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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Autumn is coming!

Autumn is coming to the ranch, though I'm betting it was just teasing us today, and summer will return for another month or so.

There was a very pleasant breeze, and the temperature was just about perfect.

There are still plenty of flowers though, thanks to DeDe's lovely and ever-enlarging garden.

It was another day at the Scary Mean Cowboy Horse Ranch. Here you can see sweet old Shin who is in a paddock so he can put on more weight. He loves those mares, but he also is happy to share his food with them. He is being just absolutely TORTURED with love. You can tell because he is leaning into the hug. Somebody call PETA!

Solomon was happy to see me today, and acted like a good, mature ranch horse.
When I went in and haltered him, Poco Joe was just far too interested in the gate. With the two of them, Solomon tends to rule the gate, but when Poco Joe saw me holding his attention, he tried to make his move. I decided that it would be safest for everyone if I moved Poco Joe away, and Solomon decided it would be safest for him if he let me take over.
I tossed the rope over Sol's wither and chased Poco Joe off. Poco Joe isn't a horse who spooks or scares easily, and having grown up on the ranch he is really trusting of people as well. He's a well-behaved horse, but he doesn't know me all that well yet, and he is a young guy. So yep, as I am still very much a beginner to horsemanship, it took me a few tries to convince him that he really did need to walk away from the gate. This took quite a bit of gesticulating and noisemaking on my part, and through the entire thing Solomon stood stock still. My baby can ground tie! Okay, my baby can ground tie under certain circumstances. But really he has come such a long way.
He moved when I told him to, swung his butt out, and was generally just a really good, calm old boy the whole day.

He is already not so sparkly, but he's also looking pretty good overall. I think he is very happy to share a pasture with just Poco Joe. He doesn't seem to have any new "pasture rashes" either, pasture rashes being the skins and nicks horses get from their pasture politics. I curried him with the jelly rubber, and found that he has started shedding out around his rump. We can't always tell when fall is coming, especially since the weather is hot most of the time still, but it seems like horses can. I seem to remember Solomon shedding out his summer coat last year before he started to grow in his winter coat. Wait, WAIT, where did the summer go? How is it already FALL? I tell you, the older you get, the more time seems to fly away from you...

Bo tells me that Autumn in Pope Valley is just spectacular. He tells me that the weather is just amazing, and there is a heck of a lot more riding. I am very much looking forward to this! And here he wasn't sure I'd make it through the summer. When Sol and I first got to the ranch, there was much talk along the lines of "until the heat drives you back to the old barn."

HAH! We made it! :D

Solly got a good brushing down and his feed pan. Then it was time for a little more work.

Solomon was a little lazy about cantering at first... or maybe he was a little tight at first, because he cantered much more readily near the end of the roundpenning session. Then he went back to his pasture. I let him loose, he snagged a drink of water, and then he came right back to me, cuddling up close and trying to talk me into letting him come back out the gate with him.

We are supposed to ignore this behavior, because Bo and DeDe are sick of replacing fencing and fixing gates:

No attention for you, Sol!

But then he played his trump card. I think he has really started taking to doing this to show off.

"Look Ma, I have TEETH!"

Next it was time to take a little riding lesson on my favorite Little Roan Riding Hood, Teddy Bear!

Er, oh hi Lilah! Yes, you are a special girl too. *skritch skritch*

Anyway, like I said, Teddy Bear!

"Yeeeeees? You rang? Where are my 5 serving boys who ought to be here brushing my mane and feeding me carrots? Oh, lesson time? I suppose I can do that. You know I'll take good care of you... even if you do almost fall off from time to time."

Today I said to Bo "well you know, I wouldn't MIND walking outside of the roundpen. With you leading of course."

Bo grinned at me and said "Nah, we aren't doing sightseeing today."

So this time before attempting to climb up on that sweet girl's back, I did some stretching. I told Bo that I used to be able to grab my heel and hold my leg straight up so my foot was over my head. He told me he had a friend who would always counter "used to be able to's" with "yeah? What've you got now?"

Yeah, dwelling on the past won't help anyone move forward!
So I stretched using the mounting block and the roundpen bars, and I think it helped a lot.

