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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Is DDR showing you how the good, correct response looks like (in any of the tasks) with any of his other trained horses? I think that would be beneficial, just so you can see what the end product looks like, what your ultimate goal is.

Anonymous said...

WOOHOO! I found out how to use my name! lol

Evergrey said...

Oh yar, he works his other horses too, and I watch that when I am not doing stuff with Solomon myself. I got to watch him work Reiny Day after he finished with Solly. :)

And yay for names! :D