Sunday, January 8, 2017

When Your Only Defense is to Hide

With the past few days swinging back and forth between being hot and cold within a matter of minutes, I haven't gotten my usual amount of exercise outdoors, so I took Bombay with me for a quick walk along the trails.  I wanted to kill two birds with one stone by getting some exercise and by reminding Bombay that he has to learn to share the trails with strange horses, bicycles, people, and dogs.  My goal was to help him relax and have a positive experience.

Our first encounter was a bit disconcerting.  Up ahead on an adjacent trail coming toward us was someone in a black hoodie.  The person looked like a thug trying to hide his or her identity, but he or she also may have just been trying to keep warm.  I tried not to make too much of it, because I didn't want Bombay to pick up on my caution.  The person spotted us and seemed to be showing a little too much interest.  He or she then ducked down behind a bush.  Bombay halted and waited for the hooded person to come back into view.  I tried to urge him on, but at the same time I too was wondering what he or she was doing.

Then the person popped up and walked past us with a dog on a leash, and the dog was straining on its collar to get to us.  I realized that he/she was probably bending over behind a bush to get a leash on the dog and there was nothing nefarious about it.

I went further than usual and when I realized that we should probably turn around, I said something out loud to Bombay about it.  Then I heard barking.  Not happy, excited barking, but multiple dogs barking as if in attack mode.  It sounded like they were fighting each other.  Then I heard people's voices yelling things like, "Get them!  Grab them!"

The sound was coming from a house off in the distance.  But as the angry barking and panicked voices grew nearer, it suddenly hit me that they were all running across the desert toward me and my horse.  I know all the dogs that live on that street, and they are all little or well behaved, so someone must have had guests who brought their big dogs and allowed them to be off leash in a strange neighborhood.  When I spoke to Bombay, the dogs heard me, saw my horse, and decided that it was something worth killing.

I couldn't see them, but I could hear them getting closer, and by the sound of their barking, they were in full-on pack attack mode.  I was scared out of my wits.  I was just going for a "quick" walk and I didn't have anything to defend my horse or myself with.  By the sound of the barking and voices, the dogs outnumbered the dog owners.  I considered cutting Bombay loose, slapping him on the ass and letting him run for home, but dogs love to chase animals.  So, I quickly led Bombay due west away from the dogs, hoping to hook up with some other trail.

However, there was none.  We were out in the sticks.  There was nothing to do but hide behind a row of bushes and hope the dogs lose sight and scent of us.  We held perfectly still and listened to the ruckus as the humans caught up with their confused dogs and led them back to the house.  I was so relieved.  I gave them time to move along before returning to the trail we had been on.

Unfortunately, Bombay picked up on the fact that we were in danger, and he couldn't get over it.  He jigged and pulled my shoulder out of its socket all the way home, and it was a long way home, because I had hiked further than I should have gone in the first place.  My arm was in so much pain trying to hang onto him that I had to remember how I was taught to stop his jigging.

One trainer had me make him stop and stand and flex his head from side to side.  I tried that for a bit, and while he was good about standing, as soon as we began walking again, he'd break into the jig.  I know that C.A. would say to keep his feet moving, keep his mind busy on tasks, and only release him from the work when he wants to walk.  But we were on a narrow trail with no space to lunge and do tasks, so I came up with my own technique of smacking him on the knees with the lead rope until he stopped jigging.  All it took was one light smack, and he stopped, only to start up two-seconds later.  I kept it up until all I had to do was look at his knees, and he'd stop jigging, but only for a few seconds.

As soon as we got out in the open, I lunged him, but had to lunge him at a walk, because he wanted to take off and rip the lead rope right out of my hands.  Lunging him at anything faster than a walk was asking for trouble.  Interestingly, he walked when I lunged him in a circle as opposed to jigging, but as soon as we walked straight, he began jigging and barging ahead again.  It was quite a battle, but I refused to take him home until he walked straight and beside me, and he eventually figured it out.

So much for giving him a good experience on the trails and teaching him that not every human and dog is bad.  Now I feel like I have to go back to square one with his training.  Of all of my horses, Bombay is the one who takes the longest to get past bad experiences.  He has a memory like an elephant.  It looks like he may have to remain an arena horse a little longer, because he's certainly not safe enough to be on the trails after that experience.

I've hired trainers in the past to ride him out and get him to relax and focus around activity on the trails, but the trainers never ran into other people unless they planned ahead to meet up with someone.  I really should hire someone in January through April and get them out here on the weekends for more than just an hour, because that's always when I run into loose, aggressive dogs, riders galloping their horses, bikers racing up from behind us, and hikers swinging their walking sticks around to exercise their upper bodies.  Those are the activities that really freak out my horses.

I had nightmares last night that I was running and hiding from various people and monsters that were trying to attack me, and I was too fat to fit in any of the small crevices I tried to squeeze into, so I kept shutting my eyes and praying that they wouldn't see me and would go away.  Thankfully, the dogs woke me to take them outside to pee, so they got me out of that loop.  It's exhausting running in nightmares.


Linda said...

That's a bummer. Getting them to stop jigging when you're on the ground and trying to get home, is not easy. Cowboy is a jigger. It's rare anymore, but when it does start, good luck. It takes a lot of work I'm saddle. Hiring someone would be great. I'm all for asking for help at road blocks.

TeresaA said...

That would have been very scary! I'm glad that it turned out okay.

Grey Horse Matters said...

That does sound like a really scary experience for both of you. Glad it turned out okay. If you had nightmares about it I'm sure Bombay won't forget it so easily either. People can be such jerks around horses.

Cheryl Ann said...

How scary for you and Bombay! I honestly wouldn't have known what to do...