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, August 25, 2010

Solly and Sensei

Solomon is looking and feeling great!

It was way too hot to work my old man today, though he ended up wanting to trot all over the planet, with me in tow, haha. I let him, since exercise is good and I wondered where on earth he wanted to go... Apparently it was to this one patch of dead grass that looked like every other patch of dead grass!

Anyway, today Sensei got to come up with me. I was hoping to get a birthday ride in, but we weren't able to leave until late, and when it hits 106 or so, it starts getting a bit too hot for riding safely. The horses can handle it, but I can't stay rational.

Speaking of which, as a warning, I took my ambien a few minutes ago, so I apologize for any lack of coherence. I'll share about watching a young horse start her training another time.

So I decided I'd get sensei a little more engaged in things. It was time for him to pick up a bit of horsemanship. I used the "throw them in the water and see if they sink or swim" tactics a bit here, but it worked pretty well.

After we taped it, I explained making a space for the horse to go a bit, and not standing in front of a horse while trying to halter them when other horses are around.

But they both did so well! Solomon was very patient and good, Sensei followed directions carefully and was gentle with Sol.


Now for Solomon's condition:

Happy and relaxed,apparently; eating, standing weird because I'd picked his feet and not made him square up after. He gets some silly stances until he decide it's worth fixing them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Supporters, Watchers, and Detractors

Heeeeey folks!

I wrote this on my Kyokushin blog, but I think that it is just as relevant here. Nobody has really been nasty yet, and if I'm lucky nobody ever will be. But I figured I would write this out anyway. I want to share my thoughts. I hope that you enjoy it!


A kind soul has brought to my attention the fact that my blog can get a bit controversial. Maybe offensive. And that I'm really open, so I open myself up for attack.

This is very true!

* For one thing, I'm quite overweight, and that's a popular thing for people to get nasty about on the internet. It's one of those things that are still culturally okay to be cruel about, no matter what kind of a person it is that is being attacked. Humans are very visual, tribalist creatures, and it's easy to look and make a lot of assumptions.

But then again, maybe I need to stand up and be open. Maybe there need to be some fat people putting themselves out there and showing that not all of us sit on our butts on a couch all day, watching TV and stuffing our faces with junk food. Not all of us are lazy, or greedy, or selfish, or stupid, or gluttonous. This is something that not everyone will believe. I am sure that there are people who will look at me and say "oh, she doesn't ever work out" or "oh, she isn't sticking to an eating plan, I'm sure she's sneaking twinkies in the middle of the night."

Some people will want to convince themselves of these things so much, for their own comfort, that they will never be open to learning otherwise. People like that have already dismissed me, and people like me. It isn't always easy, but I just need to dismiss them as well.

But also, maybe there is some girl or boy out there who has been thinking "I can't go swimming, I can't learn karate, I can't go outside, I can't dance, or sing, or enjoy my life, because I am fat." Or maybe "I don't want to do anything that shows that I have a disability. People will just mock me and try to hurt me. They'll just see me as weak and sub-human."

Well, I cannot promise that some people won't act like that. But those people are not worth investing emotions in anyway! And most importantly-

This is your life. It is the only life you have. It is not infinite. You cannot put things off forever. Your life will pass you by if you do that, and it will end with nothing but regrets and missed opportunities. Stop punishing yourself for not being "normal." Stop torturing yourself for not living up to physically impossible standards set by people whose worldview is so simple and small-minded that they cannot comprehend anything other than black and white. Do not let the cruel people win. They will always live in fear anyway.

* For another thing, I have a sense of humor. It is probably a little off-beat. Okay, it's twisted at times, I admit it!

Many people take their martial way very seriously. I respect this. I take mine seriously as well. But that might be hard for some people to see. I can understand this as well.

