Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Horse Power at Odds

everal months ago we had an incident that appeared benign on the surface but which turned out to be a   (figurative) loaded gun.  A local motorcycle group staged a "cruise" that took a couple of hundred bikes  slowly past my farm.  Unwarned, I had two horses in the paddock close to the road.  Until that day, we'd never had any issues with passing motorized equipment.  Trucks, tractors, snow plows, cars, even motorcycles had never presented a problem for my horses.  But there was something about the endless low rumble of the bikes as they streamed by in single file for what seemed like an hour--and may have been even longer--that upset the two closest horses, and when I tried to move them to a more protected location, both managed to burst through the gate and lead us on a merry chase. 

The older horse, Leo, gave up pretty quickly as escaping is never his main goal.  He might, after all,  miss a meal, and that would be too depressing for him to bear.  Eating, sleeping, and romancing his lady love are what he lives for.  He ran a few feet, then waited while I put a lead on him and took him to another paddock.  Duke, the mini, however, likes nothing better than a little freedom and the possibility of getting out with the herd where he can stir up trouble.   So for twenty minutes Cliff and I used all of our combined wiles to tire him out enough to effect a painless recapture and release into a pen far from the column of bikes.

Horse Power I

Horse Power II

 Oh, we've had other horse-power-related events, like the time the kid across the street pulled the big diesel tractor out onto the road through the pasture gate at his grandfather's farm while I was hacking around my hay field on Dakota.  It wasn't the tractor that made Big D do a sit 'n spin and launch me into the dirt.  It was the cows.  The cows didn't like the tractor noise, so they bolted away from it.  Dakota, never one to miss a red flag, saw that, figured they had to be frightened for some reason, and spun around to see what it was.  Wimp.  

That was an easier problem to solve as soon as I got back aboard and rode the big fellow back and forth in front of the gate while the cows regrouped.  There was some twitchiness involved, but once everyone had a nice chat about the noise situation, sanity returned. The motorcycles were not so easily crossed off the terrorist list.  For nearly a year, I couldn't get my two horses back into that front paddock. We're okay now, but weekends I've learned to leave that paddock empty as I never know when there will be a replay of that cruise.  And now every bike that goes by gets several worried glances, and I found myself face down in the road when one passed me and little Duke on our daily walk.  

That's my basic horse power complaint.  We don't do daily walks anymore, more's the pity.  That was a fun thing to do and good for our respective jell-o butts.  But there are other kinds of "horse power"--ramped up output for no good reason other than its own purpose--and for other reasons we also have to resign ourselves to limited trail riding on our own property thanks to the new development that abuts my woods.  Start with the dogs constrained only by underground fencing that appear to be charging my horse and add the screaming children and the pool toys that blow aimlessly through my woods.  We duck-and-cover on holidays as the neighbors in said development like to shoot at things when they're drunk, and my pasture seems to be their backstop.  And even my hunters have complained about the music cranked so loud it makes my office windows rattle more than a thousand feet away from the source.  Certainly not riding towards that.

My preferred form of horse power is pretty quiet and tends not to annoy the neighbors.  I intend to keep it that way.  It's ironic that by choosing to husband the land and maintain open space and a rural atmosphere in a place that outwardly prides itself on that, I'm finding myself more and more constrained, not by ordinances and laws, but by people whose attitudes simply don't match mine.

So I'm writing this whiny version of my blog in the hope that even one of my readers may think twice before engaging in an activity that a neighboring horse owner might find upsetting or even dangerous.   I don't expect non-horse people to be knowledgeable, and horse people need to be open-minded as well, but if we all, in all situations, assess our surroundings first before we act--listen before we crank up the volume, look at expressions on others' faces before putting that cell phone on speaker during dinner,  check in before checking out--we might all like each other just a little more. 

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