In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Dear Choir:

If you cannot train your dog to stay on your property no matter what, find a way to confine it. Period. Because if you don’t, someone could get killed. On Saturday, that someone could have been me. And I do not appreciate it.

Take responsiblity before irresponsibility takes a life.

And everybody said Amen,


Consolation and I had a nice ride on Saturday. It was sunny out. Light breeze. Cheerful farm workers waving from the fields as we trotted by. Hawks balanced like tight-rope walkers on threads of sky. Perfect.

Early in the ride, we had a little scare when a merle mixed breed ran across the road to bark at us. Consolation whirled and ran a few strides, but a deep seat, calm voice, and tug on the reins brought her back under control.

We turned around and continued down the road. The dog, which had retreated across its yard, came at us again. This time, Consolation stood her ground while I ordered it it back. It stopped. That dog got a good scare off me when it was a puppy, and it knows my voice. We carried on.

Two miles later, our geriatric friend the laborador lumbered along the edge of his lawn, woofing warning. “It’s just us again, Black Dog,” I called. His cloudy eyes blinked and tail wagged. We carried on.

Half a mile up the road, the rottweiler stud hit the wall of his chain-link kennel with the force of a charging bull, all bared fangs and hackles with spiked collar between. Consolation flinched, but she’s nearly convinced by now that this predator can’t reach her. We carried on.

At the end of our sixth mile, we passed the farm where lives the dog I hate most: a Border Collie with irresponsible owners. This dog isn’t the run-bark-and-back-off sort. He’s a herder, and not a polite one. He can’t be yelled down. Even Aaruba, who is very responsive to me and brave about dogs, has a hard time facing up to him because he’s so quick and focused on getting around to a horse’s hind end.

Fortunately, the whole front side of the farm is free of concealing bushes, so I typically have time to see the collie coming and dismount. Normally, there follows a period of trying to keep my horse calm and handwalk her out of range while the dog’s owner limps out, red-faced with impotent shouting, to retrieve his beast. We’ve talked before, that owner and I, about the danger his dog poses to me, my horse, and itself. But no fence has been erected, no stake and chain installed.

On Saturday, I was pleased that the collie didn’t seem to be home. Consolation and I walked briskly past and were half a field away when I pulled her off the road to let a couple large, white utility trucks roar by. Sane as Consolation normally is about traffic, I was surprised when she spooked as the second truck passed. She leaped forward, and I shifted again into calming mode. Molassas voice, “Easy-easy, Lady, I’ve got you.” Deep seat, low reins.

But this time, she didn’t stop. She sped up. Her head and back rose. Not the truck, then. Something else. That dog.

Sure enough, I glanced back to see a flash of black and white snapping around Consolation’s near flank. It must have nearly been hit by the truck in its haste to ambush us.

Great. Now what? The three of us were flying across a plowed field — far too fast to attempt a single-rein-stop — at an angle that would force us either over a 12-foot dropoff into the irrigation canal or out onto the road. I tried circling left, away from danger, but the dog was on that side and Consolation wouldn’t turn.

I could, of course, try to ride it out in the hope the collie would stop before we hit the edge of the field…but I know that dog. He doesn’t stop.

So, Plan B. B as in Bail and try to keep hold of the rein. Not ideal, but better than the alternative. I was just preparing to act when Consolation rendered my efforts unnecessary. She let loose a twisting, double-barrel kick that unseated me and would have sent that dog to the seventh circle of hell, had she connected.

It’s hard to say what happened next. I don’t remember falling, but the landing is pretty clear. I came down on Consolation’s off side, directly on my back with my right leg still in the stirrup. My head slammed down into the back of my helmet. My first thought was, thank God for that helmet. I’m okay. And then, where’s Consolation?

I scrambled to my feet. Oh, [insert expletive of choice]! Leg pain. Bad.

On the bright side, my fall seemed to have scared the collie off. Consolation stood forty feet away, facing me, her great black eyes full of questions…and trust. She wanted her leader. After all the bonding issues we’ve had, it was almost worth the tumble to see that face looking back at me.

She stood calmly while I retrieved her and checked her over. No apparent damage. I wasn’t so lucky. As I led her back toward the road and the adreneline drained away, my leg demanded an increasing amount of attention. So, I ignored the imbecilic owner’s belated attempt to recall his dog. He was a quarter mile away, in the wrong direction. I needed to get myself and my horse home.

Back on the road, I mounted gingerly. Half a mile’s ride was enough. The damage to my leg seemed to be concentrated on the lower, rear inside of my right thigh. Already swelling, it made sitting astride both uncomfortable and unsafe. I dismounted, but walking wasn’t much better. Cell phone time.

I called Travis. No answer. Called again. Left a message: “I’m okay, but I need you to call me right away.” Walked on. Called a friend who lives nearby. He got in his truck and headed my way.

Meanwhile, I tried riding again but got off when swirls of distortion began swimming like soap bubbles across my vision. So I gimped another mile, using Milady’s neck as a crutch, before help arrived.

