I saw in the forecast that the winds were going to pick up quite a bit by noon, so I wanted to go for a quick trail ride before it got too crazy. My husband offered to ride with me, but I declined because yesterday he was saying he felt like he'd been kicked by a mule in the gut after his illness, and because I hadn't ridden either Gabbrielle or Bombay in a while, so they'd be plenty "up" even without the wind. I just wanted to keep Rock's training going because we were having so much success.
I'm sure that other horsemen and women can relate to this, but I have a speed at which I am willing to increase challenges for my horses, and a pretty good sense of how much stimulation will push them over the edge to the point where they become dangerous for the rider and un-trainable. I try to avoid crossing that line. If I had been doing regular groundwork with one of the Arabs, and there was no wind, if it were not a day when all the neighbors were out and about, I probably would have taken one of them on a trail ride with my husband and Rock. But my gut was telling me that decision would not be good for anyone on this day taking other factors into consideration.
Just when I was ready to mount, Rock went on alert and I looked up to see my neighbor in his back yard. He's an indoor person, but occasionally -- like once every four months -- does yard work. (He has a tiny yard that doesn't need much work.) I decided to lead Rock past him quickly, just so he could see what was going on, but then I realized this man in my neighbor's back yard was not my neighbor. Then a woman came out of the covered porch carrying pamphlets, and they got in a van. I was like, "Oh. Hell. No."
They were door to door missionaries. I quickly dragged Rock down by the arroyo to get as far away from them as possible, because I knew that if they spotted me, they'd come right down my driveway into my back yard and suck up what little time I had to ride before the winds set in big time. I've never had a missionary go away when I've asked him too. It's like as soon as you resist their agenda, they push harder. I just wanted to ride my horse and I was under a time constraint, so their uninvited appearance set off my frustration.
Fortunately, they left, but not without first knocking on the front door and getting the dogs riled up. How hard is it for people to just read signs on doors before knocking, especially when the sign says not to knock or ring the doorbell?
Rock and I headed out when I thought they were gone, but I spotted them at the end of the street, so I rushed him through the gate because I wouldn't put it past them to come racing up their street in their van to chase me down. Some people feel uncomfortable being all alone in the wilderness with wild animals, but getting away from people is what helps me relax. I could feel myself melting into the saddle as soon as we got away from "civilization".
This is when I become more of a control freak in the saddle...
Once Rock saw that it was just a dog, he settled down quickly. I continued to ride him, but now he wanted to chase the dog and was ignoring my cues to slow down and stop. Just like that I went from having precise control over my horse to having no control. I just remember thinking, "Thank God I didn't ride Bombay or Gabbrielle. That would have been a disaster."
I kept seeing the dog up ahead darting in and out of bushes, so as soon as I succeeded in halting Rock, I dismounted and tried to catch the dog. It was in need of medical care. I didn't get a good look at it, but could tell that it was brown and white. It looked like a Bulldog to me, but my husband said he saw a brown and white brindle Boxer limping up the road this morning. I was like, "Really?" because someone on our street lost that Boxer months ago. I saw it in my driveway the night they lost it, and it had run out into the desert.
I couldn't believe that it could survive that long on its own. My friend just had an experience where she was out riding her horse with her German Shepherd by their side when they got surrounded by four coyotes. The coyotes baited her dog into playing and they all ran off together. She was able to get her dog back before the coyotes attacked it, and she hopped off her horse, grabbed her dog by its collar and walked them both a mile home with those four coyotes stalking them the whole way. A Boxer is smaller than her dog, so I was amazed it could survive for months out in the desert.
My attempts at catching it failed, because it was clearly terrified of strangers. As soon as I got close or called out to it, it took off running like its tail was on fire. I was trying to remember where I saw the post about the lost Boxer, and then I remembered that Christine shared it on Facebook, so I went back in her archives and found the post in January. As soon as I saw the picture, I knew it wasn't the same dog. This one I saw today had more white around its chest and shoulders. So, now I'm in the process of trying to find who's looking for this dog.
I also worked with both Bombay and Gabbrielle in the round pen. Bombay spooked big at something, or I should say nothing, and I thought, "I've got to fix that."
On the spot, I made up a game I'll call "Don't Get Punked", in which as as soon as Bombay stopped paying attention to me, I'd chuck a rock at something plastic or metal or wood, just to get a variety of sounds going, and I made sure I did it directly behind him, so that it would have maximum spook potential. If he spooked, I sent him off to run a few laps. If he didn't spook, I praised him and left him alone. Of course, after a few rounds of this, he caught on and knew that it was his job to not spook, so he made sure that he paid closer attention to me.