up yielded good results, however, and soon he was turning easily for me in both directions.

A nice woman who lives down the road and rehabilitates horses who were abused came by for a visit. She was very nice, and she said that she always told her clients that the one thing she could not train a horse to do was to love their owner. She said that I had accomplished that, and that was a great and very important thing. Ddranch added that a lot of people who have owned their horse for 10 years can't do some of the things I can do with Solomon on the ground. Awwh. :)

We did Sol's carrot stretches, and he got some cuddling and coddling, then I got to go see the foal! Ddranch has one foal this season, and she is 3.5 days old.

The key, he says, to getting the trust of the foal, is having the trust of the mare.

This mare is very protective of her foal. She certainly pinned her ears at me! But look at that. Awesome. The foal has her own training log, but that is not my tale to tell.

Today was a very big day, and I am sure that I'm forgetting many things. I'll add them if I remember them. I think that we really accomplished a lot, and I feel like I am learning just as much as Solomon is.

Training, more details.

...I took him for another walk. Ddrach watched us and said "Ahhh. You are looking at him too much. Look where you want him to go. Lower your hand- keep it at your pockets. There you go. Keep that hand down." And suddenly, sure enough, he was following me with confidence. The instructor I'd hired for a few lessons had been very strict- hold his rope right under the chin, hold your arm straight out, hold everything just so and only even on the left side, etc etc. Well Solomon had his mind just blown by all that charro crap. That was a tense way of holding him. It was high pressure. Not a level that was going to work at the moment. A little more relaxed and a lot more confident with a lot less watching him to see how he did make him feel a lot more secure.

And off we went, up and down hillsides, past strange horses, over logs and other obstacles, and other than sometimes trying to graze a bit, he followed me very very well. If he tried to graze by bending his head to the opposite side while reaching down, ddranch taught me to make him pivot on his forehand, which got him out of that idea immediately. Such simple, basic things. There were other methods people had shown me, but none of them worked like this. Ddranch has a way of assessing horses, and kind of getting in their heads a bit. He uses low pressure training methods, and going by how his horses are, it really seems to work. No shortcuts or gimmicks. patience and consistency, understanding body language, understanding horse psychology, understanding traiditional training and what is useful today, and what is not. We don't have swords on our belts, so we don't have to always mount from the left only. But then there will be some historical saddle design that works better than a lot of saddles today. Things like that.

After a dinner of nice quality oat hay, we took Solomon to the round pen. That's where we discovered that someone had done a bunch of natural horsemanship work on him. So we'll get to work that out of him, heh. I'm sure there is a right way to do that, with the right horse, but it wasn't done the right way with Solomon. I watched the people at horse hell shanking him and snapping the rope in his face to back him up, then whipping his butt with that stupid carrot stick to get him running. No nonono no. So Solomon learned that coming in and joining up thing, and learned to use it as a tool as well, by crowding in and pivoting so you couldn't get behind his shoulder. Ddranch got him going though. No welts needed, no rope or line or halter at all. And lo and behold, Solomon did know what to do. He did have the training. He was laaazy. Didn't want to canter. Charging up and down steep hills in the pasture was fine because that was FUN, but being asked to work? Oh, he was not very pleased about that.

So then we brought in a mounting block, and sure enough he was, as ddranch called it, "winging out." Spinning so you couldn't reach him when you stood on the block, pivoting so he was facing you. So. He was in his halter. We tied him to the rail. Brought up the mounting block. Ddranch pretneded to start to mount. He swing his butt towards the rail. Ddranch moved the block closer again. Pretended to mount. Solomon swung his butt. And eventually Solomon could not swing his butt any more. Ddranch was explaining to me about using our minds, and about Sol's behavior being learned, and working on teaching him that it would not work here.

So he said, "okay, untie the lead rope and hold him fast." I did this, and suddenly he was on Solomon's back! Solomon started to move forward, but he stopped because mom was there and not going to budge. Heh. Then I handed him the lead rope, and we tied the end to the ring on the bottom of the halter. Leadrope reins. Whee!

