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 6, 2009

Massive picspam day, and a bit of news.

Today was a rather big day.
I set my alarm for a quarter to 6, so of course I got very little sleep because I knew I had to get up early. Apparently anticipation trumps ambien. Ah well, doesn't matter. Today was a horse day, so it was a good day!

So the first thing Bo and I did was talk. We talk a lot. Bo is such an intelligent and likable fellow... he stirs up trouble on the internet but I think that few people would dislike him if they met him in person and got to know him.

We talked about solving problems with violence versus solving them with clear communication. Solving them with mutual understanding. I admit, the more I am learned, the more I am ashamed of some of the approaches I took when I was first starting out. I took the wrong advice from the wrong people, maybe, but I also could have thought a little more deeply about things for myself. Here at the ranch, everything is open for discussion, WHY things happen the way they do is a constant topic, and boundaries can always be set.

As I worked with my horse today, I focused a lot on communicating clearly on a level that he could understand, and I found that we have come to know each other much better over these past three months. I found that I could cut my cues in half, and in some cases just THINK what I wanted, and Solomon, being a sensitive beast, as horses are, could pick up on it from just watching my body. They can sense things that we cannot. They have to be able to. In the wild, their survival depends on it. In the herd, interactions are often very subtle, and much more complex than we make them out to be.

We discussed Solomon, his overall body soundness, his back, and his ultimate durability. More on that later. First, I have a wet baby to show you!

So Bo told me that, in order to understand what was going on with Solomon's back, I needed to have a better understanding of horse backs in general, and a good way of gaining that understanding was exploring the backs of lots of other horses so that I could have a baseline for comparison. He took me out in the pasture, where I felt the back of every horse.

While I was feeling horse backs, Bo started filling the big pasture trough. He has water-loving horses. They would totally be labs if they were dogs. Jewel is one of the biggest water hounds, but the baby is coming to really like it as well. Her little squirrel-tail was going THWAP THWA THWAP but she kept coming back for more!

I learned that Lilah was in heat, and that paints can have longer white hair than brown hair, which gives them a bit of a stuffed animal feel. I learned that Teddy Bear had more muscle than Lilah, in part because she has been in work under saddle. I learned that some horses had a spine that stuck out a bit more, and one or two just about had a crease. I felt the massive butt-muscles on Magic and her daughters. Solomon has nothing on them, buttwise. I felt the back of a 3 month old, a 4 year old, a 15 year old, and a 24 year old. The 24 year old was a thoroughbred who has a lot of physical problems, and is living the good life at the ranch, retired and getting healthy.
The quarterhorses and paints at the ranch have nice backs, broad and conditioned. They can all wander around their pastures, which helps a lot. The sweet retired cutting horse who hobbles around had a very nice back, but her legs were wrecked. We talked about taking the whole horse into consideration... to work a horse's back, you have to work his legs. If his legs won't stand up to the use, you aren't doing the horse any favors. It's something I've thought long and hard about.

When we got to Solomon, I palpitated his back, like I did with the other horses, and when I got to the old wound on his lower back, he flinched. Big time. He was SORE. It wasn't his spine that was sore, it was that big old wound. The one the vet said had scar tissue and probably nerve damage. I think she was very right about the nerve damage. We used a short saddle on him, but with nerve damage it really doesn't take much to aggravate it. I know, I have lived through sciatica, which is coming back again. It's like knives cutting into you.

So what is the solution?

I could have the nerve deadened. And then if he did something to his (really not great) back in that area, he wouldn't feel it, and would quite possibly injure himself more. If the procedure would even work. And who knows if there is more than some nerve damage under there. An MRI might tell me. If only I could find that $20k for a visit to U.C. Davis.
I could try riding him bareback. That might avoid the issue. But Solomon is not a comfortable horse to ride bareback, and he isn't so keen on it either. Also, riding bareback makes my hip cramp up. Not fun, hah.
I could just try to "push him through it," but nerve damage is not one of those things that you can build up muscle to get rid of, and really that is not my philosophy when it comes to my horse anyway.

The big thing is- yes, Solomon can be ridden. Yes, he will TOLERATE it. No, he doesn't really seem to enjoy it. No, I don't know that his body would hold up to it.

I just keep coming back to the thought, "hasn't he been through enough already? Does he HAVE to be ridden?"

Over the past three months we have been evaluating, evaluating, evaluating. If we could do a Vulcan mind meld, we would. But we cannot, so we must feel our way in the dark and slowly learn what the horse is trying to tell us. Horses have huge hearts, and some will kill themselves for you. They really will. They forgive, and they give, and give, and give. But while riding is wonderful for me emotionally and physically, this isn't just about me, it's not just about my ego or my body, it's also about him. I have a responsibility to my horse. He depends on me. His life depends on me. He has given me so much love, so much trust, so much heart, that I cannot in good conscience betray that.


