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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn winds.

Today I was awake at 3am. Left for the ranch at about 6:30am. Usually I show up some time after noon.

I've lost 6 pounds in a little over a week. Still not sure exactly how that happened, but I'll take it!

My new pants are starting to slip, however.

I saw Bo's finger wound today. He removed the dressing without so much of a flinch. The man is pretty badass. I am not made of such stern stuff! I helped him re-bandage it. I think he's going to grow the tip of his finger back.

Today was incredibly windy. Bo said that all the topsoil was blowing away. A lot of the horses were in weird moods, which they seem to be on really windy days, especially if it's a big change in the weather.
This, combined with me doing a spaz-dance and saying "NO I FEEL GREAT" after having told Bo that I had been getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep every night for the past week decided him on not letting me ride. Sadmaking, but it was the right decision.

So after pushing the barrow while Bo mucked (I tried to pry the rake from his hands but failed) and helping dole out feed pans, I worked three horses in the roundpen.

One was not very trained, and that was a lot of work. It was hard to maintain a trot!
One was quite well trained, and very responsive, but we did not have the bond and communication that Solomon and I have.
The third was my boy.

Solomon was there to greet me with his narrow chest and sweet face.

Solly is not interested in soccer, we discovered. Poco Joe in the background there is interested in snuggling, however!

Solomon was quite responsive. We have come to know each other pretty well, and we tend to communicate fairly effectively these days. In this video, if you watch closely you can see that we managed a bit of speed transitions with his trot.

I am concerned about his health, however.

He needs to gain about 50 pounds. If you press on his barrel, you can feel his ribs. And his topline is looking terrible.

His roach back type injury is more pronounced. The vertebrae at the "point" of the bump have a slightly swollen feel to them.

Some of his shark fin wither could just be from his TB blood. It stands out, in a sea of quarterhorses. But he seems to have hollowed out some. Not good, going into winter. And I can't really take him to get an MRI on that back. Bo and I both think it's probably chronic and not something that can be fixed. So we're feeding him senior feed and keeping an eye on him. Going to try to make him comfortable. And I'm trotting him in the roundpen more, to see if I can get that topline to fill out a bit.

He DOES voluntarily trot on his own, and apparently he also lopes around the pasture with the two boys. His eye is still bright and he still seems happy. It's just a worry, because I feel like he could go downhill quickly. He is being watched and cared for, however. Hopefully I'll manage to go see him a little more often than I have in the past couple of weeks.

Solomon got an extra big feed pan today. He promptly stomped on it and emptied most of it onto the ground.

But he still ate it all.

You can see here that he is not in terrible condition. His winter fuzzies are starting to come in, but still. He isn't skinny. He's just not quite fat enough, and is not in condition.

But he does have cute ears!

Bo asked me if I'd eaten anything, and I replied honestly that I had not. He brought me some grapes and a slice of cheese. Awwh, sweet of him. :)
I ate some of the grapes and all of the cheese, but knew I couldn't have all the grapes because they are kind of high in sugar. I told Bo that I couldn't eat them all, and he told me "so give them to Solomon!"

I fed the grates to Sol one by one. He curled his lip after eating the first one, but quickly decided that he liked them. I hand fed him the grapes, and when I ran out, he snorfled me and brushed his lips on my face, begging for more. Heh, my fault for having taught him "kiss me," but honestly? I like it. It tickles and it's kind of sweet. He isn't going to bite me.

Teddy Bear was the 4th horse I was going to work. I was pretty tired at that point, but I wanted to do more. She, however, wouldn't budge Quite uncharacteristic of her, as she is normally a pretty easygoing horse. I checked out all 4 of her feet, which she gave me obligingly enough. I pulled a couple of little rocks out, but they weren't really nasty ones. I saw Bo walking by and called to him.

"Hey Bo?" I yelled.


"Teddy Bear won't go to the gate with me. This isn't really normal for her."

"Well," he replied, "Better just leave her be then. Something's disturbed her and there's no point in pushing the matter."

