Monday, 30 November 2020

Outside The Box

 It’s been a long while since I spent any great amount of time outside the arena. I used to spend about half my riding time out there, building up Bridget’s fitness and trying to keep things interesting and fun for us both.

With a young horse, I feel a little more limited. My two are some of the last horses boarded in the area so local riding buddies are at a minimum.  I don’t want to venture too far from home solo on the always interesting Sophie, and towing her along limits us to the wider, less technical paths.

Misty mornings this weekend.

Then COVID happened, and 'our' trails became absolutely buzzing with activity. Which is great, we’re friendly and don’t mind sharing, but the loose dog situation got entirely out of control. Bridget got bit, Sophie got chased and nipped, even my husband got a bite on the back of his leg, all in separate incidents. I love dogs, I really do, but the humans were awful each and every time, angry we had horses there, accusing my husband of ‘doing something’ to make their dog bite him, and in one case, hiding in the bush calling the dogs and never actually coming out to check up (extra bad because one nipped Sophie and the young person riding with us fell off and was crying - scared but unhurt luckily - when the dogs charged us) 

After a final incident with a dog hanging off Bridget’s tail and an angry owner shouting at me, I needed a time out. I even scouted alternate boarding options and more remote trails we could trailer to, but nothing really felt worth the effort...either the trails were not entirely horse accessible or the boarding had some big compromises.

We enjoy quiet and peaceful.

So, it’s sort of evolved that we just go straight down the road to the arena. If the trailhead parking there looks busy, I just ride in the arena. But, it’s been busy for months.  It hasn’t slowed down for winter at all - our gorgeous trails have finally been well and truly discovered. 

More arena time hasn’t been a terrible thing (and honestly, it’s still a 15min hack each way to get there with a couple of different routes I can take so it’s not like my horses don’t get out at all) but it’s certainly felt a bit like a chore to tack up for the “same old” ride some days.

This week though, I got out there TWICE. Bridget’s fitness and soundness is at a point where I feel comfortable adding bigger terrain in, and the kind gentleman across the street is letting us ride through his property. It’s a little ‘Man From Snowy River’ getting up and down from the top of his property, but it allows us direct access to the less busy trails quite a distance from the main parking area and more popular routes.

Ready to go!

I got Sophie out for a short loop (and of course we did still encounter loose aggressive dogs but they were preoccupied with a big old dog fight - sounded like the owners were going at it too, actually - just my luck!) but guess who was the bravest pony and happily detoured around it all, paying very little attention to it? Staying focused on what we were doing and ignoring the crazy around us is kind of a big deal for my little drama banana pony. Of course she spooked hard at a stump a few minutes later, but hey, everyone knows those are super dangerous, right? ;) 

We didn’t brave the steep downhill home as she’s still finding her balance with a rider on the ups and downs, in typical funny baby horse ways. It’s shameful how green she is out there with a rider. Normally I’m all about putting the initial miles on outside, but poor Sophie has got a bit shortchanged.

We can ride up to here, but you've got to tie the horses and walk out on the bluffs to get good views. 

This weekend I tacked up both girls with the intent of heading to the ring, but I was kind of dragging my feet about it. Husband suggested another trail adventure instead and I’m so glad he did. I popped on Bridget first and he led Sophie.  I must look like the biggest, most spoiled princess ever riding one pony while my husband leads the other 😁 but he loves hiking, I love the company, and it’s pretty handy to trade ponies halfway through while B gets her fitness up and S learns the ropes. Poor guy is 6’4” though so of course everyone we see either assumes I’m a super spoiled child with 2 ponies or has to ask when I’m buying a horse his size so he can ride too πŸ™ˆ

Anyway, Bridget absolutely shocked me by being on a mission, even up the steepest hills. She was feeling SO good. Sophie started off very fresh too, but as is the way with young horses, she went from that to zero energy in no time at all, so she had a short day and went back to being led.  She’s more than fit for trotting an hour in the arena, but hills and different surroundings to process with someone on her back is HARD.

B's ears, but Sophie tackled the puddles with zero issues too (besides being obsessed with taste testing/drinking from every single one)

Bridget’s enthusiasm and energy totally made my day though - I’ve missed our outings so much and am so, so pleased she didn’t find the addition of the hills difficult at all. My big hope is to keep her fit and sound enough for moderate trail outings,  with a bit of arena time to keep her supple and stretched. Standing around isn’t going to do her any good, but on the other end of the scale I’m not motivated to do all the things to keep her competition ready. I’m hopeful there’s a happy medium to be found that involves minimal vet support and a long, happy, sound life. 

My next ride will be on Sophie in the arena - I really need to work on her canter and our trails are too technical to get much of a canter in on.  But, it still feels really nice to know we’ve got safe trail access again!

