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, July 31, 2010

Pleasant afternoon.

This morning I missed a big cattle sorting event because I had to show my house. We're looking for a housemate. :/

But I got to see my Solly! He is doing well. He called to me as soon as he spotted me way down the road. Today he was in an angelic mood. No misbehavior or resistance whatsoever.

Solomon got groomed and loved on, he got to do some roundpenning, and then I let him loose to graze around the ranch.

I told him "don't you go in that hay barn!" Of course he looked at me innocently- he only goes in when I've been in the house for a while and he thinks he can sneak a flake.

Today he just hung out with Lena, who was on the other side of the fence in the large mare pasture. He did come over to sniff me while I did my kata, however.

When it was time to put him away, I just walked over and gently tugged the bottom of his halter. Once we started moving, I let go and he just walked across the ranch with me. I opened the gate to his pasture and said "go on in," and that's exactly what he did. What a good boy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pure joy.

Hi folks!

Okay, I have to jump ahead this time, and then I'll give you a long overdue Solomon update.

Sunday was a big day for me! I got to do something I had never done before. Something I thought I would never get to do!

I got to LOPE!

All right, I'll back up now.

When I got to the ranch, I chatted with Bo and DeDe for a bit, then went and filled water troughs. I helped move horses, leading Leo to a pasture. He tried some stuff with me, but I was firm with him and he listened.

When I was done with all of that, I pulled out Solomon, who had been nickering and whinnying every time I came within 150 yards of his pasture, hah!

I'm going to show you his condition now. Topline is still horrible, but you can't see his ribs. You can feel them when you press. I want him to gain more, but he is gaining!

Meanwhile, the Little Bay Gelding and Remmy were chasing each other around and boxing. LBG was pretty interested in me though.

Solomon, nomming down his senior feed.

So he has these big bulges in the sides of his neck near his head. He always has. Is that normal muscling or not?

Next Solomon went to the roundpen. He did his usual leg-locking at the gate thing because he didn't want to work out, but I just told him he had to anyway.

We did some roundpenning, walking, trotting, cantering, and he did fine, but I didn't make him work too long in this hot weather. Then he had to steal my hat, of course.

He has a lot of fun taking it and scooping up sand with it. He likes to hold it in his teeth and toss his head around.

And how could I ever resist this face?

After roundpenning, I went to the middle of the pen and did my kata. A kata is a series of moves one does in karate- a sort of ritualized one-sided combat. It is a form of moving meditation, and it not only teaches the body how to move and fight, but it also makes the body much more supple. If you want your horse to be supple, you have to be a supple rider!

Solomon found this fascinating. He wanted to have his nose in my hair the entire time, and was trying to stay glued to me as I spun and shifted. He did a pretty good job of it, too! It made the two little wheels in his head spin a lot, I tell you what.

This turned out to be a really good idea. It helped me so much when I rode!

After I put Solomon away, it was time for Teddy Bear.

Tedders was in a really mellow mood. She didn't really want to leave the shade at first, so she planted her feet, but I made her do a circle and said "NO NONSENSE TEDDY BEAR," and then she was just fine. A good girl. I think that I have finally started to find that authoritarian side that one has to project with horses at times.

I had no problem grooming her. She picked her feet up for me and let me brush her out with no drama and no wigglies. She was half asleep.

After I had her all groomed up, I sat in the shade and meditated until Bo came out of the house. Teddy Bear napped.

We saddled her up, and Bo gave me a great lesson on how to mount from the ground. I'll be posting the video of that, but I have to get it up on YouTube, and it's a really big file.

Teddy Bear was so good that she stayed stock still the entire time.

Then it was time for me to mount. She was saddled, and I had this feeling. I wasn't sure, but it was a feeling...

I mounted up and we spent some time getting the stirrups right. I found neutral. Got myself feeling nice and centered. Bo told me that we weren't going to worry about steering at all- that he wanted me to remain in the center, keeping balanced on the horse's spine.

First we did some walking, then some walk-trot transitions. Bo roundpenned Teddy Bear while I balanced on her back. After a little while, he started having her turn and spin. Lots of rollbacks! It was challenging, but fun. I hadn't had the chance to ride in a while, but I was surprised... I still have a long ways to go, but I felt like my hips were a lot looser, a lot more supple. Then I realized it was because of all the martial arts training I'd been doing!

So there we were, trotting and spinning, and I was grinning my head off. I looked at Bo and he was smiling too. He said "Okay Ev, something really special's going to happen soon, so be ready for it," and I said guietly "YESSSSSSS" because I knew!

