After my doggie had thoroughly ‘read’ my riding pants, boots, gloves and coat for months with deep puzzlement, she finally realized, just before Christmas, where those sniffs were coming from.
On December 23, 2018, I led Bryn into Casalae Farm’s big stable to introduce her to their resident ‘giants.’ (She’d been driven there often, but had always waited for me quietly in the car.)
I plopped down on the bench, gave the ‘stay’ command and watched as her expressive face took in the visual and olfactory feast before her. The curious stable cat, Louie, crept very near, in stalking mode, trying to get her to react- Louie’s infamous for putting speculative dogs ‘in their place’- but incredibly, Bryn never once noticed him. She was too immersed in this new, stunning reality.
Louie’s face and twitching tail expressed his deep annoyance at her perceived snub.
Fifty-five-pound Bryn assumed ‘statue’ mode, and, for a very long time, simply stared and stared at the beautiful horses.
Thirty motionless minutes passed before her rear finally dropped to the floor. It must have been a relief, after standing so still for so long.
As before, only her eyes and nose moved.
Thirty minutes later it was time to go. My introduction was a success. I broke her trance and drove to a nearby dog park so she could run- and think about what had occurred.
My friend, Laura, who works there as a vet tech and superb riding instructor, would soon assume her care while Joe and I flew to Naples, Florida to visit family for four sun-drenched days.
Bryn now knew that I approved of this incredible place. Laura would have no trouble.
Two days later I told her that Laura was now ‘Boss.’ She was fine with that, and with the formal handover. She likes Laura very much, having taken to her right from her first visit to our home.
‘Laura Time’ was thrilling for Bryn. When settled into a selected spot inside the barn she was content- no, thrilled- to assimilate this new and exciting world. Horses continually clopped to the arena or back to their box stalls, acknowledging her with nods as they passed.
Bryn, who perceives herself as a small dog surrounded by these massively BIG dogs, is deeply, respectfully submissive; she won’t meet their large, curious eyes (reasoning that a direct gaze might be interpreted as a challenge) unless they aren't focused on her. Then she’ll look her fill.
One older mare, who has enjoyed dogs throughout her long life, was led the few steps to Bryn to extend her muzzle for a closer inspection. Bryn kept to her ‘sit’, but looked carefully away and closed her eyes, telegraphing that she posed no threat.
That gentle mare would gossip with other mares about Bryn later, out in the paddock, I thought, smiling.
Bryn, clearly amazed and intrigued by that close encounter, was learning about their nature. Soon enough she’ll relax into their world, and there’ll likely be some friendly nose bumping.
Laura related a fascinating Bryn story.
“Dee, when Bryn came into the stable with me the first time, she asked to be taken down the far stable aisle all the way to its much roomier end stall.” (Bryn had always stayed in the entrance area.) “You know who lives there! I could scarcely believe it. Bryn knew Menesson’s scent, and followed it straight to where he lives! She wanted to meet him! Menesson poked his head out of his stall to take her in, too. They seemed to recognize each other!”
Gorgeous Menesson is their blue ribbon, top stud Arabian stallion, and my frequent mount. His scent is all over my clothes.
Her scent coats me, too. The stallion had sniffed me thoroughly many times, intrigued. And now Bryn, following her nose, had made sure they’d meet.
For me, this is powerful olfactory magic.
A few days after I returned from Florida, I popped her into my car’s dog-friendly back seat and drove to the Farm to book lessons and offer an apple to Menesson. I bade her stay, as I’d be right back- but as I opened the building’s door and entered, my normally silent Bryn let out an incredulous ‘OOOOOOOoooooooooooohhh....’ that penetrated every nook and cranny in the stable. I’d never heard a howl from her, ever.
Shocked and embarrassed, I hastily booked a lesson for the next day, flinching as a second long, heartfelt wail pierced the air.
Then, there was silence.
She’d made her point.
Ten minutes later I strode quickly back to the car.
Another shock! Bryn had moved up front onto the driver’s seat- strictly forbidden- to stare out the window at me with wide, disbelieving eyes. She simply could not believe my faux pas.
I didn’t admonish her.
I felt guilty. And yes, contrite.
From now on, she’d come, too. Bryn’s behavior had always been exemplary; there was no reason not to include her.
Laura took charge of Bryn soon after, when I had to leave town again. After hearing how she’d reacted to being excluded, she led her inside to be a passive part of things. After twenty minutes or so of drinking in the horses and receiving welcoming pats Bryn made no objection to being resettled in Laura’s car, where she gazed at paddocked horses and then curled up for a nice nap.
What a clever solution! I’ll learn more than riding skills from Laura, for sure!