Now, this is a method of horsemanship that I think a lot of people might find a little odd. Let the horse do what SHE wants? Won't she learn disrespect that way? Won't she WIN?

But respect isn't a matter of forcing another being to do things. It isn't a matter of putting fear into them, either. Respect is a matter of trust, and for there to be real respect in a working partnership, it has to go both ways. Sometimes a horse will have an off day. If the horse is like Teddy Bear, who is a bit of a schoolmaster and normally very willing and sensible, there isn't a whole lot to be gained from fighting her when nobody, including her, really NEEDS to pull her out for some roundpenning.

Now, yes, a horse should learn to follow you and obey you normally. But sometimes when they have a very strong and out of character opinion about something, you have to evaluate the situation, and sometimes you have to just let things be. I've read a lot of stories about people who got hurt riding. Many of them said "She wasn't acting normal and I felt like something was off, but I couldn't find anything physical wrong with her, so we just went ahead and did it." Then the horse spooked, or stumbled and fell, or bucked the rider off, and there was a big wreck.

Horses are not machines. They are not completely consistent. They have bad days. They have days where their agenda is just not compatible with your own. If they are consistently saying no to something, it's time to re-evaluate the horse's health and the training methods that are being used, because maybe the horse just doesn't understand. It's POSSIBLE the horse is just being willful and testing, but it seems to me that usually there is some other reason. Maybe it is something that someone with the right skills and knowledge can work though, maybe it's not, but one thing that rarely works is fighting an epic battle with one's equine companion about what you think they should do. That's usually just being impatient and inflexible.

So I left Teddy Bear in her pasture with Lilah.

It was strange, but while chatting with DeDe about her fabulous and ever-elvolving garden, I realized that I felt a little chilly. I think it was in the high 70s, at the least. I'm just so used to it being in the 90s or 100s up there that it felt kind of wrong! I like it a lot better, for sure. But yeah, I had goosebumps. Weird.

Some time I will tell you about how religious humanism can be connected to horsemanship. Some time I will tell you about Cali being weaned. Sometime I will tell you about hoof angles.

But for now, dear readers, I am so very tired. I am just going to lay my head down for a little while. I will talk to you again soon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Still here!

Hey folks,
Sorry for hte lack of updates. I haven't been able to get up to the ranch since my last post. Between helping to plan and run a memorial and a number of other important social engagements, I just haven't been able to get out there. I miss everyone too!

Look for an update Tuesday night or so. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ashes to Ashes, Muck to Muck

It was a pretty hot day today, but I heard that tomorrow will be even hotter, so I headed over to the ranch at about noon.

Approaching the gate, I remembered that a Buddhist friend of mine said I should just let go of the desire to be confident and the desire to be in control. I thought at first that it sounded a little bit counter-productive, as horses are so hierarchical in nature. Of course I wanted to be the leader, and of course I wanted to exude confidence!

But as I was approaching the gate, it started to make a lot more sense. I realized that you can set yourself up for failure by wanting to succeed too badly. You start focusing on everything going perfectly, and you start to get expectations. You start worrying that the experience will fail to live up to your expectations. You start to worry that you will fail. You might pause, for just a moment. You might not believe that you can make yourself have total confidence. You focus on whether or not you will get it right, and you lose the ability to simply be in the moment, and be fluid should the situation necessitate a change. Desire can lead to doubt, which can lead to hesitation. So in a way it made sense.

So I decided to just let go and let it be what it was. I took my time and assessed the situation. I thought about the best way to pull Solomon out, and the best way to deal with things not going well. And then I walked right in (to the sound of a lot of nickering from my big grey boy) and haltered him up.

The Little Bay Gelding, whom I had mistaken for Remmy during my last visit just long enough to hesitate, wanted to come out with us. I switched hands with the lead rope behind my back and opened the gate outward, because it would make the LGB take the time to turn around and get behind Sol's butt again. I lead Solly out, told him to spin his butt around, which he did, and latched the gate behind us. The Little Bay Gelding was disappointed, but I was quite pleased!

