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.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great joy, great trust, great love.

A horse's heart is far more noble than mankind deserves. What a great gift they give to us when they grant to us their trust. Massive, towering beasts, they could kill us in an instant. Mighty hooves, strength and speed we can only dream of, senses and reflexes we can only yearn for, and yet they lay their lives down for us. They are a precious treasure. They have been our steadfast companions for thousands of years. Our empires were built upon their backs, with their sweat and their blood. Never forget this. Never.

It was a warm and sunny winter day when Solomon put his life in my hands.

Seeing me come up the road, he came to me.

We know each other well. We say so much with a touch, with a breath, with a gesture. Slowly, over the past 2 and a half years, I have come to learn a little bit of his language. I will never be as subtle as him. My movements are large and clumsy. I am missing ears that swivel, a tail that swishes, and a couple of feet. My mouth is not as flexible, it's movements not as fine, but still, we have learned to understand one another. There is a reassuring comfort to our companionship. A friendship that transcends the line of species. We have joy, we have love, and we have trust.

I have heard people say that horses are dumb. I think that they are wrong. There are things that horses are not good at. But there are things that humans are also not good at. A horse does not build cities. But then, a horse does not poison his world. He can sense a seizure, or a panic attack. He can read the racing of your pulse and know that you are excited. He can smell and taste your fear. He can interpret, if you give him the chance, the subtlest shift of your weight on his back.

The smallest shift in position speaks volumes to his companions.

Horses love, and nurture.

They worry, and they grieve.

Their massive mouths can filter out a tiny leaf that they don't care for from a big bite of food. Or that little pill that you were sure they wouldn't notice.

They are creatures of equal grace and humor.

Finely tuned for speed and lightning reflexes, they are beasts of prey. But sometimes, if you learn a little bit of grace and tread lightly in their world, they will relax and let you in.

Breaker is what Solomon could have become. If he was a different horse with a different personality. If he hadn't been stuck in a tiny stall for so long. If he'd not been shown that humans could be a good deal. He is a rescue as well, but he doesn't trust humans, and there's no pen to work him in. His current owners are good people, from what I hear. They simply do not have time to really work with him, and there isn't yet a space for him to work in close. He hangs around, wanting to be a part of the herd, knowing maybe there's something about people he should be interested in... but he doesn't want to let you get too close. He was treated very badly in the past. He has no reason to trust.

If I lived in Pope Valley, I'd tame him for free. He is cute, and well built, but even if he wasn't, he deserves a good chance at life. And I think that I could break through.

He let me get pretty close, and even dozed off a bit that day. Part of the key is keeping your energy really low. Not focusing hard on a big goal like catching him but just taking things one step at a time, and being prepared to back away if you need to. Being very patient, and approaching from the side, lined up shoulder to shoulder with him, instead of advancing by facing him, which is a challenge and and be a signal to move. Within a herd, the dominant, aggressive horse will approach a submissive horse head-on and expect him to move out of the way. Predators also approach in such a fashion, if they aren't ambushing their prey. It is a lot of pressure. Learning to communicate with low pressure can be the key for a nervous horse who fears mistreatment. He must be soothed and reassured. He must feel that he can rest, that you are a part of the group and that you are there to support and protect him, not attack him.

As I was working a little with breaker, Solomon, who had been brushed and had ticks removed, began to fall asleep. I'd already soothed him quite a bit, rubbing his cheeks, which releases endorphins, and giving him brow-skritches, which is something I know he particularly enjoys. He is comfortable enough now to love getting the bases of his ears rubbed as well.

So, he was nodding off.

And as I worked with Breaker, I heard a little grunt and a thump behind me.

Soon, everyone but Breaker followed suit.

And then Solly began to snore.

How far can I get, I wondered?

Then I decided to stop bugging him, since he'd woken up a bit again, and I wanted him to be able to nap. So I sat bside him, in front of his chest. And that's when it happened. He licked his lips a bit, looked at me, and put his head in my lap. I stroked his face, and he rolled onto his side. Then he began to snore again.

Hose heads are heavy! After a minute or two, I figured if he was going to show me such an incredible amount of trust, I would do the same for him. So I laid down. The top of his head was nestled against my chest, the rest of it snuggling against my belly.

The sun was warm and the grass was soft.

He didn't seem to care that one ear was all squished.

After a little while, I fell asleep.

When I woke up again, I took this final video. You know, for a time I had to use a stud chain with Solomon. His environment was wrong, I didn't know how to communicate and work with him right, and I hadn't earned his trust as a leader yet. But now, thanks to Bo, thanks to Solomon's noble, forgiving heart, and thanks to me finally opening my eyes and my heart, we have come to this place. A place of great joy, great trust, great love.

After a while, it was time to go. Reluctantly, I got up and trudged back to my car. Solomon awoke and watched me go.

He peered in the window of my car as I drove away, tracking me until I was over the hill.

It was a great gift that he gave to me today. Something few people ever experience. I will treasure it for the rest of my life.

I do not know of a more perfect creature in all the world than the horse.

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