Monday, January 11, 2016

A Dump Truck, a Coyote, a Raven, and a Horse

After a month and a half of holiday activities, followed by a week of rain, I was determined to get out and ride a horse today.  I actually fed them in the dark before sunrise so that they would finish eating sooner.  Yesterday they nibbled on hay until mid-afternoon, which kind of shows you how much they dislike this hay.  They are normally done eating by 10:30 AM.  I'm glad I didn't order 80 bales of this stuff.

Anyway, I was excited to use my Garmin fitness watch to record data on a horseback ride.  I was particularly interested in my heart rate.  I've notice that when I am out jogging, hiking or bicycling and some animal or animals burst out of the brush in front of me or next to me, I spook.  After I get home, I upload the data and can clearly see that my heart rate skyrocketed at that very moment when I spooked.  I figured that this heart monitor would help me to understand my own psychology and physiology better when it comes to my interactions with a horse while riding.

Rock has been asking to go for a ride, so I honored his request.  Lately, the horses have been focusing their attention out toward the arroyo.  Something was making them nervous there.  I discovered that a coyote has made a den out of a pile of branches and dirt and rocks that the bulldozer left there when clearing out the area for my horse paddock nearly four years ago.  He or she has made a nice little bed out of old hay.

This morning the coyote whooped it up when I was feeding the horses, so I walked over to it and said, "You be quiet!"  It obeyed.  I was careful to stay a few feet away, because I didn't know if the coyote was rabid or if it had babies that it would protect if it thought I was a threat.  Plus it was dark and I couldn't see it.  I could only follow its voice.

I didn't want the coyote to disturb Rock while I was saddling him up, so I asked it to leave.  It did.  But then it came right back and laid down in its bed.  Either it was very tired, very cold, sick, or guarding pups.

You can imagine my discouragement when I carried Rock's saddle all the way from the tack room to him, and could not lift it high enough to get it over his back.  It felt like it weighed a hundred pounds in my arms.   I was looking for a place to set it down where there were no stickers, but couldn't find any, so I carried the saddle all the way back to the rack in the tack room.  Then I got the step stool and placed it beside him.  As I was carrying the saddle a second time toward him, he backed away from the stool and I said, "No!  Don't move!  I'm dying here."

He stopped and I was able to climb the stool and throw the saddle over his back.  I've been really good about working out every day up until the week of rain, but all of that exercise was cardiovascular in nature.  I need to start lifting weights to improve my arm and back strength.

I led Rock over to the coyote, figuring it would be less likely to try anything aggressive if I had a big horse with me.  I could see just its ears, because it was curled into a ball.  Not wanting to surprise it, I said, "Are you sleeping, Yodi?"

It lifted its head.  I said, "Are you okay?"

It just looked at me.  We were about 15-feet away from it.  Rock was standing behind me.  Right then a dump truck dumped some fill dirt into my neighbor's yard and Rock jumped into me.  We'd been listening to the dumping for a while, so I don't think the noise alone scared him.  I think something like a bunny jumped out of a bush at the same time the truck dumped.  I jumped and threw my arm in the air to stop Rock from jumping on top of me.  That scared the coyote, which jumped up and ran down into the arroyo.  When Rock saw the coyote leap up, he jumped a second time and did a 180 degree turn in mid-air and took off running until he hit the end of the lead rope.

I led him down to the edge of the arroyo to watch the coyote, and that also gave me a chance to examine the den.  I didn't see evidence of puppies and the coyote does not look pregnant, so I guess it just is using the place to sleep.

I decided to walk Rock down to the end of our property to see if he could watch the dump trucks, however while we were walking down there, my neighbor was trying to ride her horse out and it was giving her trouble.  I could hear her yelling stop and whoa and smacking the horse.  I suspect it was either bothered by the dump trucks too or could hear us walking around down there and was scared, so I just led Rock back to the trailer.  I saw my neighbor lead her saddled horse past my back yard, so he was causing her enough grief that she had to dismount.

As I was about to mount, Rock went on alert.  I don't like to mount unless I have the horse's full attention.  I sighed and said, "Now what?"