Solomon was soft and calm on the walk to the Patience Tree, which I have come to greatly prefer to the trailer because it is shady, the ground is soft for me to kneel on (I won't think too hard about why that is) and it is close to the tack and feed room. Solomon just sighs and tolerates it.

It was energy-sucking hot today, and I was glad of the shade. Solomon just wanted his feed pan.

His front feet were a little bit thrushy today, and I really had to dig in deep to get it out. Mildly worrisome since he just got a trim, so it'll be awhile before his sole can get pared away again. It isn't bad at all though, and I poured some pure iodine in all the little cracks, working it in with a toothbrush as much as I could.

I am not looking forward to mud season. His feet are a nightmare when it's wet!

I brushed Sol out, and he is very much shedding his summer coat. His croup and tailhead are especially shaggy, and losing a lot more hair than anyplace else. Weird.

Then it was feed pan time.

I know, I know, he is a mister beggypants when he sees it, and I was encouraging him. But I love the nickering.

After that, I walked him back up the ranch road. The pair of ravens that moved in were hanging out along the way, and when they saw us they took flight, calling and circling around us once or twice.

A good omen, in my mind. Odin, the all-father and one of my favorite gods, has a pair of ravens named Huginn and Muninn. Their names mean Thought and Memory. And Odin rides the greatest horse, Sleipnir. Thus, I decided that their appearance boded well for the day. I could have used a bit more of Muninn, however, as I left a hose on while watering the horses later in the day. It was "closed" so it wasn't losing water, but still. Bad ditsy Ev!

Anyway, emboldened by the sight of the ravens and inspired to Do Something Interesting with the day, I decided that, despite the heat, we would take a walk. Solomon doesn't particularly enjoy the straight, paved road, so I decided we'd try something a little more interesting: the back of the property, which caught on fire last month.

I expected to have a recalcitrant horse on my hands, planting his feet and refusing to go forward unless given a lot of coaxing. What I got was a very forward horse, ears pricked, excited to be exploring a trail. Well! I sure do wish I could ride him. He loved it!

He was, of course, smacking his lips and making funny faces here.

The trail we took was the less steep one which runs along the side of the property and then connects to an easement road in the back. You can just see the area where everything turns black down the trail.

And here you see the devastation. It is strangely beautiful... almost autumnal. Except everything is dead. How gothic.

I expected Solomon to be nervous like the mare I walked, but he was simply curious, interested in taking in all the new, weird smells. The burned ground was strange to walk on. Soft with a tiny bit of crunchiness. Everything was so quiet. The birds did not seem to like it here.

Moving along, Solomon started to get even more excited, but he did not want to turn around. Instead, he wanted to power forward. I began to regret not having roundpenned him first!

When we hit the flat area, he raised his head high and called! It was a veyr long series of notes, and he was very excited.

I called him a silly horse for getting so excited when there was nothing there.

We continued down the easement at the back of the property, looking at the steep side of the hill, covered in black ash. Solomon seemed to want to try running right up the side of it. Uh, no. No no no I don't think so.

I found a striped feather. Maybe it was from a turkey, or maybe it was from an owl. This being California, I had to briefly hippify my horse. He was Not Impressed.

Solomon did not want to stop moving. He wanted to keep exploring, but I realized that I was getting really tired, and I wasn't sure there was a trail on the other side of the easement. I turned us around, and on the way back I saw what Solomon had been calling to- three horses, who had finally come across a very large pasture to peer at us over the gate. Solly VERY badly wanted to mosey over to say hi, but I insisted that we go back.

Once our course was plotted, Solomon got even higher energy. When we started to go over the hill, there was a wall on one side and a drop on the other. Solomon was getting more and more amped up, and I was having a hard time walking and keeping him under control.

So let's talk for a moment about Plan A and Plan B. Bo says it's good to have a Plan A, a Plan B, and perhaps a Plan C, even if Plan C is "wing it." If you get TOO caught up in the idea that there is only one things that should happen, and one way to do it, you can sometimes get yourself in trouble with horses. They are not always with us on our plans. And just as sometimes being a good leader means letting go, sometimes being a good leader is being open to changing plans.

