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, May 19, 2009

Solomon's Big Day of Training on the Ground

Today I got to meet the new boarder, Bluesky, who is also from the former Fugly Horse of the Day forum, now called the Free Speech Horse forum.

Bo had a bunch of construction to do. They are building a new tack room, and it is going to be nice. At the start of the day, however, he was able to do something with us- he built a chute!

Here it is open.

The concept behind this chute is that it is a very direct way to teach a difficult horse to back. Now, with Solomon, fighting him doesn't work. The best approach is a gradual, patient one, where he learns that he is not going to get attacked or hurt, but he also has to obey and do what is being asked of him. First, we lead Solomon through the chute, back and forth.

Here he is, not bored yet. Oh, but did he ever get bored with this later! Bored is just fine, so long as he is listening and learning. With an animal that weighs over a thousand pounds, I will take boredom over panic any day.
"What's going on, mom?"

But then came a twist! Then we gated off one end of the chute.

There was only one way out- backwards!

Aaah I don't like seeing myself on film. That is not a flattering angle, haha! But anyway, here we are, starting out the backing training. I did adjust how I held the rope and he did learn to back out a little more straight after this. He also didn't get to go for grass later either, heh. We did this over and over several times throughout the day.

I would let him go graze for a bit, and then bring him in and do some work, then let him go again. He was starting to get an attitude about coming in from grazing, so I decided to mix it up a bit so he wouldn't know what to anticipate, and would get a little break between each lesson. Work, reward, work, reward, and coming in now has the potential for more rewards later, so it isn't as big of a deal. Plus, the more I catch him and bring him in, the more he will settle into it.

He's looking pretty healthy these days.

I walked him past the construction work a couple of times while Bo was running the saw, cutting boards, and the nice fellow he has hired was hammering nails. "Big deal," said Solomon, "can I eat some more grass?" I called out, "Sol could be a construction horse!" Then I realized that doesn't really make sense. What is a construction horse? Does he wear a hard hat and maybe coveralls? Does he hold nails with his lips? Drag 2 X 4s around?

Aaaanyway, then I took him in the roundpen and, well, I roundpenned him. Just walking and trotting. We practiced transitioning between the two, and we practiced whoa. I am proud to say that while he did not stop immediately every time, he also did not try to come in and press himself on my shoulder once. I also, at the end of the lesson, got him to walk, trot, and whoa just with hand and voice signals- no whip signals.

But the lesson didn't end there! Then it was gate time. Ohhh dreaded gate time. Again he begged and pleaded, but no, we had to go through slowly, and when he rushed through those last couple of steps, we had to go back in and come through the gate AGAIN.

*bored pout*

Then it was more grazing. The herd was interested in Sol...

...and Sol was interested in the baby, who was also out.

I thought I was going to have to pull him in, as Magic was getting unhappy with him and he would not stop following them around, but then they suddenly resolved the matter. Hah, check this out- they are lined up by color!

Solomon, however, did not escape entirely unscathed. He lost a bit of hair off his butt!

Don't worry, he didn't lose any skin, and I'm sure he deserved it. He needs to learn to back off when a momma horse tells him to.

Next up was trailering lessons. Solomon loaded just fine. He's actually much more nervous about unloading. He is not tied here- the rope is just looped up and over. But he stood nicely anyway.

One of the times he backed out, he didn't back out straight and wasn't quite as careful as he needed to be, so he stumbled a bit. He was nervous about loading and unloading again after that, so we did it more. I wanted him to see that it really was okay. I guided him a bit more going down the ramp so he wouldn't step off the edge. And then when I mixed up his grain pan, I put it in the trailer. Oh he was nickering up a storm, and then he was quite happy to go back in.

By the way, he is not the sort of horse to jerk back and freak out if he steps on his leadrope. He just stands there and gets this "help?" look on his face. Otherwise I wouldn't put him in the trailer with his rope draped on him like that. It's good practice though.

So that was Solomon's day, and there was a lot of learning. Much of it was stuff he already knew, but it was re-enforced. The chute was new, but he dealt with it really well. Once he locked up because he was just plain tired of going in and out, but I got him moving again pretty quickly.

So then Solomon got to go back into his pasture with Poco Joe.

Yes, I really do talk to him like this all the time.

I watered all the horses today. Twisted my stupid ankle in a stupid gopher hole. Well, that'll teach me to watch where I am going! I also discovered that the hot wire around Vinnie and Remmy's pasture is live. Owww. I told Bo and he grinned and said "thank you for testing that for me, Ev!" It was a slightly bloodthirsty grin, heheh.

A lot of the horses love a little spray with the water. Remmy was drinking right out of the hose, and he, Leo, and Vinnie all got a quick little spray, which they loved. Solomon got a spray too, and he actually stood still for it and seemed to enjoy it. He is learning the joys of water on a hot day!

After dragging big hoses around, uncoiling and coiling them, I got a little chuckle out of this:

Yep, I'm going to agree. Having the hose right next to the trough is, indeed, ideal.


littledog said...

I just finished reading "The New Work of Dogs", by Jon Katz, and am convinced that Sol is a real Construction Horse, it actually does make sense.

Evergrey said...

Haha, he's stoic enough for it, if there's food around. ;)