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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Finally made it back

My back is still really messed up, but today I was able to put on a pair of pants by myself, so I figured it was time to head back to the ranch.

Anyway I owed board and I missed Solomon, Bo, and DeDe.

It took me half the day to get ready, but get ready I did, because I knew that if I didn't start walking again, and soon, I'd never be able to.

I apologize in advance... I didn't get a lot of pictures today, and I can't sit for a long time so this isn't going to be very long, but I wanted to let you all know that I'm still kicking.

Some exciting things happened while I was out of commission.

First off, the main herd got out Saturday night sometime. I think it must have been my fault. Nobody is 100% sure, but I think that I must have THOUGHT I latched the gate all the way, but didn't quite. Somebody stuck their head through the gate and pulled it open, somebody tried to squeeze out, and a post got busted. Horses running around all over the ranch. Thank the gods I double-checked the front gate. It could have been a major tragedy. As it is, I screwed up big time, and I'm pretty good at kicking myself for things like this. But at least I'll be triply careful with gate latches from now on. I have a feeling it's going to be a paranoia of mine. That part isn't a bad thing. I'm just glad no one was badly hurt.

Then there was a fire! The hills on the back of the property burned. It got out and the horses were all fine. But this is my least favorite time of the year in California. It's so scary. I'm so glad they clear brush at the ranch! I'm told the top of the hill looks like the surface of the moon. I never did manage to go all the way up there. Now it's a wasteland. Welcome to sunny California! You folks in colder climes should hug your miserable cold icy snow next winter. I find myself looking forward to the awful mud we'll get with the rains! At least mud doesn't suddenly burst into flames.

Poor Bo and DeDe. Crazy loose horses and then fire. Both when they were away from the ranch. If you ever wonder why it's hard to get your horse friends to go out, it's because things explode when they do. Even good intentions can lead to disaster. Someone at a boarding barn gives a treat to a horse and she colics. All kinds of stuff. Eep.

I had to ask for a ride up to Solomon's pasture. I had to ask Bo to pull him out for me. Be proud of me- I used to be so stubborn that I would have tried to pull Solomon out by myself, and ended up in a wreck because Leo and Poco Joe both ran for the gate. Solomon ran off and had to be gathered up again. He said "no, it isn't worth getting beat up over!" And then when he ran I think he was worried that he was in trouble. But he did let himself get picked up again like a good boy. This time the two other boys were chased off the gate with more enthusiasm, hah. Solomon slipped through nice and quick, because his hide was at stake and he has learned to behave while exiting his pasture.

They'd been playing a little rough though, and Solomon had lost a little weight, so he's in a stall with a large paddock- one of the 100 foot long ones. I managed to walk him from his pasture to his stall, which I'm proud of considering the fact that I've spent most of this week needing someone to help me roll over in bed. Go me! Solomon got hugs, and then he entertained himself by going into the stall and then coming back out again. That wore off quickly, and he (not very subtly) shoved at the gate with his head, but two flakes of hay and a supplement bucket helped him cope pretty well. I sat on the ground and let Solomon drop food on me (a favorite pastime of his) until DeDe drove the mule over to pick me up again.

Bo and DeDe were nice and chatted with me for a good long while. I think they could tell I was feeling pretty down. Thanks guys!

On the drive home the lake was glassy and still, mirroring the bright orange and pink port wine sunset almost perfectly. It's good to be alive.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Memory is weird. a mental illness interlude- Why I Blog So Much

Bear in mind, the ambien is kicking in, but what the hey. Why is this chick on ssdi anyway? Well I have PTSD. Bad bad stuff happened, not talking about that HERE. part of the problem I have with PTSD is memory issues.

Bo says I have an amazing memory.
That's sweet of him, and my memory is great, in certain ways, to a point. But then if I wait too long to record my memories, they are gone. Just... gone.

The other day, a friend who is dating another friend of mine asked me about his mother. I really like his mother, and only three years ago I lived with her for a month, and drove her from Colorado to Las Vegas.

I can barely remember anything about her. I remember that she embroidered. I remember that she's Norwegian, 1st generation I believe.

I don't remember what she looked like, what kinds of things she likes, what her personality was, really, though I liked her. I don't remember what month or year it was. If I saw her right now I would not recognize her face.

