Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Be Kind

Ellen and I were coming home form a beautiful November ride up at the show ring area. We have been taking Mingo and Ranger up there on Sundays since last fall when Cruiser got hurt. They repaired and extended the trails, so we can get a quite a good ride.
On our way home, we came across some acquaintances on horseback. One of the party didn’t like something that we did, and she presented her opinion to us in a very untactful way. This didn’t surprise us, coming from this woman, but it still ruined our ride--for at least ten minutes.
It got me to thinking how some horse people treat other trail users. Rather than politely educate them when they are doing something that they don’t like, they treat them rudely by making smart remarks, yelling simply acting mean.

Kevin still, to this day, talks about the woman on a horse that gave him a hard time about jogging on the bridle path—even though he kindly stopped and went to the side of the trail to allow her to pass. (Joggers are allowed on our trails.) This was years before he ever imagined he’d own his own horse. He is still trying to figure out who she was. We have all seen joggers, hikers and dog walkers cower on the trail when they see us—as if they are preparing for a tongue lashing. I’ve seen some run off the trail into the woods when they see us coming. This isn’t right. We are all out there for the same reason—to enjoy the trails.

Our park has rules that state that dogs should be on leashes and bikes should stay on their own trails, but when we see violators, should we give them a nasty comment or be rude? Do we understand how easily our trails can be lost to us forever? We need the fellow trail users on our side, not against us. In our park, we are easily out numbered.

When we see a bike rider on our trail, we ask them to stop and allow us to pass. If he does, we thank him and explain that horses can be startled. We don’t need to remind them that in our park, bikes have their own trails. I’m sure they already know it.

If we see a loose dog that is not under control (some are so good, they don’t need a leash) we slow down and wait for them to put a leash on. If they don’t, Kevin will give them a long explanation about why their dog should be leashed. Ellen and I simply say, “Our horses kick.” That does the trick most of the time. No dog owner wants to see their animal hurt—it suddenly makes perfect sense to them why their dog needs to be leashed. Most people are just ignorant and need to be educated. Once the dog is on a leash, we cheerfully thank the dog walker and ride on.

If we see someone sharing our trail and they aren’t doing anything wrong, we say hello and act friendly. Really, we want these people on our side—lets be welcoming. If ever our trails are threatened, we want the dog walkers, hikers and joggers to say they want us there. Being rude is the last thing we should do. Friendliness can pay off where you don’t expect it, too. That is how I met Kevin all those years ago. He was just jogger. If I would have told him that he shouldn’t be on my trail, I would have never known all the joy I would have missed.


Something New on the Trail

We don’t have the luxury of owning a horse trailer, so we just ride on the trails that are accessible to our the barn. We are so glad that we have them. Since we ride them all the time, we know just about every step of the trails by heart. So do the horses.

This is always something we keep in mind. A horse that knows an area well will notice anything new on the trail. The other day, my sister was driving through the park on the way to the barn for our Saturday morning ride, and she saw the park put up a new sign in the Lagoon area fairly close to the bridle trail. We knew that it might bother the horses, so instead of trotting or cantering through there like we usually do, we slowed to a walk just as the sign came into view. Ranger and Cruiser eyed it suspiciously. If we were going faster, there is no doubt that they would have at least sidestepped. When I went by not long after with Mingo, he didn’t care at all, but then he always has been a less reactive horse.

We were also cautious on the way home. Once again, they noticed it, but their reaction was less pronounced. A horse needs to see something from both sides before he is comfortable with it. After that day, they never looked at the sign, again.

There is another part of the trail that had an unusual obstacle/horse-eating monster. A woman in the neighborhood lost a dog near the park, so she plastered the area with signs. She also set up the dog’s cage right next to the trail with his blanket and water dish. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see it until we rounded a sharp corner, so it definitely made our horses dance the first time. I’m sure the dog owner never thought that the horse people in the area might have problems with it, but it worried Cruiser and Starry quite a bit. After the first time, we could ride past it, but they would cringe on the far side of the trail. Kevin and I would warn each other when we got near it so we would slow down before it appeared. Eventually, Cruiser would trot right by—as long as he wasn’t close to it. I’m glad to say that the dog was found in a few weeks. The owner put on note on the “Lost Dog Signs” and took the cage home.

I have noticed that if there is an area that has things change all the time, our horses don’t seem to mind. There are some signs close to the trail that people will attach balloons and such to point to a party in the park. They seem to happen often enough that the horses seldom care. They are used to the changes.So if you are riding on one of your regular trails, and you see something new before your horse sees it, it is smart to slow him down to give him a chance to see


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