As the Hotwalker Turns: Woof

Yeah, we get it, horse people love dogs. But columnist Katy Groesbeck can’t help but wonder whether this codependent relationship really makes sense.

From Katy:

Barn Dogs ── Further proof that we’re all a little screwy

I think it is universally known that 99.9% of horse people are also dog people. Some horse people own dogs because they genuinely love dogs, and then there are some that I think have dogs just because they want to look the part. After all, everyone KNOWS you’re not a REAL trainer unless you have a Jack Russell terrier, corgi, or some version thereof. And the more of them you have, they better you are; it’s like having an Oscar or an Emmy–total status prop. For instance, riding with a trainer with six corgis is nearly comparable to riding with a trainer who owns a team pinque coat.

That being said, I have never understood the reasoning behind people owning the dogs that they do. On one hand, most breeds that I see around the barn and at horse shows are the small, useless yappy kind. While frequently adorable, they are unfortunately also one misplaced hoof away from their grave. They are prone to getting lost down holes (especially the terrier breeds) and, after a certain amount of futile and frantic waddling/scrambling behind their owners, they end up having to be picked up and carried across busy show grounds–as if we don’t have enough crap to carry!

On the other hand, the dogs I see also trend toward the “so giant I might actually be a small horse breed” or “so hairy I could vacuum up the arena in one roll” type.  There are also the selectively deaf dogs: everyone else can hear their owners shrieking calling for them from four counties away, but those blessed dogs just go about their ho-hum merry business. And in my personal opinion, bringing a dog to the barn that growls at/barks at/chases horses is about as criminal as bringing a pedophile to the zoo (OK, was that too much??), yet people do it (I’m not sure about the zoo thing, I was just talking about the dogs). However, I suppose if you love your dog then you love it for all its qualities, good or bad, and I can respect that.

And take all of this with a grain of salt; admittedly, I’m a cat person, and on more than one occasion I have taken a cat to a show. (Not on purpose, and not the same cat.)  The first time was to a local hunter-jumper show; we suspected something was amiss when all eyes turned toward us upon our arrival at the show grounds. It seems our cat was screaming bloody murder from inside the tack room of the trailer. My dad graciously took the poor creature home immediately.

The second time was a bit more complicated: We didn’t discover the stow-away until three hours down the road when we stopped at a rest area and all piled out of the truck to race to the bath rooms. The faint mews coming from the horses seemed a bit uncanny and reasonably begged for further investigation (after going to the bathroom. Priorities). Sure enough, one of our barn cats was lounging in the hay mangers making idle conversation with the horses. Well crap. Three hours was DEFINITELY too far to turn around, but we were going to be gone for five days at an event and still had three hours of travel that day. What to do??? We bought a bag of cat food the next time we stopped for fuel and took him along. He was actually a superb horseshow cat: He slept all day in the shavings or in the shade of the trailer and at night we locked him in the tackroom to sleep on the bed in our gooseneck. He made friends with everyone AND all their silly dogs at the show.

But back to the silly dogs: It makes just as much sense to have these type of dogs as it does to travel with a talking parrot. In fact, it makes MORE sense to have a parrot! They’re small and convenient to carry on your shoulder, they’re entertaining, clean, require little food and space, and the ideal parrot could even be utilized as an assistant trainer for those busy show days when you have too many students in too many arenas.  After only a few days of lessons at the barn, a parrot should be equipped with enough poignant phrases to blend right in ringside at your next show: “SQUAK! Inside leg! SQUAK! Use your stick! SQUAK! Stop crying and get back on!”

On the other hand, I can just imagine the chaos that would ensue when you mistook your parrot’s whistle for the judge’s bell (although alternatively, this could be a good competitive strategy if used against your foes; all is fair in love and dressage). And I can just hear it now: “No! I swear I wasn’t getting unauthorized assistance!”

In conclusion, for now I guess we might as well stick to ill-suited dogs and the occasional cat as horse-show companions. Maybe one day the EN chinchillas will make an appearance and it’ll be the next hot thing on the show circuit.

Until next time,



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