I've already lost the names of all but one of the stablehands at Hossmoor. They were just absolutely great guys, and I miss them. I made Christmas cards for them. But I only remember Enrique's name. There was a sweet guy who would always smile shyly and duck his head. I was rather fond of him. And the guy who helped me down the hillside when I panicked. But I'm losing so much of it already, it's just slipping away.

I mean, everyone forgets things. Tons of things. But sometimes I forget how to end a sentence. Or the word for spoon. What month it is. What someone sent me off to do. The color of my mother's eyes and her birthday. Whether her hair is long or short now/

About the only time when things tend to feel clear are out with the horses. It's like they give me this great magical gift to focus my head and make memories stick, instead of them being these fleeting gossamer things that drift off into the ether.

So here's the thing, I was born wihtout a mGluR5 receptor in my brain. A genetic defect. Essentially it helps you overcome your trauma, and overwrite old traumas with newer memories at the forefront of one's mind, and memories. A person with PTSD not only doesn't do this properly, but their brain utilizes entirely different parts of the brain for memory storage. So say something happened a lot time ago. You saw someone get shot. But it was a thing and it happened and you moved on. Once in a long time you think aobut it, but it's more of a story than anything else. The memory is linear, back at the back of your mind. There is a sense of distance from it.
With PTSD, a traumatic memory is placed right up there in the front. You experience it over and over agian, you feel exactly what you felt then. Hell, sometimes you even see it. Certain triggers can bring forth a full-on flashback. A massive wash of fight or flight instincts can override the rational part of your brain. Your body responds by secreting chemicals designed to help you overcome immediate, life-threatening danger.
Except to some degree or another, it's always like that. The trauma is always at the forfront in your mind, of lurking close beneath the surface. All those little memories, thoughts, linear experiences where you were having lunch or someone told you they loved the color pink, all of those are pushed aside, overriden with "I am going to DIE!" because the memory isn't 10years ago, it's RIGHT THERE and your brain cannot poperly sort and store things out.

So. For me. Horses help sort things out, somehow. They help me, I don't know, go through the filing cabinets a bit. I don't feel that I'm in mortal danger from them, even when I am... that's not to say I don't recognize it, but I can be rational about it. Horses are emotionally sensitive, and in a way the sort of project their emotions as well, if you can learn how to interpret their language of gestures, angles, and sounds. To me they just radiate "if you are careful, safety is here."

But even with horses, it can be hard to remember. It can be hard to remember things that I treasure. You know treasured memories?I never know when I'll lose them entirely.

So I write. I write so that the next time I try to think about, say, summer at the ranch, and what happened then anyway, I can read and I can watch and hope that the memories can be found, resurfacing from a sea of confusion.

When I am in the city, I never feel safe.
When I am with my beloved, I feel safe at times, but there are so many things beyond our control that are scary.
When I am on the road, I never feel safe, and often feel angry.
When I am with horses, I feel safe, I feel home.
So even when my life changes, for better or worse, I can at least come here and remember, there is a home for me, in my heart if no where else, where I can be safe. And it is made of silly faces, velvet noses, walking in time to my dorky singing, warm air blown gently in my hair, great, round eyes filled with so many things, and a a strong, warm neck that sports a mane wet with my tears.

Love triangle

There was a love triangle at the ranch today!

Shocked tree is shocked.

Today Bo and DeDe were down south at some sort of horse event, and I promised to stop by and check up on things. I checked everyone's water, gave everyone a little once-over, and walked the fencelines of the big pastures.

I spent the most time with Teddy Bear.

She was doing some calisthenics when I entered her pasture.

She has such a sweet eye.

Teddy Bear was happy to cuddle!

You just know she's a sweetheart.

But I promised you a love triangle, haha! So I skritched Teddy Bear, and she groomed Lilah, who groomed me. Then I switched to Lilah, who groomed Teddy Bear, who groomed me. It was just chock full of wiggly-lip cuteness!

The mares were very sleepy. They all had hangylips and blinkyeyes.

The baby had to come say hi, of course!

Sweet little Lena also said hello. She did not follow me around forever this time, however.

So cute!

The baby is just so nice!

