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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-28-2017, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
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Horse question

Shama and I have a private agility lesson scheduled for tomorrow morning. Our trainer will be the woman who trained us in our first three agility classes. We are currently taking a fourth class which is taught by someone else. The trainer for these private lessons lives on a farm which is in way out in the country. The area is not fenced. I think Shama would stay close, but there could be horses at a distance, on neighboring property if I recall correctly. Shama usually barks at horses, even the ones she sees on tv.

My question is for those of you who know horses. If Shama runs barking at a horse, is the horse going to be scared and become a danger to Shama? Do you think Shama would get close enough to the horse to be in danger, or will she lack the courage to go all the way to the horse?

I can always cancel the lesson if it seems unsafe for Shama.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.

PS. My DH thinks I have not done an adequate job describing to you how excitedly Shama has barked at horses in the past.

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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-28-2017, 11:01 PM
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It all depends on the dog and horses. There is no way for us to tell you.
My Luna can be loose around the school horses I ride, when they are just standing there or walking, but if they start troting or galloping she starts chasing them and she is in danger of the horses steping on her. (so I keep her on a leash)
The horses have naver spooked at her doing anything (barking, running) but they are school & trail horses, which means they are dead-broke and used to dogs chasing/barking when they go on trails. Oh I should also mention they are large pony sized (icelandics), the youngest (out of 6) is 15 yrs old, and they are cold bloods-naturally less spooky.

If I wen't anywhere with horses I did not know I would not let my dog loose.



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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-2017, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply, M, and for the cute photos!

I thought there were more horse people out there, but maybe people are busy or only check the forum after work . . .

When we arrived, the horses were far away, and Shama didn't seem to notice them. I suggested my trainer bring her border collie out so Shama could be distracted by him instead of the horses and so that we could always get him to run so she'd chase him and lose interest in the horses if need be. She brought her dog out, and Shama was delighted to be able to pal around with him (because when he'd been out as a demo dog in class, she'd only been able to bark at him to express her interest, and she'd never been allowed to hang out with him).

I kept Shama on a lightweight 30-foot rope dragging behind her (which was a six-foot lead hooked up to the rope in the name of measuring 20 and 30 feet for preparing for CGC testing) while she wandered around checking out the area. No sign that she noticed the horses.

Then, when we started working with the obstacles (jumps, tunnel, A-frame, and teeter), I was going to continue to just let her drag the long rope, but then I decided to ditch the rope in favor of just the 6-foot leash. (Yes, I know dogs are not supposed to navigate through agility obstacles while attached to a leash. We were watching carefully . . .)

Everything went fine. I probably could have removed the leash.

Prior to our arrival, I had asked our trainer if we could spend some time in an effort to desensitize Shama to horses. She had said yes, so at the end of the session, I picked her up, and we walked a long distance away from the agility practice area to where a horse was standing inside a corral. On my way to the horse, I was alternating feeding Shama some of her favorite treats and turning her to where she might spot the horse. It took her a lot longer to notice the horse than I'd expected. At about 15 feet, she noticed the horse and woofed before turning back for another treat, then another woof and treat, then a full-blown bark with no further interest in the treats. We just waited it out. The horse showed no interest in Shama (it was apparently used to dogs - our trainer has three border collies and two golden retrievers), and Shama eventually stopped barking and turned back toward the treats. Desensitization lesson number one done.

We wondered if, in the short run, she might now (that she knows a horse is nearby) be more distracted at our agility lessons, but we thought that, in the long run, it might ultimately be best for her to not get riled up at the sight of a horse. I'm hoping that, since the horse was such a long walk from where she'd done agility, she might not associate it with where we will be practicing agility. We have four more private lessons.

She did a great job at agility. She navigated the full-size teeter twice without hesitation. Her only errors following my instructions were due to our inexperience. We're improving!
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-2017, 04:52 PM
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We have horses, as well as Havanese. The two are never allowed to be loose together. I'm pretty sure the dogs would find horse poop irresistible, and we don't need that.

Our dog yards, and dog porch border one of our pastures, so the two spend time close together on their own sides of the fences.
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-2017, 06:53 PM
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We have horses, as well as Havanese. The two are never allowed to be loose together. I'm pretty sure the dogs would find horse poop irresistible, and we don't need that.

Our dog yards, and dog porch border one of our pastures, so the two spend time close together on their own sides of the fences.
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Tom, you have a beautiful property!!

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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-2017, 09:47 PM
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Sounds like you had a good first introduction. I think it was wise to have Shama drag a line under those circumstances for the first time. It never hurts to be careful. When Panda started agility, she would occasionally get "over-wound" and take off. I had a very light weight ribbon-like leash that I cut the handle off, so there was no loop. I let her drag that so I could step on it and keep her from running off if she got to wild. A little insurance is never a bad idea in a new situation!

