Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, April 17, 2000

Motor vehicles and horseback riders don't mix - use caution at all times

By ANDREA VARGO

By Andrea Vargo

When you see those kids on horses up ahead of your car, realize that the horse's favorite position is on top of your car!

More people than ever before in our area enjoy the pleasures of owning a horse, but the safety margin between that horseback rider and your car is very slim.

A horse will not move away from your car. It has no conception of the speed at which you are moving, or the fact that the car is heavier than it is.

A frightened horse will just as likely jump in front of your car as away from it.

Although it is a temptation to honk at the riders . . . don't. The sudden noise can spook even the most road-wise horse, and the result could be serious injury or death to the rider.

Slow down as you meet or pass riders, please. Young riders don't always know what to do if their horse is frightened, and other riders may be on young horses that haven't had much experience, yet.

If you are on a gravel road, think about the rocks that may be thrown onto either the horse or rider from your vehicle.

The sudden pain of being hit by flying gravel may cause any horse to jump or run, throwing and possibly injuring its rider.

If the rocks hit the rider, he/she could be seriously injured, and you could be liable.

Horses are afraid of bicycles and motorcycles. Why? I don't know, but they will jump in front of a motorcycle just as quickly as a car.

If you meet riders, slow down. If a horse looks afraid, please stop until the riders pass or move into a field or safe place.

And riders, be considerate of other's property. Stay out of planted fields. Ride where you know it is acceptable. Wear your safety helmets!

Now that I have been on my soap box for awhile, I'll move on to some experiences I've had in the horsey area.

Where to start?

Well, how about in the middle?

My old grey Arabian gelding, Stormy, has kind of a bad reputation.

He is a solid, reliable horse out on the trail, as far as obstacles, rivers, and other hazards are concerned. He knows traffic, and will tolerate anything from being buzzed by an ultra-light to huge farm equipment.

Stormy will not tolerate being too far behind the horse ahead of him, and he would prefer to be ahead of every other horse in the group.

This is a lack-of-training problem on my part. Consequently, I never let anyone else ride him, which isn't hard, because no one wants to.

The first time they see him throw a temper tantrum, that takes care of any desire they might have to ride him.

Shots were another problem area. After one vaccination, he actually stood in the middle of his stall, stamped his front feet, and screamed.

In fact, he was so difficult to give shots to, that he went through most every vet in the county (they hated him), before I found a lady vet. He never suspected a thing, all the other vets were men.

We did find out he tolerated shots on the left side better than the right.

A bit in his mouth? Well, after 27 years, I finally gave up the bit and went to a bosal (a braided rawhide band across his nose).

He is happy, and I never had any control in the first place, so I guess there is no real difference on my part.

The two of us have a very good working relationship. If I want what he wants, we do it.

Stormy is a big baby. None of the other horses like him, and he spends most all of his time alone, away from the herd.

He was my only horse for many years. If I don't pay almost daily attention to him, he stops eating.

Last summer, when we started building the house and got busy, I thought he was going to die, he got so thin.

I finally had to take him out of the pasture and bring him to the arena by the barn, so I could hug him and spend some time with him every day.

He gained weight and looked really good. I put him back out in the pasture a month ago and had to bring him in last week. He refused to eat, again.

Now, he is happy.

He used to be my 50-mile endurance racing horse. He loves to see what is around the next bend in the trail.

After 50 difficult miles and 10 hours on the trail, he will come across the finish line with his head up and his tail flying.

At our first race, it was snowing and raining. The sleet blew almost horizontally, down the neck of my rain gear.

Most of the other horses bent their heads sideways to avoid the wind. Some of them even quit.

But Stormy faced it straight on and carried me through one of the most miserable days I have ever spent.

We both loved it, and we were hooked on distance riding.

Our second ride was in the Pine River area, north of Princeton quite a ways.

It also rained lightly that day, although it had really poured the day before.

Trails led through some swampy areas and were flooded with running water.

The advice of the ride management was to stay in the middle of the trail (which couldn't be seen) or the horses might get bogged down in the swamp.

My trusty little Stormy and his good instincts took us through miles of flooded trail.

The only time there was a problem was when we were coming out of a wooded area, my glasses were wet with rain, and I couldn't see the trail marker.

I turned him to the right along the side of the woods, and he came to a complete stop.

Nothing I could say or do would make him take one more step.

Cold, wet, and cranky, I gave him a kick. Nothing.

I turned him 180 degrees, thinking if I turned him again, he would move down the trail.

As soon as I turned him the first time, he took off at a trot.

I fought him to a stop, and as I looked sideways into the woods, there was the trail marker. He was right, and I was wrong.

That was the first experience I had with the excellent homing instincts of a horse. He knew which way the other horses had gone by smell, I suppose, but he also knew which way pointed towards the trailer.

If it weren't for Stormy, I would still be lost in the woods in the Pine River area. I love this little horse.


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