This is California. The pasture across the street doesn't seem to have anything living in it. Not any horses, at any rate, or the grass would be flat. The green stuff is all star thistle and tarweed. Both of those plants are nasty and unpleasant. Pretty in a field though!

The walk up and down the fanceline in the biggest pasture was harder for me than I thought it was. My back was really bothering me, but I figured walking would work the pain out a bit. Didn't really, but hey, exercise! I am pleased to say that I found nothing but this:

Yeah, letting balloons go fly away isn't really that cute. They do come down ya know. Horses aren't that dumb, but still, I'd hate to think what would happen if a foal swallowed this. Okay, a foal probably wouldn't. But still. Rarr. It is a little cool in a creepy kind of way though.

I took a bunch of landscape photos, which I'm going to subject you to now. Bo, you will probably fall asleep, as you see this stuff every day, haha!

This is in the pasture. Note the lack of grass.

The hill across from the pasture hill.

The back of the pasture, and the back of the ranch. There are some trails up in those hills!

The pasture. I really like this shot.

There's this idea forming in my head, a bit. I stole it in part from the Icelanders. Seems to me like some horses just get hurt a heck of a lot. Some are just clumsy. And some, I think, never experienced obstacles and rough terrain growing up, so they don't know how to deal with it. They don't know how to keep their balance in less than ideal situations, or avoid pointy things. I think when one is raising a foal, one needs to find a balance. Know how you hear about the cheap cheap ranch horse who lives out in a pasture never hurting himself, but the $100,000 horse who spends almost all his time in a stall is perpetually injured? I think you shouldn't put your horse in a tiny pen full of sharp rusty scrap metal, but I also think that too much coddling does your horse a disservice. There should be interesting things for them to learn from... heck, even something as simple as a hill, or some branches, or logs.

Fire Season has begun, in earnest. This was a pond in the spring.

Back at the pasture gate, horse down!

I interrupted her nap, but she had to take a dust bath before she'd stand up.

She really lost her head with all that rolling!

Meanwhile, Shin was worshiping the hay bale gods.

The stately old ladies came to say hello. I hadn't realized how far their pasture stretched. Despite being along the road, nobody threw anything inside the pasture today.

Vinnie is quite a lovely boy.

About then I was so tired and achey that I forgot about taking pictures... Solomon got a quick cuddle, but the dinner truck had just come by, so I let him eat in peace. I hung out with A____ for a while, and then went home.

When I got home, I found a clean house and flowers waiting for me. Awwwh!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dog and Pony Show.

Today the ranch was a very busy place!

When I arrived, Bo was riding his Magic, and the baby was sort of tagging along. It's time for Magic to get back into shape after having given birth and nursed her foal. The baby is mostly weaned at this point. She'll go back for a drink once in a while, but quite often she isn't hanging out with her mom at all.

Outside of the pasture she will still follow mom, however.

In the pasture, Bo watered the horses and sprayed some of them down. This little girl was having a blast getting wet and rolling. Lena is standing nearby, and later on in the evening when I went out into the pasture with a bunch of people, Lena was obsessed with me. Was it the smell of Solomon, whom she mooned after? Or was it the lingering scent of cookies in my pocket? I couldn't tell you, but she stuck herself to me like glue.

I told Bo that I had decided my goal in life is to be kind and have compassion for people and animals. To help them feel good, to give a little comfort. Yeah it isn't winning a bunch of prizes or becoming a CEO, but everybody needs a purpose and that is what makes me happy.

Bo sent me to spend some time with a gelding who has been sent to the ranch for 30 days. I'm not going to say his name, and I'll have to see about whether or not I should post a photo. He has a very famous sire and his owners are local. This boy was scared. Very scared and nervous and not really sure what was going on. He'd been sold to someone for a lot of money, but he wouldn't even tie- would freak out and break the lead rope or the halter. He threw the owner the last time she tried to ride him. He was sent to a big name trainer for 4 months and afterward still wouldn't tie. So he gets 30 days and then goes off to sale.

He reminded me of Ash, the mustang colt that Bo was working with the first time I visited the ranch. So very very sensitive. He was tied to the patience tree. The day before he'd had a bit of hobble training.

I went in armed with a pocket full of cookies. Some horses respond well to the whole "git er done" thing, but some horses just don't. Some horses need a lot of softness. They need to learn to trust. They need to have a REASON to want to do things for you.

