Alaskan dressage riders, trainers and officials had to make some changes to their competition day — when a baby moose was found sunbathing by the arena, and Mum was close at hand.
The Alaska Dressage Association held its first affiliated show of 2021 on 13-14 June and while Saturday went entirely to plan, Sunday did not.
United States Dressage Federation regional director Peter Rothschild was technical delegate for the show.
“I’m the person who makes a report to the federation on what went on at the show,” he told H&H. “This week’s report was slightly different, and included a photograph.”
Peter turned up at the showground early on Sunday morning to be greeted with the news that the calf was lying in the sun, some 100 feet from the A end of the arena.
“I was saying ‘this is really cool’ as there are no moose where I live but I understand moose are more dangerous to humans than bears, as bears run away.”
The show manager, a wildlife biologist retired from the state fish and wildlife department who is familiar with moose behaviour, said the calf was very young, two days old at most, and that its mother would be nearby.
“Then Momma came out of the woods, came up and snuffled it and it raised its head and then went back to sleep,” Peter said.
“We’re all looking round thinking ‘what the hell are we going to do?’ I thought we really couldn’t start the show but Rosa the manager came up with an idea.”
The manager called a meeting of everyone; riders, trainers and officials, and presented the options.
“One was to cancel, which wasn’t a good option,” Peter said. “Two was to move the arena to the warm-up, which wasn’t a good option as it had been used for reining the day before the show so the footing was terrible. The least worst option was a barrier.
“Rosa came up with the idea of a barrier of vehicles around the A end of the ring, to give Momma moose the protection and privacy she needed to come out of the woods to the calf and back, and to be a physical and visual barrier for the horses, in case the momma came out when people were riding.”
The show started an hour and 20 minutes late but bar a few withdrawals, ran almost as planned.
“One or two of the horses had some issues; but then one or two had issues the day before when the moose wasn’t there,” Peter said. “These things happen; we have wild animals and they’re going to do wild things.
“The mom would come out every now and then and snuffle and lick the calf, sometimes she’d hang out and nibble a few branches. Then, about 1pm, she just walked over the outer fence of the arena, which must have been a metre or more high, walked along the track, sniffed the flowers and might have had a nibble, and then across the A end.
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“Fortunately, that was during the lunch break, but the riders took it in good spirits. They’re Alaskans so they know this stuff happens, although this was a new one.”
Peter added that what topped off the weekend’s wildlife-related incidents was that his lift to the airport arrived the next morning, but he could not leave the house as there was a black bear at the front door.
“It was fun,” he said. “I hope they invite me back to work one of their shows again.”
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