'Safe' being subjective, lol. The hour long loop we can most easily access from the neighbours includes active industry, and these buildings contain the explosives. The owner is super nice and lets us use his access roads to ride on during the weekends. Combined with some connector trails, they will make an excellent pony fitness loop as we go up the mountain to the pit and back down.

 I’m looking forward to more weekend adventures in the future. Maybe even some better riding pictures when I get brave enough to pack a camera and take a hand or two off the wheel on Sophie ;)




  1. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around that many negative interactions with dogs and their idiot owners, ugh. We had a nasty run in with an off leash german shepherd last month that still has me pretty bitter, although at least his owners did apologize profusely while trying to catch him (while I glared, since he shouldn't have been off leash anyway). I don't understand why people can't just be polite and have control of their animals! I'm glad Bridget and Sophie have been enjoying the variety of ways you get them out though!

    1. I've been sitting on posting about it for months, because I kept thinking maybe I just had a run of bad luck and maybe I'm overreacting and being emotional about not feeling safe on 'my' trails. I did eventually say something to the appropriate people and it turns out I was not alone, the local dog agility club also had concerns as did a cycling group and a local business based in the area, so I felt better that it's not just me! There have been some meetings and signs and educational things put up so I have hopes it will improve. Unfortunately we are just outside the area the bylaw and parks officers enforce (and I'm trying to be charitable and hope that's not WHY the off lead people go there!). Fingers crossed we'll all figure out how to share the nice trails and lake access again eventually.

    2. I am not lucky enough to have trails I can walk to, but I do have a little loop through a near by "equestrian" neighborhood. The number of people who put their dogs out without a fence or ANY kind of containment system boggles my mind. The main road is not busy but cars do go fast, and we have been chased down it my multiple small dogs. I am lucky that all of the big dogs have been behind fences, but I do worry about killing one of these little dogs as BOTH of my horses will kick dogs. I have no idea what a solution could even be, but I hope that you have more peaceful rides in the future.

    3. I've always had our dogs fenced, I can't even imagine the stress of having them loose and needing to monitor their whereabouts 24/7. I'm worried too that my horses will hurt someone's dog. That, and the people who need to get right up close to us to catch said dogs makes me really worried for everyone's safety. Wishing you lots of peaceful rides, too!

  2. Honestly sounds like a good time to carry a gun (which would also probably spook the horses)

    1. I actually carry bear bangers in the spring and surprisingly the horses have been not too bad the couple of times we tried them. They actually might be an idea for dogs without owners too, I wonder if the noise would be enough to back them off. I hate the idea of scaring the dogs too badly, but I hate the idea of my horses kicking them more.

  3. Hi T, how horrible, the loose dog situation in "corona-woods." I thought I had it bad but the worst I have is dogs circling my horse and owners assuring me nothing bad will happen (if I had a nickel for every time I was told that...).

    Germans are all some sort of internalized police officers, they spend their lives trying to follow rules and enforce rules, so I don't have to deal with dangerous redneck crap. I am afraid if I ever make it back home, it will be much, much worse in my foothills.

    Even the big trucks slow down for me, not that it helps much, but I appreciate it when I've got a slippery Arab at the end of a 12 foot lead. I always mouth "Thank you" and nod at them. Traffic is what keeps me from going out with my horse, mostly, and it's not as bad as what you seem to have.

    I admire you for your efforts, your persistence. Thanks for the beautiful photos!

    1. The people who live in my riding area are incredible too, always slowing down and being really kind and respectful - I'm very lucky. They're unfortunately just as annoyed with all the roaming dogs and bad vehicle parking as I am - we need more rule followers around these parts! ;)

  4. I can't understand why dog owners think it's the rider's fault for riding out and about... your dog should have a solid recall. And yes, I can understand not knowing horses are in the area, but a simple, "I'm so sorry!" or "Are you ok?" goes a long way.

    Yesterday I was hand-walking Annie and Spud and we passed a lady walking two off-leashed dogs - as soon as we passed, the one dog rounded behind us and darted at Spud. Thankfully, Spud kicked out and it seemed to scare the dog a bit. The lady didn't even apologize and other than screaming at her dog to come back to her side, didn't really do anything. And then guess who we passed for a second time during our walk... the same lady with the same offleash dogs. Thankfully this time neither dog ran at us, but I HATE it when dogs rush me whilst riding.

    I had a bad interaction a few months ago where I actually had to do a flying dismount - four dogs came charging out of a neighbor's yard and absolutely swarmed us. They were rough-housing and barking with one another and tried to go up to Spud carrying on and barking. Of course, Spud panicked and tangled himself in the leadrope I was ponying him with. I had to jump off Annie to untangle him and to scare the dogs away.

