"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lily and the Whippet

On Friday, I brought Lily in from the field and tied her to BO's 8-horse trailer next to the tack room. We are allowed to tie the horses there while tacking up.

It had been 74 degrees on Thursday...but it had promptly dropped back down to 45 degrees by the time I arrived at the barn on Friday.


So Lily was kind of a nervous Nelly while she was tied. All of the horses were being frisky, including the youngster Amanda was working in the round pen. I can't really blame Lily. She danced around at the end of the lead rope, called occasionally, but held still while I was grooming and tacking up. I still kind of groaned internally, thinking that I was in for a horrible ride.

The lump on the side of her mouth did end up being some sort of abscess. It finally popped, drained and healed, so on this day I bridled her with her kimberwick bit for the first time in 2 weeks.

She stood for me to mount up from the ground...and then wanted to walk off immediately. I asked her to stand, which brought about a lot of head tossing from Her Highness, but she obeyed and stood until I asked her to walk off.

She hesitated for a second at the driveway and I tapped my boot with the dressage whip...and she walked on. We picked up a trot as we were going past the neighbor's field with the mule....

...and Lily proceeded to drag me onto the bridle path that leads to the trails.

I was like, "Uhhhh...what are you doing?"
Me: "Ooookay?"
Lily: "LET'S GO LET'S GO!"

I asked her to stay at the trot as we went around the neighbor's field and then looped back towards the road. We went up the road once, around the other neighbor's corn field and then back into the other neighbor's back fields. Lily was a trotting machine, arching her neck and powering through in whatever direction I asked her to go. I laughed at her and finally relaxed, enjoying the ride. This was sooooo totally NOT what I had been expecting given her behavior while tacking up! She gave me correct bend when I asked for it, stretching out into her most lengthened trot. It was a joyous ride.

We did a couple of laps around the neighbor's field. I was posting along to the music playing on my headphones when I suddenly heard barking and looked up: the neighbor's Whippet was coming towards us full tilt, barking and snarling.

Photo from here.

"Watch out, Lily!" I said out loud to her, bringing her to a halt.

For all of her energy prior, she came to an absolute stop and stayed there, as the 35 lb tan-and-white sighthound came barrelling towards us. I stared him down, letting my weight sink into my heels as I relaxed in the saddle. Lily flicked an ear back at me but remained completely unperturbed as this creature came at us as fast as his legs could carry him.

He came to a sliding stop about 3' in front of us, hackles raised. Lily tensed momentarily but immediately relaxed when I remained unconcerned. Sighthounds like Whippets and Greyhounds are among my favorite dog breeds. I knew he wouldn't harm us: he was simply being threatening because he was afraid and we were in his territory. The dog circled us and I turned Lily to continue looking at him. "Go away!" I told him in a calm tone of voice. He trotted around us, keeping his distance, but would not go away. I finally asked Lily to trot after him to give chase and he backed off. I asked Lily to back up to take the pressure off of the dog in reward, while still facing him, and he stayed where he was. "Good boy!" I praised him. I was about to turn Lily away in the hopes that he'd stay, when his owner called him back to the house.

The Whippet ran back towards his master. I waved a thank you but had Lily leave the field to play it safe: I wanted to be able to continue using the neighbor's fields in the future!

We headed off down the trail. Lily became a little hesitant but continued on with minor prompting.

We crossed the small creek and rode the loop through the neighboring fields, then turned around and headed back towards home.

I let Lily canter up the hill back towards the neighbor's field. We walked through: no sight of the dogs. And then I let Lily canter up the far hill onto the bridle path. We walked the rest of the way home on a loose rein.

We completed 5 miles in an hour of mostly strict trotting. I had not been looking to do speed, just time. Overall, it was an awesome ride: Lily is always the one pointing me out things that she is nervous about and I'm always telling her, "It's fine, don't worry." It was a wonderful feeling to be the one to point something out to her and have HER response be, "Don't worry. I got this!"

Lily in the mare field.
(There was a temporary shuffling of horses around in fields and now there is a mare-only field.)
Gracie was in the run-in shed stuffing her face with hay...


  1. I didn't know Lily had an abscess in her mouth. Do you know why? Was it foxtail? I know that can cause those types of issues.

    What a great ride and good that Lily did not go after the dog. Ashke will. He will pin his ears and snake his head. Not so much with bigger dogs, he seems more interested in playing with the big dogs, but little dogs and little kids, he's not a fan.

    And as Mark says "ride the horse you have not the one you expect".

    1. No foxtail in these round bales. She's had it for a while and I had been been keeping an eye on it: it's why I'd been riding her in the S-hack, because the lump hurt. It was on the outside of her cheek, not by her mouth but the straps connecting the bit to the halter bridle did bother her. The "S" of the hackamore avoided the area entirely. Really weird spot. My vet looked at it yesterday when she came out for vaccines, but it's all healed up. She said it's common for them to get little wood splinters in that area from rubbing on trees/fence posts.

      The one that's always been more likely to go after dogs is Gracie. At the barn where I met her, she was seen chasing and trying to stomp a stray dog that had gone after the horses! She will defend herself. In the past Lily has just gotten nervous. So this was an awesome improvement!

    2. Actually, now that I'm really thinking about it, she hasn't "just" gotten nervous. The first dozen times she saw dogs in FL, she had absolute meltdowns about them. She didn't start keeping her cool around them until we started riding out on the trails a lot more here in MD. This is the first time she's faced a dog charging at her like that.

  2. I love that you essentially trained this person's dog using your horse, while maintaining control of the entire situation. That's pretty impressive!

  3. Loved reading about your awesome ride - well done both of you!! :D

  4. nice job avoiding escalation with the dog!! i kinda hate encountering them on the trails, even w a sensible horse... you just never know!

  5. YAY for good rides on mares. =) Also love your training technique with the dog while on horseback.