Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on Sharing the Air Space

I've been trying to think from the perspective of someone who has a neighbor with horses, and who needs to be considerate of the fact that horses are prey animals that scare easily. When we first moved into this house, we had a neighbor who owned one Quarter Horse stallion and several Quarter Horse mares. They were all lawn ornaments that no one rode.

One day my husband was giving the kids a science lesson and they were launching model rockets in our front yard. The horse owner came over and asked him to stop, because the noise was spooking her horses. He stopped for the day, but then decided that her request wasn't fair, because she wasn't even riding those horses. Nobody was in danger. In fact, he was helping desensitize her horses by launching rockets while they were grazing. They weren't throwing themselves against fences. They were just jumping and running a bit, which was probably the best exercise they had in years. So, he returned to launching rockets on other days, but as his rockets got bigger, he moved them out to the desert so as not to become a neighborhood noise nuisance. In fact, when his rockets got really big, he had to go to a designated spot in the Black Rock Desert to launch them, because the FAA has laws about how high you can project objects into the air in fly zones. You don't want to bring down a jumbo jet with your toy rocket.

That horse owner's brother started doing construction on the house every weekend, which was the only time I had to ride. The noises he made were just as startling and even louder than the noise the little rockets made when launching. I let the man make his noise until so many weekends had passed and I was running out of nice riding weather. So, I mounted my horse, rode over to the fence, and politely asked if he could avoid making loud, sudden noises for an hour while I rode. He said, "Like what?"

Like what? Like starting up saws and compressors and construction vehicles... like hammering and yelling... like dumping supplies out of the back of dump trucks... like every noise he'd been making every weekend for the past few months. This man was really clueless. I gave him a few examples of noises he'd been making that spooked my horses. Much to my shock and horror, he said, "FU, Bitch!" and marched off to gripe to his construction buddy about how it is his family's property and he can do whatever the hell he wants. Of course, he made as much noise as possible from that point forward. I was relieved when that house finally sold. Unfortunately, it sold to a man who runs a construction business out of his garage. I rack that one up to bad karma.

I have had a variety of neighbors do things that spooked my horses while I was riding, but most of them recognized that they were the cause of the problem and they stopped whatever it was that they were doing that was freaking my horse out. In one case, my neighbor was taking down Christmas decorations and started walking toward me talking, with a trail of tinsel garland fluttering in the wind behind her. My horse snorted and spun in circles, and my neighbor immediately dropped the garland. My horse then relaxed and we could finish our conversation.

I have another neighbor who rides a motorcycle, but he coasts it quietly up and down the street. He never revs the engine or races around. Being a firefighter, I'm sure he's seen his share of both motorcycle and horse accidents so he is cautious and considerate.

I have another neighbor who I feel sorry for, because in her case her adversary is her husband's business. She owns horses, and he runs some kind of manufacturing business out of their garage. I never see her riding, probably because her husband is always making loud, sudden noises. Her horses and her horse trailer just sit in their backyard unattended. I'm sure the horses are fed. They are just never ridden.

Whenever anyone else is riding a horse nearby, I'm always careful not to do anything that might startle the horses and cause the riders to get hurt. I put mending fences on hold until they are done riding. If someone is riding down my street, I wait until they have long passed before driving my truck or car out of my driveway. Yes, my time is valuable, but I can wait a few minutes if it saves someone from having to spend several months recovering from a broken bone.

I will admit that one time I had a task to do that couldn't wait. I had to disassemble the round pen, relocate it, and reassemble it in order to get a truck onto our property to dump some decomposed granite. Because I had an appointment, I had to get that task done. Unfortunately, a boarder showed up to work with her horse at my neighbor's place. As soon as I saw her, I started moving really fast to try to finish the job to give her time to ride. She was grooming her horse, and each time the metal panels clanked, her horse jumped. She yelled, "Damn it! What is that noise? It's driving my horse crazy!"

I apologized and said I'd be done soon, but had to get this done. I also forewarned her that a dump truck was coming. She made plans around it. Sometimes you just have to work together, so that everyone can get their needs met. She drove an hour's drive to ride her horse, and I certainly sympathized with her. However, I only had dump trucks come to my property once every few years, while she had been riding every weekend. It wasn't like it was a habit for me to constantly be disrupting the neighborhood.