And then they stood. Little baby steps. And then they walked. Just walked. And Solomon, oh he pinned his ears, he squealed once, crow-hopped a bit, swished his tail, but every time he did, he got a growly "noo, don't you start boy" from ddranch, which he responded to immediately. It was behavioral, He was acting like he expented to get kicked or smacked or yanked on at any moment. All of those things were common with the last owner, from what I heard at the old place, nevermind what happened at the Charro place. But he was also testing the waters. Seeing what he could get away with. Seeing if any of it would get him out of work. Wondering when it was going to start hurting.
"See the thing is, you correct the behavior right away. You let them know what isn't okay. But you focus on the positive. You make it a positive experience. You tell them no, and then you encourage them when they are good." And Solomon relaxed a bit. He obeyed. He was so sensitive about any leg cues at all, he tensed at a little touch. But he was gently and expertly guided through it... just walking, turning, walking. Wakling to the middle of the arena to say hi to mom, then turning and going out along the rail again. A short ride.
"Now, there is a physical limit that a horse has, and a mental limit. Sometimes that limit is higher than other times. But he's in a new place, and it's a totally new person riding him, he's experienced a lot today, and he's on the edge of his limit. But he will slowly learn.

You see, imagine you live in a room and every day for breakfast, the door opens and someone comes and punches you in the face. You don't know anything else, and you think that's what breakfast is. Punching you in the face. So that's what he knows. That's what riding is. But what if instead the door opens, and you get a blueberry muffin and coffee. And you keep getting a blueberry muffin and coffee. After a while, you realize, hey, this is what breakfast is. This is all right!"

So we took him back out of the round pen, and I let him graze a little more. And ddranch told me that we would consistently work with the lunging. The mounting block. The good riding experiences. Wearing a saddle. The first thing ddranch did when I penned Solomon was get out a saddle form, and discover that the tree that company made with full quarterhorse bars fit my boy. Awesome! He has a saddle that he thinks will fit. He'll double check of course. The man knows a lot about saddles and their history too. So Solomon will spend a half hour just wearing a saddle one day, and having it not hurt.

"He is going to learn that wearing a saddle is his job. Standing at the block is his job. Being ridden is his job. He gets to eat this tasty green grass, but he has to wear a saddle. Or he gets to eat the green grass, but he has to be ridden and do what he's asked to do."

When Sol was back and tucked in for the night, we chatted a bit over tea.

"To be honest with you," he said, "I wouldn't put you on that horse at this time. Now you'll always have a horse to ride when you come up here. But Solomon has issues he needs to work though."

"Yeah I understand, he's really too much horse for me at my level, and it isn't safe," I said.

"And some of his issues, we'll see, but some of them could take a year, years to work through."

"Okay. Then it'll take years. I'm not chasing ribbons. I just want him to be okay. I want him to be safe as I can make him."

So Solomon, he might work through the issues fast. He might take a long time. But I think we'll get him past them. And while he's learning, I'll be learning. I'll be learning to work him on the ground, and I'll be learning to be a good rider on ddranch's patient and well trained reining horses who know that the world can be a safe place. "That's all most living things want, it's what they really care about. They want to be safe, and they want to know they'll get what they need to survive."

Now we're also going to check for pain. I've had him evaluated lightly by the vet. I've had chiropractic work done on him, which seemed to help. The next step is giving him bute and working him for about a week or two, then taking him off the bute and seeing how his behavior changes- that's the vet's idea, and I think it is a very solid one. If his behavior is a lot nastier and more twitchy without the pain meds, then we will know it is a pain issue and will start being more aggressive about finding the cause... ultrasounds, blood tests, x rays. He may have a touch of arthritis, or it may be a result of having had bad feet for so long.

Anyway, that was day one. Day two? Getting him to obey me in the round pen. That'll be entertaining for all of us, hah!

I have hope and I am so grateful and relieved.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The big move!

So today Solomon moved from Martinez, California to Pope Valley. It couldn't have gone better!

