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, June 19, 2010

Emergency dismounts, cool bugs, and Solly time!

Hi folks!

So the other day, Sensei (AKA Mike) was kind enough to give me a ride up to the ranch.

Bo has some visitors from Australia- a farrier and his wife. They seem like really nice folks!

After chatting for a short while, Bo said to me "go get your horse," so I went and caught Teddy Bear.

This time I called to her and after a short while she came to me from about half way across the pasture. Better and better! She lead softly with no problems all the way to the gate- I was able to just balance the lead rope on my fingers, which is how I prefer to lead.

Once we got on the tall grass, however, I did have to grip the rope and pull a bit from time to time, to remind her to come with me. About halfway to the trailer, Teddy Bear starts to get excited and wants to trot. Circles for Teddy! She kept herself mostly contained, however.

At the trailer, Teddy Bear was jerking her back leg up as if preparing to kick when I touched her butt. I explored this for a few moments, cautiously, wondering what was wrong. Bo told me to spray her with fly spray and brush her mane a bit before going back to her butt. The fly spray did the trick- flies had been tormenting her all day, and it was part muscle memory, part still being bothered by flies that caused her to jerk her leg up like that. Once the flies stopped pestering her for a couple minutes, she was fine with being touched anywhere.

It's another case of stepping back and focusing on the "why" more than the "what." I could have just smacked her for jerking her leg up, though Bo wouldn't have been too happy about that, but instead we figured out what was actually wrong, and found that she was not trying to threaten or attack ME at all- she was being driven nuts by the flies.

I went to pick Teddy's feet, and Bo scolded me because after the first foot I said "next please" to Teddy and she picked her hoof up, which I reached over to hold. Bo said I should always run my hand down her leg so I don't startle her by taking her foot. Teddy and I had worked out a system and I think she was comfy with it, because I asked her verbally to pick up her foot while leaning a bit on her hip to get her to balance right, and she was used to giving it to me... but I was also training Bo's horse to do things differently than Bo does them without meaning to. Since Teddy Bear is used to teach new students as well as being Bo's horse, that wasn't such a good thing, even if we were both comfy with it.

It's really easy to teach a horse something without even meaning to. It's really easy for a bad rider to un-train a good riding horse. It's really easy to teach a horse a different cue than the one that other people use with her, and then that can set the horse or the other people up for an accident, or at least a misunderstanding.

Once Teddy was all groomed up and ready to go, I took her into the roundpen and Bo set up the mounting block. Our purpose was to take a few videos of an emergency dismount. We'll do more in this series, I'm thinking, including emergency dismounts in a saddle, and maybe sometime later dismounts at a faster gait, once I can ride a faster gait. I'm still REALLY NEW, so please forgive my not so excellent bareback riding.

First, we discussed a very common place for injury to occur- the mounting block.

There comes a point when you are mounting a horse where it is safer to commit to mounting than it is to try to "take it back" and step back down on the block. Falling forward is usually easier than falling backward. You can see where you are going, and if you have learned how to fall, you can tuck and roll.

I think that next time sensei is over, we'll make some short videos on how to hit the ground if you know you aren't going to land on your feet. That will be helpful, I hope!

Anyway, one of the best things to do if you are coming off a horse and you can get any control at all is to go for the neck. Grab it, swing around on it, push off.

If you are mounting and you find yourself heading over the horse to the other side, try to grab the neck and swing so that you can land on your feet. If you are mounting a horse from the block properly and are holding the reins right, the rein on the side of the mounting block is going to be shorter than the rein on the outside, so that if the horse starts to move and turn, she will turn inward, her front half coming around the block, her back half winging out. When executing an emergency dismount, you should drop the reins, according to Bo... but the direction of movement may already be established. The horse will probably not run over the mounting block, so landing next to it may be the best option. You might get squeezed there, though. Alternately, you can try dismounting from the other side- no mounting block to get hung up on, but you have to watch out for the horse's body and be prepared to MOVE.

Now we have the walk and the trot. Same premise with both, and I have three videos for you to watch here. I know my riding isn't excellent, I'm still learning to balance and sit right!

Basically, you grab the neck and use it (lightly) to swing around the horse and guide your body. Also note that while I am landing, I keep one hand on her shoulder. This is to establish space between myself and the horse, to balance myself as I land, and to re-direct her if need-be. With a boundary and a bit of pressure set, she is less likely to come into me and run me over. Not a guarantee, but it is one thing that will help direct and even stop her.

