Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Enjoy the show but leave Fido at home

I love when spectators come to a horse show. Whether they are a supportive horse-spouse, kids, parents, or pure spectators; I think the more the merrier. There are a lot of "rules" for behavior at a horse show: Calm voices, silent cellphones, watch children's fingers. Everyone I've seen seems to know those things already.

So I was sad to see this article (on the track in this case):

The horse, Rich Camelot, an 8-year-old Standardbred gelding had just completed a training jog when he was attacked by a dog Sunday (June 7). The horse bolted and struck a large metal trash bin. Although he was treated by a veterinarian on the scene, the horse died.

Of course, I don't know the particulars. Did the dog "attack" or did he just get too "playful"? But here is what I do know. I've seen dogs at every horse show I've attended in recent years. Most are leashed. But some are not.

Not all horses are "dog broke" and any horse can be unpredictable. Riders and horses are already under the pressures of competition. Vicariously, even the quietest, nicest dog can get carried away. A leash can break, or your normally quiet puppy may bark a lot in the excitement. In my opinion, the horse show is not a dog park. Enjoy the show, but leave the dog at home. Everyone, including the dog owner, would have greater peace of mind.

photo credit

My own recent experience
I've had a lot of dog encounters trail riding. Most recently a loose dog approached us. "Oh, he likes horses!" the owner shouted from the yard. The dog suddenly bounded happily into Armani's back end. Before I could react, we were off like a bullet. In moments, we were a few hundred feet down the road with Fido snapping at our heels, Armani leaping and kicking, and the owner vainly calling "Fido!" behind us. After a ways, Fido finally got bored and jogged back to his master.

The point is, Fido "liked horses". Maybe his master has horses, or Fido has seen them before. But any dog can get carried away. Armani has seen lots and lots of dogs. But any horse can react quickly and without thinking.

At a recent show
I saw not one, not two, but three un-leashed dogs roaming around the warm-up ring. I didn't want to be a "Dressage Queen" by going to the office and causing a scene. But concern for myself and my fellow competitors compelled me to act. I tried a more tactful (or passive-aggressive?) approach. I conversationally, but loud enough to be heard, spoke to a passing rider. "Good morning! Wow, a lot of dogs here today, huh? Does your horse like dogs?"

"Oh yes.", she said. "He's so quiet. They never faze him."

"Oh that's wonderful." I praised, "You're so lucky to have a horse like that." I started to raise my voice a few decibels, "I hope everyone's horse is used to dogs. Mine can sometimes get explosive if they get too close." I paused for effect before adding cheerfully, "He kicked one recently."

After I circled the warm-up two more times, I noticed all the dogs had mysteriously disappeared.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I loved your passive aggressive conversation in the warm up ring, especially the 'he kicked one'line. People seem to think it's okay to leave dogs run around a show, even though it can be really dangerous and cause harm to a horse or rider. I find that it's mostly the riders or their grooms etc. that are the worst ones for bringing their animals and then not looking after them.

Glad you weren't hurt on your trail ride, that's just another part of dealing with people who know nothing about horses and their habits, sort of like the horn-beepers when your riding on the road.

A Bay Horse said...

I think you may be right, Grey Horse. I've observed that also; that the dogs often belong to a rider or their family. I feel like they, if anyone, should know better.

jrosey said...

Oh my of my biggest pet peeves is when people just let their dogs roam around, assuming that everyone should be comfortable with them. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs! As of yet, I've never been in any shows (I have my first one coming up in Aug) but I can't imaging having dogs running around the warm up ring! My horse is comfortable with dogs, but that doesn't mean I would be comfortable in that situation!

Kritter Keeper said...

that was funny! good thinking. those people are selfish allowing the dogs to be unleashed. good for you!

Paint Girl said...

I totally know what you mean, I love dogs but they don't belong at a horse show. They should stay home.
I also run into dogs all the time while trail riding. People take them riding with them, that is fine, and my horses are used to them, but if it gets too close to my horse and my horse kicks them, that is their own fault for not controlling their dogs or even having them out on the trail.
I also loved your conversation in the arena. Sounds like it worked!

Anonymous said...

My solution, when at a show or on the trails, is to chase loose dogs when on horseback - it give the horse confidence and tends to subdue the dog!

Nicole said...

My sister's older thourbred cross would run dogs down. She had been attacked when she was younger and now HATES dogs. She has killed 2. I always want people that some horses will run down dogs and to keep them home.

allhorsestuff said...

This happens to be my biggest dislike about dogs and horses..the woners thinnking it is okay for the dogs to be barking and nosing and rushing the horse. They are preditiors and we allm know that the horse's instinct will be defend or flee.
My last crappy barn owners allowed the two heard dogs to chase and nip at my two when my mare hears a barking dog..she is so pensive! I carry bear mace will spray far and I can defend us while a dog may think it can rush up to us= the owner beware if it Does!