Being only on more mile from home, I sent my friend to fetch Travis. He led Consolation the rest of the way and put her up while I hitched a ride in the truck and headed straight for the ice and ibuprofen. My vision had cleared and I experienced no further symptoms of head injury, so I decided against a trip to the ER.

By Sunday morning, my head was back to normal (well, as normal as it ever was — which is to say, not very), but my leg was clearly not. I haven’t figured out yet how much damage is done. I’m hoping it’s just a massive bruise rather than a stretched or torn hamstring. My knee may or may not be affected. We’ll see.

Either way, it could have been worse. Had those trucks not come along to boost us off the shoulder, Consolation and I would likely have been chased down the road instead of across a field. The same fall on pavement instead of freshly-plowed soil could have been fatal — even with a helmet. It could also have broken any number of bones from hip to shoulder and given me one hell of a road rash. We could have been struck by a car. We could have been killed.

Travis is all for shooting the dog.

Me? I’d rather set my sights on the owner.

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25 responses

  1. Whoa, scary! How brave for you to walk/ride the rest of the way home! Me, I’d have plastered my husband’s phone with missed calls until I could hitch a ride home! Glad to hear you’re all right (alive, anyway!)

    April 27, 2009 at 3:26 pm

  2. Oh my gosh, that’s scary, Tamara! Both dog and owner should be shot. Would Animal Control be able to do anything about that situation, if it’s something that’s occured before?Glad that Consolation’s okay, and that you’re not hurt any worse!

    April 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

  3. OH! I am so maddddd! Happy that you are in one peice and so is your mare..but that owner needs a wakeup and I know you will do what ever you can for this..are there no leash laws there? We have sooo many laws for dogs here…you get fined if you leave there poo in public!Thank God for mercies upon you both! Hope you recover sweetie!Kac

    April 27, 2009 at 4:07 pm

  4. OHMY! Glad that you are okay, to a certain degree. Consolation really showed some depth there in waiting.1.) Smuggle dog to pound where owner will be too lazy or cheap to bail out.2.) Paintball.

    April 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

  5. Tamara- I am SO glad that this was not worse for you and Consolation. I too side on the shooting part, but I think my aim would be more with pepper pellets at the OWNER. Take care out there girl, and contact some area folks and see what can be done about that dog and his jagoff owner.

    April 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

  6. Glad you and Consolation are okay. I was chased once by a dog while riding a horse that was afraid of dogs. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life. When I finally got the horse off the paved road that we were running down I shook for probably 15 minutes. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.

    April 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm

  7. First of all, I am glad you and Consolation are , for the most, part ok. Reading that post sent chills up my spine and made me instantly mad. What you describe is exactly why I have been hesitant to take to the roads of late, having had similar situations arise. People are so irresponsible and it puts other in great danger. Something definitely needs to be done about loose dogs, I assume there is a county leash law in your area? Take care of yourself and Kudos to the work of building yourself as Consolations leader. Clearly some of it must be sticking since she waited for you.

    April 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm

  8. And the Choir said: AMEN.Terrifying! And OW. You sure kept a level head, something to be proud of. Have you considered documenting (written and photos of injuries) the incident and contacting animal control? In our area, they would respond and demand the owner keep the dog restrained.(forgive me if this is a duplicate, the first reply try blanked out)

    April 27, 2009 at 5:21 pm

  9. Dear Preacher, Amen and Hallelujah!

    April 27, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  10. I’ll second and third any suggestions to report to AC. Even if they don’t do anything this time, repeats will be taken more seriously.Hope that you heal well and kudos to Consolation … and you.

    April 27, 2009 at 11:34 pm

  11. That is so scary. Loose, unattended dogs are my biggest trail-riding pet peeve. My half-Arabian (part Thoroughbred, part Clydesdale) Apollo hates dog with a passion. He was terrorized as a baby by a couple of farm dogs, and he has never gotten over it. So seeing loose dogs is no picnic for use, I can tell you. In an instant I can feel his entire body freeze like an ice cube and it is all I can do to keep him calm enough to walk by. I am so sorry this happened to you and Milady Consolation. If it were me, I would take a very aggressive road towards fixing this problem. I would go to animal control or the law enforcement and let them know of the problem, and see if you could get the owner charged with something. Or, one day you could just drive by the yard and coax that dog into your truck, drive an hour away, and drop it off at the pound. I know that sounds cruel, but I would much rather have that on my conscience than an injured or dead horse (or an injured or dead me!!!)I am sorry you have to deal with this. Good luck finding an acceptable solution!

