Last Friday dawned bright and beautiful. The air was mercifully dry. The temperatures were crisp enough that I wore a sweatshirt when I first went out to see the horses in the morning. The sky was a brilliant blue. Perfect day to ride.
Apparently, it was also the perfect day to crop dust. My horses and I got a front row site and sound show right in our own backyard.
When I started my pasture ride with Shiloh, I could hear the helicopter crop duster, but it was far enough away that I didn’t immediately cancel my riding plans. I took some photos from the saddle, but they didn’t turn out very well. The addition of the graphic-arts arrow was my attempt to help viewers actually locate the flying machine. 🙂
Shiloh and I walked around the pasture to warm up. We practiced his fox-trot while doing stretchy circles. All the usual stuff. Shiloh was his typical calm self.
After 20 minutes or so, the sound of the helicopter got louder. Then the site of the helicopter sashaying over the crops started to catch Shiloh’s attention. Not enough to cause him to spook, but enough where he was craning his neck to get a gander at this hovering thing in the sky above us.
I decided to stay to the side of the pasture that was furthest from the helicopter and halt for a minute to join Shiloh in viewing the helicopter make straight runs, turn, dip and dive back down the other way. Something like watching a drive-in-movie from horseback.
I soon noticed that Piper and Bear were standing at alert, looking quite concerned. They had come to the electric fence line, not far from where Shiloh and I halted.
Suddenly, Piper and Bear whirled and took off. Their quick exit was not lost on Shiloh who proceeded to launch forward in an attempt to join them. Racehorse out-of-the-starting-gate style. Just one of those instinctual, automatic horse reactions where one horse(s) moves and every other horse in close proximity joins in on the action. It’s why we all love horses.
To Shiloh’s credit, I no sooner touched his face with the reins (I ride him in a bitless bridle) and said whoa than he came to a quick stop, happily relaxed again.
Even though Shiloh didn’t seem too concerned about the crop duster, Piper and Bear were clearly not so sanguine. With them snorting and bouncing around, the atmosphere was definitely getting too charged for my delicate nervous system.
So in the spirit of “discretion is the better part of valor,” I walked Shiloh over to the nearest patch of shade and dismounted. We hung out for a minute under the protection of the tree and continued to watch the show.
Here you can see Shiloh looking with interest in the direction of the helicopter. You can also see his droopy lower lip. Not too worried apparently. In the background, you can also see Bear and Piper, partners in crime, returned to their place along the electric fence line.
Now, dear readers, turn up the volume button on your device. Listen to a little video clip of what Shiloh and I were hearing during our ride. Also see that Shiloh’s only reaction was to cock an ear in the direction of where the helicopter went as it moved away from us.
I’m not quite ready to declare Shiloh 100% crop-duster broke, but if I had to be riding any of my three horses in a situation like that, he was definitely the best choice of the bunch. Good boy, Shiloh.
***This post was written in the spirit of good fun. But on a much more serious note, my up-close horse and helicopter experience made me think of the ongoing USA’s Bureau of Land Management round-ups of our nation’s wild mustangs and burros. These round-ups are often conducted by herding the horses and burros with helicopters, resulting in long and terrifying runs for these animals. Runs that result in some horrific injuries, suffering and death, especially for foals and pregnant mares. If you would like to have the BLM stop these helicopter roundups, please visit Wild Horse Education’s website link below. This particular link has information about the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2022 (Bill HR 6635) and how you can contact your government representative to support the bill asking the government to stop the use of helicopters in round-ups.