"...We decided the dogs were loose on their own, so we continued on. The dogs stuck with us."
Leaving the barn with the horses in the trailer, we only made it a few miles to the intersection of NM-14 and 599. A tiny white poodle wearing a green vest was bounding toward the busy intersection clearly unaware of traffic issues. We stopped and I got out to see if the pup would come to me. Of course not. It headed back in the direction it came, which was the safest direction of the four choices. A man stopped to say not to worry, that the kids that owned the dog were just down the block and they were headed our way.
Moving on to Galisteo Basin, Ron and I were looking forward to a beautiful ride day with warmer temperatures. We tacked up and headed out Trail 12 where we encountered a man walking the sweetest Golden named Willow. We chatted briefly then continued in opposite directions.
When we decided to turn around, we summited a hill and dropped down the other side. Up behind us rushed two Samoyed mix dogs. Annie, (my mare – never a brave soul), started dancing and tensed up threatening to bolt. We stopped to calm the horses, thinking bicycles would crest the hill any second. After a minute, we dismissed bikes, and waited for a hiker. Calling out, no one answered. The dogs had begun to circle us with one barking, so we separated the horses to break up the circling. After 5 minutes, we decided the dogs were loose on their own, so we continued on. The dogs stuck with us.
One dog kept barking at the horses, convincing Annie that she was about to be eaten. There are a few things you can do. One is to rush the dog, but not aggressively pursue. Two results are common: #1. The dog stops barking and gains some respect, or the less desirable #2. The dog thinks it’s a game and barks even more.
Today, we got lucky and the barking stopped, and the dogs still stuck with us bounding off to sniff something, then rushing back to be with the horses and causing Annie to tense up over and over. About a half hour later, we again met the nice man walking Willow. Both Samoyeds were nice to Willow, and I called out to the man to try to check the front paw of one of the dogs as it had been limping and possibly picked up a thorn. The hurt dog was sweet and licked his face while the man checked the foot which had a cut. The man called the phone number on the dog tag to no avail.
We parted ways for the second time, and the two dogs continued to follow us. By now, Annie had grown accustomed to the dogs rushing around, and had totally calmed down. The last time they bounded up, I was proud that she remained completely calm.
Back at the trailers, a man drove up looking for these two dogs. He had gotten the voicemail. He thanked us and we all headed home. It turns out the dogs had made it all the way from Eldorado to Cowboy Shack….over 4 miles as the crow flies.
Getting surprise de-sensitizing training for horses is hard to get. It’s impossible to do it all from the comfort of your own barn. You can expose horses to water crossings, flapping things, plastic bags, and many other common trail surprises, but strange dogs you just have to work on as opportunities present themselves. Today was a lucky dog day for everyone.
Photos courtesy of Bill Mans with his therapy dog, Trey, and other dogs that ride with their horses.