For now, he is a 1200 pound pet that I can walk around, roundpen, play with, brush, and love on. I will continue to exercise him. I will continue to work with him, so that we can both learn from each other. If his body condition improves, in time, we'll re-evaluate his ridability. Perhaps a year and however much change is not long enough for that wound to heal. I have no idea how deep it is. You'll see a photo of it in a bit. But for now, I have decided that it is not good for him to be ridden. MAYBE it was just some little thing about that saddle, though the sweat pattern was even, but if all it takes for him to be that sore after 4 days is a half an hour of light riding at the walk in a soft roundpen, it's just not fair to him.

So, welcome to retirement Solomon. Your gold watch is in the mail.

Now then, since we have gotten that worked out, I have a lot more to share with you.

Solomon feels just great on the ground, when nothing is pressing on that scar tissue of his. We let him loose in his backing chute, and while I was checking out the other grey on the ranch, Solomon figured out how to get himself out of it. He was at his favorite tree, but then he picked up a scent, which sent him briskly trotting down the fenceline, to...

Teddy Bear!

Teddy Bear, as you may be able to see by her tail, is in heat. This means that instead of hating those yucky geldings and trying to kick them, she nickers and flirts like a strumpet!

Solomon though... well... I'm not so sure his barn doors swing that way. Or maybe he just doesn't know her well enough. Perhaps the squealing and fence-kicking on other days did not leave a good impression.

Solomon said "meh."

But when I made the "canter-kiss" sound at him, he took off, all kinds of proud and stroppy!

After a while, Solomon followed me to the trailer, where he stood without a lead rope. He likes his zen place. He happily picked his feet up for me. Even more than his sen place, however, he likes his oat hay. We've decided he has lost a bit much weight, so he got to eat a bucket of loose oat hay bits. While he was doing that, I visited with some other horses.

Bluesky's mare, Lil, is in a pasture now with her little yearling friend, Lilly.

This roan mare, boarded at the ranch by a trainer, loves back skritches. She's doing that upper-lip jut that horses get when they are being groomed. If Bo was another horse, she'd probably be scraping her teeth on his wither.

After visiting with the mares, I did some ranch aerobics! No need for Richard Simmons here.

Nick, a horse who is semi-retired and boarding at the ranch, came over to investigate...

And contribute to my workout program!

Horses are helpful like that.

Solomon was hanging out in this stall while I mucked. He was proud of having his own apartment for a little while, but soon got tired of that. He has this habit of kicking stall walls. Oh boy does he ever. Solomon is a pasture horse through and through...

He still looks cute in there though.

Though Solomon doesn't have to carry anybody's butt around, he still needs to stay in shape. I want him to feel good and be healthy. Besides, he does fine with running around.

After Solomon's workout and some carrot stretches, he got a little hose-down. He has come to enjoy it, so long as it doesn't get TOO close to his face. if you pour water on his face, OMG BEARS AND ACID ARE IN THAT HOSE.

Here you can kind of see that old wound. Now that his summer coat is back in, you can see that the hair has not really grown back. The skin itself was scabby. So not good.

I really want to know what caused this and how deep the wound was. I don't think it was treated in any way. Of course the place I got him from said it was a bite. Yeeeah I don't think so. They said everything was a bite. Or the horse stepping on his heel, in the case of the really bad wire cut on his front right.

Solomon got to gaze at the old thoroughbred, who is the other grey boarding at the ranch. And, of course, said TB's baby. The TB is named Shane. Sheyene? I am not certain how it is spelled, but he is a sweet old guy, and his shark fin wither is truly impressive. He has some back and leg issues.

After his bath, Solomon got to go back to his boy toy. He made a bit of a fuss on the way back, but I just had to look at him and make a little sound and he kept going.

Hah, they are gossiping!

Here, Solomon put himself between me and the Little Bay Gelding.

The LBG wasn't entirely happy about it, but he accepted the order.

He still managed to sneak past eventually, however. A lot of the photos I try to take end up like this:

Meanwhile, Leo said "please let me out, I wanna come play!"

But he could not come out today, so he played with the LBG.

Solomon finally found the perfect rolling spot (he is very particular) and had a good shake when he got up again.

But he didn't want to miss any of the fun, so he came trotting back. He really is a happy boy.

1 comment:

jeniferb said...

excellent post Ev. you really bring up some good points. Feel is so important with horses....but so difficult to get there. You sound like you are really learning. I think this time not riding will be even more valuable than actually riding, for now. maybe he will heal in a year or so and you can ride him.

my mare can be really sensitive when i ride her so when i think it, like trot, lope off, stop without any body movement (or so I think) then i have already asked her for it. so i need to be careful of this and not discipline her for doing something i only thought about.

thanks for the great picture of Lil and her baby Lilly.