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.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A little reunion

The lovely imaginethewolf (er, that's her lj name) came up with me to visit Solomon.

It had been a long time!

And... she rode him.
She has always gotten on quite well with Solly, and I knew she'd get along really well with Bo, too. It took a while for me to drag her out there, but I'm glad I did.

Solomon got loaded in and out of the trailer a couple of times. I have to be careful because he is not. Or rather, he is, but when he puts his foot down, he doesn't TEST the footing, so he will often step partially off the edge of the ramp and stumble. Then I start to worry that he is going to hurt himself, and he probably picks up on the worry, creating a sort of feedback loop. I back him down very slowly and carefully. He walks in to the trailer just fine but he is nervous about backing out. And like I said, some of that is me. But if he stumbles, as he did the first time backing out, we go back in again. The second time, he did well and did not stumble. He got lots of praise and neck-crest rubs.

I've started tying him at different locations, so that he will start to equate "tying time" with "chill-out time." He knows that the trailer is his little zen spot, but now I want him to learn that being tied is his zen state. You are tied, so take a nap, guy.

After that, I showed off Sol's roundpenning skills. Sol was back to resisting the lope today. His whoa was not so great either, which could well have been me. Some subtle change in my body language. The fact that I was trying to show off what he'd learned. That might have been it!
So we worked on moving Solomon from far away. Moving him just with a bit of body language. Moving him from 50 feet away with posture, energy, projected intent. A stance that said "you better move!" Bo is much better at it than I am. Imaginethewolf got to play too. Everyone learned something, including Solomon!

Next, it was tacking up time.
Do you think I put the blanket too far forward?

Solomon stood nicely for his saddling up. Bo rode him, and did well.

Imaginethewolf rode him, and did a great job also. We explored cues... what kinds of cues he responded to, and what kinds he did not. We worked on going softer, and softer, and softer. What is the bare minimum needed to move him forward? To get him to stop? To get him to turn? What worked for him, and what made him angry?
Solomon very clearly told us when something was just too much. He can be amazingly sensitive.


Getting a bit of love...

And trotting. LOOK AT HIS HEAD!

Not the nicest expression, but his head was low quite a bit when he trotted with her. This is very nice. We chatted a lot about how different people will do well at different things with the same horse.

Okay, not flattering, but just for the record, English folks:

Lookie there, I wore a helmet!

I rode Solly, and Solly was at this point done with being ridden. We used a different saddle, and it was also way too far for me. So maybe it was aggravating his roach back, though the saddle fit him. A saddle that fits the horse but does not fit the human can still cause discomfort for the horse. It could have been that he was a little crankier that day. It could be that something was physically bothering him. Bo did point out that, with my leg cues, I was reaching my leg way back behind me. When I put my leg on Sol's side without stretching my leg back, he relaxed a lot, but still I worry.
Imaginethewolf tells me, though, that while Solomon was cranky, he also was working to balance me on him. I was of course working to balance myself as well, but I am still touched that he would try to keep me safe on him instead of trying to pitch me off. He is quite capable of doing that, should he choose to. I have seen him kick his heels over the level of his ears.
But we do have a concern. His roach back. It is an old injury, and who knows what happened. 5 years ago he flipped himself in a trailer. Or it could have come from getting roped. He has a bit of swelling in that area, we think. It was there before we rode him. But it's hard to tell if it has changed or if it is just the way it always has been. He didn't flinch when I checked his back while I was grooming him. But still, I worry.
So it boils down to some basic questions.
His body condition is the best it has ever been. Having muscle, being in better shape, that is good for him. Is it, however, better for him than him being a pasture puff? No work can be bad for a horse. Perhaps not so bad for a horse who is pastured... being locked in a stall can make things worse for a horse with issues. That isn't always the case, but I've come to believe that it is the case more often than we realize. Horses need to be able to keep moving. To walk. To interact with other horses. They need it for circulation, muscle, mental health, lots of things. But I digress.
Riding is doing great things for me, emotionally. Riding gives Solomon a job, and I am not yet certain how often he enjoys it. He usually protests the most when I take him back to his pasture at the end of the day. But what does it do for him, mentally? That's hard to say. It's hard to look inside his head. Overall, however, he is happy. If I do choose to retire him, he will still be able to stay at the ranch. Bo says we aren't at that point quite yet though.

Both before I pulled him out of the pasture and after all work was done, I watched Solomon play with the Little Bay Gelding. I mean, he was really playing! Rearing and nipping, turning around and backing LBG up, all kinds of stuff I'd only seen the young horses do. This is so major. It really is. This is something we'd been hoping for, for a long time. It is a sign of an emotionally healthy gelding. Solomon might not be entirely emotionally healthy, but he is really learning to let go and be a horse. And to see him play after being ridden by three people, cranky though he was, gives me hope. So maybe it was the way I fit in the saddle, or my crappy cues after the last person rode him so well. Or maybe something hurts. We are only doing a few minutes of light walking on roundpen sand footing. No loping, no jumping. His back hadn't changed from the shape it was before he was ridden. So, it is a mystery.

I do think that even if I do not retire him soon, it won't be a really long time before I do. He was only in his teens, but he has had a hard life, and I am unwilling to push him that far. His well-being and happiness are more important to me than riding. They always will be. So, we'll see. We will monitor closely. And maybe I'll try bareback again, because it's his "lower" back that I am worried the most about.

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