Posted tagged ‘neighbors’

Hacking Out in the Pandemic

May 9, 2020

Weeks into lock down.

The only places, other than the grocery store, I go is to the barn and the local trails. My horse is boarded close to an awesome conservation area. I am blessed to be able to ride. Other owners are not as lucky and are unable to visit their horses, let alone ride. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking that is.

I would be a mess without this respite. Uncertainty can be crippling.

This Spring was supposed to be crowded with organized rides and maybe a show or two. Weekends are empty of events.  So, we hack out.

Small Brook

In the fifteen plus years I have been riding these trails, I have never seen them so crowded with families and bikers. It is wonderful, but I worry it could negatively impact equine access. While many are thrilled to encounter a “real horse,” others complain horses are “ruining” the trails and pose a safety risk.

Last weekend we encountered a woman with a large dog she was struggling to control. She screamed at us to go another way because the trail was “too muddy” for horses. As we do in these situations, we thanked her for the information and complied with her request.

We checked the trail later; it was not muddy. My suspicion is she was afraid she could not handle her aggressive dog.

I wish I could say encounters like this are rare, but they are not. As an ambassador for my sport. I must remain calm and avoid being confrontational. Especially now when everyone is frustrated and, many, afraid.

This pandemic will not last forever.  When the world returns to what will be the “new normal”, I do hope that those who have turned to the trails to escape boredom will continue to use them. Even more, I hope they decide to become active in preserving them.

As for horses sharing trails? There is room enough for all users to enjoy the natural world around us.  Perhaps others will come to understand what we trail riders have always known- trails are a gateway into nature and a bit of heaven on Earth.

Be safe!

Of horses, neighbors, and common courtesy

May 9, 2013


When I grew up there was open space, woods, farms and places to play. Many people kept horses in their back yard and tons of trails were nearby. I remember spending my summer days wandering woods and fields that no longer exist.

Then came the 80s and eastern Worcester county was overrun with development.  McMansions replaced woods and fields. Newcomers did not appreciate the inconvenience of living near livestock. Towns passed laws to appease them. The town I grew up in overdeveloped into a near continuous maze of expensive boxes with small lawns. Woods are gone. There are no longer any working farms. The remaining trails are on “conservation” land not accessible by horses. Not that there are many left in town.

It is sad.

One town over, Grafton fared much better. Development was tempered with open space requirements. Miles of trails remain.  There are still some open fields and horses.

Those of us with horses should respect our non-horse loving neighbors. Not everyone is thrilled at the sight of a horse passing their house.  Nor do they appreciate “gifts” left in the road.

It is important we respect this.  It only takes a few moments to clear the road of droppings. It is common courtesy and goes a long way to keep the peace with neighbors. Not every rider feels this way.  Recently I heard a third hand account of a rider being rude to a neighbor who asked them to clean up their horse’s mess. What a shame. I’d hate to see this behavior hurt the rest of us to who try to be good neighbors. We have to use the road to get access to the trails. What if we were prevented access?

At the same time, our neighbors should use common sense when passing riders on the road. Over the past few weeks my horse has been spooked several times by trucks and cars. One young woman was speeding down the dirt road we were on. I asked her to slow down and when she came up beside me she actually sped up and laughed. Not only was that rude, it was against Massachusetts law, which requires drivers to slow down when approaching livestock.

We share the town and the roads. It would be sad to see the horses pushed out of town because we can’t be nice to one another. It doesn’t take much effort to be respectful and courteous. And it is the right thing to do.