078. Mulder Updates

When I first got Mulder, he resembled a freight train on leash. He would pull strongly in all directions, scrambling wildly to get to where he wanted. For some semblance of control, I opted to introduce him to a prong collar. Prong collars are not for everyone, but they are not as scary as they look. They are safer than choke collars and are essentially self correcting collars. They can only tighten to a certain point (which is why you must size them correctly), and when a dog pulls on the leash the collar tightens. It’s a meaner looking martingale.

For those who think they’re painful: I encourage you to try one on yourself. Go to a pet store that sells them, put one on (I’ve done this) and check it out. With that being said, prong collars are not meant to be used as an everyday collar. Do not leave it on your dog unsupervised. It is not a magical fix and will not stop your dog from pulling. It is a training tool. As such, it requires – you know – training. They are not a long term solution.

Fast forward a few months and Mulder walks beautifully with the prong and I am transitioning him over to the flat collar. He no longer pulls and and is learning to heel. Our transitional collar is a flat nylon martingale. He used to have some reactivity on leash in regards to other dogs, and the nylon martingale is a gentle reminder. He’s improved in leaps and bounds: a few months ago he would strain on the leash, whimpers escalating to full blown barking if he was not able to immediately greet another dog in the vicinity. Now, he’ll walk by, interested but calm, and is progressing well with the cue “leave it”. We are slowly refining our skills, and he’s taking baby steps to heel and wait via voice command only.

Last Saturday, Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps hosted a fundraiser event that highlighted a few local rescues. Ben and I drove down with the dogs to check out the raffles. People brought all sorts of dogs (and then some – somebody brought goats) and it was the perfect socializing event for Mulder. For an hour he politely sniffed and tried to play with everyone. He listened well despite the distractions, and at one point he had a Great Dane sneak up on him. I’m not sure he knew what to do with a dog that big!

It’s hard to convey that Mulder is a friendly and happy little dog who is also very reserved. He’s like that coworker who will greet you warmly and chat about the weather – but two years later you realize that you don’t actually know who they are. People see the excited, affectionate side of him at home and ask “sooo how are you not bonded to him yet??”

What they don’t see are the shifty eyes that are softening but not totally soft yet. They don’t see the internal struggle of him wanting to be close to you but not really wanting to be pet. The tightening of his face when voices are raised – even when it’s Ben and I just laughing and carrying on. Praise and physical touch are not his main motivation yet – food is. While he loves meeting new people, he does not yet have the desire to please me yet. There has to be something in it for him, and it’s my job to find what motivates him.


He’s learning. He’s starting to check in on walks, to look up at me for direction. He’s beginning to react positively to praise. Hesitant tail wags are replaced with whipping tail flails, and at this point I would argue the most dangerous thing on a pit bull is their bony tail. Somehow, Mulder’s always seems to strike a knee cap or back of my thigh – and boom, a bruise!

Recall is going well, and we’re at about 95% success rate while on leash. The 25ft lunge line works well while hiking, but at home he sports the 50ft lead. It’s lightweight enough that he doesn’t notice, but it gives me peace of mind until I can trust him. Working with distractions has been the biggest hurdle, and I try to get him out a few nights a week to a busy park to practice ignoring distractions and focus on me. Mulder’s also starting to really play outside with me. Inside the house, he’ll play tug-of-war and gleefully bounce around with a toy. Up until now, he hasn’t shown any interest in toys when outside. He chased the tennis ball and brought it back. This is huge considering when I first got him he thought me throwing a ball meant he was going to be beaten. He would run off a few yards if he noticed you pick something up and raise your arm, and he’d flatten himself down and hide if you came at him with it.

I take him everywhere (even clothes shopping). We stopped at Cabela’s last night and at Old Navy to browse and grab some shoes. All these short, positive experiences out are helping to build confidence.



077. Spook 2017

Spook is the best fun ride of the season. Round A Bit 4H club puts it on every year at the Horse Park. It’s assumed that everyone at the barn wants to go (because they always do). I tossed around a couple costume ideas earlier this summer, but nothing stood out.

