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, July 30, 2009

Massive day.

Hey folks, it's your intrepid sunburned horse lover here!

Yesterday was a big day. Huge! Huge for Solomon, huge for me!

First, Kizim and Kizmet arrived at the ranch. Kizim is a great, calm, sweet dun mustang mare who is now for sale. Kizmet had her for 7 years, but she is now going off to college and unable to keep her. So Kizim is here at the ranch, and she is in good hands. Bo and DeDe will take good care of her, I will give her treats and post updates, and a good home will be found for her.

Kizmet walked and then rode Kizm for the last time today, and Kizim was a good girl.

It was good to get to meet Kizmet. She is a very nice girl. And Kizim is a sweet mare. I think she is the kind of mare that I would feel safe riding.

Next, I went out to get Solly from his pasture. I noticed right away that he was hanging out with a little 2 year old Sorrel filly with two tall white socks. Her name is Lena, and she is Magic's daughter. Unlike Magic, Lena likes Solomon and is following him around making moon-eyes at him. Later in the day I watched Solomon throw his neck over her back, telling the herd "Lena is MINE." Hah, reminds me of True Blood, that HBO show about vampires. Bill the Vampire (yes, really) always says "Sookie is MINE." Well, Solomon said the same thing about Lena, and even pinned his ears at BREEZY to tell her! Breezy is the lead mare!

When I got close to the gate, however, Solomon perked up his ears and came trotting over to it double-time. Awwh! He seems to understand when I have a sense of urgency about me, and yesterday was no exception. He was on very good behavior when I opened the gate (bless Bo for all those gate lessons!) and hustled on through, spinning quickly so that I could safely close it behind me. It was a good thing, too, because Lena wanted to come with, and Jewel was trotting over as well!

So then I took Solomon into the roundpen, and he had a surprise for me!

Solomon was full of LIFE. Some spark had lit up deep inside of him and was burning brightly. When I moved to the middle of the roundpen, Solomon walked a few steps, broke into a trot, and then, to my amazement, burst into a CANTER! He has never voluntarily cantered for me before! But he did it over and over. Yeah, he still ewe necks, though a couple of times he arched instead. But he was just so HAPPY to be alive. He did make a grumpy face at me once when I told him to canter, but quickly forgot to be cranky, instead enjoying being a horse. I could see his muscles rippling beneath his skin as he ran, nostrils flaring, mane and tail flying like flags. It was a wondrous sight.

His joy was infectious.

In the middle of our roundpenning session, I dropped the lunge whip on the ground and just let myself FEEL. I held out one arm, but really I don't think I even needed to do that. I just thought about what I wanted him to do, thinking back on Mark Rashid's book about using energy like in Aikido for horsemanship, and Solomon responded. I could feel my heart swelling, and his hoofbeats were a symphonic movement of pure joy. And even though I stood in the center, just spinning, we both flew.

When I was done with that, though I think Sol would have been happy to do more, I let him come in, and we played "follow the leader" for a little while, with him pressing his whiskers to the palm of my hand like we did back in the old days.

Then we played Cow and Cutting Horse! I was the cow, and Solly was the cutting horse, of course. So I dodged this way and that, and Solomon moved with me, jumping back and forth. But the entire time he was nickering! Nicker nicker nicker! As if he was laughing. As if he was telling me "this is all in fun!" It was a happy sound, full of affection.

We were both sweaty at the end of it, and Solomon's tail was flagging high. His eyes were lit up.

Solomon has become a different horse. But he is still Solomon, and he is still the horse I love. He has become the horse that he always had the potential to become. He has found his joy.

He will be harder to handle. I will have to be more away, more careful. I will have to be a little more firm, but I will have to always be fair. He has a really good deal out in that pasture, and I am going to have to earn his desire to spend time with me as well.

Bo and I had a long conversation about this. How he would become a little more dangerous. Harder to handle. But how he is also so very happy, and this is why he is so much hotter than he was before. How many would put him back in a stall because he wasn't as manageable.

