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, May 19, 2010

I can barely walk!

Soooooo yesterday was a good amount of work!
But it went really well.

Sensei and I didn't get to the ranch until about noon, but we were there until about 6:30.

First, I had a good talk with Bo about understanding one's limits and taking care of one's self.

Then I pulled out Solly. He was happy to see me and pretty excited about getting to come out for a bit.

He really is a tall horse!

Here I am, illustrating the futility of getting my short self up on a horse his height bareback.

Okay, I know. I know. The pants? Unflattering. Really baggy. They're the only pair of pants I own right now that stay on though! So it's "mom jeans" for me, for now.

Sensei took this picture while Solomon noshed on his feed pan. There are about 80 billion of these at the ranch.

I asked Solomon to stand still for a while after he ate. He was not very pleased with this turn of events, but he was good when I held fast. Eventually he pressed his head on me.

He actually looks kind of beefy here. I swear he does have a neck though!

I took Solly in the roundpen and worked him a little bit, but he was clearly uncomfortable with trotting. He is barefoot again, which I am hoping he'll adjust to. It's only a week and some change since the removal of his front shoes, so I decided that I would walk around with him instead.

After that, Bo rode by on Vinnie and said "hey Ev, why don't you bring Solomon along, and we'll take a walk down the road?" So off we went. Sensei had the camera and had to go rest his back, so I don't have a photo of that. We went past the bulls down the road a little ways, and then came back again. Solomon was grumpy about being pushed along by Vinnie, but it was an effective method for keeping him moving. You use the tools you have!

Here we are on the way back. He's so spoiled, throwing his head down to eat grass. But like I said, he's old and retired and he isn't dangerous about it, so.

Vinnie sure got a workout today! He got a break at the trailer, but then he had to work some more when we got Teddy Bear saddled up.

I went into Teddy and Lilah's pasture and hooked up the big brown mare. She was obstinate for a moment or two, but then she let me lead her out with no fuss. Good girl! Hopefully this means she's a little happier with my riding now... or maybe she's a little happier with the fact that we aren't just going around and around in the roundpen. As necessary as it was, and still will be, I'm glad that we're going outside now too.

After I groomed up the girl, Bo showed me a number of ways to swing a saddle. He showed me that I should toss the blanket on the horse with my left hand, and pick the saddle up by that handle under the horn with my right. He showed me how to use the momentum of my own body to swing it- the gaited horse saddle I had for Solomon was really light, maybe 18 pounds. Bo's saddles are all leather, high quality, and a LOT heavier.

He had me pick up the blanket, put it on the horse, put it down, wrinse, and repeat. Then he had me pick up the saddle and put it down a bunch of times too. He is stepping up the strictness, which is fine. He told sensei it was time for me to get serious about things. Okay! I can do that.

Then he put the saddle on (Teddy Bear is tall! The saddle is heavy. He might have me try next time, heh.) and asked me to name all the parts.

For those of you who ride English and don't know a lot about Western saddles, they are way more complicated and they have a billion and one parts, none of which are called "thingie" or "that leather part." Thong? Saddles have thongs? Yes, they do. Uh, I am going to have to find an anatomy guide to a Western saddle and memorize the names for all the little bits. It didn't help that for some reason my brain shut down when he asked me to name the parts, and I couldn't name a number of things I knew for sure, hah. I don't really know what happened there, except that I was mentally off-balance for some reason.

Well, I'll get better at it.

Bo had me put my foot in the stirrup from the ground again, and I expressed my disbelief at being able to mount from down there. Eh, eventually I may be able to... I think it will probably be a long time from now though. Maybe if I were a lot lighter, or the horse were a lot shorter. I couldn't even see the top of the saddle, and I knew without trying that there was no way I was going to get up there. Bo didn't ask me to try- he was just showing me something I would eventually need to be able to do. No point in trying yet- it would just be unkind to Teddy Bear.