Then, life happened. Fellow boarders had lameness issues with their horses. Endurance rides were planned, and all of a sudden it seemed as though Maria and I were the only ones going. We totally failed on getting a costume together, and with Maria having an already busy weekend we decided to skip it.

That is, until I caught up with Mechele and Marina. M was no longer going to a ride with Rose, and Marina was free. We decided last minute to go as a team (sans costume) and try our hand in the Friends division. I alerted Maria to the change in plans, but she decided to skip it.

Admittedly, things went much smoother without a large group and costumes. The most exciting part of the day happened when Mechele pointed out the praying mantis hitching a ride on Jasper. Despite terribly muddy ponies we somehow managed to get on the road on time!

Registering and tacking at the park was a breeze. We warmed up in the ring and were the first team out on trail! This worked in our favor as we essentially became guinea pigs for the majority of the stations. The Ghost Buster station was hysterical – they gave us nerf guns and told us to shoot the Marshmallow Man and the Green Slime! It was so much fun that I think we’ll pick up nerf guns for the next farm part. Nerf tag on horseback, anyone?

Rose was coming back from an injury and M wanted to see how she handled everything so we traveled a bit slower than usual. Nakai hasn’t been out with Rose in months, but we were impressed with how nicely they worked together. We found all the items from the scavenger hunt and racked up a bunch of points. Toward the end, we double checked the serpentine trail just in case and found some tires to play on. Nakai managed to squeeze all four feet up there!

I think this is the first year Spook hasn’t been freezing, and it was odd to wear a T-shirt in the middle of October.  We’re waiting for the results, but I think we did pretty well. I look forward to the homemade food every year and was bummed that the chili was barely lukewarm. Ah, well. There’s always next year!

076. City Dog Meets Farm Life

My horse and the lifestyle that comes with equine ownership takes up an ungodly amount of time. I feel guilty when I’m at the barn for hours or off on a ride knowing Mulder is waiting at home. We hike multiple times a week and he gets plenty of exercise, but eventually I would like to bring Mulder to the barn while I school in the ring. I think he’d love to snoop and follow on the trail while I get some miles in, too. While there’s many more months (and years, probably) before that happens, I decided to bring Mulder to the barn Sunday to test the waters.

He has progressed to a reliable recall on leash although I don’t trust him yet off leash. He does not have the “pleaser” personality that I am used to (having grown up with GSDs), and he’s not bonded to me yet. He’s not motivated yet to come back just for physical touch and praise, so until this is established he is strictly an on leash dog.

Though only in the seventies, the humidity made the air so thick you could practically swim through it. It felt like a steamy July morning instead of an October afternoon. Ben came with me to help and sat quietly with Mulder while I retrieved Nakai. The chickens puffed up and wandered around, not sure if Ben would feed them and inquiring about Mulder. I think the was Mulder’s first time seeing chickens; he was interested but regarded them with some hesitation and backed off immediately when asked to “leave it”.

He whined and paced a bit while watching the horses and Beamer came over to investigate. Beamer looked over almost quizzically, seeming to realize this wasn’t Maria’s dog, Brody. Mulder listened well as we kept our distance – he can watch and absorb without having to be in everyone’s personal space. He walked quietly with me past Nakai a handful of times and kept his focus.

I had just put Nakai away when out bounced Zsasz and Spoot! Zsasz (I hope I’m spelling this right) is M’s newest pup and he too is learning the basics of farm life. Poor Spoot seemed annoyed at having yet another dog at her house and promptly rebuked Mulder when he pushed into her personal space. Mulder handled Zasz bouncing around and initiating play quietly, and I put him on the lunge line so they could play. What resulted was the perfect example of Mulder not quite knowing how to ‘dog’. He’s still learning to play correctly, and you can see Zsasz look at him funny a few times:

Overall, the experience went perfect and was just enough mental stimulation. Mulder ran to his crate when we got home and spent the next 10 minutes or so self-soothing. I think he may have been taken from his mother too soon; he’ll grab a mouthful of blanket and kneed with his paws similarly to how a cat does. It’s how he seems to comfort himself after a stressful day.

