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.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Aaand we're walking, we're walking...

Yesterday I woke up sometime around 5am. Maybe 4. I'm not really sure, but it was cold and dark.
"Yay," I thought blearily, "I can get a head start on going up to the ranch!"

By the time I arrived, the sun had come up, but the world was enveloped by mist. The starlings singing in the muffled half-light was eerily pronounced.

DeDe was just getting ready to feed, so I hopped in to help her. She showed me the "shotput" method of hay flake tossing, which was much more effective than my spinning toss. I was not entirely awake yet despite the hour and a half drive, and mistook Shin for Solomon. A-durrrr. They are both grey, that's about it. Heh. But feeding got done. I love the smell of alfalfa!

Next, I photographed and filmed a little demonstration by Bo about tying back the head of a horse, and why it is done. It isn't really something done in English, but Western disciplines that involve cow work require a lot more lateral movement. Lateral flexion is important in training a horse to do rollbacks. Rollbacks are when a horse spons on her hind feet, crossing her legs over in front. This can be a very VERY fast maneuver, and is essential for working cattle. Picture a cow running along a fence. A horse runs up beside the cow, and then overtakes her. She must then spin back towards the cow to turn the cow, and she cannot do that by spinning her head AWAY from the cow- the cow may try to squeeze past, the cow may attack, or the cow might not understand that she is being chased in the other direction. This spin must be very tight, very fast, and very controlled. It is also the foundation of the crazy fast, tight spins you see in reining.
So, first you tie the horse's head to one side, enough that she is bending but not so much that she cannot get relief from the pressure by bending a little. Then you gently move her in the roundpen so she turns, following her nose. She learns to be supple and follow the cue with a loose rein. The purpose is not just to teach her a cue, however- it's also to train her body to make those tight spins on her own, as she will have to use her own judgment with cattle at times.
Once you have done a good number of SHORT, simple, and to the point lessons with roundpenning, and she is physically attuned to that kind of movement, you can start roundpenning her and asking her to do rollbacks on the fence. Next, you can take those lessons to the saddle, and do tight turns and rollbacks.
So head tying, done properly, is a method which accomplishes a number of things. It trains the horse's body. It gets the horse thinking. It gets the horse stretching. It gets the horse supple. It prepares the horse for future maneuvers in reining and cow-work.
I have videos, but I'm going to wait for Bo's go-ahead to post them here, as they are for posting elsewhere first.

But I did want to show off his lovely mare, Magic. Magic the Quarterhorse, not Magic the Arabian who is boarding here. She is a fine horse and the dam of Cali, that lovely little sorrel filly I've shown you.

Magic ground ties like an angel and clearly just loves Bo. She watches him wherever he goes, and stands so quietly. She's still getting into shape, since her foal has just been weaned, but she really is a nice mare.

And wow can she move fast! The way she canters is completely different from the way Solomon canters. There's barely any rocking motion to her... she's low and quick and I think she must do really well on cattle. Truly a rein cow horse.

After I watched Magic do rollbacks, spins, stops, and backing, Bo sent me off to take Kizim for a walk.

On the way, Shin and Magic the Arab were looking cute.

Solomon, whose pasture I passed, was sad that I was not pulling him out yet. I promised him I would though!

Kizim is living in a big pasture with Remmy these days. Remmy has become a lot more polite, incidentally. He stays back when I tell him to, and he seems to respect Kizim's authority.

So I decided, with Bo's permission, to take Kizim down the country lane that the ranch is on. I wasn't sure how far we would get, but I figured it would be a good workout for both of us. On the way out, going someplace new and all, Kizim was pretty noodly. She kept going back and forth, back and forth. I think she was hoping to eat everything on the sides of the road.

We passed cows and barns, vineyards and houses. Kizim tried to steal some Halloween decorations, but I anticipated this and she did not manage to reach them. Good thing, because otherwise I would have had to explain to the neighbors why their pumpkins had big bites taken out of them. Heck, she even tried to go for some dried corn husks! She was very good about standing on the side of the road with me when cars and trucks passed, however. I got a couple of weird looks. I guess people usually just ride their horses down the road instead of hand walking them. One fellow thought that Kizim was a loose horse, haha!

So we just kept going and going, and somehow I wasn't getting winded. My feet started to get sore, but I just put one in front of the other and shouldered in to the work. Kizim eventually settled in and walked quietly beside me. She was clearly happy though... relaxed but very bright, ears perked, interested in the world around her.

And then suddenly we were at the end!

I guess that road is around a mile... I'm not really sure. I'll have to remember to drive down it sometime to find out.

The whole way back Kizim was a very good girl. She had a "been there, done that" attitude, and was quite happy to just walk along.

The countryside is lovely this time of year. The first bits of winter grass are coming up, and the grape vines have turned their autumn colors.

