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!


Manda said...

Solly looks so great! :)

Evergrey said...

Thank you so much! :D I am so happy for him.

Anonymous said...

*drools* I'm moving to DDR's ranch... California is SO pretty for about a month or two in the spring. I miss that... And after the whole 'northern california fuglyite meetup' thread, I'm pretty sure most people know his name is Bo. haha. I doubt he'll mind.