075. A Test in Patience

After a week of 80+ degree heat, Saturday’s cool sixties brought a sigh of relief as Maria and I trailered to Green Lane. I could not wait to bounce down the blue trail for the first time in months! With overcast skies and a constant wind, I thought we would have the trails to ourselves.

I started out the ride in a hoodie but quickly skittered back to the truck to dump it. Kai felt like a dynamite stick, ready to work and practically humming underneath me. The red trail was mostly empty, and we warmed up the horses with a working trot. Despite his excitement, Nakai rated well beside Beamer and we weaved our way through cyclists and the odd hiker. A few boats dotted the water as we crossed the bridge, the fishermen bundled up. The grim faces and layered bodies were a stark contrast to my T-shirt and rosy complexion. I love cold weather!

The blue trail barely began before we ran into a bunch of trail riders moseying. Then it was more cyclists. Families hiking. Dogs. So many dogs. We played a perpetual game of leap frog, hardly getting up to speed before having to shut down and share the trail. At one point we actually got stuck behind a gentleman hand walking his horse down the rockiest (and most narrow) section. If nothing else, this ride really tested Nakai’s patience. Beamer carefully picked his way through the trail, oblivious to his friend’s irritation. Though unhappy with the numerous stops, Kai waited calmly while a group of bible toting ladies crossed one of the many technical gullies, kept a fair distance from the hand walking horse, and relaxed after a brief hesitation when I asked him to please take a minute.

What should have been a 2-2 1/2 hour ride turned into 3, and our average speed was only 3.9mph. I cringed when I saw these stats and reminded myself that this was still a training ride (just not the kind I imagined). The plus side of multi-use trails is that our horses are regularly exposed to all sorts of life – sketchy people, bikes, unruly dogs, joggers, and everything else in between – and it shapes them into confident, secure horses who trust their riders to make safe decisions.

You can’t put a price on that.

074. Perk Trail

We trailered out today for the first time since May! The farmer this year has grown nothing but corn, essentially leaving us without the home trails until harvesting time. Nakai is so bored from schooling that when we arrived at Green Lane, it took him about 3 miles to wake up.

With Beamer working on growing more hoof (he is terrible about keeping shoes on) we opted for somewhere flat. Since Maria hadn’t been to the Perkiomen Trail yet, we decided to park at Green lane, hit the connector loop, and do 6 miles down/6 miles back. She was not sure how fit Beamer is and did not want to do too much.

Both of us wondered what kind of monsters we’d ride today and hoped that with the 85 degree weather the trail would be empty. Our wishful thinking paid off – there was minimal foot traffic and the horses were excellent. It wasn’t until we rode past the bottom of Green Lane and started the Perk trail that Nakai woke up. It felt like he just realized where he was and knuckled down to work. He powered down the trail with his ground-eating extended trot, leaving Beamer in the dust. Fortunately, Maria worked on encouraging Beamer to open up, and we had a few nice stretches were Beamer began matching Nakai’s stride.

For the most part, Nakai kept his competitive streak under control. There were a few minutes after we turned around that he tried his usual tricks – wanting to rush home and impatiently dance at the road crossings. I parked him behind Beamer, making him rate and work slowly behind. It was just enough for an attitude adjustment and we had a lovely ride back.

Both horses were already pulsed down when we go back to the trailer and had super upper gut sounds. The lower quadrants weren’t as active, so next time we’ll have to stop more frequently for snack breaks. Despite the summer heat (hey Mother Nature, it’s officially AUTUMN) they drank well and kept their hydration up – so I’ll call that a win.

I’m getting Kev set up the haul and crossing my fingers we’ll get out more often.

073. The (Flying) Home Invasion

I’m not frightened of many things. I dislike deep, quiet water and have an aversion to heights. There’s this little voice that shows up when I look over the edge, tickling the back of my neck as it coyly whispers “jump”.


I am terrified of wasps and hornets.

I used to lump bees into this category, but as I’ve grown we’ve come to a mostly working relationship. I understand the importance and impact of honey bees on our environment and leave them alone. I have a temporary cease fire with the carpenter bees at the barn. This is the first year my face hasn’t been flown into, and I haven’t gone after them with fly spray or the fly swatter (yet).


