dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Adventures of Teresa and Carmen: In Which we Meet a Grouse

There's a Grouse that lives in our woods. I know because I have startled it a few times walking the dogs. In keeping with Grouse behaviour is waits until we are just on top of it and then takes off in a loud flurry of flaps. It's quite alarming.

They are pretty
I have often wondered what would happen if/when Carmen and I encountered it.
this is pretty much how I pictured it going down
On Saturday at 12:15 I had the chance to find out.

But first let me back up a bit 
(cheap ploy to build dramatic tension but also to put in context). 

December has been warmer than usual and Thursday was beautiful. When I got hoe from work the sun was shining and it was lovely. I should note that by 'lovely' in Canada I mean about 10 degrees and no wind. If you are dressed properly it's perfect riding weather. I quickly tacked up Carmen and we headed to the ring. 

I had one of those wonderful rides where everything is smooth and easy. Carmen was relaxed and forward. She looked at a few things but nothing else. I am getting so impressed with our canter-it's so much straighter and our transitions up and down have improved so much. I put her away feeling really happy with our ride. 

Friday was also lovely. However, that morning there was a large machine coming down the road cutting the brush in the ditch. They were cutting just along the edge of the property (which is too bad because I have lost my privacy hedge). 

not actual machine but very close
The horses seemed to be okay with it so I decided to ride anyway. My farrier was coming that afternoon and I wanted to ride before he came. By the time I was on Carmen the machine was past our property and down the road.

Still, it must have unsettled her enough because she was completely different. She was spooky and bolty. I put on my big girl pants and rode through it all. There ware a couple times when she flatly refused to go into troll corner and I flatly refused to accept that. When she started to back up I gave her a smack and got her forward. It wasn't a battle the whole time. I was able to practice some walk-canter-walk transitions, shoulder-in/haunches-in etc. In the end we were practicing our lengthened trot across the diagonals into the corners. I could really feel her understand about lengthening her frame, not speeding her pace. I did a few free walks into the corners as well without any issue. 

So I decided to drop the gate and head out for a small walk in the woods. It would be our first in about a  month (hunting season). Carmen was impatient and fidgety at the gate but walked happily enough to the right and around the field. I was prepared to hop off if things got confrontational but she seemed happy enough to stride out. 

Just as we were coming along the woods and towards the path that goes into the trails the grouse flew up. 

Carmen threw up her head and leapt forward about 4 strides. She came right back, let out a big sigh and carried on. 

I know. 

In the woods she was a bit uncertain going through a stream - we've had a lot of rain and the dry stream bed was running. I let her stop and consider the question. 
Carmen: I am not sure it's safe
Me: It's just water moving. It will be fine. 
Carmen: But we might get swept away. 
Me: It's only a couple inches deep. Trust me. 

And she did. I put my leg on softly and she stepped forward and in. While she didn't freak out she did walk briskly and breathed out when she stepped out. We did the trail and came out by the manure pile. We had to stop and consider the old trailer and shovels. Walking up the hill to the barn I asked her to lower her head and stretch out over her back and she did 

While I would have liked a less dramatic schooling session in the ring I was happy with how things all worked out. 

I'm pretty sure I heard you cutting up apple pieces. 
(if you want to see a fabulous drawing of a pheasant and horse meeting go hereEmily Cole's illustrations)



  1. I'm so glad that Carmen wasn't overly freaked out by the grouse -- I'm pretty sure Cinna would have been in the next county 😂

    1. It is possible that she has seen it in her pasture next to the woods. Not that that always means anything.

  2. I think your little girl is growing up and becoming much braver! Good job Carme, that was a lot of scary stuff but you listened to mom and everything turned out ok.😊

  3. Grouse are some of the stupidest birds I have ever seen! The boyfriend and I were quadding down a logging road and one literally ran out in front of us and we ended up running it over, killing it instantly. The thing was safely in the bush - why did it come out to get run over?!

    Glad Carmen didn't find the grouse too offensive haha.

    1. I think the running out part is to distract you from the babies. I've had that happen on horseback and it kept flying up to Irish.

  4. What a good, brave mare! And I have to say, your sentence "I should note that by 'lovely' in Canada I mean about 10 degrees and no wind" made me actually laugh out loud because we could just substitute Maine for Canada and it would describe my house. ;-)

    1. Our weather patterns are very similar- in NS we're not that far from you.

    2. I always forget how close NS really is! :-D

  5. I'm so glad she handled that well :) I usually spook worse than my horse to that sort of thing.

  6. She is getting so much better! And good for you for sticking with it.

  7. I’d say she did perfect on all counts, especially the water crossing. 👌 Love the illustration, too!

  8. What IS it about birds and horses? I always expect an outcome similar to your comic and always end up really surprised with how well they handle it. Truly startling things never seem to cause as much hubbub as commonplace items. It makes ya wonder lol

  9. Cierto met his first grouse on a hack this month too - then his second, and then his third! By the time we got to third one, he was a pro at the four-feet planted spook. The first spook was a bit more dramatic. Thankfully, Spanish Horses are quick to learn. ☺️ Even more thankful that there are no wild turkeys in NS that wait until you ride under the trees they fly up into and proceed to tumble rather ungracefully out of! Now they are cause for alarm - or a big net!


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