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, 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!


ariemay said...

I thought of you today when I went to let the two girls out of the arena into the pasture. They had been in there for only an hour while some fence work was done, but OMG you would have thought it was all day. Cupcake tried to charge me and the only tool I had to hold her back was a toilet brush (for cleaning the water troughs) It worked! Gave me just enough extra authority to make her pay attention and behave.

Keep having fun!

Evergrey said...

Haha, yay for the power of toilet brushes!

Thank you, I will... I'm not going to make it out to the ranch until Tuesday. Sad! Bo is saying "hey get out here and walk your horse!"

I'm going to try hard to get up there a few times this coming week.