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, April 5, 2009

Play, worries, and washing

Apologies if this log is a little shorter today. I had to take some vicodin. Some days are more iffy than others, painwise. But I'm still going out and doing stuff, and so is Sol!

Today when I arrived at the ranch, Bo had a surprise for me.

Solomon is in a pasture now. Yaaay!

We introduced two new horses, to expand his herd. First, a two year old.

Solomon says "I am the boss!"

The two year old says "okay, you are the boss!"

With horses, one horse getting behind another is like showing their soft white underbelly. Getting back there makes them vulnerable to getting kicked.

Then Solomon met the four year old.

Ultimately Solomon kind of backed down because he did not want to play rough. The 4 year old and the three year old, however, enjoyed playing a number of fighting games.

Rearing and mock boxing!

I'm gonna get your leg!

I'm going to make you back up!

After everyone settled down a bit, Solomon came out. He was quite willing. All these whippersnappers acting up, you know.

And here is a hat on his butt.

So today Bo saddled Solomon up, but I bridled him. Split reins can actually be a little confusing at first if one is used to a single loop and not so great at left and right, heh. Not that I'm admitting to anything! But we discussed the D-ring snaffle with little bits of copper in it, and how to properly hold the bridle as well as placing the reins on one's shoulder. We broke the process down into steps. Show him the bridle. Touch him with the bridle. Cradle the bit and hold the chin strap out of the way while sticking a finger in the corner of his mouth. Putting the bit in his mouth. Putting the rest of the bridle behind his ears. These little steps seem like nothing much, but to a horse each one can be a lot to process. Thankfully, Solomon is by now kind of an old hand at this. At first he would have to be chased all around with the bridle, but now he is good about it.

Solomon was a very patient boy, and after the first time he opened his mouth and took the bit very quietly. The third time we put a bit of molasses on it. Yum! Ahh molasses. So very useful! We will come back to it later.

We then had me move the mounting block next to Solomon and practice going up the two steps and pretending to start to mount. Solomon was actually a very good boy for this. He did not move much. After the first move, which was very small, he stood nice and quiet, even when I put a foot in the stirrup:

Next Bo showed me how to tie off a rein to work on that lateral flex. I will need to watch the knot being tied a few more times. Then I attempted to roundpen him. The key word here is "attempted." So far Bo is the only person I have seen successfully roundpen (aka free-lunge) my horse. Another woman was there whom I had previously met at a gathering at Bo's. At that gathering, I got to roundpen her horse. He did a great job and was easy to roundpen. Not so, my horse. She also tried. He alternately stuck to her, or stuck to me. I could not make myself scary enough to get him to move out. He just does not believe it. And you can't smack him into moving out either. He'll just take it and shut down.

Eventually Bo came back from showing something to a couple of people, and managed to get him out by yelling and being very scary. Not because he wanted to be all rough, but because that's what it took to get him out. Now this might begin to paint a picture... but we aren't sure yet.

Bo mounted with not very much fuss, and rode him in the roundpen. He wasn't happy. Not at all. Solomon was pinning his ears constantly, not halting, throwing his head around, trying to evade. At times he was very responsive, doing figure 8s and even rollbacks. But at other times he just wasn't listening and was very upset.

We're concerned.

See, going in a straight line is no problem. Circles though? Problem.

Is it in his head? Is it environmental? Or is it physical? Three distinct factors. It may well be a combination of two or more. It may be that he just can't mentally handle running around in a small space. It may be that too much was going on today- there were people, kids, dogs, all kinds of stimulation. He could have just been having a bad day. Or...

Or it could be sore feet. arthritis. Or navicular. I have this sinking feeling, this fear.

Solomon stumbles sometimes. He stumbles and the vet said to not run him fast in really tight circles. Well, he might now have problems with big circles too. Now, he doesn't SEEM to be walking with pointed toes, but... we're going to take this one step at a time. Later in the evening we had a serious talk. If it's pain, Solomon might just be too damaged from too many years of abuse to be ridden any more. I mean, a gentle walk in a straight line seems fine, but if it is injuries, for how long?

So what we'll do is what the vet suggested I try if I found a saddle that fit and he still had behavior problems while being ridden. We are going to bute him, and then Bo will ride him. We'll try both the road and the round pen. We'll do a series of rides over a series of days. And then we'll try again without the bute. If his behavior changes depending on whether or not he is buted, then it is a pain issue, at least in part. Then it will be time to get the local vet out. We might need to do x-rays. If the news is bad... then I'll walk Solomon and let him eat grass. I'll brush him and give him backrubs and keep him comfy. And I'll ride Teddy. Teddy is a sweet and experienced mare, good with beginners and almost as tall as Solomon. Not that I need tall, but she is also big and stout.

But it breaks my heart a little just to think about Solomon in pain.

