Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Delivery Men vs. Horses & Dogs

Right at noon on the nose my dogs always ask to go outside. I know it is because that is when the mail carrier, FedEx and UPS truck drivers start racing around the neighborhood. The dogs just can't resist barking at them. They know the sound of their engines and start barking even before their vehicles come into sight. Hundreds of other vehicles can pass our house in the meantime, and the dogs just ignore them.

Today the mail carrier arrived right when I was taking my horse Bombay for a walk. He usually just drops off mail at the rural roadside cluster boxes in front of my house, but sometimes he has to come up my dirt road to deliver a package to someone's doorstep. His habit is to race up the street full speed and then blast his horn to announce his arrival.

This behavior has irked me no end, because half the time when he does this I am working with a horse, and he causes my horse to spook. I keep meaning to ask him to drive slowly and avoid honking, but always forget each time I see him. I only think of it when I'm working with a frightened horse, and at those times I'm indisposed and cannot leave my horse to speak to my mail carrier.

So, I walked Bombay close to where the mail carrier was by the boxes, and then turned away and continued our walk in the opposite direction. Right when we got onto the narrowest part of the dirt road, the mail carrier turned up my street. There wasn't room for both him and my horse. I was happy to see him pull over to the side of the road and creep slowly up toward us instead of his usual habit of speeding like a bat out of hell. I waved to him, and got Bombay out to the wider part of the road.

The mail carrier drove past us, and Bombay didn't even look at his jeep or raise a hackle over the loud banging and rattling the jeep was making as it hit every little pothole along the way. My dogs were barking their heads off, and Bombay remained totally relaxed. He got the biggest hug in the world for that. My dogs, on the other hand, got their butts booted back into the house for disturbing the neighbors. My mail carrier kindly refrained from honking since he was aware that I was working with a horse.

Gabbrielle had a big spook on her walk when we were squeezing between my truck and a line of pine trees. My whip banged against the side of the truck and she spun on me. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for a horse to spin right there, so I got bonked. I tapped her on the chest with my whip to get her attention back on me. She stopped her attempt at bolting and took a chunk out of the pine needles instead to see how they tasted.

I then took her over to the truck, stopped her, showed her my whip, and then rhythmically tapped it against my truck in different locations that made different noises. At the sound of each new noise, she tried to run, but I held her there. As soon as she relaxed, I stopped tapping. Soon she could stand next to my truck completely unconcerned.

I tried the same trick with Lostine, but she was already unconcerned. Banging a whip against metal couldn't have been less interesting to her. I think her biggest challenge is turning. She tries to run as soon as I turn her in a different direction. It's like she's worried that something will start nipping at her heels. So, I've learned that if I give her the majority of the lead line, she can turn her head enough to see behind her and know that nothing is there.


Grey Horse Matters said...

That's one reason I hate to ride on roads. The horn blowers and engine revers, either they have no sense or they think it's funny to watch a horse spook. I don't. Anyway good going on the control of all the horses, I'll bet that soon they will all be de-spooked and perfectly calm no matter what happens.

Leah Fry said...

What was I just saying on yesterday's post? Yeah, I need to find a new place to ride.

Abe Lincoln said...

It is amazing. This post reveals some or most of your concerns with the mail carriers or trucks. We have the same problems with UPS here but they just fly up the street which used to see our dogs off. Now that we no longer have dogs they seem to creep by.

Katharine Swan said...

We have one of those little old houses in a fairly urban area, where the mailbox is next to the door and the mailman has to walk up onto the porch to drop off our mail. Our more protective dog, a white shepherd by the name of Grace, barks at him EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I don't mean little barking -- I mean "I'm going to kill you a$$hole" barking and snarling. Heaven help anyone who ever decides to break in, huh?

Of course, this is the same dog who was hiding in the bathtub during the thundersnow yesterday...

Anyway, what you did with Gabbrielle -- repeating something that scared her until she was desensitized to it -- is exactly what I do with Panama. Except I also laugh a lot and kind of tease him while I do it, because I've noticed he'll relax faster when I laugh and make it into a game. Apparently he knows that means everything is okay. Horses are so funny...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm glad it all worked out. And I hope the next time the UPS truck shows up you're able to educae him on what not to do with horses nearby.

Bombay's face and ears are making me smile! :) He's so cute!

I love that you're spending so much time with your horses now, too. Is it lifting your spirits?