So we took her over to a mounting block, and I hopped on. From the block it is no problem, now... at first I had to haul myself up there, climbing awkwardly. Now I can just hop on, which is promising. I am in a much better place physically than I was a year ago... that's something I need to keep in mind. I'm not close to where I want to be physically yet, but I've also come a long way!

Teddy Bear was unimpressed.

But wait... is that a GELDING she sees?

Now, Tedders hates geldings. She's gotten a bit better about this lately, but still, something about them just makes her see red.

Bo called out to me, "hey Ev- is today the day you have a fall and hit the ground?"

I replied with "I don't know Bo, I hope not, but if I do, I'm ready to meet it."

Teddy Bear was also feeling really high energy and forward today. She was kind of "hot," as they say. We didn't roundpen her or anything first. Just pulled her out of the pasture, picked her feet, brushed her out, tacked her up, and went for it. A good horse can deal with that just fine, and Tedders did really well.

She did, however, want to run. I spent a lot of time explaining that no, we were not going to run. Bo spent a lot of time shouting "SLOW DOWN EV!" I spent some time saying "yeeeep workin' on it!"

We did do some walking! Lots of walking! See?

I think that might be the only photo sensei got of us walking though.

Most of the rest of them kind of go like this:

"whoa there... walk... walk... easy... slow down... waaaaalk."

I know, I'm bracing there. Trying to slow her down with a halter and two lead ropes, hah! I'm glad she's such a good, sweet girl. A lot of it is that I'm not great at riding or communicating yet.

I did start to relax into it though!

Unfortunately sensei had to go sit down in the car because his back was bothering him, so he missed the long, good lesson we had. One really positive thing- I never felt like I was going to fall off. I never felt extremely unbalanced. I had unbalanced moments, and I have a long way to go before I'm sitting the trot right still, but it's getting better... and I got a great little jog out of Teddy Bear. A good compromise, I think, between walking and galloping.

Bo had me two-point, standing up in the stirrups while Teddy Bear walked. Eventually she quieted down, though she often got upset and angry at Vinnie for walking in front of her, walking behind her, being in the same field as her, and existing in general. It was just fine though- that was the horse she was that day, and that was the rider I was that day.

Honestly? It was pretty fun. I smiled a lot. Someday I'll have a lot of fun running around, I think. When I'm ready to.

The big thing we did, aside from going around barrels, was work on beginning to learn to sidepass. Bo had me sort of "drift" Teddy Bear sideways around the corners of the front field. At first I was really confused about what he was asking me to do, and when I tried, first I steered Teddy right out of the field in the wrong direction. Then I wasn't using my leg enough.

Eventually, though, I started to get it! Bless Teddy's big patient heart. Bo told me that I was now starting to figure out why Western saddles are so big- the leg position for a sidepass is pretty physically challenging for someone like me who isn't used to that kind of stretch. You sort of twist your pelves in a slanted diagonal while wrapping the back of your leg around the barrel of the horse. Oh I could feel that... When I got out of bed and started to walk the next day, my legs almost gave out for a moment, hah!

I'll put it this way- usually when the riding lesson is over, I will say "really? We're done already?"

This time when the lesson was just about over, Bo said "okay, one more time around the field and then we'll ride over to the trailer and dismount," and I was pretty tuckered out. Teddy Bear was at the point where she was slowing down too, though I did let us trot about half the lap.

Bo told me to ride over to the trailer. I decided to try neck reining for the walk over. I found that Teddy Bear responded fine to that. Choosing where to go is getting easier and requiring less conscious thought these days. I'm learning more about how to communicate my desires to my mount. That made me happy.

When Bo told me to dismount, he reminded me that I needed to slowly ease myself down using the stirrup instead of jumping off this time. I managed to do it nice and slow, go me! :D

All in all, it was a really good ride, and I think a number of light bulbs went off for me. DeeDee saw me riding and told me I looked good up there today. Bo told me I did a great job and should be proud.

I went home quite happy.

Thank goodness for hot baths and epsom salts!

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