The ride was pretty brief. Afterwards I took him to the trailer, and we worked with the mounting block. He stood very quietly tied. He now knows that the trailer is the hitching post, and he actually is much more comfortable with a short single tie than a cross-tie. He just barely tolerates cross-ties half the time. I don't like them either to be honest. The bridle was off, at this point. So I practiced standing at the mounting block with him, and after a couple of times (he didn't move one bit this time!) I decided to try mounting.

I forgot that the stirrups were set to the "Bo" setting and not the "Ev" setting. See, Bo can tie Solomon up high on the trailer, but I have to climb up on the wheel well to do that. So I put my foot in the stirrup and tried to get up. Stupid gimpy body. I ended up draped over the saddle, unable to get up. Stubby legs are stubby. Solomon took this in good fait and stood quietly, though I am pretty sure I heard a little sigh. The kind of sigh that a 12 year old girl gives her mom when she does something mortifyingly embarrassing in public. Yeah. I got down. I messed with the stirrups, which on that saddle are much more complicated than Ye Olde English Leathers'n'Irons. There were many layers of leather, leather ties, leather buckles, and pieces of metal with metal pegs. With some help it got all nice and sorted out, and with a little "use common sense, you wouldn't run around with only one shoe on" encouragement, I hitched up the other stirrup too, even though I had no intention of riding.

Sooo, I climbed up that mounting block (literally, it only has two steep steps and my legs are really stubby, hah) and managed to get myself on Solomon's back without pulling the saddle to the side. Go me! and Solomon stood quietly. Go him! I slipped him a carrot section for that. And then I sat on him, and he stood quiet, nice and relaxed. I dismounted as gently as I could, and then I mounted again, and again he was good, though he pinned his ears for a moment after a bit. I think maybe that was because he was wondering why we were just standing there. He was tied the whole time... I wanted to ride, just gentle and in a straight line, but I knew it was a bad idea, of course, and did not. I dismounted and slipped him another bit of carrot.

Next we did trailer loading. We went in fine. Backed out, and... I don't know what happened. His right front. He was backing up somewhat carefully, albeit off at an angle, and I don't know if he went off the edge or stumbled or what, but he went half down and his nose hit the ramp. I was scared for him then. Gods please no, let him be okay. Let him just be clumsy.

He didn't want to go back in. We took a short walk about 1 feet out and back again.

We went up into the trailer a second time. and he got a bit of oat hay. Then we backed out very slowly and carefully. He backed out straight this time. No stumbling, no problem. Thank the gods.

We walked to my car and I got a bottle of water. He no longer tries to climb into the car, which is good, because Saturns are not Sol-sized. He backed out from between my car and the truck next to it perfectly. I didn't have to say anything. Another good point.

Then he got untacked, and he got a bath. Solomon does not like long baths, but when I feel nervous, I groom him. When I'm really worried, I wash him and fuss over him and make him so sparkling white that you can't look at him on a bright day. He happened to pose in a lovely fashion for this photo:

Next it was time for a reward. Long past time... he went through a lot today, he processed a lot, he did a lot, and he had to put up with a lot. So... hand grazing. And let me tell you, he is already so much better at only grazing with permission.

His tail is now so long it drags on the ground when brushed out.

And here he is eating grass and other tasty green plants.

So Bo came by and sat in the grass with me while Solomon grazed. We talked about the day and the things we had observed, and we talked about bute. I told him the long and complicated process of coaxing him to eat grain with bute powder. He went and got a clean empty worming tube. He showed me how to hook your finger inside a horse's mouth, up in the corner and back along the cheek, without having your finger bit. That's not to say Solomon didn't try. He really doesn't care for tubes in his mouth, hah.

So we took him back to the trailer and tied him again. Then Bo had me wrap my hand around him, under the chin, around and over the nose, kind of like a hug. He had me hold the tube (which had molasses on it) and just touch it to the side of his mouth, above the corner, then slowly slide it towards his lips, ease a finger into the corner, and when he calmed down, switching from my finger to the tube. Here you can see him doing it first.

It DID get easier with time. In between putting-the-tube-in sessions, I let Solomon lick the molasses off my fingers. He licked all around, even between fingers. I am proud of the fact that I can do this. In fact, at the end of this particular training session, he licked my fingers, voluntarily stuck his mouth over the tube, bit the tube hard, let go, and went back to gently licking my fingers. He could have bitten a finger if he wanted to. Heck, he could have bitten a finger off. But he didn't. He knew exactly what he was doing. What a good boy!

I love riding, but even if I can never ride him, I will always love him, and I will take care of him. I will keep him safe. And if he is hurting too much and there is no relief, I love him enough to let him go. But it's not that time. It's not. He's happy. He's getting happier. He's healthy. I have seen him very recently galloping up and down steep hills. That doesn't say "horse in too much pain" to me.

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