She called to the big herd when we finally got back to the ranch. Jewel and Lena came running over, and Jewel thought Kizim getting walked past the pasture was just SO exciting that she was running and bucking for a good half hour afterwards.

When I put Kizim back, Solomon was just beside himself hoping that I'd pull him out next. He trotted alongside me all down the fenceline, nickering nonstop. When I picked his halter up, he started nickering very very loudly, adding some higher notes in for emphasis. He wanted to just come right through the gate when I opened it, but he backed up like a good boy when I asked him to. He was so eager that when I lifted up his halter to start to loop it over his head, he shoved his nose down into the nose before I even had it ready for him, and I had to disentangle him from it, haha.

All the way down the road he was soft and sweet.

Once I had him tied, though, he was a mister Antsy McBeggypants. This is in great part my fault, because he knows that after grooming comes his feed pan, and he gets so excited about his pan that it's hard for him to focus on getting groomed.

His frogs are shedding right now, so much that I was a little alarmed, but DeDe told me it was nothing to worry about. It's just that it's moist now, and the seasons are changing, so all four of his frogs have a good quarter inch thickness, maybe more, peeling off at once. The entire frog! Good thing the farrier is coming on the 30th.

I really wish he could walk without being in a lot of pain barefoot. Oh well. Been there, tried that. Might try it again but it just seems unkind to do it to this horse. Now, Kizim? She'll never need shoes. Her feet are huge compared to Solomon's, and so nicely shaped and solid. I joked that I was going to steal her hooves. But Solly, well, he was NOT bred for good feet. I don't know what the heck he was bred for... not longevity either, I don't think. :( But I'll do my best!

Once his grooming was done, his feed pan came out. He was a total beggypants then. He does this head duck when he wants his food. It's kind of pretty, actually.

Oh Solly, it's almost as if you know how to collect. Almost.

My horse is now spoiled absolutely rotten, by the way. SPOILED.

Yeah, those are carrots AND peppermints... though he eats his senior feed before he eats the treats.

After his pan, I took him grazing. There is oat hay sprouting everywhere!

And for the first time since late spring, I was able to comfortably lie down on the ground in soft green grass instead of stickers and star thistle. I put my hat over my face to shade it from the sun. Solomon stuck his nose under the brim to check on me from time to time. He had sweet grass breath.

The next thing we did was roundpen work. Even though my horse is retired and spoiled rotten, he still needs to stay healthy, and to keep his back from going out more than it already is, he needs to work his topline. This means trotting, and lots of it. Solomon was VERY VERY good with the roundpenning yesterday.

I don't know what happened to the lunge whips, by the way, but the are both pretty much destroyed. What the heck? It looks like a whip-eating monster stuck onto the ranch in the middle of the night and went to town on them. I was able to use the end of my break-apart lunge whip okay though, despite it being a lot more BENDY at the last half than it had been. Hmmmm.

Solomon understood everything I asked of him. He understood "eeeeasy jog trot" and "fast trot," he understood "out on the rail" and executed a series of rollbacks that I hadn't thought he was capable of, crossing over with his front feet beautifully. *boggles* well I'm not complaining! I had him do a little bit of cantering, which he wasn't as enthusiastic about, but he did it for me. His whoas were pretty good too! It was a great time, and I felt very proud of my boy. Our communication is so easy and fluid these days. It amazes me sometimes how far we have come and how close we have become. We both take a great deal of comfort in one another.

Also, I had him wear my hat. He wasn't so enthusiastic about that.

Solomon got a back massage after his roundpenning, and then I took him back to his pasture. He had a nice long drink, which Poco Joe joined him for.

Then Poco Joe wanted to come cuddle.

Solomon Did Not Approve, however, and chased him away! Then he tried to follow me out the gate again, and he made the saddest tragic-eyes at me when I pushed him back in and latched it. Awwwh, I'm sorry Solly, but you wouldn't fit in my car to come home with me!

On the way back I mucked a couple of stalls. This is a much grosser task in the winter, but I still kind of enjoy doing it. It's soothing and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

I chatted with Bo and DeDe on the porch at the end of the day. Bo said that it was great that Solomon was showing such joy at the prospect of spending time with me, and that there was no higher compliment that one could get from a horse than them expressing that you are the highlight of their day. That made me feel nice and fuzzy inside. He said that was something even many big name trainers don't get out of the horses they work with.

Then they gave me a bottle of white wine with little flakes of gold in it as an anniversary gift. Today is my one year wedding anniversary. How about that? I can't believe it!

Now I'm going to go get ready, as the husband and I are going off to a Brazilian steak house to celebrate. They bring giant skewers of meat to your table. OM NOM NOM NOM!

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

1 comment:

ariemay said...

Sol looks healthy and happy. Good work!