Monday, February 4, 2013

Reader Feedback Applied

Though I read everyone's comments on my blog, I don't often respond to comments.  So, I wanted all of your to know that I do take what you say to heart and sometimes apply it to my life.  Here are some recent examples:

Mikey mentioned in a comment on my post about the coyotes stalking my horse and I that it's a good idea to carry a big stick while out in the desert to protect yourself and your animals.  I do carry a flimsy halter training whip with me on my walks, but if I seriously had to beat something with it, the whip would probably break.  I always admire those hand-carved walking sticks I see in tourist spots around Arizona, and now I had a reason to get one.

This weekend I went to one location where I remembered seeing them, and the supply was pretty well depleted by the winter tourists and snowbirds.  All they had was a wood that left tiny slivers in my hand each time I touched it, or a shellacked wood that would have been smooth had the artist not carved notches in it for the sake of decoration.  Each time I touched those notches my skin got pinched or cut.

Something told me to just pick one and don't wait for a new supply, so I chose the shellacked wood with the notches.  This morning I took Bombay with me on my daily hike and remembered at the last minute to take the new walking stick.  We got about half a mile out and he locked up his legs and pointed to the east.  He's pretty honest about warning me of danger now.  He doesn't often lock up anymore simply because he doesn't want to leave home.  So, I led him to the east until we reached a cliff, and we looked out over the arroyos together as I tried to figure out what he heard.

Nothing.  There was nothing that I could see, so I urged him on.  Again, he locked up.  I looked around and saw nothing.  He refused to budge when I wanted to keep walking.  It wasn't that I doubted there was something he sensed.  It was more a matter of that I figured it was far enough off that we didn't need to worry.  I swung the lead rope at his shoulder to unlock him and we resumed our walk, but only for a few feet before he locked up again.

I spun around angrily, ready to whoop him one when I spotted two loose dogs to the east.  I waited to see if a hiker or horseback rider was with them, but no one appeared.  That meant these dogs probably got loose from someone's yard.  They were headed south, so I kept walking north hoping they wouldn't spot us.  Bombay locked up again and I turned to see the dogs charging us from the east.  I spun Bombay around to face them and they started barking at us in a threatening way.

I swung my stick in the air and yelled, "Go on!  Go home!"

They continued toward us while barking.  As they got closer I could see that one of them was a Pit Bull and the other was a Labrador mix, two of the most common breeds you see in dog shelters.  I was overpowered by a Pit Bull when I volunteered at the animal shelter, so I know that if I ran into an aggressive one, I wouldn't stand a chance.  They can jump up, grab your arm in their massive jaws and pull you down to the ground in an instant.  (On the contrary, well trained Pit Bulls are very sweet and make good pets.  Unfortunately, some dog owners encourage them to be aggressive.)  I knew that walking away would have been a big mistake, so I held my ground and continued yelling, "Go on!  Go home!"

Amazingly, the Pit Bull put its tail between its legs and ran off.  The Lab stood his ground for a while, but didn't advance any further.  I just kept waving my walking stick and yelling.  As soon as the Lab turned and trotted away, I got quiet.  He stopped and stared at us again.  I felt like he was waiting for us to walk off so he could attack from behind, so I ended up standing there facing him for about five minutes.  Each time he turned and looked at us, I yelled.  Each time he ran away a few feet, I got quiet.

When the dogs finally disappeared in the distance, we were able to resume our hike.  I realized that aggressive dogs on the loose are way scarier than coyotes, because most dogs are not afraid of humans on any level.  Having that walking stick with me made me feel a whole lot better, because at least I had an option to protect us.

In regards to my post about Bombay rushing home from trail rides and whether he would have been better had I lunged him before leaving, there were a lot of correct comments, but Judi really hit the nail on the head when she said that lunging him or working his feet at home after we return from a trail ride will help him be in less of a hurry to get home next time.  I had forgotten that one of the things my horse trainer taught me was to never just release a horse and let him relax after returning home from a trail ride, but work him harder.  Make him go up and down hills.  Make him trot or canter in the arena.  Lunge him in circles.  Anything except release and relax.

So, when we returned home from our walk, I did my ground work exercises with him and discovered that he had terrible manners and charged me with his shoulder.  He took me by surprise, so I jumped out of the way, which is a no no.  He who moves his feet first loses.  So, we tried again, and this time I was ready for it.  I whacked him on the neck as soon as he charged into me and that was all it took to get him to stay out of my 3-foot circle.

When I finished with him, I worked the ladies.  Whoever trained Gabbrielle did a really good job, because you can put her "out to pasture for a couple of years" and she remembers everything.  Oh wait, that was me. I was the one who trained Gabbrielle.  (Patting myself on back.)  I know my dressage trainer worked her under saddle, but she didn't do any ground work with her, so I think it's safe to give myself credit.

Lostine, on the other hand, had forgotten all of her manners and what I was asking after just one day of not being worked because of rain.  And you know what else?  When I did the side flexing exercise by pulling her head around to her shoulder and only releasing the lead rope when she gave some slack in the rope, she stretched her neck out and tried to bite me on the belly!  I can see it is going to take a lot of consistent work to correct that mare's attitude and get it stuck in her memory that I'm in charge of her, not the other way around.


Dreaming said...

How very scary! I never like seeing loose dogs - whether I'm on horseback, walking my dogs, or simply walking by myself.

Mikey said...

Very glad you had that stick! It comes in handy. And what a way to show your horses what a good leader you are. That's the best way to bond with your horses, by protecting them in a scary situation. Good job!!!

achieve1dream said...

Ugh I hate loose dogs. :( I'm glad you were both okay.

Kudos with Gabrielle. :D

Don't worry about Lostine. You will get their I promise!