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, April 28, 2009

Shoes shoes shoes.

Yesterday morning the farrier came by and gave Solomon shoes!
I was unfortunately not able to make it up in time to meet him or see the process. Next time I'll find a way to be there though.
Solomon has shown an immediate change. He was seen playing with the Little Bay Gelding. He walks on gravel roads with his knees stepping high, just like he was on soft ground. And letting him loose on the property now finds him traveling a LOT more.

Here he is, waiting to be groomed. He isn't standing like that normally- I pushed him forward to get him standing evenly on the mat, and he just stretched that way. Why Solomon, you look like some sort of stud photo!

His back feet look good, but man are they tiny! Poor boy really did get jilted in the hoof department. I forgot to ask what size shoe he is wearing, but I'm guessing it's a 1.

We took him in the roundpen and lunged him, which he calmly did... but he didn't want to stop trotting. He did well with everything today except whoa. I dropped the whip, stopped following, even tucked into myself a bit, but all he would do was roll back and go the other direction. I guess maybe it felt good! He did eventually stop of course.

When I got his feed pan and put in some senior feed, he came running to me. I wanted to mix in some water, so I took off, and there he was trotting behind me... I can't move fast enough to get him to canter with me, haha. So there he was trotting behind me with his neck arched over my shoulder, stretching his lips out towards the pan. Good thing he is a careful boy around me. There was no kicking me, stepping on me, or bumping into me. Actually, come to think of it, he seems more graceful with shoes, too.

I would like to note that he has now been living at the ranch for a full month, and he has not injured himself once. Maybe it WAS the pasture. Or maybe he really didn't get along with someone out there. Food for thought.

It was windy, and a bird's nest blew down, which DeDe found. Stupid camera didn't get a clear shot of it, but:

The bird in question used grass cuttings and some alfalfa for the outside of her nest, and horse hairs for the inside! Nice and soft. I feel badly for her, because she is going to have to rebuild that nest now. We didn't find any eggs or baby birds though.

When Bo got home, we tried out various bits on Solomon... a D-ring snaffle, a bit with a roller, a dogbone bit, and a mullen bit. Of all of them, he was the most quiet and calm with the mullen. He wasn't chomping or yanking on it. He wasn't pulling it hard. Maybe, for the moment, it's a better bit for him. Of course our goal is always to go lighter and lighter, but sometimes you have to figure out where the starting point is.

Solomon has always held his head really high while working. Previous owners have used a martingale or bungee to make him frame up. We are hoping to teach him to hold his head in the right place so that he will not need to have anything extra tied to him while working. To this end, we are doing a little work with a surcingle. About 5 minutes three times a week, mostly at the walk, maybe with a bit of trot, and NOT at the canter.

Why do it?
Because he needs to hold his head and neck in the proper position to safely work without injuring himself. With his head up high, he hollows out his back, which causes all sorts of chiropractic issues, and makes him work the wrong muscles all along the length of his body. He needs to round his back and use the muscles on the top of his neck.
This is his first time in a surcingle, at least with us, and it is going to take him some time to figure it out. The key is to never apply too much pressure on the horse while working him with one of these, nor use it for too long. A horse in a surcingle who panics can be a serious wreck... so one needs to do the work calmly and steadily, using it as a training tool, NOT a shortcut.
I might get a little flak because we are going this route. But his muscles are not developed correctly, and as an older horse with a body that has seen a lot of abuse, we need him to be safe and in the proper condition to be a working horse. This is not being done in order to make him look pretty, though it will certainly make him move a lot more nicely in the long term, but in order to prevent him from hurting his back. Proper posture is important with all athletes, including horses. It is like learning to lift with your legs.
Of course, as Bo would put it, if we could perform a Vulcan mind meld and put the idea of proper posture right into his head, we'd do it that way.
Anyway, the surcingle is the European version of the Estern side rein where one ties one rein to the rear D ring of the saddle shorter than the other for lateral flex, or ties both back for vertical flex. We started with lateral, getting him to bend on both sides until he held his head so that both reins had looseness to them, and then we moved to vertical, which you can see here.

Again, remember that this is his first time, and it is a puzzle that he is just learning to find the solution to.

So far, so good. Solomon has already proved to be a very fast learner, so long as one does not push him too hard. I think he will pick this up pretty quickly.

I also think the big challenge will be convincing him to hold his head in place on his own, without any tack in the roundpen. He seems to WANT to hold his head high and ewe neck. It's an old old habit. At least 5 years old. He might have never had the proper time and training put into him to hold himself correctly. People, Bo told me, tend to want to just lunge their horse for a bit then get on and go. But sometimes you need to take a step back and work your way up a bit.

It's hard with a horse that is such a mystery and has been through so many different owners. If Bo had started him as a colt, he would be a different horse. He'd still be Solly of course, but he wouldn't have had 17 years or so of confusion and bad habits built up. But he is the horse that he is, and we're going to keep working with him and see how far we can go.

After his work was done for the day, I took Solomon back to his pasture with the LBG. Solomon is very insistent that I am HIS human, and he tends to chase the LBG off me.

Okay, I just had to add this one- he was shaking his head when the camera went off:

I also went in and had a little visit with Teddy Bear. Silly brain damage, I think I told Bo about this twice, haha. Or maybe I accidentally told him once that I picked Magic's feet... hmm, I wonder if she'd let me? Anyway, since I did it once, Teddy has decided that I'm okay and maybe I won't try to pick at her chestnuts. Out in her pasture, she calmly let me pick up all four of her feet. Next time I'll take out a hoof pick and brush- pulling out rocks with one's fingernails is an inadvisable endeavor. I got 'em though!

And of course I have a photo of the baby. She's a month old and already grazing. I watched her eat a big mouthful of grasses! I didn't know they started eating grass so young... but she was trying to do it at a week old, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

She's also already tossing her head high to express her sassiness, just like her momma.

Aaaand a video. The baby is wandering farther away from momma's side nowadays, though a big scary truck will send her running right back! And then Magic and her baby put themselves away in a pen, hah!

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