Along for the ride:

Sunday, September 18, 2011


 At the risk of jinxing myself, there has been horse activity in my life for the past few weeks, on a regular basis. The first time back in the saddle was horribly depressing as my usual skill-set was no-where to be found. It's been 8 months since I rode last. Note to self: "I resolve to not accept life getting in the way like that ever again."
Sunday morning riding lessons with a mixture of flat work and jumping, on a cliche-palomino named Sunny, have revived some level of competence and a lot of smiles and contentment. To be continued...
Yesterday, a couple of fire-trucks pulled into the parking lot below the riding arenas and there was a training session to familiarize the crews with the basic anatomy and needs of a horse, should they ever have to rescue one. Horses can get stuck in ravines, or man made hazards such as swimming pools. I thought it was a very smart exercise for them to plan.
Abbey, my time-consuming foster dog, has made tremendous behavioral progress. She no longer barks and lunges, with all her might, at every dog she sees. She'll always be a "reactive" dog but she can be managed and we can go out in public; stop for a coffee; have a chat with other dog walkers and even join in and walk beside them.
We are in the process of training Abbey's potential new Mum. Barbara and I have walked together a couple of times. I like her. I believe she has "the right stuff" to make this work and she is willing to qualify to take on this special needs dog. Her long term goal is for Abbey to be a service dog, visiting young people at the juvenile detention facility. Abbey is one hundred percent reliable and respectful with humans. She will have a job to do and a life-story that will not be wasted.
It was really important that Barbara realize what she is getting into. She hasn't been exposed to Abbey's dark angel, as I have learned to preempt any slight tendency to fixate (what we call stink-eye) on another dog and so there is no escalation. I told Barbara to imagine her car loaded with nitroglycerine. If she is alert and observant she can avoid the bumps that will otherwise lead to an explosion.
Every walk is a learning opportunity. Every successful encounter increases the positive brainwashing that is turning Abbey, from an outcast, into a member of society. I've involved a trainer who is as much a behaviorist of people as of dogs. Barbara is taking private lessons and joining group classes. This is also a good way of transitioning Abbey. If this adoption goes all the way. She will have built a bond with Barbara and the changes will not be as abrupt. To be continued...


  1. ER, if everyone who ever thought of getting a dog took their responsibilities as seriously as you do, and recognized the importance of learning what dogs are all about, well, I guess you wouldn't be telling us stories of collie rescues.

    Not to be cheeky, but is it possible you were a canine in a previous life? Or a horse?

  2. Your barn sounds very exciting... with those firemen and all...
    And your work with the foster dog & potential new owner seems really unique... dynamic & responsible on so many levels.

  3. This is a jam packed post. You have so much going on here. Or there as it were.

    It was news to me that if you don't ride for many months, your skill level takes a dive. That shows me there are differences between riding a bike and riding a horse.

    I so enjoy reading about the progress of Abbey. I am so happy to read about the matching up of potential new owners and their willingness to do the work to fit the needs of the dog.

  4. Deborah, maybe that's why I have such a furry face?

    Jenny, I refrained from mentioning the eye-candy aspect of this noble crew. Uniforms of just the right color blue, etc. As to my fur-child. I deal with whatever problems or inclinations my animals have. (People too). This transition needs careful guidance or it could be a disaster for everyone concerned. I try to set things up for a successful outcome and ask for help when I need it.

  5. TechnoBabe, this deserves an in-depth answer, more than I have time for right now. The basic skill set of sitting on a horse, steering where I want to go and adjusting the speed never leaves me. However, a horse has a personality, preferences, aches and pains or suppleness, as it is a living thing. They also have different levels of education/training. Take into account that we upset or enhance their balance with every move we make and are trying to communicate clearly what it is that we want of them and you start to delve into the science and art that is a complete passion for equestrians. The only time I really forget about anything and everything else in my world is when I am immersed in that quest for the perfect moment with a horse.

  6. I think it's easier to change behavior of dogs and horses than that of humans.
    You seem to be the perfect type for working with animals.

  7. Duta, a profound statement, with which I cannot disagree.

  8. Abbey's a lucky dog to have someone so attentive and perceptive working with her. Hope it all works out for her.

  9. MJ, the match has to be right for this girl, so worth waiting for. I'm trying not to count my chickens yet, but I have hopes.

    Argent, Credit to collie rescue for picking her up from the over-full pound on New Years Day. Abbey's not a purebred and she has her issues. She's already living longer and better than might have been the case.

  10. Oh I enjoyed that. You must be jolly patient.
    We have horse guests here at The Larches.... love the smell and the poo for my garden but I had a nasty fall a few years back so far prefer terra firma nowadays (unlike my 8yo)

  11. Lou, All my life people have said that I was patient. I'm not sure that I am. Maybe I'm just in control of my impatience, if that's likely to bring the best results.

  12. I saw a coaster with the "Where is my fucking pony" image on it yesterday and thought about you ;) Glad to read you've been back in the saddle!

  13. Wiola, an English fridge-magnet was the inspiration for this blog. I'm probably in infringement of someone's copyright. I hope they take it as flattery. Glad you're taking time out to be in places with coasters:)

  14. Hope I do well when I get back in the saddle with my new knees. I am expecting remarkable results...well, at least results. Glad to hear you managed better the next time out.

    As for Abbey, all I can offer is admiration. I do love the fact that her potential future is so rewarding. Therapy animals are wonderful creatures and a treasure beyond worth. I have seen some amazing healing from these wonderful critters.

  15. Jean,
    Your progress in recovery is impressive. I'm sure you will be back to greatness in no time. I hope this home works out for Abbey.