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, June 28, 2009

Always pack extra clothes *or* don't ride tired.

Today I had a great ride on Solomon!
He was in a bit of a grumpy mood, but he was a good boy and he did his job very well.

It had been a while since I had been up. Solomon was excited to see me!

he had a big day ahead of him. A big hot day!

After getting fly sprayed, bushed, and having his feet picked, Solomon did a bit of roundpenning.


And trotting:

Still ewe necked, but his head is starting to come down at times when he is trotting. He did not get cantered today, because I decided it was just too hot.

This did not stop him from lodging some complaints, however!

Next, Bo showed me how to stretch Solomon's legs. Solomon was very good for this- in the past he would occasionally get upset when someone else stretched his legs. He would paw a bit. He has gained a lot of flexibility however, and I think with slow, careful work and care he will gain some more!

After that Bo showed me some equine massage tips. Solomon appreciated this rather a lot.

Next, he had me rub a saddle blanket all over Solomon, toss it on him, and let him sniff it. Solomon stood nice and quiet in the round pen, though we did not restrain him in any way.

Next we let him sniff the saddle, and put it on him. Solomon tensed up for a moment or two when it went on his back. I think it was anticipation, not pain, because once he figured out that the saddle wasn't hurting him, he settled down and didn't care.

Here Bo is, talking about how a horse will anticipate.

Bo did a little conducting while Solomon sang an aria.

After I ran cool water over the bit, we bridled Solly. He didn't have a problem with that either, except that he grabbed the bit in his teeth instead of just taking it all the way into his mouth today. Anyway, we talked him into letting go pretty quickly.

Next we got some spurs, and I gently prodded his sides with them in various spots, to see which areas made him stress out. In the middle of his sides down near his belly he gets worried. Of course I did not hurt him, and prodded myself with the spurs before touching him with them, to get a feel for what was gentle and what was not.

Then it was time for doing a little bit of lateral flex. We gave Solomon the puzzle of one rein tied back. If he was supple and bent his head, it went slack. If he fought it, there was resistance. We found that he does not bend as well on his right side as he does on his left.

After we got lateral flex, we went for vertical. This is when Solomon got stressed out. Lowering his head would relieve pressure, but he was a little afraid. He has a hard time letting go. He fears hard, rough hands. He was biting his lip a bit and holding himself taut. He zoned out and wasn't responsive for a little while, but with a lot of petting and soothing I got him to come back to himself and relax. He lowered his head. Not a great picture, but I was busy.

After that, Bo hopped up on Solomon. He has a torn ligament in his knee. Maybe he shouldn't be riding. But I have a chronic back injury that might need surgery again. So what are we going to do, just give up? Naw.

Solomon was grumpers but compliant. Grumpypants are not so bad when the horse does not try to hurt you and does what he is asked to do. He was pretty much giving feedback, and I think the feedback was "It's hot and I haven't had to do anything for a week, what gives?"

But he did fine.

So then we brought the mounting block into the roundpen. YAY! I talked Bo into raising the stirrups up so that I could mount in a more gentle fashion.
The lack of stirrup use is our compromise. Bo teaches the ranch kids who come out to his place to ride bareback with a halter. He teaches balance, he teaches them how to read the horse, and how to have kind hands. Saddled and bridles are something that they graduate to.

Unfortunately, I can't really physically handle bareback yet. There isn't quite enough stability for me. And that is not fair to the horse either. Balance is important, and I am well aware that I am not small. It is very important for me to be balanced and gentle on my boy's back. We must take care of each other.

So I ride without stirrups. I actually prefer it that way. I don't like stirrups. And this way, I develop those important core muscles, and I learn to balance myself.

Solomon was grumpy, like I said, and did a bit of winging out, so we moved him next to a panel and I gave him some reassuring rubs and pettin's before I got on. It is not ideal, but Solomon is Solomon and sometimes he just needs a bit of babying. But again, we take care of each other.

Today I didn't have as much of a problem with leaning back. Bo did not put as much pressure on me to raise this hand or use that leg right this moment. I told him I'd be a bit calmer riding if Solomon and I got to just work it out between us a bit, and if I could just ride and explore a little bit. Of course, he is an excellent instructor. Balancing the needs of the horse and the rider is a delicate thing, and no one is going to know right away what techniques work best. As the rides progress, he will put more demands on me. But today was a day for Solomon and I to learn to communicate with each other.

One thing that Solomon did exceptionally well (for him) today was stopping! Yes, grumpypants and all. I raised one rein and then quickly released while stiffening my body, stretching my legs forward, and saying "ho." And he did! He usually would take maybe a step or so, or maybe a half step. And he stopped.

Here he is, getting a pet for stopping like a horse who is not totally green, yay Solly!

I am still working on not stretching my leg back behind me to give a leg cue. Not sure where that's coming from. I also focused hard on getting quieter hands. Solomon relaxed immediately. I do not yank the reins I don't think, and I keep them very loose, but I need to make certain that my hands do not move around.

In some bellydancing, you are supposed to envision your ribs sitting on a table, immobile, while your hips move. When you are riding, you move your hips with the motion, but you have to picture your hands almost as not being a part of you at all, but rather a part of the horse, so they do not move unless you are giving a cue. This is especially important with a highly sensitive horse like Solomon.

Thankfully he is also very kind.

See these eyes?

These are the eyes of a being who takes care of me.

Yes, this was a very good ride, and I was very happy!

It was 106 in the shade at the end of the ride, however, and I was very tired.
I did not push off the saddle as much as I should have.
I got off the horse, but my shirt did not.

Bo unhooked me (my horse is so tall I couldn't really reach it) aaaaand I did not have a spare shirt in my car. A spare shirt and spare pants are going in my trunk tonight, I tell you what.

I did not get scared or upset. I couldn't stop laughing, because this is SO something that would happen to me, you know?

So then I had to figure out what to do. I had an hour and a half drive home, after all.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Or is it the father?
Anyway, necessity's bastard child was a big rectangle of blue cotton that I use to dry my horse off when I wash him in the cold months. I pulled out a knife and made some holes for my head and arms.

Solomon had his own editorial comments to add... probably about the carrots I had for him. I don't normally hand treat, but today he so earned it.

And hey, I could totally go riding in Afghanistan. If they let women ride horses there.

So the moral of the story is twofold:

1. Stop riding before you get too tired, and

2. Pack extra clothes in your car.

After his ride, I took Solomon and gave him a bath. He was only sweaty under the saddle pad and girth, though that area was universally soaked. He enjoyed the bath, but HATED having his poll and face get wet. I washed him there anyway, as he had some leather oil stains.

Once that was over, I took him back to his pasture, but he did NOT want to go! He said "no mom no no no I want to stay out here and keep doing stuff!" I thought he was hot and tired! Well, I WAS hot and tired for sure, so back he went. He walked in, the little bay gelding chewed on his butt, and he came right back to the gate and tried to push it open. When that didn't work, he stomped at it. It's okay boy, I'll be back.


ariemay said...

Sol is making fun of your berka LOL

I'm glad you didn't melt out there today.

Maggie said...

I love to see you up there and riding!

Once we sell our second house I am so at the barn!

Evergrey said...

Maggie- oh best of luck with selling your house! :D

ariemay- I did sorta melt, but I hosed myself down, I mean completely soaked myself through, before I drove home yesterday! It kept me conscious, barely, haha!

hownowbabycows said...

Hahaha. You're funny Ev!