When I went to Hossmoor today, Solomon was grazing with Dragon and Rebel. He's going to miss them. :( Venus he'll miss too, though Kyrie claimed her when she went into heat last week, and she's still with him.

I'd been really worried about giving him his intra-muscular shot of ACE. Had a friend tell me it was really hard to get in, and that if you got an artery the horse would be dead instantly. I was prepared for it to feel like sticking a needle through cured leather, but it was not... it went right in. I'd accidentally squirted 1cc out before I even got near the horse (d'oh) but when I gave him the shot and saw that there was no blood when I pulled back, the other 2ccs went in fine. That, as it turned out, was plenty.

I'm going to give a major shout out now to the folks who trailered my boy. Hoofbeats Horse Transportation (http://www.hoofbeatshorsetransportation.com/) does hauling for TB Friends (http://www.tbfriends.com/) which is an awesome horse rescue out in the Sacramento area. A number of haulers called back a little too late, and said that they were glad that it was Hoofbeats hauling him, if it wasn't them. Well, there's a reason why some people have an excellent reputation in the horse world.

They were there right on time. They got Solomon in the trailer with absolutely no fuss, and said trailer had nice golden straw for him to stand on, and we hung a haynet full of alfafa too.

I followed them the entire time, and they were very gentle. Here's a photo from a turn in the road... they had pulled over to let some cars by, though they only did that a couple of times because, they said, it's hard on the horse. I think I heard one whinny the entire time, and that was early on.

There were a lot of lovely views on the way. Fields full of whit onion flowers, like sprays of stars. Vibrant orange poppies. Yellow mustard. Purple lupines. Pines and oaks. Vineyards and rolling forested hills. Even a lake or two!

Offloading was great too! Ddranch gave them a quick tour of the place. :) The first thing they said when they got out of the truck was "that was the LESS winding way?" I'm glad I didn't stress my friend by trying to get her to trailer him all the way there... it wasn't a bad road, but it was also a bit challenging.

Solomon back out of the trailer like a pro, and Ddranch advised me to take him grazing for a little bit before putting him in his paddock. Sol started grazing like he owned the place. He giraffe-necked for about 20 seconds, and then he was markedly unconcerned. I'm not sure how much of that was the ACE (it'd been 2.5 hours at that point) but he took to the ranch like a fish to water.

After that, Ddranch took him for a short walk to get to know him a bit while I paid the nice Hoofbeats folks.

Then he went into his new paddock! I don't think it's 45 feet wide, though I could be wrong... but it's still huge!

I went inside to do some paperwork, and when I came back out, Solomon was napping! He had clearly rolled and then dozed off. When I came up to the gate he stood up and came over to visit with me.

So Ddranch said "hey, why don't you take him for another walk around the place?" and after a bit he came by in his ATV and told me that there was a nice field of flowers up the hill which would make for some nice pictures, and to meet him there. So we walked up there, and he said "ahhh, I see, you are looking at him too much."
I'd been looking at Solomon instead of looking where I was going, and it was making him a little unsure. So he had me practice leading him with a good amount of slack, and my hands at my pockets "like a cowboy." Heh, it worked very well.

See, the riding instructor I'd hared before had been very strict about leading him by holding the rope RIGHT under his chin, and always leading him from the left side, always making him be in an exact position... but he never really responded well to that. He does much better with a more relaxed way of going. With boundaries still, of course, but he really does like Ddranch's methods. The man is really good with horse psychology.

So, some pictures. I don't even know how big the ranch is- it is full of trails and stuff. Eventually we'll get to the point where I can let him loose and chill as he grazes. There are a number of horses that can walk around loose. It's a big place, and they have no reason to leave. Only one little way out. Solomon doing this way in the back of the property will take time... but even the one time he ran, he never went very far from me, and kept coming back.

Anyway, yeah, pictures.

Hah, I look so big compared to him here! It's an illusion of perspective. He's a big guy.

Aaaand oh noes, look out for the killer horse!