    April 28, 2009 at 12:29 am

  12. *pardon my typos, I was typing very fast and angrily.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:32 am

  13. One other thought, does Idaho have a law that staes basically if a dog is caught chasing hooved or cloven(sp?) hooved animals, they can be destroyed. Call an brand inspector and find out. Montana has this. Not that I am in favor of the dog losing his life because ultimately it’s not the dogs fault but maybe if you let the owner know that if he doesn’t fence the dog in, that you will be forced to take the next step. Give the owner a warning so to speak.. just a thought

    April 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

  14. So glad to hear that you are alright Tamara and Consolation too. Looks like all your hard work paid off though, she not only hung around for you, she was able to to show you her ability as leader and help you get back home. Good for her! That probably made her feel very important to you.I have had many similar experiences. So far I have not landed on the ground. My old Stallion Asad, killed a dog that ran out at us like that. Wasn’t pretty. He also saved us both from a rattlesnake once. There is something about a leader personality horse. Sometimes tough to get through to, but in the end once the bond is made, you can really count on them to pull through.I do hope your leg heals up quickly with no adverse conditions.Give Consolation a hug for coming through for you!;)S

    April 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm

  15. Liz

    What a horrible and disturbing incident. My scariest ride was when my part-Arab bolted as a neighbour’s dog suddenly appeared hurtling after us. From the other comments here, it appears these dangerous dog events are far too common.Most people in my rural neighbourhood have 2 or 3 dogs, and most dogs run loose. I’ve had several unpleasant encounters with these dogs, and their owners don’t respond to requests to keep their dogs at home. Having failed at the preferable solution of changing the owner’s behaviour, I instead now work on changing their dogs’ behavior. When dogs come after my horse and me as we ride along a road or trail, we turn and give chase. A dog typically responds by retreating to its yard. We stop chasing once it’s reached its property. But as we ride away, the dog will start after us again. So we turn around again, chasing it home at a trot or canter. This happens repeatedly until the dog stays put. Both dog and horse quickly learn who’s bigger and faster. After a couple of sessions with a new dog in the neighbourhood, it usually stays home while I’m riding. Although I’ve tried this successfully with many dogs, I don’t know whether it would work for a dog with herding instincts, like the border collie that chased Tamara and Consolation.Here’s hoping you recover quickly Tamara and find a way to deal with awful dog owners.

    April 28, 2009 at 4:52 pm

  16. I definitely hope you’re feeling 100% soon, Tamara. What a sucky situation for you to be in.Your husband may be right; I don’t know if I wouldn’t S-S-S in the same circumstances.

    April 29, 2009 at 3:20 am

  17. I never posted about it on my blog because it was too horrific, but we lost a new horse last fall because a neighbor’s uncontrolled dog ran him through the fence. He impaled himself and I had to follow his blood trail through the woods to find his body. The brand inspector required that the dog be destroyed, something we had been trying to get done for two years. I’m so glad you and Consolation survived what could have been equally as horrible. Carmon

    April 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  18. horseadventures

    Ach! I’m so sorry about your getting hurt! I hope you’re on the mend. I wish I had something to add to what everyone’s been saying, but I think they covered everything before I had a chance to read all of the way through your blog. Best of everything,Wendy

    May 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

  19. Tamara,Oh….so glad that you are more or less in one piece. Having impacted my helmet very hard once, and having the swimmy wierd thing off and on for a couple of days–made me a believer in the helmet.Hoping your injury is just a temporary bump in the endurance road. Consolation is a good girl for staying put and waiting for you rather than high tailing for home.*Granny hug* ~E.G.

    May 1, 2009 at 10:12 pm

  20. Frightening! First, I’m glad you are home and not in the trauma center. Now, having said that, I’d like to scream with anger at people with dogs that are a danger to society.I’ve been out on trail and had a few dog situations, but my scary moments pale in comparison to your situation.I’ve considered carrying pepper spray, but what exactly does one do with a surprise attack from behind.So glad Consolation is fine, but he won’t forget. I send you best thoughts for a quick recovery

    May 2, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  21. Tamara…it has been many days, how are you and your horse doing? And how is Aaruba these days???? Hope all is well.

    May 3, 2009 at 8:37 pm

  22. I’m a bit worried about you…please let us know how you are! Carmon

    May 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm

  23. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Hope all is well with you your horses. Let us know please… We worry…

    May 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm

  24. Yikes! Scary! This was so well written that I felt I was right there with you the entire time. It also brought back all of my terrible memories from my tragic fall on Christmas Eve…and the past long 4 months of healing…and re-injury. sigh.Horses are dangerous…..but horses and crazy dogs can be fatal.I sure hope you are not seriously hurt and can heal quickly and as pain free as possible.May I suggest arnica along with the ice and ibuprofen? It’s worked very well for me with diminishing pain, bruising and soreness.HUGS for you!~Lisa

    May 6, 2009 at 6:38 am

  25. Oh this makes me so mad! I’m glad that you didn’t get hurt any worse than you did. I have one mare that first gets spooked by dogs… but quickly stands her ground and will kick. Always funny to hear that “oh my dog won’t do anything…” as it circles your horse… and then I say… my horse hates dogs, keep it away, cause if your dog gets close she will kick it! You should see how quickly most of them grab their dog!!!Around here there are leash laws and if the dog is off the property it is considered uncontrolled/stray. The owner can get fined, etc. … however, it is more like a slap on the wrist then anything which is so sad!

    May 12, 2009 at 8:25 pm

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