"You can't expect your horse to be supple if you aren't also supple," I said to Bo. I felt kind of clever thinking that up, and then I realized that probably every reining instructor in the history of the universe has also said something along those lines. But ya know? It's a good concept to keep in mind. Balancing and moving properly takes two, both the horse and the rider. If you are a sack of potatoes, don't get mad at your horse for not doing all the work for you. She can't! You have to do your part.

As for me, oh I have such a long way to go before I have really learned to do my part.

I did manage to hop up on Teddy Bear instead of climbing up on her. It's better than hauling myself by her wither (or by a saddle horn, though I try to not do that either) but I do need to land a little more softly. Working on it!

Today after I did a bit of working on moving right with the horse, we went to walk/trot transitions. Bo had me click twice and say "trot," which Teddy Bear readily obeyed, though it very quickly became obvious that all the books and videos in the world could only do so much for me, and really I had to learn by experience, because I had NO clue what the heck to do with myself! I mean, I had IDEAS, sure, but for some reason (inexpeirence, out of shape) I couldn't apply them to my own body. I flopped around. I bounced more and more to the side. When Bo stopped her I wasn't prepared and fell forward. At one point I tried to fix the bareback pad, which had been pulled to the side a bit, and almost fell off! Bo, thankfully, caught me and helped me get balanced again.
Was I discouraged? Yeah well, a little bit. You know, the drive to the ranch is really long and sometimes my mind drifts a bit. I daydream about The Perfect Ride. Some of your horse people have been blessed enough to experience The Perfect Ride. Everything is great. You're as one with the horse. The weather is good. Everything is spot on and right with the world. Or maybe I daydream about having to leap onto the back of some noble steed and rush to the rescue of people in a downed plane, or catch a stray cow that is running towards traffic. Or even going to a rein cow horse show and doing those awesome slow and fast canters, those quick spins and crazy sliding stops.
But then, it isn't so easy, and actually gravity really hates when you try to defy it. The ground seemed to call out "hey EV! HEY! HEY YOU! Come heeeeere!"

For some reason, every time I started to lose my balance, in between apologizing to Teddy Bear, I started laughing. And laughing. I'd picture that guy from Doctor Strangelove riding the atom bomb, cheering, and I'd laugh even more. What the heck am I thinking, trying to ride a horse? But I was also laughing because I loved it. Loved the riding, even if I am new. Loved the horse. And it's humbling, too. Because I still think of myself as a gymnast. I used to flip and leap and soar through the air. A lot of physical things came easily to me. I bounced right back from stuff. And a part of my mind is defiantly stuck there, thinking "yeah sure, that's me!" And then I realize that wow, it isn't, and somehow the presumptuousness on my part is funny too. Yeah, I'm going to have to work for it, and work hard. Yeah, I have a lot of things going against me. But you know what? It still gives me joy, and I am not afraid.

I just want to throw myself into it even more. I want to not only have joy while riding, I want to be a joy to carry. I want to be a fun partner. I want to be anticipated gladly, not just tolerated. I want to give happiness, not discomfort.

And I want to tell every single person who sneered at me while I limped down the street, every single doctor who told me I might not ever be able to do much beyond hobble around short distances again, every single soul in my childhood who told me I would be nothing, SEE? See what I have built, what I have done, what I have become? And see? I could have become cold. I could have become cruel. It would be so much easier. But that's not me and I won't give in to that. I want to do what I do with love, and with grace, and I WILL.

And the last time we tried trotting, Bo had me give the command, trot a handful of paces, and then tell Teddy Bear WHOA. So I did! I did it! It wasn't perfect, far from it, but I didn't slide to the side, I didn't fall forward, and when we stopped, I was upright and secure in my seat.

Afterward, we took a nice long stroll together. Both on the ground, of course. I took Teddy Bear up through the obstacle course, into and out of the backup cute, and then wandering around the front field to graze. She got a lot of skritches, and then she got fresh water and dinner.

It's a glorious day to be alive, and I am so grateful to the gods for letting me live long enough to see it. And not just see it, but LIVE it.

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