Of course, Teddy Bear is a good girl and stops immediately when someone comes off. Not all horses will, especially if the horse is stressed or spooked. Be prepared for the next step as you are landing. You might have to jump out of the way. You might have to thrown yourself out of the way, tucking and rolling. Your first thought should be keeping everyone as safe as possible. If your horse isn't running right at someone, it's better to get yourself out of the way and then catch her when you can.

Poor, patient Teddy Bear was getting sick of her charge going flying off her back. Maybe she was bored of being lead around the roundpen. Maybe she was sick of me getting on and off again a bunch of times. Maybe she was worried that I was going to come off again at the trot, and didn't want to do it, or was annoyed at my lack of ability to sit the trot really quietly. Maybe she thought it would be fun to try to grab Bo's shirt. For whatever reason, in this video she's a bit of a naughty mare, though I don't think she's trying to grab skin, just shirt.

You can also hear A___ yee-hawing in the background, hah!

After the last dismount, Teddy Bear got lots of pettin's and loves, then Sensei and I took her for a walk. Sensei has hay fever and decided to be stoic and wait to get some allergy medications until after our walk. Silly Sensei.

There was a lot of life out at the far pond near the back of the big mare pasture.

There were some crazy-looking dragonflies buzzing around- bright orange ones, deep blue ones, and these pale blue ones with part transparent, part brown wings.

Damselflies were present in great numbers as well, bright blue or white, mating on the wing and on reeds.

I took Teddy Bear for a little trot and a jump over a small log. You can hear Sensei sneezing behind the camera.

After we put Teddy Bear back in her pasture (she didn't seem to want to go back, actually,) we sat for a spell on the porch.

A nifty moth on the window screen:

I held up the camera and said to Sensei, "Sensei, there's absolutely NO REASON for me to be in trouble WHATSOEVER."

"And just why are you saying THAT?" he asked me...

"So I could capture that expression on film!"

Then we went and got Solomon. He was nickering and happy to come out, like always. We did our typical walk down the road past the trailer to the front field, which we trotted around. I gave Sol his feed pan and Sensei and I groomed him. I chatted for a while with the folks visiting from AU, and then eventually Solly worked his way to the long fenceline where the mare herd is.

I went and hung out with him.

That field is a great place for a little meditation.

Soon the burrs and foxtails will be too numerous and nasty for sitting on the ground to be comfortable.

One ear on Sensei, one ear on me.

Solomon and I in all our slightly awkward glory.

Sensei had a hard time getting good shots of us in the roundpen. My camera's card is really slow... I need a faster one I think. But still, here we are! Solly was a very good boy, doing everything I asked of him without complaint. I worked him up slowly and carefully. His old limbs take a little while to work the stiffness out.

Note that he usually, again, has one ear on me and one ear on the rest of the world. Such a good boy!

I don't like that I can see his ribs in this. I think I'm going to need to up his senior feed some.

After roundpenning, I walked around with Solomon following me for a while. We always do that now for cooldown- I walk around and he follows without his lead rope and halter. I'm working on teaching him to back up when I do, too.

Once that was finished, we brought Solly out for just a bit more grass.

Solomon cuddled up to Sensei, and then started nosing at his pocket. The he mashed his nose up against it.

"Hey wait," I said, "don't you have some reese's pieces in there?"

Mike pulled out a little baggy of partially-crushed reese's pieces. Solomon nickered and begged.

"Eh okay, I guess a few won't hurt him," I said, and so we gave him some.

Solomon was pretty much in 7th heaven. He LOVED those things! Lots of lip-flipping because it was a new flavor for him and an interesting texture. He got so very very excited, and kept asking for more. He got a couple tiny feedings of them. Then I took him back to his pasture, which he didn't want to go into yet, so he locked his legs right in the middle of going through the gate. Again. This is a thing he's taken to doing lately, grr.

Luckily Sensei was there with me, and he helped shoo Solomon through.

Solomon checked both my pockets, my hands, and thanks to me teaching him that "kiss me" trick a year and a half ago, my cheeks. Finding no reese's pieces, he turned around and gave Sensei and I "shun-butt." You could practically hear waves of "SHUNNNNNN" coming off of him!

Shorty, his boyfriend, wanted a piece of the attention action. Here he is, scratching an itch on his back leg.

When I started to walk away, however, Solomon did have to turn around and watch me go.

On our way back to the car, we said goodbye to Pallie. Pallie's owner sold her, and she will be leaving the ranch on Monday. I never worked with her, but I often said hello, and I will miss her. Magic the Arab is going to have a hard time of it for a little while, because she is pretty closely bonded with Pallie.

Pallie is a total angel and I hope she has a wonderful life in her new home.

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