Also, the flowers were lovely, so Solomon peed on them.

He was very careful around me on the ground, as he always is. Sometimes at Hossmoor when no one was looking I'd sit and let him graze around me. I've been doing that since I started working with him last summer. This was the first time I tried lying down, and lo and behold, careful horse. He DID come over and lower his nose to me for nosekisses once, of course.

Ddranch told me about a mare he had, and a bunny. The mare and the bunny would hang out together, and the mare was quite careful around said bunny. Sol is a kind boy when not asked to work. He is such a love.

After the photo shoot we were left to our own devices, so we wandered the hills a little bit, and then did a bit of obstacle course stuff... over a tarp, then stepping up onto a half-log and back down off it, and stepping over a bunch of big logs lined up with about a foot in between each. Sol did really well, especially on the half-log, which was set up like a ramp, but he did hit one of the parallel logs with his back foot. Ddranch says he'll get better at watcing where he walks as we continue to work on it.

So then Solomon went in for dinner. Oat hay! The oat hay they have is good stuff. Sol wasn't sure if he wanted to eat it at first, after having just had a ton of green grass, but eventually he got to the business of chowing down.

After dinner we took him to the round pen. Again I learned that I was staring at him when I needed to be looking where I wanted him to go. Ddranch got him to lunge. He said he's pretty lazy, but has done a lot of roundpen work. He has also had some sort of natural horsemanship training, but not in a good way. We're going to have to undo some of that. The place I got him from claimed to do Parelli, which I'm not totally crazy about because of all the gimmicks, but it isn't bad... however, you can claim to do it and do a very bad job of it. These people would shake the hell out of the horses and snap the lead rope in their faces to get them to back... and they had that carrot-stick thinger, oh yeah, but they would whip the hell out of the horses with it when they lunged them. Ugh.

Anyway, then we worked on the mounting block. He does that "winging out" thing, swinging his butt away and facing you so you can't mount him. Well that isn't going to fly here at the new place! So we took a mounting block and stuck it next to him while he was tied to the rail. Ddranch got up on the block nad pretending to start to mount. He moved his butt toward the rail. The mounting block was moved closer. Same pattern, repeated until he was parallel to the rail. Noplace to go, hah!

So then ddranch had me untie him and hold him, and he actually climbed up on the bugger! Sol tried to take off, but I had the lead and didn't let him. I gave the lead to Ddranch, and tied the end to his halter, creating makeshift reins.

And then they walked around. Oh yeah, Sol pinned his ears, he squealed, he crow-hopped, he swished his tail, but Ddranch persevered in his calm, consistent way, admonishing him verbally as soon as he acted up, and praising him when he did not. All they did was walk around, and by the end of it Sol was being a bit better.

Now, for a while Sol wasn't quite as bad. But then he went back to old habits. Habits he had before I got him, as I discovered a little while ago. Tricks to get out of work. It got him out of being a lesson horse. Ddranch feels that a lot of these issues that Sol has are because he is expecting pain. He's expecting abuse. He has been through hell, and he has had a hard life. But now it is time for him to learn that his life is not like that any more, and his job is to be ridden.

We have not entirely ruled out pain. We'll be testing that with bute at some point. But most of it seems to be behavioral in nature. Ddranch says that he has a lot of issues, and it might take quite some time to work through them. I'm not to ride him yet. Solomon is not a beginner's horse. I will get to ride some of Ddranch's horses though, and that will be a treat! I'll get to learn how to ride on a horse that will be willing to teach me. And eventually I'll get on Solomon's back again... when we are both ready.

On Sunday I am going back up again, and by the gods we're going to get him lunging for me. He knows how. He just has my number. And I just need to learn how to signal him in a way that he'll understand and obey. There might be some stomping, hah.

Other tidbits:

I learned how to oil a bridle and reins to keep them soft and supple.

We are going to even out his hooves a bit, just do a little bit of trimming. His heels are not even, and that is a problem.

Sol could care less about his Jollyball. At least for now. Maybe he'll get bored enough to play with it eventually.