    I'm thankful that pretty much all of my horses are pretty calm and cool with unruly dogs. A few months ago there was a loose Labradoodle (I cannot explain how much I despise doodles) that kept bounding around us, trying to figure out what Annie was. He wasn't being aggressive, but he endlessly circled us and kept trying to dart up to us only to be spooked and would dart away again. The owner just kept yelling and yelling. I kept walking but finally, after nearly half a street length, I stopped and waited for the owner to come collect his dog because he A) kept following us and B) was not listening. The owner came jogging up, didn't even apologize, and took almost 10 minutes to catch his stupid dog. The dog kept just out of reach and kept bounding away super fast, only to rush me and Annie (who was standing quietly). After several minutes of this nonsense, I just shrugged and walked off as the guy chased his dog over people's yards.

    Most people I've found will just stand there and yell endlessly at their dog while the dog harasses my horses. I basically just call out, "My horse will kick - she doesn't like dogs." Which makes owners a bit more involved in retrieving their rogue canines. They don't need to know Annie/ Spud are actually fine with (respectful) dogs. I've used that line on my own leashed dogs when interacting with offleash dogs too, "My dog isn't friendly!" makes some people react a lot faster...

    Whew. Apparently I had a lot to unpack there with my loose dog experiences lol.

    1. It kills me that the trail head parking is literally inside the equestrian park boundary and there are signs and a giant horse riding arena to give visual clues to that as well. Yet still, they are shocked to see a horse LOL. Mine sound similar to your two. B is rock solid but has kicked once before when a dog nipped her, Sophie a bit more jumpy and a little more free with her hooves if the dogs get up under her, but it's not like the dogs are getting any joy from chasing them. I'm shocked at how many still have that instinct to get in behind and try to get at their back legs, even with the horses just standing there. Your labradoodle experience sounds typical for us with the nicer dogs and owners. I think some people get on the defensive though and get panicky and angry fast, especially when I say the horses might kick and their dog is not safe to be so close. I go for a short hike every day at lunch and unfortunately it's just as bad on foot...lots of people out walking lots of dogs that are having 'playdates' or something, because the pack dynamic often seems really off and everyone far too excited to be off lead. We don't currently have a dog, but I joke I am tempted to get another so I can go back to using the 'he's not friendly with other dogs' line. It's proven a lot less confrontational than "I hate strange dogs jumping all over me" (Said once, in frustration, the dog is a ginormous Rottweiler who is as tall as me and usually muddy and slobbery...but of course I see the same person every day and she makes a big show of leashing him JUST FOR ME with audible sighing and telling the dog that I don't like him ;)

    2. Apparently I have a lot to unpack too, LOL

  5. That makes me so angry. Earlier this summer, my next door neighbor had a visitors. Their dog was running loose (it happens, I can't say my dogs haven't run into their yard) and ran into my paddock and started chasing my horses. Now, my horses are generally pretty good about dogs. The only one I'm not sure about is Nay. I'm still not sure about him as he just doesn't seem to notice them. Batt would charge them sometimes, but I got after him for that and obviously that's not an issue now. Jiminy doesn't love them, but doesn't do anything. Subi adores them. But, this dog chasing them, snarling at them? Snapping at their ankles? They're galloping around and bucking and thankfully I was in the bedroom and heard the commotion and came running outside (with a towel around my hair). I'm saying woah. My guys are being good. As good as they can be. Then the neighbor's guest comes running with the neighbor to grab the snarling dog. SOMEHOW I managed to NOT let him in my pasture (I think I let him know the hot wire was on), but he's yelling AT ME. Thankfully, the dog ran to his owner, and the owner grabbed him while my horses slowed while I yelled woah and brought treats to the fence line even though a dog was biting their ankles and NO ONE was hurt.

    BUT, I don't appreciate being yelled at ON MY PROPERTY or someone about to open MY GATE or slip through MY FENCE to grab their dog. If they are hurt, I'm liable. If my horses are hurt? I'm responsible even though they are stupid. Thankfully, my guys probably would have eventually just kicked his dog. But, the whole thing just made me so mad. And, he never said a word to me. Just left. My neighbor just sort of nodded and followed. I actually upped my personal liability insurance after that incident just because.

    1. Ugh, I’m sorry that happened. It’s one thing to run into them outside, but for the dogs and owners to be on your property is next level awful and scary. Thank goodness no one was hurt! And why do some of these lovely people think shouting at the horse owner/rider is the right response when it’s their dog out of control? Mind boggling.

  6. I am pretty sure that Carmen would kick a dog if it did any of the things described here. People are so stupid sometimes. Guinness is off leash on our property. Everywhere else he’s leashed. It’s not hard to figure out thst dogs chasing horses is bad.

    1. Some of these stories made me think of you <3 I'm still so angry at how unfair that was. Your Guinness is gorgeous, I keep sharing your pictures and little stories with my husband in hopes of convincing him our next dog should be a shepherd.