Monday, June 29, 2009

A Tight Squeeze

Meet the (relatively) new park two blocks from my house. A couple of years ago a woman came to my door and asked me to write a letter in support of having an equestrian trail incorporated into this new park while it was in the planning stages. I wrote my letter, and received a nasty reply in which I was told that my house was not even within the district that the park was being built for, and therefore my opinion did not count. I was told that IF I was allowed to use this facility, it would be as a guest. Apparently, those who are within the district have been paying monthly fees that go to pay for the park among other things. I didn't know. I guess I am fortunate to not live within one of those districts that tax their residents.

My kids and I have been playing tennis there as "guests", and I have had it on my To Do List to take the horses there, since they did include an equestrian trail, despite my opinion not counting. Unfortunately, they placed the trail along the outside of the park up against the back yards of homes, so there are plenty of barking dogs, rippling flags, flapping tarps, rusted vehicles up on cinder blocks, lawn mowers, and even a back yard motocross track for the horses to spook at.

All the interior trails were laid down with gravel to assure that anyone who rides their horse on those will ruin their feet. It is also strategically placed behind a very active fire station with lots of P.A. talk and sirens. I decided that once I thought my horses could handle it, I'd first take them for lead line walks there, and then ride them there. Unfortunately, the road to the park is dangerous, so I have to trailer the horses for the two blocks.

On Sunday morning, I went out to investigate how I would get a horse into the park. They have the entire park fenced or roped off. The entrance I use to play tennis is a narrow set of posts in a triangle that you have to squeeze through. I drove over to the entrance that said it was for horses, and they had the chain padlocked.

This is the only entrance next to the padlocked chain that doesn't have a third post in the middle, but I don't think it is wide enough to get a horse through.

I mean, a horse might fit, but would it go through a passageway that is so narrow? After all, horses are claustrophobic and scared of strange objects. They won't walk near something without doing a full investigation first.

After having Bombay nearly plow me down trying to get through the gate at the Fairgrounds without having the trash can attack him, I'm not so sure he'd be keen on squeezing between those two splintery posts. By the time I got done looking at the entrance options to the park, it was 80 degrees and I was in no mood to trailer a horse out there to find out if it would pass through that tiny entrance.

Those are the tennis courts off in the distance.

That is a playground. The park is still in development, so I often see tractors out there. They will be building a skateboard park too. Not a whole lot of thought was put into what activities harmonize with horseback riding.

I know that horseback riders do use the trail, because I see hoofprints and manure out there, but I suspect those are very experienced, solid horses. I also suspect that they belong to people who can just walk them through their own gate in their backyard, because there are lots of homes lining the property that have horses in their backyards.

I understand that the reason why the park has been sealed off so tightly is to prevent ATVs from getting in. There is a sign that says "No motorized vehicles. Horse entrance only."

I appreciate that, but there's no way a Fresian or Draft horse would fit between those narrow posts. If I'm worried about getting an Arab through there, you know there are many larger breeds that won't fit. Maybe I should just teach my horses to jump that chain.


Reddunappy said...

Our park in town where we can ride down to the river has a dumb entrace too. Lets see it I can describe it. It is about as wide as your opening but it is on the side of a river dike so for some reason the horses have to step through a series of boxea made out of 8 inch rounds there are three boxes about 2 foot square, hooked together. it a pain to negotiate, especially when the sand has been worn away and its gets deep! The few times we have been down there my horses havnt had a problem with it, but it looks like an accident waiting to happen.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

All I can say is that is just frustrating and annoying on all accounts. :P bah!


Julie G said...

My horse lives about 5 blocks from the local trails around a nearby lake. The city just put in a large pad/parking lot and posted signs for trailer parking only. Looks nice, but the unfortunate part is that I don't know how to drive the trailer! I'm at my husbands mercy to be patient enough with me to trailer down the very twisty, dangerous, and very populated country road with no shoulders to get to the trails. He said that getting to the trails would be so easy when I moved my horse out to this barn. I've been there for 4 months and now with the Texas heat setting in, I don't see us trail riding for another 3 or 4 months! Good luck with your trail riding adventures!

Katharine Swan said...

Before you take a horse out there to try getting through that opening, I'd first practice at home. Maybe you can open a gate partway so that the opening is about the same width? Then I would teach them to stop, wait for you to go through, and then come through after them when you call them. Then you won't be as likely to get run over at the park.

All that stuff about the nasty letter, the gravel trails, and the fire station, though -- how annoying!

Kate said...

Looks too narrow to me. Maybe they could redo it with a U-shaped entrance that ATVs can't negotiate - our trails are non-motorized only and are guarded by really large rocks in the middle of the trail that can't be moved by ATVers or snowmobile drivers, but with passages on either side for walkers, bikers, skiers, riders, etc. Is there a trail organization - national or local - that could advise the government entity on trail entrance, and trail, design? Government people love "official" advisers!

KD said...

Doesn't sound real horse friendly, but to encourage you, we have to pass thru narrow fence openings like that a lot. Sometimes they have a short stob in the middle to trip your horse as well. Mostly I ride through them and think narrow thoughts,hold my legs close,and try to guide her straight so as not to knock my knees.

TCavanaugh said...

How rotten! Any chance for making friends of those who have horses that border the park?

Breathe said...

Where's Miss Manners for Bureaucrats? Boy she'd have a full schedule.

I'd practice with cones first. Then poles. Move them progressively closer. Worked with Canyon... Especially since there were carrots on the other side. :)

S. Lauren said...

Wow you must've felt slapped in the face with that nasty letter reply, they should've been more polite and thank you for your interest in supporting the equestrian idea of the park. I agree with you that they didn't plan it very well for horses but I guess if you do start riding out there you'll get a lot of bomb proof training! Good luck when/if you do go out there with them.

photogchic said...

Play the squeeze game....pass your horse between two barrels, yourself and the fence...whatever you find. Then back them through the "squeeze." They will then go through anything.

Paint Girl said...

In my neighborhood, there is an area of trails, but there are 2 big cement blocks that will stop a vehicle from getting through. A person walking or biking can fit. The space is maybe 3 feet at the most. I never thought my horses would ever go through an opening that small. But you know what? They did! I was very surprised! I will have to go down there and take a picture.
That has to be so frustrating for you, I don't see why you can only go as a "guest"! I would be so irritated.

lytha said...

oh no, don't jump a chain! scary! that's something you might get lucky with, but if not, you'll likely have injuries. i have chain dread since i was a green teenager with a green arab: )


Jessie said...

I agree with lytha, don't even think about jumping the chain!

If your horses load into a horse trailer, I can't see them having too much trouble walking between those two posts.

Have you ever seen a slant load trailer with rear tack? The trailer usually has 2 rear doors and the tack room takes up 1 of the doors so the horse has to fit through the other. Then, they usually have to back out. Once they learn they can do it, it's not a problem.

Practice at home with barrels if you have them, your horses might surprise you :-)

Lulu said...

Did you happen to measure the distance between those posts? They look pretty similar to entrances I've seen on several horse trails. Practice at home and you'll be as good as gold!