Bombay's walk this morning was the first sign of acceptance. He didn't make any huge improvements or have any setbacks. He just kept the status quo, which is fine by me. I've been waiting to see some consistency in his behavior. I don't want my horse to be very well behaved some days and a complete nutcase on other days. I want a horse who develops routine, predictable behaviors.
The way I see it, there are five levels of getting a horse comfortable in a new environment away from his herd. In the first phase of being taken out away from the barn, my horses pretty much lose their minds and act like they are being tortured. They are too frightened to focus on me. My goal is to give them exposure to the environment repeatedly and learn that nothing bad happens when I'm in charge.
In the second phase, they are still difficult to handle overall, but have moments of clarity where they exhibit that they understand what I want them to do, but are just too nervous to stay focused for more than a few seconds. However, if I time it right, I can get some training in.
In the third phase, they have good days and bad days. Everything seems to depend on their mood.
In the fourth phase, they have more good days than anything else, they show signs of having confidence, forming good habits and relaxing, but they still need some fine tuning in their behavior modification. That's the phase I am entering into with Bombay.
The fifth and final phase is when the horse is consistently relaxed and well behaved, even when surprises present themselves.
Some horses can go through all five phases in five minutes, other horses take five months.
We're still having horseback riders coming through our yard, passing several "no trespassing" signs along the way, but they are now cutting a wide berth around our house. I am always amazed at how their horses just plod along with their heads hanging low like they are totally bored. Then there are my nutcases standing at the fence with giraffe necks, nostrils snorting, tails up over their backs.
A group of six riders, seven horses and a dog came through this morning. The man in front was twirling a lasso like he was chasing a cow. As they rode past the front of our house, one lady was pointing at our house and our neighbors' house, as if explaining to other riders to steer clear of these properties. They have dogs, horses, and people who bite.
Later I spotted another horseback rider taking the same route. It's almost like word gets around in the horse community that someone was stopped by us after ignoring our "no trespassing" signs, so the riders all get together to plot out a new route since they've pushed that envelope as far as it will go. They are essentially entering our backyard at the big "keep out" sign, trying to run down the steep embankment to the arroyo before anyone sees them, and then they are on my property the entire way up the arroyo, and just at the end of our property line, they cut up the bank and ride at the edge of our southern property line out to the street.
My husband and I went down into the arroyo to figure out where they are coming up. It turns out that it is a safer route than what they were taking before, but they are still entering where the neighbor to our south posted a "no trespassing" sign, so they aren't respecting his wishes either. But, we figure that as long as they are taking the paths to the south to get in and out of the arroyo, we'll let them, because they are less likely to have accidents there. The cliffs are not as steep.
We're still not happy about the erosion they are causing to the banks, because we don't want any flood waters to be channeled toward the houses here, but at least my horses can't bite their horses over the fence and the riders are far enough off that our dogs probably won't attack them. We don't have to worry about them falling into trenches, stepping on shovels, peering in our windows, or helping themselves to anything in my horse trailer that far out. If they do happen to get hurt entering or riding in the arroyo, we've covered our butts the best we can by posting signs, putting up barriers, and talking to people, letting them know the property is closed.
Since they still insist on coming through, 100% of the liability will be on them. Our neighbors have witnessed us stopping people and telling them the property is closed, so they can back us up should someone take us to court. The group of six riders, seven horses and a dog came back through nearly six hours later, taking the same path. It turned out that one of the riders is a neighbor behind us. I thought the dog looked familiar.
I was showing my husband the sign, because he hadn't seen it since our daughter and I repainted it, and someone who lives on that street stopped while driving past and stared down at us. The guy didn't roll down his window and try to speak to us. He just sat there in his truck with the engine idling watching us. It was creepy and a little too reminiscent of how my nosy neighbors behaved at my old house. I guess people are just nosy by nature everywhere you go.
I think the truck came from the house where the horseback rider lives, so he was probably watching to see if we were going to install something else to reinforce the sign. But I'm convinced that not even a razor wire electric fence would keep people out. Now I'm just wishing I could install a solid wall at the top of the cliff by the street, because I'm tired of all the drivers, hikers, bicyclers, and horseback riders who treat it like it's a vista where they can hang out and watch me in my back yard doing chores and working with my horses. Unfortunately, I don't own the flat spot up there. My property starts at the vertical cliff.
Since I moved here to get away from people who watch me constantly in my back yard, and now find myself still having an audience most times I step outside, I'm thinking this must be my karma. My life is about learning to live without privacy. I used to think I would solve the problem by letting people know how I feel about their staring, but that hasn't made any difference, so now I just have to deal with it, I guess.
Whenever I lock up my horse trailer and go to hide my key, there is more often than not someone up there on the bluff watching me. Then I feel like I have to wait for them to leave before I hide the key. Most of the time they won't leave. They just stand up there and watch me. I know they are waiting for me to leave so they can sneak onto my property. I feel like a pioneer in a wagon down in a canyon being watched by Indian lookouts up in the rocks.
Also, I find that since we now have made it clear that we don't want people trespassing, those who walk or ride in front of our house usually turn their heads and stare into our windows the whole way. I guess we should have just laid low, because now people are being even more obnoxious in their effort to survey our property for signs of life before cutting through, when before they just cut through without any thought to where we were and what we were doing. Now neighbors behind us stop what they are doing and watch us like prairie dogs from their mound. I think they are trying to learn our habits and routines so that they can figure out the best times to cut through.
That's why I enjoy taking walks off the property into the desert so much. I actually get more privacy on public land than I do in my own back yard. The horses have less activity to distract them, especially on the weekends. I can train them without interruptions. If the horses could just ignore everyone who loiters on that bluff, then working and riding them in the arena would be easier, but they have actually had bigger spooks and balks at home than out in the desert.
The other day I put the dogs on leashes to walk them outside to do their business. I pushed the button to roll up the garage door and Scrappy bolted. The leash slipped right out of my hand and I had to chase after him. So, even when I keep my dogs on leashes on my own property, sometimes they get away from me. It was fortunate that no one was walking or riding up or down my driveway just then.
Scrappy does bite strangers who walk into the house without me properly introducing them to him, so I'm sure he would bite a person, dog or horse on our property who took us by surprise. I doubt his bite would hurt a horse or dog, but I'm sure some of them would kick and bite back. I'd rather just avoid such scenarios all together. I also have to worry about there being coyotes outside when I take the dogs out, and in a few months I'll have to worry about scorpions and rattlesnakes again. This spring I'm definitely getting both of them the rattlesnake bite vaccine. Gabbrielle pointed out a coyote that was watching us when I trimmed her bridle path today. More and more coyotes are coming out during the day in the cooler temperatures.