Have I become the crazy horse lady of my neighborhood? My husband Ron thinks so. He came to that conclusion the other day. I had put Wally away and was standing on our hillside, watering the trees, when a group of kids galloped down the trail and across our street. I dropped the hose in the brush and hollered, “Hey! Don’t run your horses across the asphalt!”
1. Galloping a horse on asphalt. This doesn’t refer to the numerous times I’ve spied a loose horse running down the middle of a street—which happens quite often in my town, unfortunately—but to the times I’ve seen clueless riders yee-hawing through crosswalks and from street corner to street corner at Warp Factor Five. Would it ruin their adrenaline rush to rein their horse down to a walk or slow jog when hooves hit asphalt? Have they not heard of “road founder” or “ring bone?” Have they never seen a horse slip-slide to disaster on pavement? Or do they consider downshifting to a more appropriate speed a sign of a spineless, wussy rider? I’m truly baffled, because I thought that a true horseman (or horsewoman) put their horse’s welfare and soundness first. Maybe I was wrong.
2. Longeing a horse (or pony) on bad footing. Believe me, I’m all in favor of longeing a fresh or naughty horse before placing my foot in the stirrup. But I’d rather hop aboard and assume the pose of Pat Day and pretend I’m a jockey for a couple of miles than longe my frisky horse over rocks, through slop or, dare I mention it again, ON ASPHALT! Yes, just last week my sister and I saw a fellow longeing what appeared to be the world’s cutest palomino pony in the street. When a car would approach he’d yank on the rope and stop the pony, and then resume the routine once more. It was actually my sister, Jill, who screamed that time, which is a good thing because she has the protection of anonymity since she lives in another town. Plus, she actually has the more booming voice, having honed her vocal skills while yelling at her Jack Russell terriers to stop digging up her vegetable garden.
3. Riding at Night without Reflective Accessories. It was only a few years ago that I was informed that horses see quite well at night. I suppose that’s an evolutionary trait that has allowed them to avoid nocturnal predators. But humans lack acute nighttime vision, especially when it’s combined with the glare of headlights. So why on earth would riders on an after dark trail ride neglect to use any of the reflective equipment available online or at any decent tack store? More than once Ron and I have been driving through our town and barely—just barely—avoided brushing against the hip or haunch of a horse and rider moseying alongside traffic. Naturally, they’re always on a bay or black horse, which only serves as more evidence to their lack of forethought. I know moonlight rides are pleasant, especially during the heat of summer. But if the trail leads anywhere near traffic both horse and rider should be sporting a modicum of nighttime gear. Otherwise they could end up being an unintentional hood ornament.
4. Small Equine, Extra-Large Human. I have to say, I rarely see a huge rider aboard a horse that’s too diminutive for the job. Most people (at least around here) seem to understand that horses, like humans, come in all shapes and sizes and it’s important to ride a horse that’s suitable. But that spark of insight is sometimes lacking when it comes to ponies, particularly ponies pulling carts. Ron and I were driving past our local 7-11 store the other day when we saw a small pinto pony lurching against its traces, trying its best to pull a pair of hefty humans down the trail. It was really leaning on the harness, doing its best to carry the driver and passenger forward. Eventually the woman stepped out of the two-wheeled cart, so the pony could get some momentum. But as soon as he took a few steps she hopped back onto the seat, which brought the pony to a near standstill once again. At what point was this woman going to get a clue? We were driving down a four-lane street, so we couldn’t pull over. But I clenched my fists and wondered why that woman couldn’t set down her Big Gulp and fistful of jerky, climb out of that cart, and simply walk home. Ponies and miniature horses are tough, sturdy little critters. But if they are trying their darnedest to pull a cart, and a demonstration has revealed that too much weight is in the aforementioned cart, it’s time to start walking. Or get a bigger horse and a larger cart.
Gee, I feel so much better! I’m sure you have things that make you want to scream. And while none of us wants to be branded as a know-it-all busybody, it’s hard to keep your mouth shut when you see a horse or pony in possible harm due to a human’s actions. So I guess I’ll just keep saying something whenever I see the need. I will, however, refuse to wear a badge or uniform.
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