Headed out on the sloppy slushy muddy trails today. Dixie was unusually skittish at the beginning of our ride, behind the pueblo house. She is a spazz and I’m used to that, but it seemed a bit different today, so I started thinking about coyotes. And I got that Modest Mouse song stuck in my head!
We rolled on down toward the mines. We’d just gotten down the hill by the flat bit of trail near the Road to Nowhere when Dixie slammed on the brakes. I looked where she was looking and saw several coyotes about 50′ away. They are so amazingly camouflaged – I saw three or four, but there could’ve been more. We sat and watched them for a few minutes. Often coyotes move along, doing whatever they do, so I was waiting for this group to keep going.
They didn’t. They stared at us, and for the first time, I really viscerally understood why horses get nervous when you stare in their eyes. One would stare at me – and I’d stare at it – and then I’d realize that another one was moving, so I’d watch that one and it would stop and another one would start moving. All of a sudden I realized they were trying to flank me to get to Cersei (who had no clue they were there).
I whistled to Cersei to turn around, and once she’d passed behind us I let Dixie turn to follow. The coyotes immediately moved in closer, so I wheeled Dixie and ran her a couple feet at them. The coyotes were not remotely afraid of us, but they did stop when we charged. Then Dixie and I turned and lit out for home. Dixie was so freaked out she kicked at Cersei as we cantered past her. Dear, sweet, innocent oblivious Cersei was unfazed by getting kicked at, but she did put on a burst of speed once she realized we were gonna go fast.
I let Dixie canter uphill til she got tired, then pulled her down to a rack and risked my neck by checking behind us a few times. That was pretty pointless; you can’t see them unless they’re moving, and I dared not turn around for longer than a second or two. I never saw them again, and about a half-mile later Dixie relaxed and we walked on in.
I am very aware of where Cersei is at all times, and she’s a good dog with a really strong recall. It’s still really risky taking her, and it would completely break my heart if they got her. I’m not sure what to do, really – just accept the risk and continue taking her, or price out an air rifle and try to tag one the next time they start hunting my dog? I could get a regular rifle, but that would be even harder to desensitize the horse to.