Friday, April 13, 2012

Where the Horse walks the Dog

I went to visit Moon yesterday with the mind-set that we would have some fun. And as I opened the backdoor of the house to leave, my white dog bolted out into the yard and laid down with pleading eyes by the gate.

My heart melted. She's been neglected. I spend so much time out riding the pony, that the puppy normally stays home with the BF. Except the BF is working more overtime and the poor puppy has been home alone. For long hours. I keep promising her that in 2 weeks when we move to H's, she'll come with me. Lots. And play with her bf, ride the trails with me and relax in the shade while I do ring work. But promises mean nothing to a dog.

I thought about not going to the barn and taking her for an off-leash run instead. And then I had another idea...

I put her in the car and drove to the barn. I hoped that the barn dogs would be in the house and that I'd avoided the time when they bring everyone inside the barn, as I know they often bring the dogs out then too. But I lucked out and met Mr. W when I pulled into the driveway, and I think it wasn't by coincidence that no dogs were out the whole time I was there (Mr. W is awesome, btw).

I put Halo (my dog) into a stall while I went and got Moon, and quickly ran a brush over him. I didn't know how much dog-less time I'd have, so I wanted to start riding as quickly as possible.

You see, I had planned on going on a little trail ride with Moon and Halo on Saturday. But wasn't sure how it'd go and this was the PERFECT opportunity to practice. They've met before and no harm came of it, but the BF was always walking the dog and Moon and I were following. When I first met Moon, he was very nervous around dogs and hated having them follow him. I think that more experience with my dog, coupled with the barn dogs for 8 months, has really improved things. He does still jump and get nervous when a strange dog barks and chases at him on trail rides. But let's face it, those dogs are kinda stupid.

I clambered up on Moon bareback. With dog leash in hand. And off we went around the arena. It took a couple of corrections for my dog to understand where I wanted her to walk (not ahead of Moon but not back by his hind legs) and Moon kept trying to sniff her. She wanted NO part of that! Finally they were behaving well enough that I asked Moon to trot. And we did loops and serpentines at a trot, dog leash in hand.

It went SMOOTHLY. I wish I had video or a picture of it. We must have looked pretty interesting, that's for sure. Moon seemed more flexible and on-the-bit then he's been this whole week. I mean, ARCHING neck. I'm convinced it's because he wanted to smell the dog. Too bad we can't compete with dog in hand...

We had a *couple* of "faces" at Halo by Moon when she'd surge ahead of him, but nothing aggressive. He'd just point his ears at her and almost glare. It was weird. No attempts to kick, stomp, chase or bite the dog were made.

We had one spook, when we went around the mounting block and horse went on one side and dog went on the other. Dog leash walloped the plastic mounting block (we were trotting) and the loud noise made Moon spook and surge forward a few steps. Which made the dog panic that something was wrong and surge forward too. So silly. But if that's all that goes wrong : P

We worked for an hour (yes, a WHOLE hour! Dog and horse were breathing hard) and then I thought they both did well enough to call it a day. By this point, another woman had entered the arena and a little girl and her mom had shown up for a lesson. The little girl's first lesson with W. Her mom was looking in the arena and watching us, and I can only begin to wonder what she was thinking was going on here. Bareback rider with dog on leash trotting serpentines around arena. WEIRD.

Yes, did I mention I did it all bareback?

And for curiosity, I rode for 15 minutes just straight bareback, and then the last 45 minutes with the new thinline pad between me and horse.


Okay, maybe it's doing nothing for Moon under saddle.

But it's AMAZING bareback. I don't know if Thinline makes a bareback pad, but BUY IT.

I could sit soo much easier with that pad. It became more comfortable, Moon hollowed less (and as such, I bounced less), I was less compelled to grip with my thighs and it was really shock absorbing. Never mind that my bony butt were no longer digging into Moon's back and his wither bone wasn't impaling my lady parts. I can honestly say, bareback, I could tell it made a difference. Maybe we'll give up our saddle??

I even tried cantering him bareback. Except, well, the Thinline pad would bunch up and give me a major wedgie. Seriously. I think there's just too much movement (for me anyway) at a canter for it. We had a couple good strides but then I was so uncomfortable I had to stop. Oh, and no, there was no dog on-leash during the cantering. That just sounds dangerous in any situation.

I should say, that Halo was a very good dog. She sit-stayed for 10 minutes while I rode, she heeled the way a dog should heel (loose leash, right beside you), followed well on horse-back and didn't jump on any people (she can get so excited sometimes, so I've spent a lot of time teaching her jumping on people is NOT okay). The little girl even gave her lots of scritches and pets and she was HAPPY. And so was the dog! I love that I can snap my fingers and point and she'll obey. Move, down, heel, everything. We had one moment where she was stuck between listening to my down-stay command or chasing the barn cat that was running by. One deep "Ha..lo" and she decided she was better off staying put...though she belly-crawled far enough forward to be able to watch the cats sitting on the stairs. You know, just in case I changed my mind...

Unfortunately, Saturday is now calling for rain. : ( So I'm not sure how my trail adventure will turn out. : (

I dragged my tack box out of the barn and as I was headed up the path one of the woman who leases a horse had decided to take her trail riding. She'd asked me how she went on the trails since I've gone with her a couple of times, and I assured her that she's a very good little trail horse. She is. So since the weather was so nice, she couldn't help but venture out (let's face it, this time of year is for riding outdoors!). Except we have no outdoor mounting block! THIS is the best judge of how many people and how much people at your barn trail ride. Considering most of the horses at W's are 15.3 hh and up, and a lot of the riders are under 5'7"...let's say that most folks ride in the arena. We don't even have an outdoor ring. We can ride on their front lawn when the weather is nice, but there's no sand ring outdoors. And no mounting block.

