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, December 5, 2009

Driving and riding!

Heya folks.

Today I have a few photos, yay!
I finally recovered from my illness and was able to go to the ranch. I have a pleasant, uneventful drive, and when I arrived it was nice and peaceful there. Just Bo and I. I had really missed our conversations about philosophy, human nature, and horses. We had some tea and chatted for a while, then Bo had me Take photos while he demonstrated beginning ground driving training on Kizim. She was a good girl, and while she was new to it, she picked things up rather quickly. Maybe Bo will let me borrow some of those photographs so I can post them here and show people what it's all about?

After he demonstrated the techniques again, Bo let me do a little bit of work with Kizim using one line. I think I did okay, actually, and Kizim was a good girl.

When we were done with the first ground driving lesson, I took Kizim for a little walk. Somehow she knew when we were passing the bull pasture behind the big mare pasture. She froze and snorted a couple of times, but decided to trust me and keep on going. As a reward, once we were well away from the bull pasture, I started running. She doesn't tend to like running in the roundpen, but she gets all excited and amped up when we walk in the back of the property, and really seems to enjoy trotting alongside me when I run.

Well, and she also enjoys it when I have to stop to catch my breath, because she usually managed to get a few mouthfuls of grass. The rest of the time when I'm walking her, I usually manage to stop her from eating. She is one horse that really doesn't need to eat extra food. "Easy keeper" doesn't even begin to describe her.

Plus, the more she learns to focus on the person she is with when in "work" mode instead of just doing whatever she wants, the better. She IS a good girl. Just very food oriented.

Then I caught Solomon and worked on some of the same things with him. He still really didn't want to go counter-clockwise. We are beginning to wonder if maybe he cannot sea as well out of his left eye. There's something that makes him not want to be driven in that direction when he isn't sure what's being asked of him. He does fine when I am roundpenning him, however.

Today I mostly worked on getting him to move away from me counter-clockwise, with his left side to me. Moving away, instead of coming in and knocking me over with his shoulder... he regresses to his old ways. Bo says he may well have ten years of just throwing his head over short people and being the boss that we'll have to work through. But mostly it's a matter of setting clear boundaries between work time and cuddly-time, and learning to communicate my desires clearly to him. He just wants to know what to do and where to go, and when he feels insecure about those things, his first reaction is to press up against me. My fault! But it's okay, we will work through it.

I tried various tools and techniques to move Solomon around me without him crowding me. The one that worked almost the best, and this is kinda funny and sad really, was
a plastic grocery bag. Yeah we went there!

Then Bo showed me the best way for moving him, which just involved holding his hands up and projecting one's intentions. It really was a matter of energy, and Bo made him move fairly effortlessly. Then I tried it and... nothing. Zip. Nada. No effect. I was feeling pretty despondent about it. But Bo said he's been working on it for decades, and I wasn't going to master any of this in just two lessons. He said it was okay, we were just figuring out there I was at.

But I kept trying, and somehow at the end it came to me. I managed it. I managed to get Solomon to take me seriously. I managed to get him to sense and understand what I was trying to project to him. I got him moving away from me again and again, and I managed to drive him after I got him going. We stopped there, ending the lesson on a positive note. I felt so much better. I think Solomon did too, because he knew just what I was asking and felt a lot more secure about it.

He got groomed, he got his feed pan, and a bit of grazing. then he went back to the pen he is staying in while the north pasture fence gets repaired. He'll probably go back out to pasture tomorrow.

After a brief intermission, I caught Solomon again, who went back to the pen he is staying in while the north pasture fence gets repaired. He'll probably go back out to pasture tomorrow. He really hates being penned, and tends to weave. Weaving is not a good sign. When the winter storms come, it will not be fun for him. But I'll do what I can to give him breaks from his confinement.

Then I pulled Kizim out again. Whenever she sees me now, she comes up to the fence and calls to me. I'm falling in love with that mare. I wish I could afford a second horse, really. I think she's wonderful.

