The Haunted Dog

It’s been a quiet year at the barn. What with 2020 and all. I mean, it’s a quiet little place to start with, but especially quiet the past 12 month.

But then came the fake goose dog.

I noticed the dog when I drove in. A little black silhouette of a German Shepherd type dog slowly rotated in the gentle breeze at the end of the drive way. Closer examination revealed he was part of a goose deterrent effort, and he was on the way to one of the fields we frequent.

Knowing how distrustful Midas is of changes in his familiar landscape, I decided we’d come see the fake dog in hand before riding. I didn’t think it’d be a big deal, Midas likes dogs. So I tacked up completely and then led him down the driveway.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done that, but Midas saw the dog and was interested immediately. Midas likes dogs…but there was something off about this one. We went up, he warily sniffed it, shifted around, looked at it with the other eye. I made sure to touch it and wobble it so he could see it was safe. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but he was calm, and so I led him back up the driveway to the woodpile to get on.

While I fussed with the girth and stirrups, he looked over his shoulder at the fake dog. Then he looked again, more alarmed. Then he began to snort, and looked again, shifted his feet nervously.

Then I realized what was happening.

The fake dog MOVED every time he looked away.

A horse reaches out  with his nose to sniff a black silhouette of a German Shepherd dog that has been stuck in the early spring grass.
Looks like a dog, but doesn’t smell, move, or have shape like a dog. Not a dog.

This is not normal behavior for inert objects–things he’s confirmed with his own nose are not living.

Without getting on I led him back to the fake dog, telling him it was just cardboard turning in the wind. Midas did a lovely little piaffe the whole way there, and then when we arrived he swung his rear at the fake dog menacingly. He didn’t kick, though, because he’s a hunt horse, and you don’t kick dogs.

I was surprised and delighted to see him trying to scare it away. Midas is the responsible guard horse at the barn. He’s the one who stands watch when everyone else naps. He’s attentive and watchful, and while he likes dogs,

THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT A DOG.

FOUL MACHINATION OF SATAN.

I tried to reason with him, and honestly he was calmest walking in a circle around the haunted dog, but being in sight of it was, overall, NOT OK. The Cardboard Weeping Angel Dog that would surely attack if he blinked.

With a sigh I decided to start my ride in the ring–from the ring we could still catch glimpses of the fake dog, but Midas considers the ring as SAFE, so he’s pretty brave in there. We had a great ride.

I caught him eyeing the dog now and then.

We cooled out outside the ring–and went past the Haunted Dog, giving it a wide berth and goggly eyes so it wouldn’t try anything as we went past.

The next week, the Haunted Dog was still there.

Midas still DID NOT LIKE the Haunted Dog. But then I noticed that there is another Haunted Dog in sight of the pastures. The horses had probably been watching it all week. We still gave it a wide berth, but apparently this was a peaceable Haunted Dog that wasn’t going to eat him.

The Haunted Dogs have been patrolling for geese for weeks now, moving around the yards every couple days, turning in the wind.

We ignore them now.

Mostly.

Midas keeps a casual eye on them in case they’ve just been luring us all into a false sense of security.

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Horse Eating Hay Trolls

The neighbor’s hayed their field, and now there is a long line of round bales in the field where Midas and I ride–and there has never been round bales in that field for as long as we’ve been going there.

It’s been upwards of 10 years.

So obviously the new bales, which appeared out of no where, overnight, must be sentient horse eating trolls.

And Midas noticed them immediately.

By this point in our ride, we were cooling out. It was hot out. I was tired.

He went stiff, head up, snorting, I could feel the spin and run inside him even if he hadn’t succumbed. I knew that there was a solid chance we’d just be spinning our way through a field of gopher holes should I stay mounted and coax him over to face the trolls. (We normally ride around the edge, where there are no holes, but to do that we’d have to walk RIGHT NEXT TO THE TROLLS).

So, I retreated behind a treeline (cover from trolls) and dismounted. He’d been feeling good and peppy all day–finally sound after a spring battling thrush–so spooking might be half for the joy of feeling good. The other half being his guard-horse mentality–and the thought of gopher holes just really meant this was a monster best faced in hand. Mounted, there would be an additional layer of adrenaline. In hand, I could use my tiredness and lack of adrenaline to my favor, radiating calm at the prey animal bent on survival.

He pranced. He snorted. He stopped. He never tried to get away from me.

I strolled, stopped when he stopped, asked nicely to move again after a moment of assurance, or let him move in a nervous circle. Assured him verbally that these weren’t trolls. Finally got close enough that I could touch the bales, bang on their plastic, make noise.

He was skeptical still, but finally relaxed. We walked all the way around the line both ways–saw a few gopher holes.

