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.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Solomon backs up!

Today it was a little hot, but not too bad. I was feeling kind of down, but it was good to see my boy, good to see Bo and DeDe, and to meet a returning boarder and friend of Bo and Dede. She was a very sweet lady and I am glad I got to meet her. Solomon is no longer the tall horse on the ranch, nor is he the only grey- one of the new horses boarding at the ranch is also a grey, and he is a TB. He's a little taller than Solomon, and his wither is much more of a shark fin.
We talked about TB brains and how TBs tend to learn. TB stubbornness and TB force of personality. I love my boy, but mindwise I wish he were an Icelandic!

Anyway, I'm going to be fly spraying the new grey horse. :) He is a sweet and stately old guy.

After grooming we did some walking through the chute, and then walking him into the chute with the gate closed, then backing him out again. When we backed out the last time, I took Solomon's halter off, but that's where his horsey brain failed and instead of going around the pipe paddocks, he went back into the chute and begged me to open the gate. Heh. Then when I opened the gate he DID go around the pipe paddocks, circling around behind the hay barn (and nonchalantly walking right past some tack room construction with a table saw) to get to his tree.

Solly grazed way down the fence line...

Where Teddybear squealed and kicked the fence. Solomon, however, was not phased and did not even lift his head up from grazing. He couldn't figure out how to go around the chute, but he understood that Teddy Bear couldn't reach him through the fence.

When he started grazing back up the fence, he stopped by to check in on me and sniff me. He also had to grab a mouthful of grass, since he was there and all.

It's weird not seeing his eyes, still. But those flies are so bad that when you shoo them off his legs, blood wells up from their biting. No way am I taking off that mask for the day. He gets it off for riding however. I might have to invest in one of those under-bridle fly bonnets.

Solomon also got some tail-skritches, which he loves. He'll lift his tail up into them, and if you move your hand to the side, his tail will follow. He' like a cat that way.

We filed off that bit of hoof that was cracked, to check it out, and so Bo could show me what it was. Solomon is due for a trim pretty soon. We found that the crack wasn't deep, but that there was also some old bruising under there.

See the purple on the yellow part of the hoof in the back? It's along the crack AND near the bottom of the hoof.

So today his lesson "undersaddle" was bareback and short. Today we decided to see how he would handle backing up.

First, we put something new on him. We're still trying different things out. When Sol gets upset he tends to gape and chomp a whole lot, so today we tried a Western version of a noseband. Here you can see Bo demonstrating the "two finger" rule. You want two fingers of space at the bottom, both so you know the horse can easily breathe, and so you can get the bit in his mouth afterwards!

Solly was unimpressed.

Next was the bridle. I put it in his mouth today. I put molasses on the bit, which Solomon readily took in his mouth. We adjusted it so it wasn't pulling too hard on the corners of his mouth, but so it was high enough for him to pack easily with his tongue. Then I held out my fingers, which had molasses on them. Solomon dutifully licked every last sticky bit off, even between each finger. What an altruist!

Generally Solomon responds pretty well to this bit. He does not ignore it like the snaffle. Maybe at some point we'll go back to the snaffle, though I actually am not really sure he likes it.

So we took Sol to the chute again. At this point he was sick of that particular routine, and didn't want to go in and out a bunch of times on the ground. I had to kind of shoo him in, though he backed out readily enough. So then it was time for the big test- riding him in and backing him out. Brave jet pilot Bo was willing to take the (many) risks to give it a try. Thanks Bo!

So first Bo wanted to try backing him outside of the chute. The first challenge was getting on his back. That took a while. Sol did NOT want to be ridden. No sir. It took a lot of time to position him next to the fence that Bo was perched on. Then we had to convince him to hold still, which we eventually did. It was interesting to see the moment when Sol gave in. The second time Bo mounted him, when he gently laid his leg over Solomon, I could actually see and feel (since I was holding on to Sol's butt and shoulder, heh) the moment when he decided to let Bo on... he leaned towards him instead of trying to swing away. But then when he was asked to back, he fell apart. He does two big things- he tosses his head up high, high enough to hit an unsuspecting person in the nose. Bad bad bad. Less bad, but also not good, he tucks his chin in, evading the bit behind the vertical.

You can see him gaping and chomping too. But today we learned something big! This is not physical pain that he is expressing, when he is asked to back. It is mental distress. It is an emotional issue for him. How did we figure this out? Bo rode him into the chute, and then backed him out.

Look at that! Look at the loose rein. Look at how readily and calmly Solomon backs out.

But once he is completely out of the chute, if you ask him to back up more, without a fence on either side of him, he falls apart again. He just can't handle it. Not yet. So next time we are adding another panel. The chute will be twice as long. I think about 24 feet.

So Solomon understands going back in the chute. If we back him with someone riding him and a bridle in the chute enough, hopefully the lightbulb will go off and he will understand the guidance that we are trying to give him... that the commands Bo gives mean "back up in a straight line." And, just as important, that it is OK and safe for him to do so.

We may well end up doing this, walking, and some light trotting for the next year. That might be how long it will take. But as the nice new boarder lady with the TB says, "there's no rush- you aren't going to the Olympics or anything!"


jeniferb said...

that was excellent backing. good job. Yes the new boarder gave you excellent advice, none of us are going to the Olympics! Hope you didn't over do it yesterday and feel good today?

Evergrey said...

Thank you so much Jenifer! :D

Yesterday for the most part I was agiant lump in a chair. Grr. I am a lot like Solomon in some ways- I really want to just go go go, forward forward forward, even if it hurts me. But today I am functional. I will probably be going back on the Atkins diet in a week. Maybe it will help, as it is the only diet that ever has, though I can't do the crazy amount of working out that I did last time. But we'll see.

I'll be up on Sunday, so maybe I'll see you there, eh? :D