So I started by standing with my back to him, letting him sniff me. Nice and non-threatening. When he was a little more relaxed, I gently turned to him and very lightly blew in his nostrils. Horses greet each other this way, from what I've observed, and it seems to comfort them when you do it, especially if you are meeting the horse for the first time. You let them take in your scent and you are saying "hi there" in a friendly fashion.

I spoke to him in low, soft tones, and ran my hands over him. He has some scarring on his back, and a couple of white marks where a saddle would sit. At some point in his life, he wore a saddle that really didn't fit.

From time to time his breathing would speed up and he would snort, but I just kept myself even and calm, which he responded to. He wasn't sure, I think, that I wasn't going to beat him. What happened to him? I don't know, but something did.

I gave him a lot of cookies. Just for being still, or doing what I asked nicely. I let him sniff anything I brought up to him. I brushed him, and then I used the jelly rubber on him. I found his magic spot low on his chest. Rub that, and he goes to his own personal heaven. He does, however, also unthinkingly lean on you as he's enjoying getting rubbed. That's something he'll need to eventually learn to not do.

At one point, he leaned to far and then when compensating for being off-balance, he stood on my foot.

Now, when a big buff shod horse steps on your foot, there's no mistaking it. This guy was BIG, and it's a lot of pressure on a small metal surface. Still, I kept calm and just gently pushed on his shoulder to move him over. This caused him to just explode.

It was eerily quiet. He was rearing and flipping his head around, yanking back desperately. Maybe I should have been scared. But I wasn't because I couldn't be, I had to be calm for him. So I just said in a low, calm voice, "ho... ho... easy boy... it's okay, easy..." and he stopped and stood, nostrils flaring, eyes rolling a little bit.

I went back to rubbing his chest and he let out a massive sigh. He was sure he was going to get punished for panicking. Nope, that wouldn't have accomplished a thing.

So then we worked on moving around while tied. I discovered that standing at his side and very lightly waving one hand was enough to move him 90 degrees to one side or the other. Each time he did what I asked, he got a chest rub, a cookie, or some praise. I moved him from side to side as well as backwards and forwards. I very slowly backed him to the end of the rope so that it was fairly taut, and then turned around and moved him forward after he thought about it for a moment. I found that he responded very readily to incredibly subtle cues. I just had to make the tiniest, barely audible cluck while I moved forward, and he was right there with me. Then we worked on a combination of him moving off my cues and standing still when I asked him to.

About then, he told me he was thirsty. Sometimes they just get this look, and you know they need a drink. I cupped some water in my hand, and he licked it up. So I went into the tack room and got my bucket. The horse whinnied for me when I went out of sight. When I came back out he nickered to me. I washed out the bucket and then filled it up with fresh, clean water.

I held it up to him, and he really wanted to drink it, but he was a little scared too. First he licked the surface, and then quickly raised his head to look around for trouble. Something had changed though. He wasn't looking at ME for trouble any more. This was significant.

He began to drink. Whereas Solomon will drink down an entire bucket in one go, this boy would only drink for a short while, then he would have to look around. As his head went deeper into the bucket, he felt more exposed and took shorter drinks. But he did finish the entire bucket of water.

After a little more time had passed, it was time for him to go back to his paddock. For the rest of the day, however, every time I walked past, he'd perk his ears and nicker to me.

30 days. It's just not long enough. But I know he's in good hands here, and I will try to spend some time with him when I am up at the ranch. Sometimes they just need to be shown kindness, and sometimes their trust just has to be earned. Besides, I'm a sucker for hard luck cases.

Meanwhile, Kizim is looking fine!

She is beginning to shape up. She has become quite responsive to cues, and has been ridden up in the hills a fair amount. She's getting a little more muscle and a little less fat.

She's also very lovey and it's hard to take conformation shots of her because she would much rather snuggle than stand still for you.

Okay, so I'm a sucker for horse tongues too! So big and pink and cute!

"Why are you staring at my butt?"

Every single side shot I attempted was not straight, because she was spinning to come over and say hi.

She doesn't really have a big crease over her butt any more though. She's a working girl now!