She seems to like me too.

So I pulled her out again and Bo stuck the bareback pad on her. A luxury! I've sat on her with no pad to help me stick to her back. Have to admit the pad is nice. It has some sort of suede top to it. Much less slippery than horse hair!

These days I don't even want to ride in a saddle. I sit on a saddle and I think, "where did the horse go??" I've never liked stirrups, though I admit they do help me drop my heels more consistently.

Bo rode her briefly, and then had me hop on. There really are advantages to riding a short horse when you're a short person. I can easily get on her back, instead of having to haul myself up like I did on Solomon. From a mounting block, of course. But it makes a big difference. I have stumpy T-rex arms and legs to match! That, coupled with a long torso, makes reaching a horse's neck without tipping forward pretty difficult for me. Or getting on the horse in the first place, hah!

As the months have passed, however, I have been doing more and more at the ranch, and I have grown stronger and lost more weight. I think my total is now about 34 pounds lost. And I went from wheezing just walking to Solomon's pasture to charging around the ranch all day, being able to run, being able to go hiking... being able to do all kinds of things that I thought were lost to me. So yay for horses, and yay for Bo and his patient, subtle ways, and DeDe and her hints about helping out with chores a bit.

Anyway, so there I was on Kizim's back, and Bo told me to lift my knees off her sides. He demonstrated the difference between to position in certain English disciplines, and toe position in Western. Toes straight forward is painful for me. I have wide hips. My legs have to twist a heck of a lot to try to go in that direction. It's easier for men to do, but still it doesn't feel nearly as natural as pointing one's toes out a bit. Of course, in either style one's toes should be up and one's heels should be down. I do not do as well at this as I thought I did. Bo kept calling me "Tinkerbell," if that's any indication!

Then he had me, knees still off her sides, lift each leg in turn up, then bend it way back. That's when we discovered that there is something wrong with my right hip joint. When I move my leg back, I get a very sharp nasty stabbing pain. When Bo moved my leg back for me, I got the same pain. It's the leg I had sciatica in before my back surgery, but I don't know if it is related to that. It could be a bone spur, a calcium deposit, or something else. Now that I think about it, that leg has been popped out of joint a few times.

Now that I'm sitting at my comptuer, I'm getting a steady stabbing pain there. I might need to not try to do that again...

Anyway, my leg felt fine at the time so long as I didn't try to extend it really far back behind me while sitting on Kizim's back. I failed a flexion test there, I'm sure!

So Bo had her walk around while I practiced moving with her and lifting my hands independent of each other, while keeping my elbows still. Once I did that for a while, he had me practice tossing the lead rope over her head so I had it on one side or the other. From there, he had me "open the door" by taking one leg off her side, then pull the lead rope in that direction while applying a bit of pressure on the opposite shoulder with my other leg. She was a good sport about it, and we worked on me removing the pressure sooner so that I wasn't just spinning her in circles. I have to work on that.

Then Bo attached the rope to either side of her halter as if it were reins, and handed it to me. He said "okay Ev, I'm going to go get my camera, so you have to not die while I'm gone." I told him I was pretty sure I could manage that!

So around we went, and Kizim was a pretty good sport about it. She did keep stopping, and eventually I managed to resort to very lightly tapping her with my feet, keeping time to the pace I wanted her to move at. This is how Bo rides his reining horses, and it is challenging for me... It's another movement to combine with moving one's hips with the horse while keeping one's torso and hands steady, steering with the reins, and not tipping forward, backward, or to either side. But I managed it okay today! I was driving with my hips too much, but I eventually settled in to it. I still have a very long ways to go, but I would say that overall I have made a lot of progress, and Kizim was extremely tolerant of my novice ways.