I think the hardest part of dealing with neighborhood disruptions is trying to figure out whether the person who is doing the disrupting is just ignorant and can be educated or if he/she knows very well what he/she is doing and just doesn't care about the consequences. I always try to be patient, but if someone is consistently disrupting my hobby, then I need to figure out how to approach him. Sometimes the polite, friendly, educational approach still comes back to bite you if the person happens to be a sociopath who doesn't care for anyone but himself. I also have to weigh out the fairness of my request. If a neighbor is paying a construction crew to do a job on her property, I obviously can't ask the crew to come back later. I can, however, ask them what their schedule is so that I can ride when they are not working.

My nosy neighbor has been a handful, because I have tried to educate her about how her actions affect my horses, yet she just keeps doing them. She even boards horses on her own property, so she can't feign total ignorance. You can't work with horses every day and not notice their nature. I think the mere fact that she seems to reserve the times when I'm out riding for doing yard work, moving large, noisy objects around her lot, fixing broken gates and fences, walking her dog and darting in and out of obstacles along the way, searching her vehicles for lost items slamming each door repeatedly, taking the trash out, slamming and re-slamming the lid down on her trash can and whatnot, tells me that her disruptive behaviors are intentional. Whether she intends to spook my horses or just intends to loiter about to be in my business is a question I don't have the answer to. However, some good has come out of it, because I've been trailering my horses out to new locations more than ever this year. Anything to escape my stalker. And though it seems to be taking an eternity, my horses are slowly getting used to my neighbors' extensive list of annoying behaviors. I would just prefer that the horses get used to them at times when I'm not riding them.

When the boarders next door first showed up, I remember being in awe of how they could ride those horses anywhere, even along a narrow shoulder of a curvy road where drivers go 45 MPH while talking on cell phones and drifting out of their lanes, while other drivers are honking at them to tell them to get back into their lanes. The horses even walked past another neighbor who had a blazing bonfire going while burning weeds at the side of the road. All the while my horses were cowering from the crackling flames in the far corner of the paddock. I remember the rider telling me that her horses are used to anything and everything, because for many years she boarded them on a property that was right across the street from a construction project where they were building a new subdivision. I try to remember what she said when all the construction noises around my house reach a fever pitch, and try to convince myself it is good for my horses.

How all the noise affects me is a different story. I have a hard time convincing myself it is good for me. First off, it makes it hard for me to work out of my home and hear what other people are saying in phone conferences. People laugh at me, because they ask me questions and I don't know that they are speaking to me, and I have to ask them to repeat themselves. They think I'm either going deaf or just not paying attention. I don't want to tell anyone that I can't hear because of the racket my neighbors are making and because of the din of the truck traffic just a few yards outside my window, because then they will make me drive into the office every day where it is quieter. Our office has no windows, so we are just trapped at these tiny desks with nothing but walls and computer screens to look at. I like working from home, because I don't have to waste two hours commuting, I don't have to pack a lunch, and I don't have to stand in line for the bathroom. Best of all, I can feed my horses in the middle of the day and let the dogs in and out to do their business.

Besides, some days you just need to hear the sounds of jackrabbits munching on apples, horses grazing on grass, birds twittering in the trees, and the occasional frog ribbeting. It's sad when you become the only person in a neighborhood who craves that. People become desensitized their their own noises. They don't realize that they are slamming doors instead of closing them, that they are yelling instead of speaking, or that they are throwing things down instead of setting them down. I'm thinking of moving into a monastery where all the monks have taken vows of silence. I'm thinking of riding my horses there. Who knows? Perhaps the monks will enjoy meditating to the sound of clip, clop, clip, clop, clip clop...


Fantastyk Voyager said...

