Friday, February 8, 2008

Reclaiming the Rural Lifestyle

I try to put a little time in searching for more horse blogs each weekend. As I find ones that fit my interests, I add them to my horse blogs list on my sidebar. I enjoy horse blogs that are personable and real (not skewed by the desire to make money). I like to learn from other people's mistakes as well as my own, so I like horse blogs where people admit their mistakes in addition to educating the rest of us. Pat Parelli says that most new horse owners get out of horse ownership within the first two years, because they are frustrated and don't know how to solve all those problems that come along with owning horses. Working with horses is synonymous with solving problems. I suppose that if you like math or psychology and aren't afraid to get dirty, you should like working with horses.

When I was a kid riding horses at day camp, I had no idea how much training had to go into those horses to get them to the point where they would readily accept child after child onto their backs day after day without putting up a fuss. I thought you could just grab a horse, any horse, and ride it to your heart's content. Now that I am an adult who owns three of her own horses, two of which came to me as untrained yearlings, I can truly appreciate how much work goes into training a horse to accept all our human expectations.

One of the blogs I recently read, Virtually Horses, mentioned the increasing number of city people moving into rural areas, and not having proper etiquette around horses. As these drivers pass riders on the road, they rev their engines and honk, scaring both horse and rider, creating a potentially dangerous situation. A fall from a horse is not funny. It can result in broken bones, paralysis, or death.

Nevada is currently the fastest growing state in the union. I've been battling rude behavior from newcomers for several years now. The major influx comes from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. I live on a dead-end dirt road, and though the road is within my property line, the owners of four other houses have to drive on it to get to and from their homes. I had been fortunate for many years, because all of my neighbors were either knowledgeable horse owners or quiet, retired couples.

Eventually, houses started going up for sale and the people who moved in knocked down the barns and corrals, built huge RV garages that blocked their neighbors' view of the mountains, and created motocross tracks where horses, goats, and sheep once lived. There was a rise in home businesses that involved manufacturing with noisy machines, and a rise in traffic. As the economy grew unstable, multiple families began sharing one house, front yards became parking lots for trailers and RVs, and the noise level of voices and vehicle engines increased.

I noticed that the people who lived on my private road were coming and going at a hyper, gas-guzzling rate, and many more drivers were coming and going to visit them at a frequency I couldn't comprehend. Why not plan all the places you need to go, and go there in one trip as opposed to coming and going every ten minutes?

Soon the hay farmers and dairy farmers down the street were selling their farms to contractors who were putting in subdivisions. The truck drivers who deliver supplies to those subdivisions were using my horseshoe-shaped driveway as a turnabout, which terrified my horses. Sometimes when an 18-wheeler triggered a stampede, one of my horses got hurt, and I had to pay hundreds of dollars in vet bills. Each driver who turned around in my driveway set off my dogs, and it took hours for me to settle them down so that they would stop barking at every human and vehicle that came close. We installed poles and chains to keep the truckers out since they ignored our Private Drive - Please Stay Out sign.

People were driving so fast on my dead-end dirt road that they were kicking up rocks into my barn and scaring my horses, kicking up dust into the air that floated in through my open windows in the summer months, which increased my housework load. I can't tell you how many times someone nearly hit my truck as I backed out of my driveway. Never mind that I was backing out first when the road was clear and had the right-of-way. Never mind that they were speeding recklessly through my property when they almost hit me. I couldn't let my kids play on the driveway anymore, because drivers would swing around through it at high speeds if we happened to leave a chain unhooked.

Truck drivers sometimes backed onto my front lot, squashing the saplings I planted there, and abandoned their trailers on my land without my permission, occasionally blocking the mailboxes so that no one could get in to pick up or drop off mail. I posted a No Parking sign by the mailboxes, but of course, no one paid attention to that. I often had to knock on someone's window to get them to move so I could get my mail, because so many drivers used our mailbox turnout as a place to read maps and talk on cell phones.

At night I heard teenagers out on my front lot partying, and I hollered out into the darkness ordering them to leave. I found beer cans, candy wrappers, potato chip bags and cigarette butts all over the place, and I also spent a good hour every weekend picking up neighbors' trash that blew into my yard because they were too lazy to put a lid on their cans. Eventually, we put in a pasture with a fence around our front lot to make it clear to people that it is not public property, and I began looking for names and addresses on the garbage so I could return it to its rightful owner.

I also began noticing that my hay and shavings were disappearing, so I had to buy a padlock to keep on my gate, and take inventory on a daily basis. I caught a man and his son walking around on my property helping themselves to some toys my kids left outdoors, and my husband chased them off. Another time my daughter came inside to tell me that a strange man was playing basketball with my son. The man turned out to be tourist passing by who thought it would be fun to join in on game of basketball with a little boy who was playing on his driveway. Not a bright idea in today's society.

Where once our community only heard emergency sirens every six months or so, we were suddenly hearing them twice a day. The sheriff was visiting neighbors' houses more and more often, and one day the FBI and a SWAT team actually surrounded the house across the street. Our sleepy, safe neighborhood where everyone left their doors unlocked was now a place where homes and vehicles were being broken into, fugitives were being harbored and record-breaking drug busts were taking place.