Like Tom, even though we have horses and Havanese, when we brought Kodi home, we put wire mesh fencing on the yard side of the paddock fences so there was no chance of Kodi getting in with the horses.

We haven't had a horse living at home since before Pixel came home, so neither of the girls have had much horse experience. (Well, Pixel saw them as a baby puppy at the King's, but not since then)
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-2017, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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Those horses and dogs are lucky to have each other in their lives, Tom! Thanks for sharing. Thanks, Karen, for your reply.
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-30-2017, 06:40 AM
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Here's a post I wrote to you yesterday, and THOUGHT I'd sent before leaving the house, but clearly didn't. I'm sending it now, just in case it gives you any other thoughts. It sounds like you did a lot of what I suggested, even though I never sent it. So your instincts were very good! Must be that "teacher brain"!

Horses can kill a dog with one kick, even if the horse just meant it as a warning kick. Horses are prey animals, and can definitely feel defensive about a dog running right up to them and they have no clear understanding of size, so a little dog can be as scary for them as a big one, particularly if they are not used to dogs. Then they turn their rear toward the possible threat. Dogs don't understand that this is the "danger end" of the horse, and particularly those with herding tendencies, and that includes havanese, will often run in to take a nip at the horse's heels. That's when they get nailed. I used to work at an Arab breeding farm, where the horses were not "cold blooded", like Icelandics, and neither were they dead-broke school/trail horses. Some of them were ridden regularly, but they were highly trained dressage and event horses, NOT used to dogs under foot. Or... they were brood mares who rarely got ridden, were tame enough to handle, but had even less experience with dogs. We had a Border Collie who lived on the farm, and twice she got nailed while trying to "herd" horses that we were leading to the breeding shed. The first time she got a broken leg. The second time she got a broken skull. If that kick had been at a SLIGHTLY different angle, it would have killed her. And she was a 40 lb dog, not an 8 lb dog. We also had one horse who would purposely pounce on and kill cats that went through his paddock, and I suspect he would have handled a small dog the same way. (although that behavior was EXTREMELY unusual... I've never seen it again, in over 40 years around horses)

Maistjarna is right, there is no way for us to predict what Shama might do. Unless you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that she will be under perfect voice control, I'd make sure that I arrived VERY early, with Shama and a long line. Spend as much time as she needs to get her used to working near the horses. (or within sight of them, anyway) Work closer to the horses than you think she'll be on course, just to make sure. Practice LOTS of recalls on the long line, with the yummiest possible treats.

ONLY if she is so good on the line that you feel sure she will come to you the moment you call, would I even consider taking her off leash. They certainly CAN learn this degree of control, and it's a really good thing to teach her. I would go, for sure, if only to work on this. If she doesn't seem to be able to pay attention to a level where she can safely be off leash, if it were me, I'd ask the trainer to help turn it into a lesson on THAT, so that you can enjoy lessons there in the future!

I went to a dog show last weekend that was held at a county fair grounds with a harness racing track. Kodi was not competing, but I had him with me. (I was watching some friends compete) I took the opportunity to put Kodi through his paces, including drop on recall and off leash heeling (well, he was dragging his leash in case of an emergency, but I wasn't holding it) just because it was very, very good distraction training. He was very good, but he's a LOT older and more experienced than Shama is.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-30-2017, 08:23 AM
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I grew up my entire life with horses and dogs. ANY horse will stomp at flies or anything bothering it's feet or legs. I had an old horse that barely moved except to eat grass. I would stand underneath him in a rainstorm. But one day as I was standing next to him, I wasn't watching and he stomped at a fly and got my foot. If my foot had been a dog, it would most likely not have survived. I would never leave a SMALL dog loose anywhere near large animals with the ability to bite, kick, or stomp with rock hard hooves, no matter how tame.

It's good to get your pup acclimated to everything, but you can't get everything acclimated to your pup.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-30-2017, 10:01 AM
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I grew up my entire life with horses and dogs. ANY horse will stomp at flies or anything bothering it's feet or legs. I had an old horse that barely moved except to eat grass. I would stand underneath him in a rainstorm. But one day as I was standing next to him, I wasn't watching and he stomped at a fly and got my foot. If my foot had been a dog, it would most likely not have survived. I would never leave a SMALL dog loose anywhere near large animals with the ability to bite, kick, or stomp with rock hard hooves, no matter how tame.

It's good to get your pup acclimated to everything, but you can't get everything acclimated to your pup.
HOWEVER, it sounds like the horses are quite away away, and THEY are behind a fence. So if Shama has a reliable enough recall, she should be able to safely work in the agility field within SIGHT of the horses. That's a matter of dog training.
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