I got to see a foal that was born I think 35 hours or so ago. AWWWH! Did not get to approach, but maybe someday.

I saw a fellow riding his horse around, and a little while later I saw the horse sans rider go running by, and then the fellow came running after her. Haha. He wasn't hurt, and he got right back on when he caught her. He was wearing a helmet, heh.

I am beginning to think that Ddranch, on the other hand, can ride about anything. He might laugh it I tell him I think so. I'm going to guess that while he might be able to, he's also smart enough not to.

Ddranch thinks that Solomon does actually have some Arab in him. He can see TB, QH, and Arab in the way he looks and moves.

And finally, I am so very, very glad that I moved Solomon here. I feel relaxed, he feels relaxed, and it is a happy, healthy place! We're really going to work through this stuff. Yay!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Prepping for the move

I just cleared an entire can worth of trash, and most of a huge recycling bin worth of recycling from my car. Ow my back!
After I've taken a nice break, I shall drive to Hossmoor, tend to the Sol-Sol, and start packing up. I'm going to leave a few things for tomorrow- the med-kit, a couple of leg wraps (I'm going to be improvising some front-leg shipping boots, heh) and some washing supplies. I am not sure there's warm water for washing horses up in the Pope Valley ranch, and I'd like Sol to arrive looking clean. It'll mean getting up a little early, but I'll deal. If I was him today, he'll be filthy by tomorrow, hah.
I found a couple horse supply type things in my car, which I hadn't cleaned out since my back surgery years ago... his washing scrub-brush, for example, had filtered through the strata to the floor of my car. The car went from a 2-seater to a 5-seater today too. Okay I'm pretty proud of the car cleaning.

Anyway, I'll admit, I'm nervous as hell. Have I made the right choice? Am I going to be able to drive up there as much as I'd like? Will Sol forgive me? Okay Sol will probably not understand that he's being moved because I chose to move him. But still. Will he adjust? Will he have enough space? Will he make new friends up there? Will he miss his friends at Hossmoor?
Hah, I must sound like a parent sending her kid to a new school.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Progress, woot.

Yesterday I spent a good amount of time with Solomon, tending to his hooves and grooming him.
Then we worked on saddling. The squealing and kicking really is behavioral at this point, and so not okay... luckily (and unluckily) he's a pretty smart horse. So we spent time with my lightest saddle, which really weighs nothing. I can carry it on my head without thinking about it.
He squealed when I touched his shoulder with it. He squealed when I put it on, and took it off. Yeah, not buying it, guy. So he responds best to positive feedback. We started with me putting it back on when he squealed, to show him that it wasn't getting him out of saddling. So he was watching me when I picked up the saddle and he did not squeal. I gave him a "good boy" and stroked his crest.
Then I got out the carrots.
If I put on the saddle and he didn't squeal or twitch, he'd get a little carrot piece. As always when carrots are involved, he caught on quickly. Very soon, I could put it on, take it off, wiggle it, and mess around with it without him reacting... except to crane his neck around and make "gimmeh carrot" lips, haha. After doing that for a while longer, the lesson was over.

Here you can see him nice and relaxed, hoping for more carrot:

Afterwards I took him out to the pasture and we did carrot stretches. I always end with the "kiss me" trick. I walked a little ways away and looked back, and there he was with his head upside down between his legs, foot tilted on the toe, mouth hanging open for easy carrot insertion. Hahaha. Nope, I didn't give the command, silly boy, and I was out of carrots anyway. But hey, if he wants to stretch his back without me telling him to, he's welcome to it. That horse is full of hopes and dreams, I tell ya!

I know that a lot of horsepeople are against hand treating, because it can make a horse pushy, disrespectful, or even nippy, but with Solomon it really seems to be the most effective means of training him, so long as he is reminded to be both trusting and respectful. He nipped me once, back at the old place last summer, and only once. That's all it took for him to learn that nipping mom was Not Okay. He hasn't tried again since.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

OMG wind!!!!