When I went to get Solomon, as I was unchaining the gate Leo and Poco Joe were rushing over. Of course Solly had already come to the gate to greet me. I decided to do something different, though not something I would do regularly because it could lead to bad gate habits. Instead of haltering him, I opened the gate and called him out. After a pause, Solomon came out and automatically spun his butt so he was standing beside me, facing the gate I was then closing. Well, my my, Solomon really has learned a lot about gate manners!

Once I had the gate latched, I figured I'd see where he would go from there, though I was almost sure I already knew.

Solomon, who knows the layout of the ranch quite well, took the road right through the obstacle course, which was the most direct route to the big pasture and Teddy Bear's pasture.

One he was out in open space...

Right for Teddy Bear! But then he found the remains of the hay that had fallen out of a mule some days before. This was even more appealing than a mare that squealed and kicked at him!

About then a big family showed up to look at Kizim. I got to witness the entire Dog and Pony show. These folks got to meet every single horse on the ranch. I hung out with the group a lot, getting to know them a bit and observing how these things tend to fall out.

The Little Bay Gelding was also there, being ridden by a young woman who does stuff at the ranch. He got bored and decided to scratch his butt on a tree, haha.

Solly was tied at the patience tree, and every time he caught my eye he would call to me. I gave him some time there, and then went over to give him his feed pan.

After he ate, I took him to the roundpen, as Kizim was doing for a trail ride at the time. We did some roundpenning, and Solomon did well, readily loping for 12 laps or so. He also did a lot of trotting and some walking.

Then the children came back, and Solomon love little ones of any species. Baby horses. Baby chickens. Human kids.

Solomon had some senior feed stuck to his upper tooth and lip area, so he kept flehmening.

I've been slowly teaching him to "smile," and this was a great opportinity to further that bit of silly training. Every time he curled up his lip, I said "smiiiile" and then praised him. I also helped him get that stuff off his teeth, heh, which he was grateful for. Solomon is a big ham and loves to pull faces, so now if I touch his lip and say smile or curl my own lip and say smile, often he'll do it for me.


After that Solomon went back to his pasture.

For the rest of the day I followed the family around as Bo took them on a tour. I answered questions as best I could, mostly referring them to Bo because I'm a boarder and I don't know the bloodlines of this or that horse, but making conversation to keep people engaged when they seemed to hang back a bit. The family did ask a lot of good questions and seemed to have a lot of knowledge about horses and horse care. They met every horse on the ranch. All four girls rode Kizim, and one girl loped out the Little Bay Gelding (even jumping an orange cone at the end, haha) and took him up on the trails with Kizim. All in all, they were only there a few hours, but it seemed like they were there all day. Nice folks, and I had a good feeling about them. One of the girls told me they had 7 horses, 3 ponies, and they were fostering a rescue horse. Wow! Of course, Bo and DeDe have 17 horses, a few of which are rescues of this or that kind.

But they left without committing to buying any horses. I do hope they went home to talk about it and are going to come back and buy Kizim. Much as I will be sad about not ever getting to ride her, I think she would have a good and happy home with these folks.

But apparently it's like this when people come out looking to buy. Often people will want to see everything, ride everything, and then you never hear from them again. How exhausting!

I fed Magic the Arab her supplement, drove the mule around a little bit, and after chatting with Bo and DeDe briefly called it a day. I did everything today after having only had a small handful of almonds. Oh boy did I get my workout for the day! I got home around 8pm.

Confession: on days that I don't go to the ranch, I get really antsy and sick of sitting around after maybe an hour at most. I have a lot of energy! And the city just can't compare to horses.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Horses- playful, loving, patient, and kind.

"Horses are just big dumb animals," I have heard people say, over and over.

Well, to be honest with you, I just don't think that's true.

horses aren't humans. But they have emotions, they have thoughts, they plan, and they have a kind of wisdom that we could learn a lot from, if we only took the time to watch and listen.

I could go on for hours about how horses have taught me patience.

How they have taught me to forgive.

How they have taught me to perservere.

how they have taught me to find such joy in silly little things.

How they have taught me to just stop and breathe in the world around me.

Hwo they have taught me to trust.