Rock whipped his head around to look behind him.

It turned out that my neighbor was coming back, this time mounted on her horse.  I began feeling frustrated, because she often uses my horses to desensitize her horse to strange horses, but I wish she wouldn't do it while I'm getting ready to go on a trail ride after not being able to do so in weeks.  She must have picked up on my irritation, and she turned around to head back out to the desert.

I took this next picture to show the snow on the mountains, but you'd have to blow it up to see.  The Superstition Mountains on the right don't have snow, but further off in the distance, Four Peaks does.

Rock was getting frisky on the way home, throwing his head around, swinging the lead rope back and forth, and using every excuse in the book to trot.

I think the combination of not getting out in a while, the cold air, and the thought that he might get peppermints when he got home were influencing his behavior.  No more peppermints for a while.

This mud puddle up ahead was an interesting experience.  I know that Rock loves water and chooses to walk through it instead of around it, but I didn't know how he would react having his hooves sink so far into the mud.  It's quicksand in this stage.  I didn't want him to panic once he started sinking, so I just let him walk along the edge of the puddle.  He slowed way down and I realized that he wanted to roll.  No way, Jose!  Not going to happen.  I got up in his grill about that.

Most of my other horses would see that puddle up ahead and start cutting a wide wake around it.  I can't tell you how many times Lostine spun and tried to dump me or ran backwards up a bank over the years when I tried to get her to cross a stream or approach a puddle.  The last time left me with bad enough injuries that I decided to just stop pushing it and let her walk half a mile out of her way to avoid them.  I doubted I would ever take her in the back country where we would have no choice but to cross water.

When we returned, two ravens were perched in the barn.  One flew away, but I couldn't convince the other one to leave.  Then I realized that it was a baby.  It didn't know my barn rules of not dropping dead animals into my water troughs.  I tried to get Gabbrielle to chase it off, but she was more interested in hamming it up for the camera.

Then she ran off to go gawk at my neighbor as she returned from her horseback ride.  It's hard to see with the wide angle lens, but all four horses and alerting on the cliff behind my back yard.

I uploaded my data from the horseback ride, and found that my heart rate was at its highest when I was mounting.  That's probably because I hadn't come down from Rock's gigantic spook, and now he was alerting on the neighbor's horse.  My heart rate was most relaxed in the middle of the ride, and then it went up a bit when Rock started fighting me to trot back to the barn.

His cadence changed quite a bit between on the way out and on the way home.  His pace was very slow heading out at 2 mph with a few stops in between, because he kept alerting on things around us and refusing to move forward.  However, on the way home, he picked up his pace to be closer to 3 mph on average with his maximum speed being 15 mph when trotting.


Linda said...

Wow. That is some impressive stat recording. I never thought about doing it. There is so much to be learned from watching your heart rate and knowing where you were at that moment.

The coyote thing is kind of scary. I hope you stay safe...and if you have any cats...hope they stay safe, too.

Crystal said...

I love that kind of data, not sure what to do with it but I find it interesting. I cant imagine walking 2 mph, that seems slow, Jess walked at 4 and sometimes faster on the way home.

Love the pic of Gabrielle that's too cute :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Linda - Nobody around here owns cats, or if they do, they are strictly indoor cats. Our dogs are on leash and supervised when they go outdoors, and they are only allowed to go outside to relieve themselves. Coyotes are everywhere here. Now I have two living in my back yard, and had one trot across the road in front of me when I was bicycling yesterday. It was following a neighbor who was walking his dog.

Crystal - I suspect the data will help me be more aware of what makes me nervous, so that I can try to control my reactions, thinking and feelings in those instances. I can challenge myself to bring my heart rate down. Rock is super slow. He moseys along. I tell him that if he walks any slower, he'll tip over. But that's what I like about him. He's a good sight seeing horse.

achieve1dream said...

You're making me really want a Garmin!! That is so cool!

So did your heart rate go up when he started to lay down and you got on to him?? I'm fascinated hehe.

I hope the coyote is okay. At least it ran away. That's a good sign. :)