He got us trotting around and then he made the kissy noise. Such an amazing feeling! I was ready for it. I'd been watching and watching and watching.

I didn't do really well with moving with the horse, but I was determined. It was like being on an oscillating rocking chair moving at 25 miles an hour. So much fun! I worried about bouncing, but the second time Bo had Teddy Lope, I really felt like I was moving with her, and not bouncing! The third time I was behind the movement and I did bounce. Teddy was such a good girl though. She didn't act up, despite my newbie riding. She was a total doll. And I was simply elated.

Thank you so much, Bo. I didn't think I'd ever be able to do that. I will never forget that day!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good news!

Solomon has gained 15 or 20 pounds since last week, yay! It isn't a lot for a horse, but it is still progress in the right direction.

Actually, I think he might have gained more than that. You know how some people gain weight in the thighs more, or they gain weight in the belly more? I don't think you can really tell exactly how much a person weighs my measuring one band around their body.

Horses have different shapes too. Some have bony withers, some are wider further back, or they have a huge neck, or they have a big butt. Solomon is shaped like a gumdrop, except at the wither and heartgirth. Go further back along his body, however, and he balloons out. Not worm belly- he is on a regular worming schedule. It's just how he's shaped.

Anyway, I can feel his ribs but not see them, which is good. I prefer having to press a bit to feel them, but we'll get there, hopefully.

For the most part he was a very good boy today. He stood patiently for me, he took his fly spraying well, he performed in the round pen... his penis was flopping around a bit as he trotted though. This is a concern because before I owned him he had to go to UC Davis; he had summer sores on his penis. That just sounds so horrifying... I had to check him out and make sure he wasn't swollen and unable to retract. He sucked up when I cantered him, however, and I couldn't find anything that looked unhealthy on him.

After I roundpenned him, I stood and chatted with Bo for a good while. Solomon got bored, but stuck himself to me like glue. Horses are very tactile creatures. They use closeness and contact for comfort. Solomon is pretty bonded to me, and in a roundpen I'm the most interesting thing, so he stays close. He very lightly touched his shoulder to me for a while, and wrapped his neck around me for a while. Then he backed up and stuck his nose in my hair. I put one foot up on one of the bars of the pipe panel, and he decided it would be a great idea to hold me up with his poll. He just stood there with his head under my leg, as if he was trying to prop me up. Not moving, not doing anything. Just... standing there. What.

Then I sat down in the sand for a bit, and he alternated between keeping watch, nuzzling my hair, putting his head in my lap, and shoving me with his head. That last bit got him walked in tight circles. He stopped shoving me then.

Then he discovered my hat. Took it right off my head. And he found it to be so VERY fun... he tossed his head around, making it flap. Then he ground it into the sand. Then he scooped up sand with it and threw that around. He did give it back when I told him to, however. Having a horse is like having a toddler.

At least this time he did not unbuckle my belt or try to unzip my pants. He has done both of those things before!

Anyway, I took him for a little walk and put him back in his pasture.

I know, I know, some of you are probably shocked and horrified by how in my space I allow my horse to be. Well, I don't tend to be like that with other horses. Just Solomon. Solomon is old and retired and he is my service horse. He is a therapy animal. He doesn't get dangerous, and if he starts to, he knocks it off when I set a boundary.

I trust him a lot more than other horses. I don't trust him entirely, because you always need situational awareness and risk assessment around horses. They are very large, strong, fast prey animals. But Solomon also has a special job, which is taking care of me when I need him to. When I am in a lot of pain or when a panic attack comes over me, he has to take control, to a certain extent. He knows what to do. How, I'm not sure. But he does. He helps me walk, or he holds me up and keeps me still until the panic passes. If I were more strict with him and didn't let him express himself as much, I might have a little less trouble with, say, leading him places he didn't want to go, or getting him to not shove me a bit once in a while. But if I were to do that, he might not feel comfortable and confident enough to do the things he needs to do to take care of me when I need it. Most of the time, people don't want their horse to be in charge. Most of the time, it's not a good idea. Sol is a special horse though, int hat one way. He can't be ridden and he isn't going to go and win any pretty ribbons. But when I panic, he takes care of me. When I am in pain, he takes care of me.

And I take care of him. We're partners. And most of the time, I am in charge. Sometimes he has to be. For a lot of horses I think that would be unsettling. They would feel insecure. They are more comfortable knowing what role they play, and feeling that role firmly in place. Well, and Solly is comforted by that as well. It is just something that he has to be able to be more fluid and flexible with.

Here's the thing though- he isn't the only kind of horse that needs to be able to make independent decisions and act on them!