But I told him, "Bo, I made a promise to this horse. I promised him the happiest life that I could give him. And that's what I'm going to do. It would be wrong of me to try to force on him the idea that I am the only one who has anything to teach. I have a lot more to learn from him. And this will teach me more about horsemanship. He had some of these issues before, at Hossmoor, when he became so bonded with Venus and had his band. I did have a lot of problems there, but I also didn't have as many tools to work with, skill and knowledge-wise. It wasn't that he was a bad horse, it was that I didn't know enough yet to effectively deal with him. Now, Hossmoor is a great facility, but this ranch is just a better environment for him. For both of us. I love my horse, and if I'm going to love him, I'm going to love all of him. Who he is, not just the parts that are easy for me to manage."

So for now, Solomon stays in the pasture, though Dede warned that if he had squealing and fence-kicking sessions with Teddy Bear over the fence one more night (keeping them up) then he'd have to go in at night. I think that's fair, and something Solomon could easily handle. I don't want fences destroyed, fights to break out, or sleep to be lost, after all.

So, back to our day.

Solomon was sweaty and filthy, so I decided to give him a bath. He tolerates it so much better now, especially since the days are hot. I even washed his head, though he got really irritated by that, hah! I scrubbed and scrubbed. His stool is loose and it is making his tail dirty. It might be all the changes he's experienced, plus his wormer (I use Quest, which is strong stuff) and the psyllium husks I'm feeding him to clear out any sand he has injested, but I probably also need to give him so probiotics. I'll stop by the racetrack on the way up to the ranch next time I go up.

Anyway, Solomon got clean, but still looked dirty because his legs are covered in tar weed sap. Ugh. Tar weed. Nasty nasty stuff, especially on a grey horse! Shampoo doesn't remove it. I hear ivory soap does, or dishwashing liquid. Not much of a point to scrubbing it off when he's going right back into a pasture full of it, though. It's the life of a ranch horse! And anyway I don't think the flies like it. THAT part is a bonus.

Meanwhile, Shin is a happy boy these days. He has graduated to a pasture! The two new Arab mares have taken quite a liking to him, and he to them. In fact, after 4 hours, he was well and truly attached, to the point that when one of the mares was removed for a roundpenning session, he was charging all around the pasture, screaming for her. Shin has a hilarious whinny- it sounds like a bugle that gets stuck on one note, haha!

This horse was bony when he got here, and he'd been living in a stall. He was walking quite stiffly. The environment he had been in just wasn't working for him. He needed space and he needed the stimulation of other horses. And it has turned him around! Environment is so important to horses, and unfortunately many of us don't have much of a choice as to what their environment is. Many more simply place the horse in an environment that suits them, and not necessarily the horse. Well, I don't like driving for an hour and a half to two hours each way in the head with no A/C, but for me, I think it is worth it. It's worth it to see my boy so happy and healthy. And it's worth it for K___ to see Shin so happy and healthy. We have folks driving from San Jose. Richmond. St Helena. Clear Lake, I think. Oakland, I think. All over. And for all of us, it is worth it to see our horses blossom into the creatures we knew they could be.

After his bath, Solomon got a feed pan and was set loose. He grazed for a while, and then told me he wanted to go back in his pasture. He loved the Little Bay Gelding, but always fought me on going back home. Not so, now. He trotted up and down the fenceline. I called to him and he came trotting over, ears perked, then fell in beside me as I walked to the gate. The mares weren't right near by, so I just took off Sol's halter and opened the gate. He let me go in first, then just walked right on in and after taking a nice deep drink of water he went off to join the mares.

Next, the farriers came! I was hoping I could meet them and watch them work. These are the guys who hot-shod Solomon, and they did a great job. They continue to do a great job, and Solly's hooves now actually look like they are all a part of the same horse. More on that in a bit, first Bo gave me a little job- feed supplements to Magic, the bay Arab.

I went out to their pasture, and Shin looked suspicious, meeting me at the gate, but he moved out of my way when I asked him to. The mares looked at me and took off running! Hah! Well, horses are curious creatures, so instead of playing keep-away (with ARABS? No, I do not have that kind of energy, I have seen them run) I turned my back on them and ignored them. Magic promptly trotted over to check me out. I let her sniff me and then I very calmly and slowly slipped the halter on her head while talking to her. Woohoo, success, who doesn't like that?