With our scientific investigation satisfied, we walked allll the way back to a woodpile by the driveway so I could remount (another object we’d investigated thoroughly when it was first introduced) and I rode back to face the trolls.

Except they weren’t trolls anymore. Just hay bales.

We doodled peaceably around the field and went back to the barn for a nice cool shower.

*

I brought out the little white pony, Blue, for a walk in hand to see what he’d do with the trolls. It amused me that it took him several seconds longer to notice them than it had Midas, and he danced back and forth behind me like a tube behind a speedboat. I don’t think he stopped moving once of his own accord, just when I paused to assure him. Once we got to the bales, though, he accepted them much more quickly, and even walked across the half-blown tarp when I did. I hadn’t expected him to follow me (Midas hadn’t), just wanted to show that it wasn’t scary.

Horses are so different. Blue isn’t a dominant creature (unlike Midas, who is dominant and the horse who stands guard while the others nap), he’s somewhat nervous but quite trusting. He, too, never actually hit the end of the lead rope, though he was pretty worked up.

Granted, I didn’t try to keep him from dancing around. I let him have the rope he needed, which turned out to be not that much. I didn’t care if he danced around as long as he didn’t bolt. That was my approach with Midas, too.

It helps to focus on one thing at a time with horses. For investigating the trolls, they just needed to stay with me so I could show them everything was alright. They didn’t need to bury their emotions or instincts entirely, just use their brains enough to come with me.

Trolls vanquished.

*

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Nice Things

There is a new boarder at Midas’s barn, a pretty gray Percheron type mare named Evie.

Midas has literally paid no attention to her in the month she’s been living on the property–she was in a paddock by herself, and all the geldings were turned out in a field that didn’t share a fence–but they could see each other clearly.

They’ve met over the fence in hand.

This week, she was turned out with one of the geldings, Wellie, and the others were all put in other paddocks in pairs.

This time, about halfway through our ride, Midas suddenly seemed to realize that he’d left Wellie and Evie unchaperoned. And he was distressed. He wanted to go back. He wanted to stare at them.

It took a good bit of gentle insistence to prevail upon him to pay attention, so of course I teased him mercilessly for his jealous behavior.

The real question is: Would he react this way if Evie had been turned out with anyone else? Is he jealous because Wellie was turned out with her, or because anyone was? He doesn’t care about Wellie being with him or alone, or with one of the other geldings. So is he getting studly in his old age, or does he just really not like Wellie to have nice things???

I want to know.

For science.

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Knight with a Red Plume

https://ravenslanding.redbubble.com

I just really like red plumes.

I painted this when I first got masking fluid. I’m still trying to learn how to use it. And putting riders on horses is startlingly difficult. Perhaps because I think I know what it looks like, but the eye and the brain don’t actually communicate as well as I think.

I am trying to push myself to explore composition more and think creatively.

What? Think creatively? In a painting? I know.

i did really enjoy manipulating the masking fluid and brush flicks for the flagging tail. I think there must be Arabian lines in this horse 😉

I’ve always liked Arabians–not just because they are spectacularly gorgeous, but also the legends around them, their endurance, and of course their loyalty. Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind was also, definitely, instrumental.

Actually, I learned a lot from that book. I read it repeatedly, and the details of how Agaba treated Sham, the care he took to groom and saddle for the comfort of the horse, has definitely influenced how I treat horses. I try to always be kind and respectful when handling a horse. When you do that, they take it much better when you correct them for not being kind and respectful.

This is actually a character from my novel. If you read The River Rebellion on zarecaspian.com you’d know him, Trinh Kegan. His armor should be golden, but artistic liberty dictated bloodstone for this piece.

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Charlie

I got new brushes for Christmas. And They Are Amazing.

They are the Black Velvet brushes, and painting with them is so different. They are far softer than any of my other brushes, and come to a much finer point.

What does that have to do with Charlie? Because Charlie was the first full painting I did with them. He’s also painted in gouache, which was fun. Holbein brand, if anyone’s curious. I don’t have anything to compare them to, but the internet says they are some of the best and I like them.

Charlie was a rescue from a hoarding situation, adopted out by the Middleburg Humane Society. Nobody really knows his breeding, but it involves fancy movers. Before he bulked out like the hulk, I would’ve said Morgan–Lippett like–but now it seems more Percheron or possibly Cleveland Bay. And Charlie did bulk out, he wasn’t a very gawky youth, so it wasn’t obvious he’d just KEEP GETTING BIGGER but he did. It’s amazing what a difference a few years in a good home with good food and work will make.

Charlie’s a sweetheart, thinks everyone is there to see him and expects treats. He takes treats politely, though, which I’ve always appreciated.

*

Reach out, stay in touch.