Cutting horses... they are pointed at a cow but then it's up to them! They have to go after that cow and decide how to move to keep it from the rest of the herd. A human can't guide the horse fast enough. He has to have cow sense.

So I guess Solomon has Ev sense. <3

Friday, July 16, 2010


Hi folks,
I am currently not doing well, healthwise. I am hoping to make a quick recovery. I have a good blog post to make then! But to tide you over, here is Solly!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The cost of Solomon's care, broken down.

The other day I spent a good while at the ranch, discussing a lot of things with Bo and A___.

One of these things was of course Solomon's health. Bo is confident that Solly will gain weight with the extra feed, and that he is a long way off from euthanasia.

Sol seemed to agree.

Today thanks to people who love Sol, I was able to bring up two bags of LMF Senior, a bottle of fly spray (his ankles were bloody from fly bites) and a tube of ivermectin. I portioned out 14 days worth of senior feed in baggies for Bo and DeDe to put in a feed pan for Sol every day. There was a bit left over in the bag, so I am guessing that each sack of feed contains about 2.5 weeks worth of feed.

Solomon was all a-nicker upon seeing me, and very happy that I was up for a visit. I fed him his pan, picked his feet, brushed him, gave him a bit of a massage, and fly sprayed him. He doesn't like getting fly sprayed but they were so bad that he stood stock still for me out in the pasture, even letting me rub some on his face without complaint.

When all of that was done, and I'd put him back, he didn't wander off or even go to get his drink of water. Instead he stuck to me like glue. He pressed his shoulder very gently against me and then tried to bed his body around me like a giant grey U. He isn't that bendy, but boy did he ever try! That's my boy. After a while he moved a bit and leaned his hip against me.

Actually, he barely leans against me. It's more to brace himself than anything. He's gotten used to me leaning against him, I think, and he was saying "go ahead mom, let's cuddle." I gave him tail-skritches, which make him lift his tail like a cat.

I see companionable horses do it in the pasture sometimes too. In the bad fly months, they'll stand nose to butt, flicking flies off each other's faces with their tails. He USUALLY doesn't flick me in the face with his tail though. Thank goodness.

I should probably lay out the costs for caring for a Sol-Sol. So you know what is what, eh?

Board: $350. Yes, this is very cheap for the area. Horse Hell was $300, and Hossmoor was $460. D&D Ranch is better than either of those, by far, for the horses especially. I know that he will be cared for, watched over, fed, brought in in a storm, have fresh water, and safe pasture conditions.

Given a feed pan every day: $30 a month. $1 a day, for going and making a feed pan for him, catching him (read: making sure he waits to be haltered before coming out the gate) feeding him, and putting him back. Actually a good deal for the work that is done.

LMF Senior Feed: $35 a month.

Barefoot trim: $45 a month. I was having shoes put on him, which I think was $120 or $130... it was $90 for just the fronts. He was more comfortable in shoes but I just couldn't afford it any more. He's doing okay barefoot, and his feet are staying a lot cleaner. I know he'd be less ouchy in shoes, but still, he's okay.

So that's every month.

Every two months:

Wormer: $7 or so That's the price at the race track. I could get it a lot cheaper online, except that I'd have to pay shipping.

Every year:

vaccines: I think about $35 or $45, was it? I save a lot by giving them to him myself.

Tooth float: $110. Down in Martinez it was more like $300+. Just insane. The dentist that goes to the ranch is very kind to the horses, he is the one who took care to actually gauge Solomon's age, and he didn't charge extra for an extra shot of sedation. The other two times I had his teeth floated, they gave him three and charged me a lot for each one.

As needed:

Fly Spray: About $15 I usually go through two or three bottles of this a year.

ForCo Probiotics: $44.99 It cost way more than this at the English tack and feed store where I found it. http://www.forcocolorado.com/horse_supplements.htm But one can, it appears, buy directly from the supplier! Some people don't believe in probiotics, but Solomon gets the runs without it. With it, he does not get the runs. For me, with the feed plan that is available to him at this time, the proof is in the pudding. Or rather, the lack of poop caked in his tail.

SandClear: $15.95 Solomon lives in a place with sandy soil, and sand can build up in the digestice tract, causing impactions. These impactions can lead to colic and death. Sand colic is very serious and the surgery to TRY to save a horse from it is way way WAY beyond what I can afford. It's not a promising success rate, either. So, every month or two I give him Sand Clear for a while. http://www.horse.com/item/farnam-sandclear/SLT121088/ if you're curious.

Mane 'n' Tail Shampoo and Conditioner: $12 or so for the both- I wait until it is on sale at the grocery store.