Here is the thing- life can be full of dignity and grace, but it will also be full of absurdity. It is often pride that prevents us from seeing the humor in things. I don't mean the kind of pride one gets from great accomplishments- I think that is healthy. I mean the pride born of fear. Fear that one is not strong, not invincible, not good enough, not acceptable. Because everyone wants to be understood and accepted, when you get down to it. Heck, even horses and dogs want that.

But if you can never laugh at yourself, or at life, and can never see that you are as fallible as anyone else, then you are opening yourself up to a greater failure. Either you will no longer be open to learning because you will start to believe that you have nothing left to learn, or you will build up so much dependence on being infallible that your ego will be crushed when this turns out to not be true.

I think that a lot of great, gentle humor can be found in humility.

And you know... I've been far too close to death far too many times to NOT have a sense of humor about things. First of all, laughter helps me find joy in my life and in the things that I do. Life is too short to not find your joy.

Second of all, when the pain is so great or your situation is so hopeless that you just can't bear it any more, you're pretty much stuck with a few options.

You can scream.
You can cry.
You can give up.
You can get angry and fight.
You can laugh.

I usually choose some combination of the last two. Seems a lot healthier and more livable than the first three, don't you think?

So please do not be too offended when I poke at things and laugh. Everything I say, after all, is my perception of the world. In that way, I am only laughing at myself.

*I have an unconventional relationship with my sensei.

We were friends before I was his student. We are like peas in a pod in a lot of ways. But we are also just different enough to make things interesting.

Sensei understands that I'm a feral little PTSD suffering head case. He understands and accepts this. He also knows that I am very playful, and that I tend to test and challenge others a lot. In part this is how I learn people. In part it is how I make myself feel secure. He accepts and understands this with a prodigious amount of patience. Despite and because of these things, we share a great deal of mutual trust and respect.

Sensei himself is not too terribly wrapped up in his own ego. He knows who and what he is. He knows what he is and is not capable of. He knows what I do and do not mean when I am silly with him. He does not feel the need to defend his honor or prove himself against these things. He is not arrogant- he is confident. Because of this, he does not need anyone to walk on eggshells around him.

Now, I always try my hardest to treat him with the respect he needs and deserves. We know where each other's boundaries are, and take great care to not cross them. They are different boundaries than the ones that other people have with one another. I would not, for example, ever try to kick shihan in the butt. That would, I think, offend and upset him. He would see it as an insult, and in that way it would be hurtful. Also, I would either do a lot of push-ups or get kicked out of the dojo.

Sensei, on the other hand, might punish me in a just fashion, or he might just laugh at my audacity, but ultimately we both know that we're okay with one another.

In a formal situation, in a dojo or amongst other karateka, I do try my best to always act respectfully to everyone and to bring honor to my sensei. I certainly do not get overly playful, and I try to not do things that are considered inappropriate in those environments. I am still new, still learning, and still feral, so I don't always succeed. But I do try hard. Sensei knows it. Eventually hopefully shihan will know it too! But either way, I do put my heart into it and try my best.

I have flaws, as everyone does, and I have a lot to learn. These things I recognize.


Now, let's talk about people who read blogs.

I was discussing this with my horsemanship mentor, who happens to also be quite accomplished in Aikido. He always has interesting, worthy perspectives to share.

Here's a concept that he brought up to me, and one that I will share with you and expand upon a bit.

When someone goes to read a blog, usually they fall into one of three categories.

*There are the people who are right there with you, because they are on their own journey. They are having their own struggles, but they are also finding their own joy and having their own successes. They are learning from their own failures, they are growing, they are moving on. They might not always agree with you, but they can usually respect the fact that you are also out there doing it. They are great.

*There are the watchers. They like to read a good story. They look to look at the nifty pictures. They might not be able to go on that kind of a journey, or they might not be willing to, but they get a good feeling reading yours. They may still be inspired. They may learn something. They will cheer you on, even if often it is just silently. They will sometimes ask questions that cause you to think about something in a new light, and learn. They get to feel like they are right there with you, a bit, experiencing it too, though your stories and images. This is a lot of people who read blogs, and they are great.

