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.

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.


Who Knew? said...

Awww - love how you listen to the scared horse in training. Poor guy sounds sensitive. I bet most riders and handlers sound like they are shouting to him. I'd love to hear more about him. Is he still around?

Evergrey said...

He is, in fact!
As of my leaving time yesterday, he was in a pasture with two young bay geldings, and while there was a bit of squealing, they seemed to get on just fine. The two bays were lying on the ground napping at one point, even- a very good sign, because if they were stressed about the scared boy, they wouldn't be lying down to nap. Too vulnerable. So for a little while at least he has buddies... though he still called to me!