So the rider tried putting the horse on the low ground, but that doesn't add much height (it's a tall horse, a smaller rider). Then she was going to flip some feed buckets over, when I offered her my tack trunk. I bought one of those "Task Force" plastic/abs trunks with the long handle (kinda like the Stanley's) for $40 when I was in the US last year. LOVE the box. And surprise, surprise, it also makes a PERFECT mounting block. She got on no problem, the box didn't flex and it's large enough to remain stable and safe for mounting. LOVE it. And so did the other rider!

The sun was going down so I sprinted over to H's to drop off my gear on my way home. I pulled everything out of my tack trunk and placed it in some semblance of organization into clear plastic bins. Once everything was on the shelf or a hook, I stood back. And suddenly realised, I do NOT have a lot of horse gear! Yes, I still have a saddle, bridle and cavesson at the barn. And two blankets. But that's pretty much all. I mean, I seriously don't have a ton of stuff. My whole allotment fit on two shelves (unstacked) and two saddle racks. And two hooks. Pitiful ; )

The BF sent me a text to come dine with him (he gets his meals paid when he works OT) so I packed up my dog, left my first board cheque at H's and sprinted back to the city. Poor puppy got to sit in the car while we ate ; ) But since she got the leftovers, I don't think she minded too much (and the weather had cooled off plenty).

Now I just need to give my tack box a good washing and it'll be ready for show-prep. I need to see if my saddle will fit too. Everyone cross your fingers that we avoid the rain this weekend! I wanna trail ride with my dog and pony!!

Oh, last thing. I've been thinking hard about costumes for Moon at shows this summer. My first thought, which I thought was great, was a ballerina. Big tutu, pink leg wraps, pink hoof polish, ribbons in his hair.

But the BF was gagging so hard when I told him, that I thought maybe not. (yes, yes, boy horse. But we live in a progressive society : P)

I'd been considering doing a medieval war horse costume, maybe a skeleton where I paint white bones on him, a fairy where he's wrapped in ivory and I ride in a fairy costume, or a race horse.

The BF looked at me and made a suggestion. And I could suddenly see the costume. I made one suggestion, which he thought was hilarious and even better still to enhance his idea and we had it. DONE. Costume idea found. And google doesn't have a single picture of someone doing what we're thinking!

I can't spill what it is, since I know we have locals lurking (and come-on, I want at least ONE ribbon from our first show!), but if it works out, it's gonna be good! AND, I can use it in the IRC parade a month later. : ) I can only IMAGINE what kids would think seeing it... ; )


Final thought.

My dad asked me when I was picking up my trailer. I said Saturday and mentioned that the BF was working. Immediately, my dad asked how I'd pick up the trailer then. Whoops. Insert girl-rant here! He got an EARFUL of how I'm an independent woman who grew up in the country riding on tractors and driving lawnmowers, and heck I OWN a tractor now and don't even think about driving it. I quad, I snowmobile and I PULL TRAILERS!

I worked for a polo club and hauled a 6-horse slant to and through Minneapolis. And many other cities. I drove T's truck and trailer all last summer, parked it, backed it down gravel roads and maneuvered in some tight spots. I've back the BF's truck up to our utility trailer and have driven it plenty.


Okay, so I got a little mellow-dramatic on him. I just can't imagine being one of those woman who has to have their BF or dad or husband hook up their trailer every time they want to go someplace. Or to drive them there. Or change a flat tire, charge their battery, jump start their car on the really cold days, or heck, can't work a gas pump. I REFUSE to be one of those woman.

My dad just laughed. He knows me. And he should have known better. He just replied "Okay country woman! See you Saturday!".

I have every intention of getting awesome at driving, backing and hooking up my pony trailer. Because I want to use it lots this summer and never have to rely on someone else. That's my goal. And it starts with picking up my own trailer, backing the truck down the driveway, hooking up and hauling home. And yes, maybe even parking it on the back pad. I can't promise not to hit the fence in my attempts, but I'm sure as hell going to try! (and sure as hell not going to admit to father or bf that it happened... ; )  ).

...and no one needs to know that I'm stopping at Princess Auto tonight to buy one of those little light-up sticks to help you align your ball and hitch...and maybe one of those rubber hitch bumpers too...

 You of these. Only the one I'm buying lights up too...follow the flashing lights... ; )

...I mean, even being an independent country woman, I'm still a clutz. : )


  1. Oooh, I so need backing up balls! I can do tractors and their implements, but all you have to do is look straight down out the back window and there's your hitch. This whole "find the hitch without being able to see it around the long ass bed" thing is going to be a challenge for me, I can tell already.

  2. Oh, I have barn-dog jealousy! I am really hoping our puppy will grow up to be a good barn-dog, but I'm not sure I'll ever be brave/confident enough to ride with her alongside. Well done!

    (I was not in love with the Thinline pad that I had -- didn't dislike it, just didn't notice a positive difference -- but I have Thinline reins and they are _scrumptious._)

    I forgot to comment on the other post...I am usually in favor of retaining registered names, but Manitoba MoonSox is freakin' adorable.

  3. Girl power!! I get strange looks all the time when people find out I haul to shows... *gasp... alone! OMG! That means I have to hook up, haul, and disconnect the trailer all by myself! My dad taught how to do all that stuff many moons ago... he wanted me to be an independent woman too. Sometimes I even impress myself with my backup skillz... you'll be a pro in no time! :)