So, I did both. I knew he wanted to head back to the main ranch. I knew the situation was starting to get a bit dangerous, and I ran the risk of getting myself or my horse hurt. I knew that there were other options. So, I let go. And by that, I mean I literally let go- I unsnapped his lead rope and said "well fine then. You go on ahead if you want to that badly."

And here's the funny thing. He didn't. Or rather, he didn't want to go back to the ranch- he wanted US to go back to the ranch. All the prancing was gone. All the tension that had been on the rope, dragging me along was gone. All the moving this way and that, almost running me into the wall or going off the side of the trail, was gone.

Solomon walked by my side, calm as could be, pacing himself to match mine. Solomon knew he had a choice, and he chose to stay. I dropped the pressure, and so did he. When we got down to the flat part of the ranch, close to the top pasture, he walked a little ways ahead, pooped on the composting manure pile like a stallion would, and then stopped, eating grass, until I caught up.

Then I re-clipped him and took him back to his pasture.

The gate again went smoothly, smooth as glass. I couldn't have been happier. It was just a gate, and all the horses were fine.

The boys said hello to each other, and then to me.

Remmy decided that Solomon's shoulder would be nice to lick for some reason (mmmm fly spray!) and Solomon stuck his tongue out in return.

Poco Joe had an opinion about my stupid pink hippie shirt. What can I say? It's great on a hot day. Even though I hate pink. Horses, however, just love it because it's this big flappy tent, and that is apparently a really fun thing to grab and pull on.

Nobody pulls very hard though.

After that, I watered, and then I spent a good amount of time chatting with Bo and DeDe over tea. Always a great time, though I am sad to see it get dark so fast. In the dead of winter it gets dark well before 5pm. I'll have to try to start getting up a lot earlier!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Confidence and consistency

You know, I've been thinking a lot about the incident at the gate yesterday.

I've figured something out.

It wasn't really Solomon who changed. It wasn't really the LBG.
Sure, the Little Bay Gelding is older and starting to assert himself a little bit more. Sure, Solomon has recently been in some situations where he wasn't the leader and got beat up at the gate a bit.
But really, bit by bit, I've been losing confidence at the gate.
And because of that, I have been losing consistency.
Solomon, like always, is quicker to pick up on these things than I am.
And yesterday was no exception. When we went through the roundpen gate, he followed my lead flawlessly. I was unworried, expecting a certain result, confident that I would get it. But at the pasture gate, with another horse close by, I did not have that confidence, and I did not have that expectation. Truth be told, I was probably a little anxious. And this was a place where Solomon did not feel comfortable being in charge, because when you have a horse haltered on a rope and are leading him through a gate around other horses, you really NEED to be the one in charge, taking a confident, consistent role as leader. And the thing is, Solomon isn't the only one who picked up on me NOT taking that role. The LBG did too. He backed up when I asked him to, especially when I spun the lead rope a bit, but he didn't do it much. When I think back, I dithered a bit most of the way in, trying to figure out how to move both my horse and the LBG safely. It was that pause, in a not so safe spot, and the little shot of anxiety that came with it, that caused Solomon to react. Not really the LBG, who was on the other side of me and not doing much. It was me.
And Solomon, once he'd paused and seen I wasn't hurt, went to a source of comfort and consistency, that being his water trough. Sure, he was thirsty after being roundpenned, but he was also doing something that would allow him to take comfort in his environment. Something entirely unexpected and uncomfortable had just happened, and he needed his world to be right again.
It's funny how these things can kind of creep up on you. I think a lot about how this or that might affect my horse, and how this or that recent experience might cause a change in his behavior. But I also think back to something Bo said to me very early on, and that is that often we blame the horse, when it's really us.
Me, I was used to playing the calm, centered role, and I guess I got a little caught up in that by denying that I was NOT because I knew I needed to be. I wasn't really scared, I was just unsure and a little anxious, and that was enough. For all that Solomon is very soft and forgiving these days, he's still a horse, and a rather sensitive one at that.
So I may have been the one who got hurt, but he didn't really let me down, I let him down.
But now that I have identified the problem, what I need to do is just work through it.

