Saturday, February 17, 2007

Well, Sort of a Ride

Snow and Slop

The air was warmed up and some of the ground had thawed, but the ring had a mixture of sand and solid snow.

I decided to tack up Tucker and try a little ride, even if it just meant walking.

What a good boy he was. We managed a fair bit of trotting. Nothing perfect as the footing was too irregular, but Tuck kept going as well as he could. Once we were warmed up at that and going as steadily as possible, I decided to try a bit of canter in the far end of the ring where there was mostly snow. Again, the boy was a star and actually handled the canter even better than the trot.

In the warmer weather, he sweated up on his neck pretty quickly, and since he had headed towards the gate to the woods with a certain determination when I first got on, I decided to take a short trail ride.

Out we went--to the field, along the edge of the field by the woods, with only one stop. Something in the woods was bothering him a little. But he was happy enough to head into the wooded trail where we made it to the halfway mark. And then, I heard it. The sound of an engine revving and it was coming our way.

I didn't take a chance but got off quickly. Sure enough, along came an ATV right up the trail we had been heading down. Bless his heart, Tucker didn't jump at all but kept his eyes fixed on the machine as I held him. At that point, the only thing left to do was head for home on foot as I wasn't sure I could get back on with my knees bothering me as much as they do.

While dismounting may not have been necessary, I am just not sure how Tucker would behave if confronted by an ATV right in front of his face. He honestly does get scared of some things and I never trust the ATV riders to stop or slow down for a horse.

The fact is, they are not supposed to be in the State Park at all. But, since there are few park rangers or police to patrol the trails, there is nothing to do about it. There are signs posted all over and if they do get caught there is a stiff fine and their vehicles can be confiscated. I keep wishing that the rangers would spend a month or so in concentrated patrol, enforce the law a few times and maybe discourage the illegal riders. Aside from scaring my horses, they rut up the footing terribly, create mudpits in the forest and mow down saplings and bushes. There is no regard at all for not damaging the natural environment.

With the evil ATV gone, I hiked home, tucked Tucker back in his blanket and saddled up Toby. We had a lovely little ride through the woods totally without incident. The nicest thing was that when I called him to go for a ride he came right over to me, so I know he was as happy to go out as I was.

I opted off for Chance this time. Perhaps I will work him tomorrow. I may lunge him a bit, ride in the ring just a little and then give him a trail reward. By then the edge should be off him and he will be more settled. He never really feels dangerous, but it is disconcerting when he trots off out there and I don't have real brakes.

All and all, considering the footing, it was a good day in the saddle. The forecast promises the rest of the week will be even better once a cold Monday passes.



  1. well done him .... shame there wasn't a handy log you could have stood on as a mounting block.

    maybe if you took a camera - not to photo the ATV riders, that would be dangerous (especially with all the guns y'all have out there!!), but to photo the very fresh tracks! and hand THEM in to the sherriff ... or put them up in some local community centre where everyone can see them .... and start a bit of a campaign. Photos would make it plain to all the damage being done.

    IN our village we have a "green group" - partner is a member - who take up environmental issues, usually litter picking and such stuff but also footpath maintenance and re-opening. do you have such a group in your township/county whatever?

    or - here's an idea - i know you teach english but no doubt there's someone in your school teaching geography/environment/blah.

    Get the school involved (if it's near enough) in biodiversity projects, spotting whatever wildlife you have rather than hunting it, so on, the parents get involved, and so on (exponential increase in involvement) and that also gets people thinking and more people in the woods on foot ...

  2. ps projects for infants/juniors (up to about age 11) usually go down well in the local press as well.....

  3. All great ideas, Claire. I am a trustee of an environmental group, and a main leader of a community action group. All well and good, but the ATV riders are so arrogant that unless the police are right there, they ride anywhere they want. Apparently as well, the police have had some run ins with them and been challenged to the point that it got dangerous.

    In one area, they destroyed about 5 acres of corn crops. I've seen their tracks into plowed fields. And, since my property abuts the park, I would worry that if I get too high profile about it they might do something to the horses.

    I honestly don't know what the ideal solution is, but if there were a park ranger or two who would come out on weekends to do erratic patrols and catch a few of them, it might discourage the riding.

    I do like the idea of getting school kids involved in protecting the land. At least it would be nice if they could develop an appreciation for nature.