*There are the detractors and distractors. They want to tear you down. They want to see you fail. They see you have success and joy that they do not, and they are jealous. Or maybe they are just small-minded and cruel. They have bought into the internet culture that encourages sociopathy- the culture that allows you to treat your fellow man poorly without real consequences. They feel righteous, and they get a rush from seeing someone fall from grace. They see you are different, and they see different as bad, something that is a threat, something that should be destroyed. Instead of rising up on their own accomplishments, they do their best to drag others down to their own level. They may laugh, but it is an empty, hollow laughter. They are miserable people, even if they are too afraid to admit this to themselves.

Knowing this doesn't always make it hurt less. I'm really open and honest, and I know that means I'm really open to attack as well. But the way I see it is this- I can look myself in the mirror at night. And I do not want to waste my life hiding away in shame because I am fat, or because I have a mental illness. I do the best I can, and try to approach the world with compassion, respect, and strength. I'm not perfect and I don't always meet these goals, but I put all my heart into them.

Of course, all of that doesn't mean that it still won't hurt like the dickens when it happens.

But I will try to be brave and keep writing anyway. I think that courage is being terrified and doing something anyway. I try to have courage. I don't always succeed. But I will keep working at it.

I will not back down.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The 10 hour ranch day.

Last week, before I left for Washington, I went to the ranch and ran around doing stuff for 10 hours!

I was too busy to take pictures. :/ But I will bring y'all more shinies soon, hah!

So I did a whole lot, though of course Bo and DeDe did way way more than I did. I'd probably drop dead if I tried to do everything they do in a day!

I went and helped out a bit as DeDe wormed a whole bunch of horses. She did just about everything, but I tagged along, assisted with some stuff, and learned a lot about resistant horses. Solomon is not the worst! One mare, sissy, who is still very young and light on the front ended up having to be hobbled for a bit before she gave in and took her medicine. Some horses were really good about it. Many shook their heads a little bit and then took their medicine pretty quickly. Dede is a master of worming.

After that, I held some horses while Bo trimmed their feet. I did okay at this, except I let Lena crowd me into a corner. She was blowing into my ear with her nostril and I was giggling and not noticing that she was moving me to a spot where I would have been in a really bad fix if something had spooked her. Bo corrected me, and we did some work on situational awareness and moving the horse so that everyone was safe.

I watered troughs, groomed and fed Solomon, and then Bo told me he was going to give me a challenging task that was a test of my horsemanship.

He told me "okay Ev, now you are going to want to be really careful and take your time, NOT rushing things, and put a lot of thought into this. I want you to move all of the horses from their pens back to the big pasture now that we're done repairing the fence. Think very carefully about the hierarchy in the herd, and what order you're going to move them in."

I thought about it carefully, and about what I knew about the herd. All mares, except sometimes Shin, the ancient Thoroughbred gelding.

First I got Breezey, the alpha mare, a very good leader who manages the herd. That is her job, and she does it very, very well.

I said to her, "Breezey, I know you can't speak English, but I'm going to make a deal with you. You get to go out first, but I need you to help me keep everybody else in line. Okay?" Her ears swivelled, and she walked along beside me with no fuss.

Once I let her go in the pasture, she went charging around, screaming, because her herd was not there! So I went and got Jewel, the second in command. Next time I might actually try putting Jewel in first, since she is younger and I feel better about her running around than a mare who has had hoof problems like Breezey did.

After that, I lead in Magic the Quarterhorse, who was stomping on her mare motel gate wanting out. Then I moved Missy the bay mare, then Sissy the sorrel, who tossed her head and jigged a bit because she is young and really wanted out. Next it was Lena, then Magic the Arab. Shin was trumpeting and really really wanting in. He was out loose, so I just opened the gate and called him over. He went in and was a total gentleman. I was going to move the baby, Cali, in last but DeDe had to worm her anyway, so she moved her in herself.