Betadine scrub: $17.99 at Walgreen's. I suspect that I could get this a lot cheaper from an online horse supplier. I bought the bottle I have now a year and a half ago. It's almost out. Lasts a long time. Used for cuts, scratches, and baths. Bathing a horse with betadine scrub takes care of a lot of little critters and unwelcome life forms on their skin. It also happens to make a grey horse all sparkly and white. For about 10 minutes. Then he rolls in the nastiest substances he can find, being sure to grind it into his mane.

Triple Antibiotic Ointment:$1 I love the Dollar Store. Used on cuts and the sores he gets on his belly in front of his sheath during fly season, poor baby. D:

Carrots, peppermints, watermelons, apples, & etc I don't keep track really. A sack of peppermints lasts a really long time, and usually friends of Sol going up with me to visit buy him something. Sometimes I grab him a 50 cent apple at Trader Joe's. He loves Galas and Fijis the most.

Vet Bills: all of my savings. I thought I had enough for emergency vet visits, but that was before he lived in what I'll now admit to myself was the 90 acre pasture of chaotic doom. Running through that fence set me back an insane amount. Numerous other injuries from fighting over his favorite filly with giant warmbloods half his age and climbing piles of debris with rebar in them did the rest. No, when we moved there the debris was not getting dumped in the pasture. That started happening after we'd settled in, and I was assured that they never got hurt on it. Strangely enough, Solomon has not been injured since I moved him to D&D Ranch. A couple of kick and bite scrapes, but nothing serious. Nothing that required anything other than some neosporin. I'm hoping it stays that way, but of course there is no guarantee there. Luckily, thank the gods, if the worst happens I have an offer of a loan from a friend to have him put down humanely.

What Solomon needs:

A waterproof winter blanket. I do have a non-waterproof winter blanket, and since Bo and DeDe bring the horses in when it gets stormy, Bo has told me that this will be better than nothing, and work okay. Waterproof would be a lot better though. Something like this http://www.horse.com/item/saxon-1200-denier-m-w-turnout/SLT722758/ would work.

banamine: $30 or so. Medication used in case of colic. An older horse gets a more delicate digestive system, and this drug has saved many lives. http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=78DB03F7-1971-449E-B815-5F7182E048EA&item=134RX&ccd=IFF003&utm_source=froogle&utm_medium=free&utm_content=134RX

An Emergency Vet Fund What I had, until all the cuts and gashes at Hossmoor. :/ It was $950 for a palpitation and euthanization shot for Lilly, on an emergency vet call. This is incredibly overwhelming. I thought I was prepared because I had more than that, in the beginning, in savings for him. All used up. I don't know what to do about that.

Gas money: $18 a trip, roughly. Solomon needs muscle to keep supporting his messed up back. He needs to be worked to stay healthy. He needs to be groomed. He should be worked 3 or 4 times a week via roundpenning and being taken for walks. Currently I go up as often as I can, which is usually when I can hitch a ride with Sensei. It's at least an hour and a half each way, plus a $5 bridge toll. I am very lucky to have such good friends, or I would not be able to get up to see him. At all.

If anyone has a child or loved one who wants horse, I highly encourage that! But be prepared, be more prepared than I was, take a look at this and really understand how much it costs to have a horse. Especially here in the California Bay Area.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My sweet old boy.

Lately I have been a bit worried about Solly.

He seems to be a bit more fragile. He really seems to be aging a lot.

I have him on probiotics, which helps him not get the runs. His teeth were floated this spring. He's had all of his vaccinations. His feet get done. He gets wormed. He gets a big flake of alfalfa in the morning and a big flake of red oat in the evening. He gets LMF Senior. I am now paying to have a pan of senior feed given to him every day, instead of giving it to him as a treat. I'm hoping this will help him put on weight.

He's losing condition in his topline especially. He's never had a good one, but lately it has gotten thinner. I do work him in the roundpen whenever I come up to see him, but I cannot afford to do the three hours of driving plus bridge toll more than once a week or so now. :(

He is still a very good boy, however. Loving, happy to see me, and prone to getting excited when he spies me coming up the drive. He is a good boy in the roundpen, doing everything I ask of him.

I admit that when I got him, I didn't really understand the scope of the responsibility I was taking on. I was hoping someone would go in on his care with me, but that ended up not happening. Then I hoped (sort of, I admit that I love him and it would be hard to let go) that I could rehabilitate him and find him a good home as a riding horse, but he turned out to be much much older than I was told he was, and ultimately not riding sound. I thought I had a good solid emergency vet fund, but he burned through that in the first year.

