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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another day in the oven.

Hi folks,
So today I got to the ranch around 11:30 or 12:00, and I left the ranch around 7:30. Big day!

The first thing I did was run into the ranch house, hiding from the heat. This, of course, didn't save me, as it gets hotter and hotter out there in Pope Valley, peaking at around 5 or 6pm. I did have a nice long conversation with Bo about the nature of horses and humans.

We talked about how people will readily admit that a horse is stronger than they are. They will readily admit that a horse is bigger than they are. But a lot of people are very intimidated by the concept that horses think and feel emotions. Why is this? Do people want to think that they are not animals... that they are so special that they are above nature? That other beings, which we sometimes do terrible things to, cannot possibly have emotions? Does the thought make people feel guilty? Is it the thought that if they feel, they might also have souls? Now, people often say, "don't anthropomorphise the horse!"
Well of course the horse isn't thinking about having a cup of coffee or driving a car. But I think that it is arrogant of us to assume that we have a monopoly on emotions. I have seen horses express jealousy, anger, fear, joy, affection, nervousness, and contentment. I have seen them worry. I have seen them look forward to things. Perhaps we, as a race, should examine why we feel so threatened by the concept of the animals we keep having feelings and thoughts. They are different from ours, but they are there. I believe this.

So after a little helping of blueberries and some tea (thanks Bo!) I struck out across the ranch to see my horse. He came trotting over to the gate, nickering. My heart melts every time he does that!

Then Solomon had to tell Remmy what was what! Whose human am I? Solomon's human!

DeDe had gone to the show, and the trailer went with her, so I decided it would be nice to tie him someplace different anyway. There is a nice stout pine tree next to the tack room. Hmmm, I think I like it better than the trailer! It's shady and I don't have to lug the grooming box as far. Okay, so there's a bit of pine pitch that I could do without, but otherwise it's a pretty nice spot.

When Solly realized that we weren't going to the trailer, which wasn't there (OMG big shock to a horse!) he froze for a moment to re-evaluate his surroundings, but with a little coaxing he continued to follow me. I tied him to the tree, and he wasn't happy about not getting to follow me into the tack room. What was going to happen to him? There was no way of knowing!

First he discovered that pine needles aren't all that tasty.

Then he got a little worried, but was mostly curious as to what was going to happen next.

The grooming box was a cue for him, however, and he started to relax when he saw it. As soon as I came up to him with his pick and asked for a hoof, he settled right down, because we were going into the grooming routine, so all was well. I picked his feet, curried his coat which is still shedding out, amazingly enough, I fly sprayed him and brushed his mane and tail. His mane is starting to look better again. It didn't survive winter as well as I would have liked, and somehow he lost a chunk of it early this yeah, but it is all starting to grow out, and it really doesn't tangle much any more.

I love that it's blond while his body is white with little black speckles.

When I let him loose, he didn't immediately wander off, but instead stuck close to me and grazed. Grazed on WHAT I'm not sure, since all the grass is dead now. But I guess it was still interesting enough to eat.

And here I made a little video. Really it's a plea for people to consider properly retiring their horses instead of dumping them off at auctions or putting them up on craigslist. I DO understand that sometimes people end up in a financial crisis, and at that time it is important that the horse gets good consistent care. If you cannot afford to properly care for your horse, then do contact a rescue and look around for a new home for him. But if you CAN afford it and just don't want to pay for it, or you just want to get a new horse that you can ride since you can't ride yours any more, please do consider how much your horse has done for you. Please think about the fact that he has given and given and given to you, he has earned his retirement, and he deserves a safe, happy life, not one that is full of fear and pain.
Remember, a stranger is unlikely to love your horse like you love him, there aren't many people looking for companion horses and pasture puffs, and the kill buyers are making some pretty good money shipping horses off the slaughter right now.

So next, while Solomon was hanging out with his favorite tree, I went through the pasture, past Teddy Bear...

To the herd in the big pasture!
The first to greet me were Magic and her baby, followed by Breezy, who is the alpha mare.

Magic and the baby don't hang out together as much any more. At 3.5 month old, the baby has become rather independent, and the rest of the herd has taken over much of her teaching. Breezy and Jewel, being first and second in command respectively, were especially protective. The entire time I was with the baby, they were there, a solid, gentle presence. They said, without speaking, "we're here, and we guess you are okay, but don't you DARE hurt that baby!"

The baby is very curious these days.

Breezy kept her mouth on the baby quite often. She was saying, "this baby is MINE" while giving the little one affection and reassurance.

Jewel was also a little suspicious, keeping an eye on things.