To keep going even when it hurts, to let go, to move on, to REALLY listen, I know I keep saying listen, but I mean, not waiting for my turn to speak or do something, but actually focus on what another is trying to communicate. To be aware of the world around me in an entirely new way. But words wouldn't ever do it all justice. I could tell you so much more just by taking you out there with me, into the pasture. By letting the warm winds wash over us. By drinking in the smell of hay and horse and pure life.

We, as a race, spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that we are the pinnacle of existence, above and apart from all other living things. But let me ask you something. How often are we truly happy? How often are we truly content?

If you give a horse what he needs- food, proper medical care, a place to run, maybe some friends, a little bit of love- he is happy. He is content. He forgives. He lets go all of the things that we would hold on to for decades. He says, without speaking, "life is good."

It is a state of mind that, for a lot of the time, we humans can only aspire to reach. So when someone says that horses are just big dumb animals, I ask myself, do paper shredders and bedazzlers really make us so much happier? Don't we really just want acceptance? To be understood? To be loved? To experience joy? To feel pleasure? Contentment? I think that horses want these things too, and I think they're pretty good at finding them.

Today I saw horses experience all of these things, in fact.

Up at Solomon's pasture, there was a beast waiting at the gate!

Leo is king of this yard, no mistake about it. And Leo just loves attention. He is very playful. Everything in the world is a toy! Gates are fun to stomp, for example, people are fun to lip, hoses are fun to chew, and halters are fun to grab and swing around.

Feed pans are, of course, best when they have something yummy in them. But they are also fun to roll...


And carry around.

Today I was more successful at keeping Solomon and I safe at the gate with a rowdy horse in the pasture, though on the way back in Leo and Poco Joe stayed back until I was turning Solomon around to close the gate, at which point they both came rushing in. I threw the lead rope over Solomon's back and quickly shut the gate, which he wanted to run back through, at which point he moved away into the pasture and gave them the gate. I was then able to go over and calmly unhalter him.

Anyway, Solomon didn't really have to do any work today. Usually we have a bunch of stuff we do, but I was feeling stiff and it was hot, so I figured he could just have a relaxing day, especially since I was hoping to maybe ride later on.

Solomon is still a little concerned about the Patience Tree.

He took the time he spent there to practice his celebrity impersonations. What do you think- Elvis, or Billy Idol?

The rubber stuff is something they can play with when they are learning to tie for a couple of hours. It also kind of protects the rope, and maybe it protects the horse a little bit from the copious amounts of tree sap. I'm not sure- I'll have to ask Bo what it is specifically for.

Solomon did not, however, scream. Not once. This is a marked improvement, though I think it's because he isn't so interested in being with the boys like he is in being with the herd of mares.

Meanwhile, the Little Bay Gelding and Lil have become fast friends, as you can see. He is showing his affection and saying "this is MY mare!" He is very much her junior, however, from what I've seen- she moves, and he moves out of her way.

Solomon has a nasty nasty scar on the heel of his front right foot. It is probably a bad wire cut, but I don't know for sure. He almost lost the back part of his foot though, and he has a permanent crack in his hoof, which grows in a kind of a funny shape. I don't know how long ago he got the injury. It was long before I got him though.

In the dry, hot air that one finds in Pope Valley in the summer, the scar tissue has gotten so dry that it has actually cracked and split, exposing some raw tissue underneath. I had no idea something like this could happen, but I have just the thing- Skin-So-Soft. It's an Avon product, and not only does it smell good and help repel flies, it also helps to soften and moisturize dry skin. I also combined it with my fly spray. Sorry S___, I know you don't like the greasiness of it! But the moisturizing properties and added staying-power that it lends to fly spray is, in this season, more important than a white coat. Of course if he shows signs of acne I won't use it, but that hasn't ever seemed to be an issue.

Weird angle, I know.

Solomon got some contentment time, grazing near Teddy Bear. Why he is so in love with the one mare who clearly dislikes him, I don't know. But I think he's hoping he'll wear her down until she warms up to him.

At one point he decided to tour DeDe's garden.

I went outside and said "Hey... hey get out of the garden. Go on, get! Carefully!" and Solomon, bless his heart, listens when it really counts. No plants were stomped as he carefully picked his way through them back to the field.