Have you ever had something creep up on you like this? Something you didn't realize you were losing confidence in? What happened? How did you realize it? What did you do to fix it?
Yesterday when I got to the ranch, nobody was there!

I pulled Solly out and groomed him, then gave him his feed pan. I like to sit in a chair in front of the pan, because Solomon seems to enjoy "visiting" as he eats. He'll take a few bites, then lift up his head and blow gently in my face as he chews, hehe.

After his feed pan, it was time to take Solomon for a little work in the round pen.
He walked and trotted fine, but was a little grumpy at the canter. Still, I think he's looking good!

Here, have a conformation shot, sort of. Don't mind his uh, relaxed state here.


So I decided that we should work on ground tying. It's useful outside of just wanting to tack up your horse on the trail. Say you are hand-walking your horse, and he stumbles suddenly, so you want to make sure he didn't just pick up a rock. You want him to stop and stand still for you. Or say you are going through a gate and you fall on your butt because he stepped on your foot and went forward. Ahem. More on that in a bit. :p

So what did I do to start teaching him to ground tie?

I used an existing cue that Solomon knows, that being "ho," and combined it with the cue of dropping and leaving the lead rope on the ground. Being new to this, he did move a number of times, but at the end he seemed to get it, at least in a controlled environment like the round pen.

It was a lot of repetition. I could tell the little wheels in his head were turning, heh. But it's going to take a number of lessons before he is consistent.

After we worked on that, I chatted with A____ for a while, as she had shown up. I showed her Solly's newfound ground tying skills, and he was a very good boy for us, standing still even though he wanted to go run off to the mares.

We gave him some cookies and worked on "smile," haha.

Then I had a wreck at the gate.
Looking back, this morning, I can see the steps leading up to it. A number of incidents where I was unable to keep other horses away from the gate, so Solomon had to move himself to keep himself safe. This time it was just the Little Bay Gelding, but he did not back off very far, and I was kind of messy with my gate entry.
Solomon came forward and stepped on my foot. He continued to come forward, so I fell down, given that my foot was nailed to the ground by an iron-shod hoof, heh. I had a brief thought of "I might get trampled. I could get shattered bones, or I could die," but Solomon did a lovely sidepass and stopped for a moment. LBG also did not move. As I picked myself up and dusted myself off, Solly went to the trough and had a drink. I admit, I was pretty mad right then, but it was an accident and the moment for reprimands had already passed. He wouldn't have understood.

So I latched the gate and walked away. Well, limped really. I lost a chunk of skin off the top of my toe. Not bad, actually, for almost getting trampled! I figure I was pretty lucky. And I also think that we're going to be doing a lot more gate work as well as more ground tying work.

I poured some pure betadine on my toe, which kinda stings by the way, and bandaged it up. Really not so bad.

Then I went back to retrieve my hat, which had come off during my fall. Solomon immediately came back to me from across the pasture, and did a lot of head-ducking and gentle nose blowing, almost as if he was apologizing. I might have to revisit that "they forget about it soon after" thing. He really did seem concerned, heh! Of course I forgave him. Really it was my fault!

About then, Bo got back. His finger had gotten stomped by a mare who had EPM, and occasionally still suffers from it's effects. Awful disease. :( So anyway, he'd been at the doctor's. Part of why farriers charge what they do is that it's hazard pay!

Just another day at the ranch, as he said.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy anniversary!

Yesterday was Bo and DeDe's 28th wedding anniversary! Congrats you two!
The man saw how much better I was walking after spending the day with my horse, and how much less cranky I was, and gifted me with some gas money so I was able to go see him again.
Solomon was still in the pasture across the street, so I went out to say hi.

Remmy had other ideas about my visit!

