Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trails, Trikes, Horses and Dogs

I loaded up yesterday and met a friend at the State land for a day of riding. The weather was good enough, it wasn't a downpour and it was above 40 degrees. We dosed up on mosquito repellent and the same for the horses and headed out. This was the first time I had been out on the trail since getting my Specialized saddle so I was interested in seeing how it felt for myself and Maggie in terrain other than my arena. Steph brough along her little Springer Spanial , Molly who is pretty well behaved on the trail, exept for the occasional chasing of a squirrel or deer. Normally I prefer not to have a dog along in this area because there are lots of other people with dogs and it's just one less thing to have to deal with in my opinion , but Molly seemed well behaved enough. They have recently logged this area so the "old" trails that I once knew very well are all but a memory now, so we put on our adventurous hats and just rode out onto various trails to see where we ended up. The thing about this area is that most trails eventually get you somewhere you are eventually going to recognized. As we came off one such trail, we realized we had been riding for 3 hours already and it was about an hour back to the trailer so we headed back down a trail that would take us back to the trail head. Along the the entire ride we had run into several mountain bikers and for the most part, they are generally willing to be courteous when they see a horse but they often aren't familiar with horses or comfortable around them. Mountain bikes coming down the trail at a high rate of speed toward your horse will tell you quickly how well trained your horse is. Unlike horseback riders who are always looking around checking the scenery, mountain bikers are so busy watching the terrain right in front of their wheel , they often don't realize they are coming up on a horse until it's almost too late. Horses often can't figure out what a person on a bike is. Even more terrifying to a horse, is a child on the back of it's parents bike! The other problem is that this area is heavily wooded. You can't always see the bikers coming but your horses is usually a good indicator that something is coming at you. Having to deal with bikers is just a reality where I live. Have to share the trails. The key to keeping the situation safe for everyone is to get the bikers talking. As soon as they say something, then the horse can recognize that it's just a person with really weird legs..However, if the bikers happen. Steph and I had run into about 4 sets of these mountain bikers and all were very friendly. If they happen to be coming up behind you that's almost a bit more difficult. yesterday we were only a short distance from the end of th trail head and there is a steep rocky decline to get down. Maggie seemed to be a bit tired so I jumped off of her to walk her down the steep hill. We were just about to the bottom when Maggie's head popped up , laid her ears back and wheeled around. 3 bikers popped over the top of the hill and were coming at us very fast, along with a vary large Chesapeake dog. I pulled maggie out of the way to the side of the trail because they still hadn't seen us, again trying not to crash on on a bike while going down a steep hill takes alot of concentration! With bikers, they are supposed to yeild to horseback riders, and most times they do but I always opt to get out of their way and let them go by, for obvious reasons. Most will yeild and stop and cautiously go by. This group hit the brakes as soon as the biker in the front saw me, which by that time he was only 10 feet from me but his dog was a different story. His dog came at Maggie and I , barking and growling. I guess it was just a reaction but had my lead rope in my hand and the dog caught the business end of it right in the nose, right about the time he was about to get way to close for comfort. I am not sure if he would have just sniffed me or Maggie but he was showing way more aggression than I thought was necessary so I just reacted I guess. It startled him but he got pissed and came back , more towards Maggie's nose. The owner, who was telling him "No" wasn't being effective in the least. At this point, the dog barked and growled and was trying to figure out how to get around the crazy lady with the rope when the owner finally had enough sense to ride off so the dog would follow him, meekly apologizing.

I climbed back in the saddle once we got to the bottom of the hill and kept heading for the parking lot. We got to the end only to find that these bikers were still there, in the biker/hiker parking lot (which is separate from the trailer parking) and so was the dog. I had to get past them one more time, cross the road and go another 1/4 mile to get to the trailer. As I passed through, the dog ofcoruse, came towards us again. They were able to grab him in time before he followed me across the road.

So, another adventurous day on the trail . Maggie is pretty tolerant of things like this, for which I am grateful. She wasn't rattled afterwards,, but it did scare her a bit. I couldn't help but wishI had been riding JB at that moment the dog came at us. JB gets down right "stallion" like and would have tap danced all over that dog had he come at us like that.

I don't mind sharing the trail with bikers, hikers, dogs, and other non-motorized recreators, but it seems that maybe there is some opportunity there to educate one another since we both have to share the trails.

Anyone else run into these situations? How do you deal with them?

On a the flip side, the saddle worked out great. I was very happy with how it fit Maggie and I was comfortable as well.


Funder said...

Is it still not summer for you? Ugh!

Maggie is a rock star. What did Steph's horse and dog think of the Chessie? And how'd the saddle feel?

I'm glad that I usually only have motorized vehicles to deal with. They can't hear me, and like the mountain bikers they're concentrating too hard on the trail to see us in advance, but I can hear them and move off the trail. Bicycles are sneaky and I can't hear them coming!

Honestly, I don't think there's a lot more education to be done. People on wheels don't look up because if they did they'd crash into trees more. Horses are unpredictable; so are dogs. I'm glad to have open spaces to take my dog off leash and I wouldn't want to take that away from anybody with a remotely well behaved dog. JMHO!

Jonna said...

Well it hit 60 today,so I guess it's summer..uh..ish?? I think we are on tap for a cooler summer. You are lucky to not have to deal with all the craziness like we have here. Don't get me wrong, I am not against dogs or people letting their dogs run but, yes, it needs to be well under control and safe. Maggie was a trooper about the whole thing. Steph happened to veer off to another trail off to the other side so she missed the whole damn thing...

Jonna said...

oh, saddle was great.. I guess you missed my last line of the post.. was afraid of that!

Tammy Vasa said...

I was on a shared trail a few years ago. Most of the places, the horse trail rides adjacent to the hike/bike trail which was an old railroad converted to trail. At one place, the horse trail runs out and you have to go on the limestone (hike/bike) trail for a bit before the horse trail continues. While on the limestone, with heavy tree brush on both sides of it, we see bikes coming our way. Like you said, they are looking down at the terrain, not ahead. We holler, whistle, yell... and they keep coming. So we move our horses as far off to the trail as we can - which isn't much. The second biker saw us and stopped; his buddy still coming for us full speed. He looks up about 2 ft from my big black gelding and hits the brakes. He loses control of his bike and rolls thru the trees and the brush down the side of the hill. When he stops, he gets up and pulls the I-pod buds from his ears. His bike was bent, his knees bloody and he was pissed. But he knew enough not to take it out on us. He came back up - we apologized for his accident but told him we tried to warn him but he couldn't hear us - he didn't comment - straightened his wheels which were bent & rode off.

Like you, we try to have conversations with the bikers so the horses know what they are. And we are really good about thanking bikers for moving off or stopping. It gives us a chance to educate them a bit.