I've given him two really really good years. He is a happy boy and his life is better than I dreamed that it could be. I took him from horse hell to horse heaven. I am proud of that.

But I'm worried now. He got way too thin last winter. Maybe a blanket would make it okay this coming winter, maybe not. I don't like how much harder it is to keep weight on him this summer. I worry about how he will do when it starts to get cold.

It's the part of bonding that people don't like to talk about. When you establish so much love and trust. And you have this being who depends on you, utterly. And then things start to decline. You can sense it. And you feel so helpless. Because you can take really good care of them, you can love them and feed them and do everything in your power to keep them safe, but you can't stop time from passing and you can't stop any living thing from getting old.

I knew that by buying him, I would become responsible for his life. I knew that I was on SSDI and that I might never get "better" from the mental illness I have. I knew this, but I knew if I didn't get him out of there, he would die, and badly. He taught me to walk again. He got me to leave the house when I was getting close to not being able to any more. He gave me a reason to fight. A reason to live. He saved my life. I had to save his.

Maybe I messed up. He's had two good years but I don't know how to give him two more. I wish I could make myself all better. I wish he was as young as the people who I rescued him from claimed he was. I wish I'd known enough about horses to see that he was working hard to hide the pain in his back and his joints. But I don't think I could have walked away from him and left him to his fate even if I did know those things.

I'll be frank and tell you, I have way less income than I did before. My parents helped a bit. They've retired now. I've spent thousands on keeping him safe and keeping him well. I've sacrificed a lot. I know you might look at me and say "she's never missed a meal" but I have. I haven't been able to buy myself new pants for a year, though I've lost 50 pounds. I don't begrudge him for any of that. He is worth it. He is worth sacrificing a lot more for. But I don't know what to do.

Solomon is retired, and he would not hold up to work. I don't think it would even be a good idea to try to get him to pull a cart at this point. He is old- at least 25, maybe 28 or older. Maybe he looks good for being so old, maybe not. Who knows what his breed really is. Who knows what his history really is. There doesn't seem to be anyone who used to own him looking for him. And there are so many horses out there needing homes that are companion-only.

Some people do say that you should put an old horse like him down if you aren't sure you can take care of him any more. And if it comes to that... I don't know how I could rehome him, given his age and health, and ensure his safety. I don't know how I could be sure he would not get stuck on a double-decker to Mexico. I promised him that I would do everything in my power to keep him safe and make sure he would never suffer like that.

When his body can no longer contain his spark, his joy, and his dignity, I will do what I have to do. I will not force him to hang on when he's suffering badly. That is not mercy. It would be selfish of me. Cruel.

But I don't think he's there yet. I think he still enjoys his life. I think he is still happy. I think he still wants to live.

Solomon is a good and kind and noble beast, he is wise and loving and his heart is great. He has seen and suffered so much, but still he trusts. Still he cares for others, horses and humans both.

A few weeks ago, I had a long talk with Bo about Solomon's future. About how he is getting old and will need more care. How he might have to be put down, and I should be prepared for that.

I went into the pasture where he lives, and I stared into his eyes. I tried to imagine putting him down because I couldn't afford to care for him any more. I started to cry, and he nickered softly to me, wrapping his neck around me, holding me up against his mane, blowing his warm breath on me and nuzzling me, just like he always has when I've been in pain. Just like he always has when I have felt the panic well up, felt a flashback coming, felt the world start to disappear. He has always protected me, and tried to comfort me, as much as he can. He has done more for me than any psychologist ever has. He has helped me old on to the last vestiges of my sanity. He has given me strength. And I don't want to fail him. I feel like I am failing him. He deserves better.

He deserves everything good in this world, because he is everything good in this world.

So I ask you, humbly, if any of you would be willing to sponsor him. I know it's asking a lot. I know times are hard right now. I know there are good reasons to tear me down for asking. I know there are so many horses in need. I know I am far, far, far from perfect, and I've messed up on a lot of things in my life. I'm not asking for me. I'm asking for him. If you want to but don't know me from Adam and aren't sure that you trust me, let me know if there's any way I can reassure you. Let me know if there's any way I could prove that everything went directly to him.

I have $57 a month to live off of after Solomon's expenses now, and I don't care. I just want him to be okay. I just want the last of his life to be good and happy. If you can help him, please, please do. I will give him everything I have. I just don't have enough to give. Maybe together we can give him what he needs though?

He is a light shining in the world, and he isn't ready to go yet.

If you can think of anything, or do anything... I'm beloved_lokisdottir on yahoo. That's my e-mail. If you want to flame me, I guess you can do that too. But if anyone can help him, it will be worth it.

Thank you for your time.