Remmy is one of those young horses that is relentlessly playful. And boy does he ever love attention. Today I was not wearing loose-fitting clothing, so he tried to eat one of my boots. The problem there being twofold- one, I did not want him to eat my boot, and two, my foot was still in said boot. His teeth closed down on the toe with an audible chomping noise. All I had to do was say "AAAAH" and he let go, but I was, I'll admit, a little startled!

Contrast to Poco Joe, who is a calm boy and who just wants to get along.

Solomon had enjoyed his turn out, I think, but he was done with these whippersnappers who were 15 years his juniors, and he wanted to come in. He glued himself to me, blowing softly on my hands. There was a tiny bit of anxiousness in that blowing, coupled with relief. We walked all around the pasture, with Remmy chasing behind, occasionally trying to run Sol off, but I cut him off at the pass. Solomon started hiding behind me. Oh Solly, you probably have a hand and a couple hundred pounds on Remmy.
But Solomon just isn't that young or into playing. He kept walking over to this or that gate, shoving at it with his nose, giving me a Significant Look, then shoving the gate again. "I'm so done," he said.

I didn't have a halter, so I had to leave the field to get one and bring Solomon in. When I left and didn't take him with me, Solomon started whinnying to me. Don't worry boy!

Bo and I went and got his halter, and he decided it would be safer for all concerned if he pulled Solomon out himself.

When we drove the mule up to the field, Remmy was running Sol and Poco Joe around. It was pretty to watch, but Sol was breathing pretty hard, too.

The first try the gate didn't get unlatched fast enough, and we lost our opportunity. Solomon ran away because Remmy charged him, wanting to be brought out instead.

Solomon got really upset at that point, and was running back and forth along the gate, nostrils flaring. Oh, he was so done!

So the second time I worked the gate. I almost opened it outwards, but Bo had me swing it in so they could slip out, and run out of the way. I managed to haul my butt out of the way pretty well, considering my back's current condition. Bo handed him to me and drove back to the ranch. Solly was very worked up, but also quite obedient, just being happy that he was out.

Funnily enough though, he did pause a little ways in the front gate of the ranch, wondering why Remmy and Poco Joe weren't coming with, perhaps. I am not really sure. Maybe he was just needing to orient himself a little bit and re-order his thoughts, since his environment had just changed again.

I took him out to the big field next to the big mare pasture. Solomon was quite happy, and the mares seemed strangely happy to see him as well. There was no squealing, and the alpha mares chased off the younger mares so they could get some nose sniffs in. Getting Solomon to walk away was another issue entirely, and it took a lot of coaxing. He was displeased, and kept saying "but mom can't you understand that THIS is where I WANT TO BE?"

But he was happy to see his old pasture.

There's no water quite like home water, and the first thing Solomon did when I set him loose was go check out his trough, then take a big long drink.

You know, I never get tired of little things like this... like how Solomon sticks his tongue out in the water, but filters everything through his teeth so he doesn't drink any oak leaves. He is the quietest drinker ever. He is a water-ninja.

And he was happy to be back in comfortable, familiar surroundings. Note the droopy lip.

He did kind of wonder why he didn't have any buddies, but all in all life wasn't bad at all. He got a big flake of oat hay soon after.

And of course in the interest of training my horse to do the most useful stuff, like, EVER, we did "smile" again.

He kind of looks like he is singing opera here!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lots of pics day, and a bit about control.