Wasps? Hornets? They’re giant twats who I swear can smell fear. They’re the equivalent to the entitled mother of three with the A-Line bob haircut who cuts you off in the grocery line, screaming at cashier because they won’t use her 2 month expired coupon. They’re not satisfied unless they’ve ruined the day for everyone else around them.

Ben and I have noticed wasps swarming the porch light in the early morning hours. This is especially upsetting as they end up blocking me from the door.  Up until recently, we hadn’t been able to locate the nest. The other morning I found it! The back corner of the house, second story, in the corner under the siding/soffit. My ah-ha moment lasted only a second as I watched in growing horror the amount of wasps entering and leaving (and swirling in large, irritated masses).

I should probably mention that I’m allergic to stings. One sting is enough to make me shivery, clammy, and I break out into a rash. Three or more stings makes me physically ill – my chest tightens, I shiver, and I am nauseous. Sometimes I  vomit. I swell, itch, and I break out in a rash that lasts a week after the stings. The last time I got stung I had a hard time controlling my breathing and worked myself up into a panic attack.

Since I have a “kill it with fire” mentality when dealing with anything that flies and stings, Ben called Terminix and we had them come out Saturday. Russell, our tech who apparently also has a degenerative disc disease, tried to assuage my fears.  Our infestation was “no problem” and he’s seen “way worse”. I hid in the house while he went to battle. Ben watched them plummet to their death, and we assumed all was well.

At this point, I should also mention that the back bedroom (our future master bed) shares a wall with this corner. And we could hear them. We have plans to tear down the drywall for renovations, and I broke out in a cold sweat imagining tearing down the wall and thousands of wasps rushing inside the house. Russell again assured that they weren’t really in the wall and that it was fiiiinneee.

All was fine – until we came upstairs to find FORTY-FIVE FUCKING WASPS in the bedroom!

Armed with two cans of wasp spray, Ben unleashed hell and I hid in our current bedroom. I’m still finding wasps in the house – in twos or threes, looking mighty confused before I snuff them out with a well aimed flip-flop.

I haven’t slept in two days. I wake up every 20 minutes in a panic, thinking I hear or feel them. Ben’s furious because I’m a neurotic mess and that the problem isn’t solved. The nest is still active, and I clutch wasp spray in my hand as I move about our home.

We have another appointment this afternoon. I might be bunking with Nakai if it they’re unable to get them all.


072. Catching Up

Whilst starting this post I somehow managed to delete the draft of my 2017 book reads. (Side note: It’s been that kind of disgruntling Wednesday.)

There’s nothing exciting to report on the Nakai front. It’s been the same routine and really, who wants to read about that?

We are currently stuck traversing the barn’s 2 main fields and the wooded trails as the surrounding fields have sprung up corn forests.  We’re corn-locked. It’s painfully boring to do the same loop four or five times to get a measly 4 miles, so rides consist of ring work.

All the ring work.
While Nakai’s been superb, I’ve encountered my own mental roadblocks. Lead changes have always been the best example of this. I focus too much on each stride, Nakai anticipates, and we both end up flustered. The most frustrating part is that I know we can do this! I haven’t successfully nailed changes these last couple weeks, and the other day I decided to ride in a halter and lead, promising myself I would stay out of his way.

Nakai rewarded me all evening with perfect little changes in the pen and out on the trail.

On another night, Ben accompanied me to the barn and I convinced him to hop on for a quick spin. It was only his second time riding Nakai, his fourth time riding altogether. I love how Nakai takes care of his riders. The attitude disappears and he kindly humors them. The horse that will gallop off with a whisper now needs extra encouragement to walk forward. I think Ben would be a natural rider, but alas his preferred horse power comes from vehicles.

We finished off the week with a toddle around the fields with Rose and General. It was the first time he’d been out with Rose in ages, and as we cruised up the fence line I could feel the familiar competitiveness surge through him. We did a nice slow loop working on manners and headed back to the barn to help Diane get General through some initial barn sour stickiness.

Now, it’s three days since and I haven’t ridden for various reasons (adulting being the main one) and I’m desperately pining for autumn.  All I want is my normal riding schedule back.