Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Spontaneous Meet and Greet

My back and neck did feel better today after hurting them bending over to work on hooves yesterday.  However, I was running short on time because the drugs I took caused me to oversleep, thus setting the entire day behind schedule.  Rock is still favoring his left hind hoof.  Each time I looked out the window, I saw horseback riders out on the trails.  I have no idea why there were so many people out on a Thursday, but I knew I had to take advantage of it and get at least one of my spookier horses out there with them.

I know it seems like I am always running into people on the trails, but that's because I write about it.  The reality is that my horses are used to going out into the desert and not seeing anyone other than coyotes, rabbits, birds, and snakes.  So, when another horse or human does come along, they get over-the-top excited.

When I trail rode in Nevada, that trail I used was fairly short and popular with hikers and horseback riders, so the horses got used to running into people, horses and dogs around every bend.  It became background noise to them, because it happened so often.  It's when these encounters get strung out that I have to deal with the adrenaline rush of my horses snorting and jigging and taking on a mind of their own.

This year I hired a horse trainer to help get them settled down around strangers, but every time he rode out, he rarely ran into people, so he had to arrange meetings with another client on her horse.  He has since stopped training my horses, and wouldn't you know it, the sky opened up and dropped a boatload of strangers into the desert.  Now I get to do all the stranger danger training that I hoped he would do.

If I were younger, stronger, healthier -- anything other than the decrepit condition my body is in right now -- I'd just suck it up and deal with it, but I'm more cautious than I used to be.  I could simply sneeze and break rib, so the idea of riding out spooks and bolts, and being jostled around by a jigging horse does not appeal to me.

I led Bombay out onto the trails, and I wore my super comfy hiking boots so that we could go far and traverse any terrain.  Right off the bat, he threw his head into the air and came to a stop.  I looked around, but didn't see anything.  I got him moving again and then saw a man up ahead telling his dog to sit.  He waved to me and told me that his dog is familiar with horses and relaxed, so I don't need to worry about her, but if I want him to move her away, he will.

I realized that he was trying to train his dog to behave well around horses, so I said, "No, I'm fine with desensitizing them to each other."

He said that she was more interested in me than in the horse.  I was leading Bombay toward them, and Bombay showed by his body language that he was totally comfortable with this man and his dog.  I was expecting to walk up to them to talk, but the man released his dog and commanded her to run up to us.

I was a bit taken aback.  I did not expect that, but he was right.  The dog was more interested in me, so I petted her and she was soooooo soft that I got totally engrossed in lovin' on this dog that I forgot all about my horse.  The dog was a blond Golden Retriever.

The man stepped forward and said, "I should pet your horse."

I was like, "Horse?  Oh yeah.  Go ahead."

Bombay was very polite and let the man pet him.  Sometimes he can be a jerk and throw his head around when people try to stroke his face, but not this time.

I was really happy with this man's sensitivity on how to handle animals on the trail when they cross paths, but I didn't want him to think it was okay to release his dog at any old horse just because his dog is okay around horses, so I said that sometimes dogs will get under horses' legs or nip at their heels, and no horse handler can guarantee that the horse won't kick the dog, so it's best to keep your dog away from horses.

We went in opposite directions and I got behind some hikers.  We followed them for about three-quarters of a mile and apparently, Bombay never noticed them until we got up higher than them.  One hiker was wearing a bright orange sweatshirt.  When Bombay saw him, he threw his head in the air and stopped.  Again, I had to work to get him moving.  The hikers went to a bright yellow car on the side of the road and took forever to get in it.  They seemed to be looking at a scratch or dent.

I led Bombay past them, and they got in their car, but didn't drive off, which made Bombay nervous.  I think they were admiring him, and he felt like they were being predatory, so he kept looking over his shoulder at them.  Once they were out of sight, we hiked for another mile before running into anyone.

I saw a hiker up ahead who looked like he might be my annoying neighbor.  The guy was just standing in the middle of the trail doing nothing.  Well, actually it appeared as if he was spying on our other neighbors, because he was staring at their house.  When he saw us coming up, he abruptly turned away, like he'd been caught in the act, and walked in the same direction we were headed in front of us.  He had his walking stick over his shoulders with his arms draped over it, and was swinging it back and forth while twisting at the waist.  This is why I call him my annoying neighbor.  He never seems to be going anywhere.  He just loiters around and makes a nuisance of himself by being nosy and getting into my space.  He's one of these bored, retired men who don't know what to do with himself in all this vacation time that he suddenly has.  Bombay was on alert, but not fearful.

Then two horseback riders came toward us on an adjacent trail.  I'm really trying to set up a head-on with some horseback riders, because that would make for some good practice, but they always seem to be one or two trails over from us.  Anyway, these two horses looked more excited and anxious to see Bombay than Bombay was to see them.  I think they were worried about the man swinging the walking stick around too.  However, once I turned Bombay so that his back was to those horses, he tucked his tail underneath him and jumped forward like he thought they were going to attack him.

I think overall he did really well, and I was pleased to run into that many people in one hike. On another note, I did find the motorcycle tracks of the guy who was tearing it up out there last night, and I also found truck tracks, which was probably the police looking for him.  I also found a freshly broken beer bottle right next to one of the motorcycle tire tracks, so I suspect my theory of him being the drunken dumper was correct.  I'm planning on going for an evening bicycle ride tonight with my camera in case he comes back.

UPDATE:  No motorcyclist, but I did get some pictures of the sunset...


Linda said...

My last comment didn't appear to go through.

I think it's odd that he let his dog go like that. People don't understand the danger to their dogs--especially dogs that haven't been around horses and don't know to avoid getting kicked. I'm glad you explained it to him. I think every one of our dogs has gotten kicked at some point, but it's usually a friendly reminder type. They've all survived. Our horses aren't scared of dogs, for the most part, but you never know if there's a really aggressive one--or a chaser--what would happen.

Crystal said...

Wow sunset pictures are sure pretty, makes it worth while to go out.
Nice to get some desensitizing done too, handy for all those different people to be around, we rarely see others where |I ride

achieve1dream said...

Wow those are gorgeous sunset shots!!

It sounds like you had a really productive desensitizing session with him. I agree it's weird that he let the dog run up to you, but I'm glad nothing bad happened. :)