In the horse world, there's a lot of talk about control.
How you ALWAYS have to be 100% in charge and in control of your horse.
How if you aren't in perfect control all the time, you will lose all control and things will become very dangerous.
This is a concept that I went by a fair amount at first. Sometimes things would really escalate, and Solomon and I would get in a fight. I look back at that day when I tried to ride Solomon in a borrowed dressage saddle that we had never used before, and he ended up striking me because things escalated so much. I tried to force him to stand at the block for me.
The truth is, he probably had a pretty good reason for not wanting me to get on his back. I'm betting that saddle didn't fit at all, and he could already tell it was going to hurt. There's a good chance we'd both get hurt.
So was he in the wrong? A little bit, as he should never have struck me... though I have to say he really pulled his punch. But he was rather correct as well. I had no business getting on his back in a saddle that I thought might fit, but that probably did not.
Thing is, he tried for a good half hour to tell me more gently, and I just wasn't listening. I was going to get up on that horse no matter what his opinion was! In the end, I not only did not get on him, but I re-enforced his already negative view of mounting and riding. But it wasn't entirely bad, either. I learned something very important. I learned that I really needed help. And thanks to that realization, which is something Solomon had been trying to tell me for a while, I GOT help. We found a place that was much better for us than Hossmoor, and I found some great friends and mentors. I have spent many, many hours with Bo, and he has taught me so very much. DeDe often has mentioned very thoughtful, insightful things to me. And I found another mentor. His name is Solomon.
I learned that sometimes softer can accomplish a lot more than firmer. I learned that it can be hard, but patience really pays off. I learned that doing things right isn't always the easiest way, but it is the most effective long term. I learned that it is so very important to listen to my horse, and that if I learned how, he had a lot to say.
I learned to build a partnership. Of course, I am the leader most of the time. But Solomon has also come to respect this more, not because I have been more forceful, but because I have learned to be a BETTER leader. And also because sometimes he DOES know better, and I know that sometimes I can and should listen to him. Sometimes he can sense things I can't, even about myself.

So today when I woke up, it took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to get 15 feet from my bed to the bathroom. Every movement sent a stabbing pain through me, and I was involuntarily jerked around by my back. Spasms wracked through my body, and I almost fell a number of times. I couldn't stand upright and I had to half crawl, half pull myself forward by whatever objects I could reach.
It took me a couple of hours to get myself completely dressed.
I called the doctor's office and demanded an MRI. They wanted me to try just taking ibuprofen for a while. I think we're a little beyond that point.
I did get my pants on, however, and eventually my boots too, though I yelled a bit and the cats hid under the bed. I found out that today was the only day the farriers would be there, so I didn't really have a choice in the matter. Pain or no, I had to go pay for my boy's shoes.
I drove up in the heat, and by the time I got to the ranch I was feeling pretty wiped out. Solomon was just getting the finishing touches on his new shoes, and when he saw me he perked up big time, saying "MOM!" or maybe "FOOD LADY!"
A___ was holding him for me. That was so sweet of her! She handed him over and he got really excited, very gently nudging me and sniffing me all over. I'd been gone a week.
We walked out of the trimming area... well he walked, I hobbled. I decided it was most certainly a day for throwing my arm over Sol's shoulders. I had a goal in mind, and it was quite a long walk. When I put my arm over Solomon's shoulder, though I didn't really realize it right away, I gave him the lead. He gave me some dubious expressions when I asked him to go down the road towards his pasture, and stopped. I, gritting my teeth and ignoring my body, was probably sending all kinds of signals to him with my tenseness, and I think he knew I was hurting big time.
Solomon does have his own desires, of course, and he wanted to go out into the big field at the center of the ranch. He walked very slowly and carefully, keeping one eye fixed on me, and instead of trying to trot off to see Teddy Bear, he stopped not too far from the road and picked at some dead grass. I leaned on him, stretching my back out and taking some pictures of his freshly trimmed feet. Then it dawned on me. I needed to go slowly and I needed to only go a short distance and then take a break. I just hadn't really paid enough attention to my body to realize it. But Solomon did. He was right, and I am glad that I listened to him.
Once I was finished stretching and loosening my back up, he let me take over and was very soft and obedient for the rest of the day.

In fact, I have found that if I give a little, I can actually take a lot more than I could when it was all take and no give. Later on that evening, as we sat at the table talking about big name trainers, martial arts senseis and what makes a good teacher, I mentioned that a good teacher is one who is not only still open and learned, but also willing to learn from his students. A good platoon leader is one who is willing to hear out his soldiers. And a good leader knows that sometimes he must follow. As well, do you fully trust anyone who has no trust in you?

I don't think a day goes by now that I am not in some way humbled by horses.

Now that I've talked a bit about the serious stuff, it's time for a lot of pictures!