It's kind of hard for me to really tell whether he is gaining or losing weight. Compared to quarterhorses, his loin is really tuck up high, and his back legs and butt are not very big. But then I look at a photo of himf rom the front and think "no, no, this is not a skinny horse."

Teddy bear tried to call him over so that she could kick the fence at him, but for once common sense took over and he shunned her advances.

I decided to fill Teddy Bear and Lilah's trough, and after I was done I gave them some loves. Lilah enjoys getting that spot on her neck skritched as much as the Little Bay Gelding does, and makes a very cute camel-face when you do it. Teddy Bear has an itchy spot on her chest, and when I skritched it, she "groomed" me all down my head, neck, and back with that odd back-and-forth lip movement that horses do when they are exploring something or sifting food. She's such a good girl that I did not feel teeth once. She understands that humans don't like getting groomed with teeth. I understood that she wasn't going to bite me. and there was affection all around.

Meanwhile, while Solomon found some hay that had fallen out of the feed truck, (joy of joys,) Kizim was learning to calmly take a bath after having been ridden by a potential buyer.

She stands quietly for her body wash now, and makes a face for her face wash, though I think horses do that in part so that they won't get water in their ears. She IS still getting used to it, but at the end of the bath she was playing with the spraying water, grabbing at it with her teeth.

She's so sweet. She nickers every time anyone goes past her stall... probably hoping for treats, haha!

Bo needed to take a break after all the riding and bathing of horses that he had done, so we went inside and I showed him my little movies.

Okay, I confess. I SUBJECTED him to my little movies, and he is such a good friend that he actually sat through them, though he did demand a T-shirt at the end. I hadn't really realized how bad they were, haha! He said it was like a Mister Rogers episode about poop and grass. It was so bad I starting laughing and laughing. He gave the CD back to me after we were done watching. Okay, more photos, and just short little videos of things that are a little more interesting than a horse standing there eating grass. :p

"Well when you are older you can certainly look back at what you did during this part of your life," Bo said.

"Yeah," I replied, "Every excruciating second!"

So then he sent me back out to put Solomon away and pull Teddy Bear out of her pasture. Teddy Bear mare-mare is such a sweet, good girl. She certainly has her quirks- she hates having her chestnuts touched, you have to very politely ask her for her feet, and when you are leading her over grass she likes to skim her head along the ground, eating on the go. But she does what you ask, she is extremely forgiving when it comes to green riders, and she goes out of her way to keep the person on her back safe. She is calm, quiet, and reasonable. And if you just brush her mane and tail, she'll love you forever.

So I fly sprayed her, brushed her mane and tail with a little bit of conditioner, checked out her feet, and massaged her back. Then Bo came out, and we had a discussion about how my physical ability needs to catch up with what I have been learning about theory, horsemanship, and how I am emotionally prepared to ride. I mean, I have a serious back injury that will probably need surgery again in a year or so at the most. I should be scared to ride, right? But I'm not, I'm just scared of hurting the horse. Learning balance and getting those core muscles really strong will help with that though.

Bo put a bareback pad on Teddy Bear (he talked me into it) and lead Teddy Bear in her halter to the round pen while I carried in the mounting block.

First we worked on stretching my leg up onto Teddy's back. Not so easy for me, especially since she's about 15.3hh. But I did that a few times, and then I clumsily mounted up. Good old Teddy Bear was nice about it. Bo lead her around, in circles and figure 8s, while instructing me to move with her. Somehow today it really clicked. Theoretically I knew that it was a sort of oscillation of the hips akin to the movement of a bellydancer. In fact, if I had the cash I'd go take bellydancing classes- they teach you suppleness, how to move your hips, and how to completely isolate various parts of your body movementwise, which is very important for riding.

But today for some reason I was feeling her moving under me, and I found myself moving with her legs. Not perfectly, but much better than before. If I think about it too much or get too distracted, I lose it, but if I'm mindful while staying loose, I can do it! Bo had me purposefully get behind her movement, oscillating a little slower than her walk, and ahead of it, and he had me lean forwards, backwards, and from one side to the other. He said that people often get in trouble riding when they lose their balance to the side. He had me practice the emergency dismount then, where you wrap your arms around the horses neck and roll yourself off while still gripping the neck. I automatically dismounted while holding her neck with both my hands facing the same direction, which was not correct. The landing was a bit of a jolt on my upper body.

