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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why hello there!

Oh, why hello there everyone!

Yesterday I took my medications, and was feeling pretty dizzy in the morning. I got a ride from my sensei, M___. Oh yeah, I'm starting to learn martial arts. I figure it'll give me some discipline, and a way to channel some of my aggression. Now that I'm getting healthier and stronger, I have a lot more energy than I'm used to. I figured it would be good to learn a discipline that involves controlling one's body and one's energy, as well as learning more about redirecting energy. Plus, M___ is a friend and he's going to teach me for free. Isn't that sweet? Well he has well over 20 years of training and he was an instructor for 7 or 8 years, but is feeling a little out of practice and out of shape himself. I think it'll be good for both of us to do this.

So anyway, he gave me a ride to the ranch, and was kind enough to take pictures. Usually if it's a photo day, I'm lugging the camera around, which can be a bit distracting. This way, I was able to focus a lot more on the horses.

I made the mistake of wearing a white t-shirt, which I immediately splattered hot chili oil all over on the car ride up. So now it's an orange and white t-shirt. If you wonder why I wear all black all the time, that's why. I'm really really good at staining clothing, hah!

Anyway, we didn't get there until about 3:30 or so I think. It would soon be time to feed, so I didn't get to do a whole lot, but I got to see and take care of my boy.

I don't know what I was doing here. It looks like I was meditating, hah!

Magic, Cali's momma, has decided she's taken a shine to me a bit. She always comes over to say hi, along with her baby, Cali. Cali is weaned but she still hangs out with mom a bit. Magic's a great reining horse. Her rollbacks are pretty awesome! She can spin, too. Solly's doing his "have an ear on everything" thing.

Solomon really likes M___. He also really likes being the center of attention. Clearly, here, he feels that he should be the subject of the photograph, not those stinky sorrel horses or boring old mom.

Magic had to decide whether or not my head was tasty. Also, MAN, look how huge Cali is getting already! She isn't even a year old yet, and she's almost as tall as mom. Well, I think maybe her butt already is as high as mom's!

Baby smile! :D

The whole herd decided to come investigate then, so I let Solomon out before it would become too much of a challenge. He let me halter him no problem, but then he got kind of upset about not being allowed to eat grass for a couple hours. This was NOT part of the routine! It was really close to feeding time though, so I dragged him to a pen. This right here? This is the remnants of what was a big behavior problem. Back at Hossmoor it sometimes took me a half hour or more to get him from his pasture to the cross-ties. Now he just braces his feet and his head and refuses to move for a few seconds to lodge a complaint. No more running ahead, no more yanking hard on the rope, no rearing, no screaming, no shoving me and no big fight.

At first I would turn him in circles and stuff to try to get him moving. Sometimes going in a different direction will get him going, sometimes not. But nowadays with him I usually just lean and after a moment or two he kind of goes "oh, okaaaaay" and follows along softly with no more issues.

And you know how this was fixed? Not by smacking him, not by whipping him, not by using a stud chain (I have no idea where that is any more... haven't used once since we moved to D&D Ranch a year ago) and not by trying to cow him. This was fixed with time and patience and compassion. This was fixed by consistent calmness and loosening the lead instead of trying to be tighter and tighter with my control. Solomon is a horse you can't beat and expect to get good results out of. He's not a horse you should ever fight with. It doesn't work, it doesn't help him, and he doesn't need it. He just needs to feel secure, to feel understood, and to feel like he matters. Being a little considerate of him makes him much more considerate of me.

See, the best way to lead and teach is by example. If you're violent, you will probably get violence back. If you are calm and careful and show a little trust, you will probably in time get that back.

Well, it worked for us!

And really, REALLY, I can live with a few seconds of being stubborn. He's just giving his opinion.

Once we put Solomon in jail... I mean put him in a mare motel... though if you were to ask him, he'd call it jail, heh... I picked his feet, M___ curried him, and I brushed him. Solomon soaked it up happily. He cuddled with M___ a bit, too, which was sweet.

I remembered then that I'd bought an apple to give to Solomon over at Trader Joe's. His favorites are Fiji and Gala apples. And I did something... okay I was showing off. And I am sure if a picture had been taken of it, I would have ended up on the front page of Fugly Horse of the Day with "Darwin award contestant" as the title. But I was reasonably sure I'd be fine.

See, Solomon loves it when you hold the apple for him, and he takes tiny delicate little nibbles out of it. So I held the edge of this big apple in my teeth. Hey, I drew my lips back and all that, hah. Of course Solomon took a really careful nibble out of it. M__ said "uh... whoa. You really trust that horse."

Well, yeah. I mean it was a case of risk assessment, and yeah it was not really a necessary risk, but I was pretty confident about it. I dunno, jumping is pretty dangerous and scary too!

After the first bite I held it in my hand, and then let M___ feed him a bit. Finally I gave him the last pieces. He got my hand in his mouth, but was very very careful and did not bite down... just took the last bits with his tongue and sucked on my fingers with his lips, hah. I'm glad he's such a careful, gentle horse. I sure wouldn't feed an apple to any other horse this way!

Then I decided to be a little silly and climb up on the panel to pretend to try to mount Solly. Tempting as it is, I wouldn't do it. I could probably have hopped on if I was quick, but what would that have proved? It would have just upset him, and probably not felt very good. Always fun to see what he looks like from above though. His weight really has improved, but he's so out of shape. I can't wait to be able to come up a lot more. I'll be able to work him in the roundpen and start riding again!

One thing I can say about Hossmoor... for all that he hurt himself a lot out there, Solomon did get a great workout running up and down those huge steep hills. It helped his topline to go up and down them.

Anyway, here I am going "IIIIII'm gonna hop on you!" Solomon says "nooo mom nooooo" He slowly inched forward until he was a bit too far away for me to easily get on. You can see him listening to me and bracing himself here.

Solomon, covering all his auditory bases!

Oh yeah, his belly is way less tucked up. He really did get way too skinny in January. I think it was the cold... 20 degrees is a bit too chilly for him, even with a yak coat. I'll have to get him a blanket next year.

It was so nice to see my boy though.

MWAH! He'll stand still like this forever getting nose-kisses.

Okay, you know what? It's really weird seeing myself in every single picture. I am NOT used to that. I don't think I photograph well a lot of the time. We're our own worst critics, of course. But I guess sometimes it's interesting to see yourself, eh? I think I like just taking pictures of horses better than being in pictures though.

I thought about leaving Solomon in, but I decided that he would be a lot happier spending the night out with the herd after all. He just starts weaving so quickly in a stall.

M___ and I headed out towards the pen Solomon was in. Of course I had to run over and bodyslam M___. Hey, he told me part of the training he underwent involved random attacks. We chased each other around a bit, which fascinated Solly.

Well one of the signs of a mentally healthy horse, adult or no, is their willingness to play. I think it's the same with humans.

Sol and I trotted to the pasture. He is getting good about that. I just start running and he goes right along!

M___ and I ran all the way to the car. And you know what's amazing? It was not only fun, but it didn't hurt, and I wasn't out of breath at all when we got there. I felt like I could have run all across the property! Wheee!

We also got to have a nice long conversation about horsemanship and humanity with Bo and DeDe. Mostly Bo talked, which was fine with me. He is always worth listening to.

I'm hoping to be able to get myself up to the ranch again really soon. I feel so good there, so free. It's a really great environment for horses, and it's a really great environment for me. I feel SAFE there.

I think Solomon really does too.

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daniel said...
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