I asked the farrier about hoof length and barefoot versus shoes. He simply said "well, all farriers are different, and all horses are different. Each one has their own unique needs."

What it really comes down to for me is what makes Solomon feel good.

See, this is what we have to work with:

Note that the shoe runs way behind the heel, so there is room for it to spread. This foot will never be normal... so we do what we can to make it not hurt.

After my rest, I took Solly and tied him to the patience tree for a little while so I could chat with the farriers and A___. I fixed up a small pan of senior feed, and fed my boy. Meanwhile Kizim was running around in the front pen, charging about like an Arabian filly, tail high in the sky, calling to him. She is possibly even more obsessed with him than he is with Teddy Bear.

I decided that it would probably be okay for them to meet at the gate. I can't afford the emergency vet bill if they happen to not get along in a pasture together.

They happily sniffed noses, then gave a little squeal in unison. Solomon told me that was plenty of chit chat time by ambling away. Kizim started calling and calling to him. I took Solomon to the field across the street, and Kizim ran to the corner, going nuts because the big grey dreamboat was LEAVING!

Solomon gets to spend a little time in a 3 acre pasture with Poco Joe and Remmy. He was feeling really good after his trim, and they all expressed quite a bit of joy together. The boys are, I think, 3 and 4 years old or so, and Solomon is 17 or 18, but he kept up just fine!

First, he explored a bit...

Remmers had to come investigate my giant flowy pink hippie shirt. I do not like wearing pink and I am not a big fan of hippie clothes, but this shirt is cool (temp-wise) and comfortable, so screw it. It is also, as it happens, the most amusing thing for horses ever.

He grabbed my sleeve and tried to run off with it, but that didn't work out so well given that it was attached to me. I told him he had to back off, thank you very much.

This tree just kind of blew up one day. BAM, one side fell, then not too long after BAM, the other side fell.

Ahh, California, where things catch on fire and/or explode randomly. That might explain films out of Hollywood, actually!

After exploration time, it was run around like crazy beasts time!

HAHA, yeah, he really was used for barrel racing about 5 years ago. I don't know that he ever WON, though.

Not sparkling white any more. Still happy though!

Losing the lead!

So he spun and made them catch up again!

Yeee-haw! 'Course, Solomon might tell you that he was leading the charge, but I think Remmy was probably chasing him.

Heh, his tail goes straight out.

And off he goes!

But of course he had to come back to check on me a few times.

Then there was HAY! Happy, joyous day- HAY! He never gets sick of having good hay.

The pasture across the street looks a bit like a Lord of the Rings forest, California style. The wind was blowing, and oak leaves were falling. I wish this photo showed how fairy tale it really looked out there.

And then there was this crazy stump with it's crazy giant boll. It was as tall as a house, and a curled up horse could have fit in the boll part, I think.

Remmy and Poco Joe also enjoyed their food.

At the end of the day, I went with Bo while he fed, and the baby followed along. She's in the process of weaning, and she was out of the big pasture for the second half of today.

SHE HAS BEEN NAMED! Her name is Cali!

She is an own daughter of Topsails Reinmaker, and I think she is going to be a very nice rein cow horse.

A little later on, A___, DeDe, and myself all went out to try to drive her down the fenceline and back into the big pasture. A___ and DeDe were on foot, and I was driving the mule. I can tell you right now that a mule (the vehicle, not the equine,) is no match for the agility of a filly whose sire competes in the Magnificent Seven. She was running circles around me! I swear I could hear the Benny Hill theme song playing. In the end A____ went and got her mom, Magic, and lead her down to the gate, and which point with me behind and DeDe in front we got her down to the gate, which she ran through. Overall, she is a rather independent-minded filly, and she has mostly weaned herself. She'll go to mom for the occasional sip, but spends more time with some of the other mares than she does with her milk-bar.

After that was done with, Bo, DeDe and I went into the house and chatted for a while. It's always a pleasure to visit and philosophize at the ranch!

By the time I left, I was walking almost normally. How about that?