Now, I feel safer being in a tight squeeze between Breezy and Jewel in the herd than I would between the more junior horses. The junior horses might get chased off, and they might bump into me while trying to get away quickly. The lead mares do not get chased, and they radiate calm and control. When they are calm and still, the herd tends to be at peace, though of course there is always communication going on, and some testing in the ranks.

But let's get back to the baby.

Here you can see that she wishes to explore. Horses are very tactile creatures, and often they use their mouths to understand the world around them. Such a young horse might also nip, however, so it is important to set a solid boundary early on. This can be done with patient, gentle reminders. Just push her face away, and give a little sound. It's okay to let her explore a bit, but if she gets TOO mouthy, just set a boundary. She'll get it eventually, with no one getting hurt, and without her losing any trust.

After I finished making this little video, I picked up her feet and messed with her body. She stood calmly and quietly, accepting the attention without reservations.

I am really loving her squirrel-tail!

Breezy was still a little wary, and also wanting some attention for herself.

While she had the baby and I to herself, the rest of the herd looked on. Except Jewel, heh!

On the way back, I spent a little bit of time with Teddy Bear and Lilah.

Sorry that a lot of the video was of horse flank, haha!

This was a major thing. Bo has been working with her about her chestnut touching aversion. If you just grab at them, she WILL fling herself away from you. Or she did. She has gentled about it, and I found that asking her politely and approaching with calm and confidence made a big difference. I knew that she had an issue with anyone touching her chestnuts, but I decided to see if we could work around that boundary, since it isn't really a reasonable one. To my delight, she calmly accepted my touch.

Then I went inside to meet up with K____, another boarder and just the sweetest woman you've ever met! She had some pictures from a team roping event she went to. I'm sorry to say, I don't think I like that sport very much. It looks like it's painful to the calves, and a lot of people, though certainly not all, are not concerned at all with how well they ride their horses, just with staying on and roping the calf. As a result, there seemed to be a lot of mouth-yanking with some pretty severe bits. Of course, these pictures were from an amateur event, not something that big time professionals do. This was not an event for cattle ranchers. It was something these folks did on the weekends. But either way, the calves did not look to be having a good time of it. I'm okay with team penning, but I don't see myself wanting to do team roping. One person ropes the horns (or the neck, if they don't catch it right) and the other person ropes one or two back legs. Then they stretch the calf out, usually pulling on both ends and taking it down to the ground. A good roping team, I am told, lets go right away so the calf doesn't get all yanked and stretched. But that seems to be the exception, not the rule, in the really amateur level.

Anyway, about that time I looked out and saw that my horse had gone into the hay barn! He KNOWS he isn't supposed to be there. I went out and yelled at him. He looked at me, but didn't budge... until he saw me putting my boots on. He knows that if I'm putting my boots on, I'm coming out there. So then he took off out of the hay barn and huddled at the fence with the herd of mares. Yeah buddy, sorry, too little, too late... it was time for him to go back in to his pasture with the Little Bay Gelding.

This is a very fun gelding game. I nip at you, you nip at me! The LBG likes to rear and shadowbox, but Solomon isn't so into that with his back legs being not so great. And LBG is around 3, whereas Solomon is around 17 or 18.
But notice that when Solomon has had enough, he tells LBG with body language, not physical contact. And notice that when I have had enough, I do the same thing, which he responds to. He was not raised on this ranch, and still has a ways to go when it comes to manners... but Solomon and Bo have taught him a lot!

Then there were CARROTS!

Solomon is a little annoyed here because his mouth is so full he cannot intake another carrot, but it's RIGHT THERE and he WANTS IT!

Remmy and Poco Joe (probably mostly Remmy) knocked over their water tough and were playing soccer with it, kicking it over, righting it again, then kicking it around some more. They were thirsty when K___ and I did the rounds, watering all the horses.

Poco Joe had a nice roll after getting a little spray down.

Vinny and Leo are in the north pasture, next to Solomon and LBG. When they got sprayed, they got really really excited, and Solomon came cantering back to where I was. I was driving the mule, which is a little scary and a little fun, and Solomon was happy to follow along. It really makes my heart sing with joy to see him cantering on his own just because he feels like it. He wasn't walking very well, even, when I first found him. But now he is healthy and he is happy, and I am so glad.


Maggie said...

You were driving a mule?? You can't just throw that in there and walk away. Details?!?!

Evergrey said...

Haha, oh, no, no, that would be SO AWESOME.

I mean, I was driving one of those little utility golf cart things. They call it "the mule."

Anonymous said...

Kawasaki Mule. Make and model. lol