I can recall that when I first moved to this area 20 years ago, someone made fun of me for locking my car door. He said, "You don't need to lock your doors around here. You're not in L.A. anymore." Here I am 20 years later, and it seems that the entire L.A. Basin followed me. I had grown spoiled by being able to drive anywhere I wanted without traffic, walk into a bank and have my choice of six tellers all smiling and waiting to help me, order a sandwich at the deli without having to wait in a line. There weren't lines anywhere. Now I not only have to wait in lines everywhere I go, but I also have to fend off people who try to cut in front of me and take my turn. It's like this excessive population growth is smothering me. I can no longer hear the tree frogs sing nor the wings of a grasshopper above the constant movement of people closing in on my little corner of the world.

One day I walked outside to find pink, blue and green paint splats all over my horses and dogs. My poor animals had been victims of a drive-by shooting. That's when I got really angry and decided to get in people's faces -- make them take responsibility for their actions, as well as the actions of those they associate with. It is human nature to take a dump and run, but if someone is standing in their way, handing them a scrub bucket, they usually wimp out and clean up their mess.

I approached several of my neighbors about driving the speed limit and made them take responsibility for reminding their guests of the speed limit. I explained that I am not interested in breaking my neck when some speeder spooks my horse. When people ignored my 10 MPH signs, I ran out into the street and yelled at them to slow down. If someone ignored my Private Drive sign or No Trespassing signs, I let the trespassers know how offended I was by their disrespect, and promptly escorted them off my property.

I have been making progress bit by bit to reclaim my land and the rural lifestyle I love so much. I've noticed that when people drive by, they now look for me on my property and in my windows, and if they see me, they do slow down. Usually my presence is enough to get drivers to take the pedal off the metal, and I don't have to run out into the road shaking my fist as often. People who used to routinely turn around in my driveway now turn around in the street, even if we leave a chain unhooked. When I back out of my driveway, occasionally someone actually does stop and let me finish backing up. It's odd. It's almost like I taught them how to care.


Netherfieldmom said...

I feel your pain. The 126 acres behind us has been sold for development, but thankfully ?? because of the slowdown in the housing market, they haven't started as planned. We figure we'll get our house all done the way we want it and have to sell. How far do you have to go to get away from "them"?

Jackie said...

Wow, what a sad thing to have happen to a place you love so much. I can't believe some of the things people do! I'm glad to hear you've been able to whip them into shape a little ... protecting your and your animals safety and respecting you and your property. I can't believe someone would shoot animals with paintballs; I'm a pretty calm person, but that really would have made me blow my top!

Janey Loree said...

Know how you feel having people disrespect your property, horses and dogs. Great post with an upbeat ending. Thanks for sharing!

One of our Mustangs was a victim to paintball fiends as well and there is nothing that makes you more upset or madder should I say, than having someone hurt your animals!!!

Since my sons and their horses and dogs moved back to Texas everyone has been able to relax again...

photogchic said...

Sounds like you are living in the middle of Compton! I have never heard of people paintballing horses! That is crazy! As far as reckless drivers around horses, I always encountered that even back when I was a kid. People that don't know horses just don't know. I have issue with the cyclists that ride on equine designated trails only and they fly out of nowhere past you. Had some close calls two years ago and the cyclists never even slowed down or checked to see if we were "ok."

Twinville said...

I've seen some of the things you mention and it also makes me sad.

But the idea that people were shooting your animals with paint balls is just awful! Not even taking into consideration that horses and dgos are living breathing beings, they are also considered property.

Wonder what those same people would do if you slapped them with a lawsuit for damaging your property and causing undue stress?

So sorry to hear this is happening to you.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I never actually found out who shot my dogs and horses with paintballs, but decided to just start coming down on anyone who treats my property and family disrespectfully from that point forward. I did threaten one neighbor with a lawsuit who purposefully left her hose running all summer, drenched my paddock, gave my horses thrush, compromised the foundation of my barn, and drained all the water out of the neighborhood wells so that some neighbors had to pay $20,000 to dig their wells deeper. When you walked into her yard, you'd sink up to your calves in mud. I couldn't even get to her hose nozzle to shut it off without getting stuck. I think the key is to force others to look at their behavior through the eyes of the person who is suffering the consequences.

Viv said...

Good Grief, you sound like you have it worse than us here in New Zealand. Our biggest problem here is trailbikes, they are the biggest fad here with people buying tiny pitbikes for their children who can barely ride a bicycle - seems like madness to me and I am waiting for the first child death to start teaching these stupid people that machinery and children are not a good mix (it seems brutal to say such a thing but they don't seem to pay attention until death or serious injury occurs).

I'd also like to point out that although external injury is something we think about with horses, brain injury is our biggest threat. Even wearing an approved helmet does not mean you are totally safe from head injury and this is an insidious problem because multiple minor traumas can be as serious as one major event.