Sol was good today except for stepping on my foot. Gr.
Anyway, it was windy out, and the horses went nuts!

They were running around like crazy today! All the horses on the property seemed to be riled up, except for Dragon who takes everything in stride.

The black and white paint with the blue eyes came up for some love while I was watching the herd. He really loves getting skritches behind his ears, as it turns out.

Kyrie, the big horse with the clipped body, wants Venus all to himself, and has been trying to herd her around. She bites him but sniffs him in interesting places a lot, heh. I think she's going into heat, actually. I hope Solomon and Kyrie don't fight over her too much. They're both gelded, but try telling them that!

Anyway, it's always good to see Solomon having a good run.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A better day.

Solly was a good boy today.
I had to go get him on the hillside because the rival gelding was a little too curious about me, and Sol wasn't about to come up to me when he was right there- I think Kyrie can kick Solomon's butt, heh.
So I climbed the little ways up the hillside to him. It was dry, not slick and muddy, so it wasn't such a big deal. He approached me a bit, and lowered his head for the halter, but the hillside was so steep that I couldn't reach the top of his head, haha. Had to climb up to reach the top of his head.
After I haltered him, he very readily walked with me. I gave him a long lead, though he still tried to crowd me a bit at one point. Put a stop to that (steep hillside + crowding? UH UH.) Anyway we made it down the hill and to his stall. I stopped at the car with him to grab a couple of horse cookies I had in my glove box. Forgot about them late last year, haha.
Then it was hoof picking with some iodine, and I had to run home. He was a good boy and a love today though, and on days like this I remember why I put up with the butthead days. <3

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Solomon got wormed today. Took about 20 minutes.
Then he had his eyes flused.
Then he got intensive full body tick and fly spray.
For all that, he was deceptively calm the entire walk up to the pasture. I was too complacent and foolhardy. I will admit this. I took off his halter before he had gone all the way through the gate. He always goes through the gate.
Well, except for today. Today he got this look that I knew was trouble, and sure enough, he went galloping off down the bridle path.
Towards the trailers.
The grain room.
The 100k dressage horses.
The covered arena with several riders.
As I latched the pasture gate (wasn't going to let the other horses out) he was charging down the road. He turned a corner around the trailers, out of sight, and visions popped into my mind, ones that cost more money than all my assets combined ending in my BO shooting me out behind the shed. Also I was worried that he'd get his fool self hurt, more worried about that than anything.
But a second later he came back around and started rolling in the dirt of the path. He rolled until I got too close (walking calmly, not running,) and then he jumped up, sniffed my hand, and took off again, running one way, running the other way, giving me a snort as he passed, and then cantering back up to me, whereupon I threw a rope over his neck and the game was over in his mind. He quietly let me halter him and take him back to the pasture, where I did NOT release him immediately as I normally do, but instead we had to stand perfectly still for a good 10 minutes. THEN I let him go.
It was clear that he thought it was just the funniest, most entertainng thing ever.
Up the road came the on-site trainer, who smirked at me and asked "are we having fun yet?" Hah.
"Er, you saw that eh?"
"Yep, all of it. That horse is trouble, girl."

So we might need to work a little on who is dominant and in charge. And maybe we'll work on "come here" and "stand" more as well, heh. Honestly I'd love for us to be able to just take walks with him running around loose (but with no road access) with me, but that is dangerous at a big boarding facility.

The BO is going to hear about this and she is going to KILL me. :/

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lovely day.

