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, 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!


Anonymous said...

So Kizim still hasn't found anyone that she's compatible with? haha

Evergrey said...

Well I haven't ridden her yet! Though I couldn't afford a second horse anyway. :/ But she seems to be about my speed, haha!

Evergrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

LOL Ev! I was talking about being compatible with another horse in her paddock... LMAO.

Evergrey said...

Oh! Haha!
Uhm no not yet. She sure likes to call to Solomon though! Well your horse is mostly white, so maybe she says "hey, I know that horse!"