Breezey was a very good mare, and she kept the entire herd in line just as I'd hoped she would, standing near the gate but not obstructing it. The rest of the herd fell in line behind her.

I was pretty proud of that, actually. No wrecks, no one got hurt, everyone behaved, everything went nice and safely. I handled the whole herd except the baby. I've handled the baby before, but I'd never hooked up Missy or Sissy or Lena. I'm not sure I ever lead Jewel before either.

Each horse had their own personality, and I managed to get along fine with all of them. :D

Next, I got Teddy Bear out. I groomed her up and let her loose in the roundpen. I was to ride her bareback that day, and I did NOT do my kata or my stretching beforehand, so... well probably the best I can say about the way I rode that day was that I didn't fall off and I dismounted well. My balance... needed work. I never felt like I was about to fall off, but I was not keeping with the motion of the horse well. I think my hips were too stiff and I was falling forward too much, or bracing with my legs too much. For some reason I couldn't find the "walk" button, just "trot," "stop," and "swish tail in an annoyed fashion." Totally not Teddy Bear's fault- she is a very honest mare. And she told the truth about me that day- I wasn't doing a great job of riding, hah!

But the next ride will be a different day and a different ride, and I'll be sure to stretch and loosen up beforehand.

After that, I hiked around and took some pictures for Bo with his camera.

So, it was a very full day, and a good day, and I was happy! Quite a bit of exercise, and 13 hours out of the house including the drive. That's something I wouldn't have even dreamed of a couple years ago!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh hey look, an update!

Hey folks!

Back from my trip to Washington State.

First off, the best news- Solomon has gained another 30 pounds! He's up at least 70 pounds since we started stuffing him to the gills. Maybe more than that. He's actually getting a little bit jiggly.

Solly was very excited to see me, nickering up a storm like he does when I'm gone for a while. I always feel like he's telling me just how much he missed me and how I oughtn't be away for so long, hah!

I roundpenned him, and after some light work when I whoaed him, he came in... and refused to go out again, shoving at me with his chest.

Now, I'm pretty forgiving with Solomon, and I let him get really touchy feely, especially since I am with him, but there are still boundaries, and he crossed one. I don't ask much of him, but what I do ask, he has to do.

Since I started formally training in martial arts, I've found myself being more assertive, and I've found that the horses have been more convinced when I have asserted myself. So when I growled at Solomon to get his grey spotty butt back out there and cracked the lunge whip, he spun on his rear and took off like a bat out of hell!

And then he went charging around the roundpen. Around and around and around. His ears weren't pinned- one was on me, and one was forward. His eye wasn't rolling. His head was high, but it always is when he canters or gallops. Always has been. But boy did he run.

After a couple of laps, I put the lunge whip down and stopped turning with him. I just stood still, and normally he stops when I do that, but this time he just kept tearing around in circles 3 or 4 more times, and then he trotted around me in circles for a while. Then I whoaed him, sent him back out, and got him to walk for me.

Once I had done that, and whoaed him again, he came in and stopped a very respectful distance away, head low, blowing in a placating fashion. So I scratched his head and told him he was a good boy, and then I turned around and walked. He followed me, of course, knowing well what to do, but he didn't crowd me or push on me. He was, in fact, quite respectful the entire time.

When I took him back to his pasture, he stuck by me and happily accepted loves. He followed me to the gate, but didn't try to force the issue.

After that, it started to get really hot, and Teddy Bear had been working really hard that morning for someone else, so I went in and messed around with computers whilst chatting with Bo.

I headed toward home, but stopped in Vallejo where I played Monopoly with Sensei and his son. When it comes to board games, I am ruthless. Completely without ruth. Muahaha!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home again!

Hey folks,
I'm home again from my trip to Washington state, and I owe you all a big update from before I left. I should get that posted soon. Thank you for your patience! <3