Awww, poor you. It must be so hard with such a busy neighborhood and trying to work out of your home too. How many houses are in your neighborhood and how much land does everyone own? I live in the middle of my neighborhood with 3 neighbors to the left and 3 neighbors to the right. Everyone owns at least 3 acres so I never feel crowded. My house is set back from the road and my horses are in the back, away from traffic too.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Val - I have 4 other neighbors who have to drive across my land to get to their houses, and they are on anywhere between one and five acres. The houses across the paved road are side-by-side with very little land, and there are about a dozen of them within hearing distance. One neighbor built her guest house window looking right into my dining room window and built a workshop just a few yards outside of my bedroom window even though she had plenty of land to build her house further away from mine.

The biggest issue is just that more and more people are working out of their homes like me, only instead of quietly working at a computer, they are building stuff, loading it onto trucks and driving back and forth to make deliveries. The road in front of my house used to have no traffic, but now all the truck drivers and tourists use it to avoid having to go 25 MPH through town. Population growth can ruin a rural lifestyle in a hurry.

The other factor is that most of the homes in my neighborhood were built in the 1970's, so they are due for repairs and remodeling. Thus comes in the non-stop construction. As soon as one neighbor finishes putting on a new roof, another neighbor starts painting her house. So, wherever we move, I plan on only moving to where there are newer homes, but no room for anymore construction of new homes.

Katharine Swan said...

Honestly, I think the key is what you said about how the noise affects YOU. I don't think the horses can fully become desensitized to the noise as long as they know it makes you unhappy, uncomfortable, uptight, etc. You can't really "pretend" not to be upset, either -- horses know better than that.

That's not to say you're doing something wrong, though -- honestly, you shouldn't have to worry about construction businesses or your stalker neighbor, it's a residential neighborhood for heaven's sake! -- but I'm guessing that's why they aren't becoming desensitized with continued exposure.

You are obviously very considerate of your neighbors. It's too bad they can't appreciate it and give you the same courtesy in exchange.

lytha said...

"People become desynthesized to their own noises."

I am so afraid of that! In fact, I brought home my cherished, huge copper windchime from America and proudly hung it on my plum tree. Windchimes must be an American thing, cuz I have never seen one here. When the wind blows softly, it sounds like churchbells in the distance. When the wind really blows, it sounds like churchbells a block away, which is quite loud. I have run around the property, listening to see if it could possibly disturb our neighbors, and I could not really tell. Even quiet windchimes could bother people. So I wrapped the centerpiece with vetwrap. Now they are silent, except for in extreme wind.

I am paranoid!

On the other hand you would love the nationwide law of quiet Sundays here. Nothing that makes noise is allowed, as well as all the businesses being closed, so you basically have to stay home and do very little that day. That would be your day to ride, because you can count on silence and very little traffic. For me, I always notice grass that needs mowing on that day, and have to wait til Monday, and then I have to wait til a "polite time" to mow a lawn. I think that is between the hours of 10 and 5:30 pm. I would hate to spoil someone's outside dinner with the sound of a mower. (Although when I hear a mower, it just inspires me to do mine!)

One thing I will not tone down is our laughter, because as an American, I am assumed to be loud and cheerful. So I am going with that preconception. Let 'em hear us laughing!


Andrea said...

Neighbors stink. I have some pretty rude ones, and they are related. But my horses have all gotten used to strange sounds. Hammering and tin being tossed here and there. But I have quarter horses, which seem to be more "dead" to noises than Arabians. Arabians are known for being "flighty" but I have always said they are known to be that way because they are smarter. Quarter horses are like the dumb football jocks. LOL!!

How long have you lived there? I would think after a while that the horses would just get used to all the commotion.

My sister in law has her horses right on a state highway. They get a lot of traffic and a lot of semis. Those big trucks will put on their jake brakes and her horses won't even lift a head up.

We always honk when we drive by and the horses don't move. I have even ridden in that pasture and have had people honk at me and the horses don't change what they are doing. It is funny how the animals just get used to things like that.

I am sorry that your neighbors are rude and inconsiderate. I have this vision in my head of what your neighborhood looks like.

Another thing to think about too is if you always ride in the quiet, what happens when you go to ride in an arena or on a trail where there are noises?

Got Dog Kennels said...

"She needs wiiiide open spaces, room to..."