I don't know what kinds of trails you have in your neck o' the woods, but when I go trail riding around here I'm never sure what I'll encounter. The town I live in is home to about 10,000 horses (or 15,000, depending on who's counting). But there are other animals as well: your standard assorted "farm" animals, a bazillion dogs, a bevy of bison (or are they buffalo?), several zebras, a multitude of mules, a couple of camels (yes, I said camels), some emus and ostriches and... llamas. Out of this entire zoo stew of the animal kingdom, it's the llamas that concern my horses most.
Fortunately, there is only one llama herd that resides right alongside the horse trail. And I can avoid it entirely. In fact, I have to choose to confront the Land O' Llamas by crossing the main street in town and riding headlong into Llamaville. But since I enjoy a challenge-- and I'm never one to back down from daring myself to do anything-- I occasionally pick a day to saddle up and force my two horses to face their worst fear: the llamas.
Wally does the Snort and Stare. He arches his neck in his best impersonation of an Arabian halter stallion, pricks his ears forward at the head llama (a robust chocolate brown creature), and attempts to stare down the beasties. It isn't reassurance that Wally wants from me. It seems more likely that he wants me to pat his neck and tell him, "You're the man, Wally, you're the man."
Once Wally feels that he has intimidated the llamas, explaining that they are critters beneath his lordly rule, he continues on down the trail. He's strutting, mind you, but he carries onward.
Lexi, on the other hand, just can't quite make sense out of the llamas. I don't try to push her past the long-necked, doe-eyed animals. Instead I allow her plenty of time to inspect them. She doesn't give any indication of turning her golden hindend in the opposite direction and fleeing, which I find incredibly reassuring. But she doesn't budge, either. So we stand. And I wait. A long time. Eventually Lexi will begin to lick the bit in her mouth, turn her head away from the llamas and look across the street or back at me. That's my cue that she's "okay" with the llamas. We can take a few steps forward, and I stroke her neck with my hand. And then we stop again (because a llama can look oh-so-different from oh-so-many angles). And I wait. A long time. Then when Lexi's body language tells me she's secure that the llamas are secure behind their enclosure, we take a few more steps down the trail.
You can see that when I'm doing llama duty it can result in a lengthy trail ride.
But at least my horses are getting exposed to everything. If I ever have to ride herd on Noah's ark I'll be ready.
Do you have any interesting, unusual or exciting trail riding encounters that you'd like to share? Just email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or click on "comments" below.