I live smack in the middle of prime, North Texas horse country. Take any road from any direction and the landscape is one picturesque, sprawling equine facility after another, sporting familiar names like McQuay, McCutcheon, Manion, Simons, Hendricks, Knost, Babcock, etc. Horses are a ubiquitous aspect of life and culture here. Horse hauling and horseback riding are not novelties. You can tell half the folks you see (and smell) at the grocery store came directly from working their horses or mucking stalls. Nobody looks twice.
So what the hell is wrong with people?
The last time I took my Boyz up to Heather's, no less than 3 people pulled out in front of me, cutting it so close, I had to apply my brakes, to varying degrees. Now, this pisses me off enough when it's just me in my truck. I become unhinged when people are so stupid, insensitive or selfish, they have no regard for the fact that I'm hauling several thousand pounds of live beings behind me. When it's possible, I try to be courteous and ride to the right shoulder to allow other vehicles to pass me, but I guess some people have important places to be in one hell of a hurry.
Yesterday I found myself thinking of what could happen, after hearing a traffic report about a flipped horse trailer on one of Dallas' busiest freeways. I literally almost vomited. I have a stock trailer and a very vivid imagination, although it doesn't take one to burn a truly horrific image in one's brain. Mine looked like this: trailer on its side, Jazu on the bottom and the much-larger Poco on top, both terrified beyond belief, injuring themselves and each other in their futile efforts to escape, and me, unable to calm them or physically help them in any way. If that doesn't raise a wave of nausea, I don't know what will. And I'd be willing to bet the fault was not with the person hauling the trailer, but some ignorant YAY-HOO, in a huge hurry to get one stinkin' car length ahead in rush hour traffic, that cut the driver off, causing them to swerve and slam on the brakes.
I probably shouldn't even get started on the way people drive around riders on horseback. I'm lucky -- my horses are very comfortable around vehicles, including noisy tractors and riding lawn mowers. A fairly busy road goes past one side of the property, and the Boyz are well acclimated to every sort of mechanized vehicle roaring past. When they are at Heather's, busy train tracks run the full length of their 30 acres. I have actually had to bump Jaz with my car to make him move out of the way, and he's gotten whapped in the head by my side mirrors multiple times. It takes quite a lot for my horses to be upset by a vehicle, but that's not really the point. We all know things can go terribly wrong when you least expect it.
When I first started riding Jaz down our country road, I was appalled at the total lack of common sense, much less courtesy, exhibited by my own neighbors. And it's not just car and motorcycle drivers. The bicyclists and ATVers are just as bad -- maybe worse -- because they're usually kids with no respect for their own mortality, much less anyone else's. The slightest modicum of sense should tell you that you are approaching a (relatively) small and fragile human atop an 1100-1200 pound beast. Whether you know anything about the nature of herd animals or not, it ain't rocket science. You don't have to stop or even crawl by, but you also don't blow by so closely and so fast that you make my horse's forelock fly up. This is especially true on a narrow road with steep shoulders that (in places) drop into craggy ravines and drainage ditches. Just slow down and give as wide a berth as is safely possible. I want a bumper, er, BUTT sticker that says, "If you can see the the mottling on my dock, you're too close."
When I first hear or see a vehicle approaching, I stick my arm out, palm flat, with a slow, pushing-down motion, i.e., "CAUTION, possible dangerous situation here." You would be amazed at the people who fly by, never a pause, shooting looks that say, "WTF is your problem?" I am no longer shy about yelling, "SLOW DOWN!" I can't tell you how often I've entertained the thought that, if I were a better rider, I'd kick my horse into a gallop, chase them to the stop sign, and give them a piece of my mind.
And then we have people who think it's their God-given right, as country folk, to let their dogs roam. My horses generally don't even bat an eye at large, goobery, über-macho dogs. We have two that don't have the sense the good Lord gave a doorknob. They run right in front of the horses or under them as they stand. Again, it takes a lot for my horses to get wigged by a dog. And again, that's so not the point. Most of the time, the dogs are just being goofy and pose no real threat. But there are exceptions, as evidenced by a post on a fellow blogger's site, showing the results of a nasty pit bull bite on a passing horse's neck. Just in terms of the dog's safety, letting them run is a bad idea. We have coyotes, bobcats, wild boars, poisonous snakes, rabid skunks, all of which are a very real threat. Every single day, I see at least one dog and several cats that have ended up as roadkill. When I used to run, I learned to be fearless and firm around loose dogs. I can generally make them back off with verbal commands and body language, but there have been times when I've had to get off my horse, grab a stick and get into it, for the safety of me and my horse and that of the stupid dog. You try to talk to the owners about crap like that, and they get all incensed, like you just told them they couldn't fly the confederate flag or toss beer cans off the deck of the trailer!
Is it asking too much for common sense and common courtesy from the common man?