So then Bo had me get up on the block again.

I stretched my leg over Teddy Bear's back, and this time I was a lot looser and able to really get my knee up over her. When Bo told me to mount, I managed to hop on up with minimal fuss. I still apologized to Teddy Bear, but it was a much better mount. Oh hey, progress!

This time, after we walked around for a bit, Bo began to explain the mechanics of posting. I knew, from reading, that you had to use the motion of the horse to push you up, while still using your muscles to do it, but I hadn't really ever achieved it, though the time Solomon decided to trot on the bridle path at Hossmoor wasn't bad. That hadn't been at all controlled though. This time, Teddy Bear was walking, so I couldn't truly post properly, but I could feel where she stepped forward with her "reaching" leg- the one that steps further when a horse is going in a circle, and I could feel how I could lift off from a certain point in her gait. I could get a bit of an idea about how to do it at the trot, though I am not really ready to trot bareback yet. Teddy Bear was a kind exercise machine for me, only swishing her tail occasionally when I got something wrong. Bo have me exaggerate my hip movements with her gait, really working those thigh and hip muscles hard.

The second dismount went a lot better than the first. I got over the fact that I couldn't possibly wrap my arms all the way around her neck, and just wrapped them as far as they could go while dismounting. That was a much more gentle dismount as well.

I knew as soon as I hit the ground that my muscles were going to be sore. And they were. They are even more sore today! But that's okay. Long ago I was an athlete. I was a gymnast. I am used to the feel of sore muscles, and I welcome it.

My back injury is also sore, but it was sore yesterday, and the day before. I didn't lose any less sleep than I have been after sitting all day. It's just messed up and that's that. I might as well enjoy life, since it'll hurt either way, right? Bo said that we all decline as we age, and that isn't talked about much. There's this illusion that our society clings to, this mistaken concept that if you just eat this food, use that product, or do this workout routine, that you will never be injured seriously and your health will not decline. Heh, well, that's just not true. But what you can do, is do your best to MANAGE that decline. It's a delicate balance, especially if you have a chronic injury, but sitting around doing nothing can be just as damaging as doing too much. So to heck with it. I'll try to not overdo it, though I can't really make myself any promises there, but I'll be damned if I'm going to NOT live and enjoy my life for fear of getting hurt. Life hurts. That's just the way it is. But life is also full of joy and wonder. The life you have is what you've got. Don't let it pass you by.

Teddy Bear didn't even sweat. Her hair got a tiny bit mussed up under the pad, but that was pretty much the only sign that she'd been ridden. She was relaxed after we were done, bright-eyed and mostly just hoping for dinner.

Remember that hay that Solomon found out in the field earlier? There was still a bunch left, so as a reward for being such a good and tolerant girl, I took Teddy Bear over to it and let her graze. She's a funny girl... she takes her time walking somewhere until she figures out where she's going, and then she gets excited and wants to trot ahead. She'll trot ahead to the trailer where she gets tacked up, and she'll certainly trot ahead to a pile of nice tasty hay on the ground.

Doesn't she just have the cutest wide blaze?

For dinner, Kizim got hay and a paper bag filled with plastic bags. She gets a little desensitization training, and she has to eat a little more slowly as well.

A camera flash spooks her just a tiny bit. So sensitive! Solomon was spooked by the flash a bit when I first got him. He's totally used to it now. Really it's a good thing for a horse to learn to deal with.

Something else I should mention- DeDe, Bo's wife, also gives me a lot of great advice and information about horses. She is a fine woman, a hard worker, a kind soul, a hell of a gardener, and a pleasure to get to know. I just thought I should mention that. :)

After I fed Magic the arab her supplements, Bo taught me some riding exercises to do in order to strengthen my muscles and stretch out my body. I surprised myself today by doing a number of crunches. I didn't think my back would let me do one, but if I cushion it on a mattress then the herniated disc isn't an issue. Yay! My stomach muscles get all trembly though. Well, that just means I need to do more!

I've lost about 21 pounds total on Atkins with ranch aerobics. Woowoo!

Have a wonderful day, folks. Be sure, as Joe Shelton says, to hug your horses if you are lucky enough to have 'em!