Today, Solomon and Critter were standing nose to nose when I showed up. As soon as Sol saw me, he abandoned his buddy and nickered like crazy, nudging the gate with his nose. I'd brought him in for the latest rain storm, which I don't like doing but it's better than more wound-wrapping.
So he was unhappy that we went straight to the cross-ties, but was a good boy anyway. The section I put him in turned out to have ropes that were too short, so I only put one clip on his halter. This allowed him to lower his head and move around a bit. I'd given him a carrot for doing "kiss me" on command, and Sol decided to "bow" to try and beg for more. Silly boy. He doesn't get carrots unless he does these things on command, but that doesn't stop hope from springing eternal.
So his feet got cleaned and they got their iodine treatment. It seems to be working quite well.
So I walked Sol to the trap turnout, which has a gate to the pasture. I've found that when he's antsy it's a lot easier and less dangerous to turn him out in the trap and then let him in the pasture after he has calmed down a bit- if he's feeling too stir-crazy he will plunge and rear the whole walk up to the pasture, the butthead.
So anyway, I let him loose in the trap. He rolled right away, with no regard for the sharp gravel and rocks in the ground. Some of his dings are a little less mysterious now. :p
Then he went galloping all the way to the pasture gate. Heh. I got him to calm down enough to do his carrot stretches. While we were doing this, two of his little band came up to the gate- Dragon and Venus. It took a bit of convincing to get them to move away enough for me to safely let Sol into the pasture, but move they did, and he joined them on the other side. After a bit, I joined them as well.
Dragon was rubbing on the gate-post, swishing his tail and stomping. He looked itchy. Venus nibbled on his side and came away with a mouthful of hair. I waited until Venus and Sol had wandered a handful of feet away and then gave Dragon a skrtich. I got a fistful of horse-wool. Dragon's eye was soft and his lip was droopy while I rubbed and scratched him all over. I swear I got half a horse worth of hair. It came out like crazy, revealing bright, burnished copper hair beneath. I had forgotten what a lovely color Dragon was! When I finished he still had shagginess, but he looked much better, and seemed to be a lot less itchy too. I wish I'd taken my camera with me.
Then after a bit Sol and Dragon decided to graze together, and Venus approached. She was pretty polite about it, and I closed the last bit of distance. She raised up her head and very lightly brushed me with her nose, which made me a bit nervous since she has now bit her owner twice. She was a good girl, though. She rested her muzzle on my shoulder and ever-so-gently pressed her velvety cheek against mine. She sighed and let me rub her cheeks. After a minute or so she moved off to join the boys. I treasure moments like this.
Solomon is friends with Venus and Dragon. I have realized that I am, too. I'm glad that I will still get to visit them while Sol is up north. Of everything, this is what I worry about the most- separating him from them for so long. I think they will all be fine, but I still feel a bit guilty about it.
When I left, they were all happily munching on grass and hay under a blue sky with fluffy clouds. What a lovely day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day in pictures

Sol was rather soft and clean just about all over. Did something bathe him in the night? Heh. He was looking glossy, and now his spots are coming back... He turns almost completely white in the winter, but in the summer he has brown spots and black spots all over his body. Fleabitten they call it.

Anyway he was looking- overall, rather flowy, not scraggly and terribly muddy.

Venus was Very Interested in whatever business I was about. She is taking her duties of miss princess future alpha mare VERY seriously, I'll have you know!

I'll admit, I had my hand under that chin because I was a little worried that she was going to start nipping, as this is the New Fun Thing, but she was a good girl.

If I were rich, I would totally see if I could buy Venus just so she and Sol would have each other forever... though I'd get her trained and find a compassionate girl who wants to do something equestrian that Venus would be good at, eventually.


There is something wrong with critter. He has foot problems big time, and I guess a vet x-rayed him today. His feet hurt a lot, even with special shoes.
But Critter is also not eating, it seems, or not very much.
I think maybe Critter also gets lonely.
I brought Sol in for the night because there was rain that was supposed to be coming. Sad sad sad only maybe rain, as it happens, but for tonight at least, Critter will not be alone.

Why, how rude!

Critter was so happy to see Solomon that he stood with his muzzle pressed against Sol's neck.

Solomon, for his part, did not bite critter, which shows approval according to him, I think, and then he was so happy to steal Critter's hay from under the paddock mat.

Oh and this was the other day, but:

I am a mom, albeit a horse mom, so I have to have photos like this. Horses aren't easily embarrassed like kids are though. In fact, really they have no shame. But the photos still make me laugh! :D