Getting her in and out of the gate was a bit more of a challenge because I didn't want anybody else coming out with her, and I didn't want anybody crowding her. Shin can get pushy, and I didn't want Magic to get stuck between he and I. We managed, and though it was not my most elegant gate maneuver, I got it done. She was still pretty close to Pally, but they are buddies and not like nip-each-other geldings, so I felt okay with un-haltering her next to her girlfriend.

Next, it was time for me to get Solomon. Bo had me drive the mule over to get him. Those things are fun! The red one is a smoother ride than the green one, I think, but the red one has this sort of mystical start-up procedure. I watched Bo do it this time and it seems that one has to jiggle the gear shift up at the exact right time while one is turning the key in the ignition. Good to remember! Someday I want to do the feeding when I'm up at the ranch. Help out with more of the work.

Oh yes, as we were out there Bo told me that the house across the street was for rent. $750 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bath. And that he'd give me some work to do if I lived there. I mean, I can't work a full time job, but maybe if I lived right next door and it was horse stuff, I could do a little now and again, you know? So tempting! Of course, I have a family and responsibilities at home. And I wouldn't want to lose my loved ones. But so tempting! Hah! What a great thing that would be. It's like somebody saying "hey, check it out, it's one of your dreams and it is right here!"

Oh yeah, we pay $2300 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house here in Richmond. *cries*

I don't think Edwin would commute from Pope Valley to San Francisco, and I don't think Thomas would commute from Pope Valey to Novato. Sad. :(


Less rambling, more content, right?

So I went out into the pasture and found the herd. I found myself confronted with a puzzle.

Uh oh, Solomon was in the corner with the mares all around him!

Breezy was to one side, with Teddy Bear who was amazingly enough just hanging out and not trying to kill Solomon. Depending on her heat cycle, she either likes him or hates him. Lately it has been hate. Lena was on the other side, with Jewel close by. Breezy being the alpha, and Jewel being second in command, this was quite a puzzle. How to get Solomon pulled out of the herd safely? Well, there was no way I was going to just halter him and walk through the herd with him. Might as well put a big "I am helpless, please kick me" sign on him. Not safe for him, and certainly not safe for me either.

I didn't think I could drive the entire herd of mares away without also chasing Solly off with them, either. And I thought, well, I could approach this as if I were going to war, or I could approach this as if I were managing the herd.

So first I moved Breezey, and then I drove Solomon out of the herd, like a horse cuts a cow. He did try to go around and get back to them, and which point somebody threw out a threatening-kick, but I was keeping both Solomon and myself a safe distance away. Once Solly understood that it was work-time, he gave in, let me halter him, and quietly followed me out of the pasture, only planting his feet once for a split second. Yes Solly, your complaint has been heard.

So I tied Solomon to the Pateince Tree, out of sight from the mares, and he started screaming. And screaming. And screaming. He danced around and around that tree, tosses his head, flagged his tail. I joked with the farriers about how he was a drama queen and needed a tiara. They told me he was an absolute angel the last time they did his feet. *pride!* I told them that when I first met him it wasn't easy to get him to pick up his feet. But he is a good boy and he had been shod regularly before that, so he picked up the skill again pretty fast. The roan mare, Josie, has a bad habit of leaning on the farrier and getting antsy. She is a great mare, just has this vice and has for the past two years.

So Josie's feet took a while. These fellows (I'll ask if I can post their names, because I am happy to let folks know that they are good farriers) take their time when shoeing a horse. They hot-shoe, which if you remember my little post from this spring, is where the shoe is heated in a forge and shaped on an anvil to fit the horse's foot. They take however long they need to take to make the shoes fit just right.

Solomon's screamed decreased in frequency and volume somewhat. I think he's going to spend a lot of time at the Patience Tree. He doesn't need to have a fit like that!

Bo said that if he was dangerous for the farriers, we'd have to pull him out of the pasture. I sadly had to agree, because I do not want to put people in danger, and Solomon needs to be able to see a shoer or a vet.

So it was with some trepidation that I brought Solomon into the "hangar" next to the tack room, but Solly? He is good where it counts. He stood more quietly for the farriers than Josie or Nick did. Nick was the third and final horse to get shod for the day.

