Monday, October 24, 2011

Tough Conversations

First, I should thank everyone who sent me a Beautiful Blog Award. I admit I was so inundated with them this month that I sort of felt like I was winning some sort of consolation prize; I mean really, Moon and my tales can't possibly be interesting enough to win any viewer's choice awards. But after receiving the most recent one, I realized that I was actually undervaluing exactly what these awards mean. They mean that YOU, the reader, has taken the time to read, again and again, pages on pages, of my tales of riding and horse adventures, and that, I value. And appreciate. So thank you to everyone who sent me a Lovely Blog award. I do appreciate it, and am sending you all one back. Wait for that in my next post as I want to spend some time thinking about it. Second, the tale du jour, is tough conversations. I should start by saying that I'm an introvert and HATE having people upset or mad at me. I also have trouble always expressing what I'm trying to say, and hate saying the wrong thing or people taking what I say the wrong way. Difficult conversations are just that: difficult. And today I have to find the courage to have one. With W. Yesterday the BF and I stopped at the barn to visit Moon and so I could have a quick ride to see if he behaved any better. The BF once again brought him in for me and together we got him nicely groomed (he had rolled before we came). Tack and ready we headed into the arena while W gave a lesson to another rider. I stayed at the back end of the ring, and overall, Moon went better then Saturday but still worse then when I left. He was stiff, rushed and not flexing. I don't doubt anymore that regular riding is his physiotherapy. And the BF looked at me when I said that and said "Then I'd best get used to having the house to myself, because that horse deserves to feel good." : ) Special moment. We did get more really nice turn-on-the-fores, and a very impressive leg-yield NEARLY achieving side-pass! I was stunned, especially when the BF confirmed his legs were crossing over! It was only a couple steps until he started going forward and then stopped crossing all together. But still, it shows he's understanding yielding to leg pressure! So I'm going around in my loops and the BF is kind enough to clean up the poop that's fallen (he hates standing still) and then starts pulling the weeds that are growing along the edge of the arena. Suddenly W's dog charge into the ring barking and head RIGHT to the BF. They're lunging and snapping and growling and barking, and the BF (thanks to a lot of Cesar Milan I'm sure), doesn't back away from them. W and her dad (the dogs followed him in) are calling out that it's the weeds. They yell 'no' a few times at the dogs. My heart skips a beat when I noticed TRUE aggression in the shepherd dog. I mean, he's literally focused on the BF and highly aggressive. The BF didn't back and the dog lunged forward snapping, and I'm left wondering if he's been bit. Then FINALLY W tells the dog to lie down. Then she calls him out of the ring. I'm sitting on my horse stunned. The BF is standing there stunned. We get together, I dismount and the BF tells me the dog actually did in fact nip him, but caught more pants then skin, so it was more of a pinch. I can see arena sand on his thigh and a bit of fraying of his jeans. Oye. We head into the barn and W says that the weather is making all the animals a little crazy lately. Nothing more is said on the whole dog attack thing. The BF and I are still in a bit of surprise/bewilderment. We untack Moon and put him back in his stall and then leave. In the car, the BF shows me the mark on his skin. The area is red, much like if someone had pinched you hard. Him and I both know that normally, there is zero way he would let a dog come after him like that. The pure danger of it requires some sort of action and severe correction to the dog. Just as I spoke yesterday of reprimanding animals for inappropriate behaviour, this is one of the occasions. But the BF wasn't going reprimand W's dog since he knew there was a possibility that she would get angry at him, and in turn, our whole relationship/board-arrangement/Moon's training and care would suffer as a result. In the car, settling down a bit, I realized that I should have said SOMETHING about it. Even if perhaps it will make things a little less friendly between myself and W. The whole situation was incredibly dangerous and we were all fortunate that it was my BF who was attacked and not a child or a smaller person. Or someone who may have ran from the dog, eliciting a chase and worse attack. It completely removes my thoughts of bringing my friends' children out for a pony ride. Imagine a child innocently pulling a weed from the group or something else that causes a full grown shepherd to become aggressive? Is my horse ever at risk? The dogs bark and growl often when I come to the barn in the morning...what if next time they don't like something I'm carrying or doing? And also bad, dogs that bite people often get euthanized. That's the last thing I'd want for any dog owner, and they need to find a way to reduce the chance of this occurring again. So now I have to talk to W about it. I just want to let her know that it wasn't just 'pretend' aggression, but the dog actually tried to physically bite a person. And suggest that they make a conscious effort to teach the dog this is unacceptable behaviour. I'm not sure how she'll take it. I'm not sure if she'll defend her dog and that the BF continued to hold the offending 'weeds' and it's his fault for being in the arena? Or that it's 'the weather' and therefore not the dog's fault. Or that we're big meanies picking on her wonderful pet. It's not a fun place to be in, stuck between wanting to continue with the awesome facilities and training and care, but also wanting to be certain that she understands the seriousness of it all. What would you do? What do you think is appropriate? If your barn guest got bit by the BO's dog when pulling weeds, and the same BO is your trainer and gives you a smokin' deal on board for your horse? All I know is my gut tells me that even if it means I'm hauling Moon tomorrow to a new facility and finding a new coach, biting dogs is never going to acceptable. And that's a tough spot to be in.


  1. That really puts you in quite a predicament. . .I am the same way, introverted, don't like confrontation, hard time expressing myself verbally. But, W has no right to bring an aggressive dog around people like that! That could be a lawsuit or worse if someone gets injured, like your BF.
    Weather is not an acceptable response to an aggressive dog. Unfortunately, I think the conversation needs to be had. Has anyone else witnessed this or any other aggressive behavior? You don't want to gang up on W, but people need to feel safe.
    What if your horse was spooked? It could just be a bad situation all around.

  2. Something similar happened to me when we were in livery with an indoor school. The owner kept sevral german sheperds that she used for breeding but frankly they weren't very well looked after. She had one in a stable with the door open and it just darted out and bit me on the leg,breaking the skin, as I passed by. I did complain and she got someone to wire the top half of the door to stop the dog jumping out and the door was kept firmly shut. But not for long within a few weeks the dog was on the loose again, it was agressive and unpredictable and this was a riding school with children about. Anyway the dog wasn't the only problem there and a couple of months after the biting incident we felt that the horses were actually being endangered and left. We still mourn the loss of that indoor school but things had become intolerable intolerable and we're so much happier now.

  3. Nope, it's not acceptable, and I would bet it's not the first time this has happened (nor will it be the last). Hey, I LOVE dogs at the barn, as much as some are more underfoot (or underhoof) than others, NONE are aggressive to humans.

    Your BF has every right to pull WEEDS for goodness sakes, or do pretty much whatever within reason without a dog barking at him, let alone nipping/biting him. For the dogs sake, and the owners, this convo has to happen. I know it sucks (I am the most conflict avoidance person ever), but if you don't than something really awful is going to happen with her dog, and it won't be pretty for the dog, for her, or the victim. I'm so's a totally unfair position to put you in. Maybe show her some of this post you wrote? It makes a most convincing argument:)

  4. Gosh! That must have been scary. Dog attacks are a really serious thing. I'm glad no one was hurt. I think you are doing the right thing in your situation though.