So here are three photos. I am doing some things wrong in all of them, but I feel like I'm learning to do things right as well. My three biggest problems are keeping my heels down, toes up, keeping my elbows still at my sides, and holding the reins properly. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing with my hands in these photos! And often when I thought my heels were down, they were not. I got better at the elbow thing, but will still need to work on it. But as I told A___, any day where I don't fall off and die is a good day! :D

Believe it or not, my heels are almost lined up with my hip bones in this one. I just have a big butt, hah! I am doing the Tinkerbell thing though. Kizim, however, is being a good girl, and quite relaxed!

Yay, my heels are down! What the heck am I doing with my hands though? I have no idea. I was not aware that I was doing that. But what I AM doing is smiling. I was grinning like a fool for most of the ride.

Er well my back is straight, my heels are up, and my mount is relaxed! Heels need to be back and down, what-the-heck hands are happening as well, but still, whee!

It is very good for me to see photographs so I can tell what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. Quite often one thinks one is doing one thing in the saddle when one is actually doing the other. Everyone has some sort of challenge. I have a lot, as I'm still quite new and I still have a fair amount of physical challenges to overcome.

I'm pretty hard on myself, too. Comes from my days as a gymnast. The philosophy in gymnastics is "if it hurts, do it more, and harder."

There's also a reason why not many Olympic gymnasts are older than 13 or 14. Their bodies just can't hold up to the abuse. I'm trying to take a bit of a saner approach to my equestrian pursuits. I'm 30, and my body is not going to get any younger. It's also the only one I've got!

So Kizim started to get a bit fidgety, being So Done With The Newbie, and we decided to end the lesson there, while things were still happy and good. Earlier when Bo dismounted he showed me a different method, swinging his leg up over Kizim's neck and hopping off her, facing away from her instead of towards her. He told me that you aren't always going to get to choose how you dismount, and you should figure out how to do so as safely as possible in a variety of ways. He also told me that most falls happen while mounting and dismounting.

When it was time for me to dismount, he said "now don't try to do what I did, or you'll fall on your butt!"

I, being willful and disobedient from time to time, said "no I won't!" and did what he did. It was actually a lot easier for me to swing my leg over her neck than it is for me to swing it behind me over her rump. I could have hopped off a little more- I partially slid, but I did manage to land on my feet. Yay! Okay, it was bad of me for being defiant. But it was fun.

After I dismounted, I walked Kizim to the trailer, telling her what a good girl she was. I slipped her a piece of cookie and a kiss on the nose. Then I brushed out her mane, curried her coat, and brushed it until it was shining in the sunlight. I even brushed her face with a soft brush. At first she was suspicious, but then she decided it felt quite good and leaned into it.

After I put away, I grabbed a wheelbarrow and started mucking out pens. After a while Bo came out and joined me with a second wheelbarrow. It felt good to do some honest work. I'm paying for it a bit now, but I do not regret it. It's rather meditative, and soothing. Kizim did try to eat the wheelbarrow, however.

At the end of the day, Bo showed me the photos he took and we discussed what was good and what I needed to work on. I left the ranch grinning, happier than I had been in a good long while. I really hope I don't get sick again any time soon. I'm aiming to go back to the ranch on Tuesday.

When I left, I called out goodbyes to Solomon and Kizim.


CheekyMare said...

EV!! You're doing wonderful. Look at you sitting so straight and balanced on her back! Bareback really is wonderful for teaching balance isn't it?

Evergrey said...

Why thank you so very much! :D

It is the BEST, I don't want to use a saddle any more.

CheekyMare said...

More comfy too'-)

Maggie said...

Wow you look great! We have sold our second house (my hubbies from before the marriage) so now I can go riding instead of working on the house. Yay me! and yay You!

Evergrey said...

Oh thank you so much Maggie!

And yay, I am so glad now you can focus on horses. Isn't that the best? Congrats on selling the house too, that's tough to do right now.

ariemay said...

I, too, wish you could have Kizem for your own... you two fit together well!!