When it came to dogs on the trails, I wasn't really worried about Storm. When they are outside with us both Delilah and Sugar are chained right outside the barn where Storm lives. He has never shown any concern going between the two of them to get to the horse trailer or turnout. Even if there is barking or other puppy play, Storm's been pretty much unaffected. Still I didn't know what to expect with strange dogs.
It didn't take long working the horse on the trails for Storm's comfort level with dogs to be tested. We were coming around the corner at the north end of the park when a dog came flying around that same corner right into us.
The dog's reaction was much more dramatic than the horse's when he realized he'd run right into something and that something was absolutely huge. In a split instant the dog was gone back the direction he'd come. A startled whimper could be heard as the dog beat feet away from us. The horse barely seemed to notice the dog's arrival or hasty departure. He just kept looking around in his shortened stride.
Farther down the trail we came across little yappy dogs. There were two of them on leash with their owners. One was frightened of the horse and barking defensively. The other was curious about the horse and barking excitedly. If Storm was interested at all, it wasn't shown in any outward manner, he just kept moving along.
The owners of these dogs were apologizing all over themselves for their dogs' behavior. I think more worried about their dogs being hurt by a horse than the dogs causing a problem for the horse and rider. That seems to be the mind set of most dog owners. They don't realize that dogs can scare horses enough to seriously injure horse and/or riders and I guess they've not thought the reason a horse might kick a dog in the first place could be because of what the dog did first.
Whatever the reason was for the dog owners concern, I assured them the dogs would not have a problem with my horse as long as the dogs were under control. Even when a dog goes after one of my horses, I tend to teach the horse to turn and "chase" the dog by walking towards it. Usually once a dog realizes the horse is coming after them, they retreat and the problem is over. With these two barking dogs we just kept our distance and moved on by them and went back to the deer trails.
There is a German lady who walks the park regularly with her golden retriever and sometimes her son. Because I see her on a regular basis she is one of those "characters at the park" http://risingrainbow.blogspot.com/search/label/Characters%20at%20the%20Park I have grown to know. This woman through her heavy accent has told me of her fear of horses. Her dog, however, has no fear and is actually quite curious about any of my horses.
Over the months I've been riding at the park, the woman has gotten more comfortable getting within touching distance of my horses although she jumps back pretty quickly if one of them moves. Startled and worried about getting hurt, remnants of her childhood growing up on a farm in Germany.
For some reason, she has taken a particular liking to Storm so even in the woods she comes right up to him for a pet. Her dog is right there with her wagging his tail and looking for the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity about the red horse. The first time she came that close on the trails, Storm dropped his head down to get a closer look at this dog he already knew and the dog licked him in the face. Other than popping his head up and out of licking range Storm didn't seem the least bit concerned even though I could still feel plenty of tension in his body reflecting his lack of comfort for the trails.
Even the loose dogs we've come across have not seemed to bother Storm. He's pretty sure that whatever is out in those woods that might get him is not related to the dogs. When we come upon them he barely pays them any mind, he's so caught up in studying his surroundings for something known only to him. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.
Maybe the day will come when he's over that searching that occupies his brain and then he'll decide he should be worried about the dogs. In the meantime, I'll just keep evaluating those dogs one by one to see if I need to be proactive to prevent my horse from a negative canine experience. The last thing I want is for a strange dog to catch Storm off guard and scare him half to death.
For now, I'm just going to be grateful that we have had not issues with dogs AND we seem to be making some kind of progress. I'm beginning to think that Storm might just get as comfortable on the trails as his dad. If that's the case, he'll turn into a pretty darn good trail horse.
To be continued.................
A Little on Progress........ A Little on Theory.........
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