I held Solomon most of the shoeing session, though A___ was kind enough to hold him for me for a bit while I took photos.

"I'm kind of hurt that you only take pictures when the other guy is working on him," joked this fellow.

"Oh don't worry, I took a picture of your butt," I replied.

He laughed and said that made it all better.

Here is a shoe fresh off the anvil, after having been heated and shaped. Solomon wears 1s on his fronts, and 0s on his backs. Yeah, his feet really are that small. They did a "break over" on the rear feet, which is like a mustang roll. They basically give the toe a little room in front, so the horse can more naturally roll his foot forward onto the point. This way, the shoe does not interfere with the way he walks.

Here you can see his front hooves, where they have pulled off his shoes. They use this metal thing that looks like a chisel, sort of getting out the little bend in the tip of the nail that is sticking out of the side of the hoof so that it can be pulled back through. Then they stick a wedge type of thing carefully between shoe and hoof, loosening it more. After that, they cradle the hoof so as to not put undue stress on the pasterns, which are basically the two bones of the ankle. Holding the hoof still, they grip the shoe with another tool, if I recall correctly, and work it out of the hoof entirely. I got to keep the shoes! One of the rears is worn down a lot more than the other. No shoe was worn the same as any other, which they told me was normal.

Here you can see his feet, having been trimmed a certain amount. there was more trimming, and more shaping of the shoes. They are, like I said, very careful about ensuring a good fit. No hoof, no horse.

A___ holding Solomon. Solomon was a little tense the entire time, and he DID get bored, but other than one incident where he shoved at my belly with his head (jiggling stuff amuses him) and maybe taking his rear hoof away once, Solomon was quite good.

He did not lean into the farrier at all, balancing himself on his other three feet... sometimes even two feet! He cocked the leg with the big old injury more than the other, but he did cock them both, and was very cautious about testing each hoof before putting it down whenever the farriers changed something.

Here you can see a nail being driven into his hoof, putting the shoe into place. When asked, the farrier told me that it had been years since he had driven a nail into his own hand. I just couldn't do it. The fingers I wouldn't drive nails into would get smashed on the anvil! I have little depth perception, and when I hammer a nail into a board, I hold the nail with a pair of needle-nose pliers!

Solomon is testing his new shoe while A___ jokes with the farriers. She's a funny gal!

The farrier working on a hoof, with his tools.

You can see on his rolling tool rack files (for filing both the hoof and the tips of nails) pliers, chisels, hoof nippers (for trimming) nail nippers, nails, and any number of other things that I don't know the purpose of yet. Around his wrist is a magnetic bracelet, where he puts his shoe-nails. This is a great little invention, and it saves them a lot of time and hassle. Over on the other side in the background you can see the anvil, and then you can't see the forge in the truck bed, the grinder that they use for finishing the edges of the shoe, and the racks full of different sizes and styles of shoes. Shoes can be iron or aluminum. They can be rounded or squared. Flat, wedged, or shaped a little bit like a rocking chair at the bottom. They can have toe-grips in the front, or they can have points of metal on the side. They can be padded with a piece of rubber. They can even have spikes set into the bottoms for horses who do competitive hauling, though I wouldn't think that would be comfy to walk around with. Then there's stacking and padding for gaited horses, but that stuff makes me really upset and I don't want to talk about it except to say that if you need devices that make your horse feel a lot of pain and discomfort to do what you want, what exactly are you proving?

So anyway, shoeing is a science, and a rather complex one at that. It take a solid understanding of anatomy, movement, stress points, and physics. It take s good eye, a strong arm, a high pain threshold, a study back, and a high degree of accuracy. A good farrier is worth his weight in gold, and he will appreciate a cup of coffee when he's out working!

Solomon felt great after getting shod, and I decided we'd trot back to the pasture, so we did!

Yeah, I know, he's dropped in these pictures. He often is with those mares. It's a part of living with horses! They aren't ashamed by it, and it's natural. So hey, Solomon is happy, and I'm happy for him!

Also, the baby is still cute.

At the end of the day, my arms were more than a little sunburned. And it was all so worth it. :D


Anonymous said...


Cute pics. If you have any more, email them to me at hownowbabycows@aol.com.

Evergrey said...


Thank you, and done! :D