Sunday, May 27, 2012

And So It Goes...

The day started off well. I met Cut-N-Jump and the real estate agent/hay farmer she introduced me to, who helped me find my new house, at a great Mexican restaurant for lunch. We sat for three hours and talked about hay, horses, food, exercise -- you name it -- over cervezas and in my case, fish tacos, rice and re-fried beans. I was hoping to watch Cut-N-Jump compete with her horses, but show season is pretty much over in Arizona so that horses can rest in the long summer heat.  It's always good to meet another blogger, and I'm sure we will get together again sometime soon.

I went home and continued reading the third book in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series on the patio.  As usual, interesting birds and rodents were flitting all about, and I decided to get my telephoto lens and try to capture pictures of some of them for you.  Of course, as soon as I grabbed my camera, my back yard became a ghost town.  I had a long wait before these two bunnies appeared off in the distance.  This is a terrible shot, but I find it fascinating because the desert cottontail in the center of the picture looks like it is running like a dog instead of hopping.

Trippy, huh?  I also got a bad shot of a hummingbird in the distance...

...and a snail...
No, that's actually a rock formation at the base of the Superstition Mountains that reminds me of a snail.

My son came outside to help me find animals to photograph when the Mexican food hit me...  HARD.  My neighbors had company over on their patio and they were all talking until, well, you know, and they suddenly got silent.  My son ran for cover inside the house, but not without first pointing the finger at me so that the neighbors knew who to blame.  I laughed until I had tears squirting out of my eyes.

Look!  Both my son and Midge can touch their upper lips.

Anyway, I relaxed on the chaise lounge when I heard footsteps on gravel.  I thought the neighbors were coming out of the side of their house, but much to my amazement, a woman on a horse with a dog in tow came around the corner of my shed.  She walked her horse up my gravel driveway, between our two vehicles, around our shed...

...and down this fence line that the neighbors put up specifically to keep trespassers out.  All the fence did was push them onto my property.  What shocked me was that my neighbor began banging on something metal right when the lady was riding her horse between our houses, and she had to turn her horse to face the noise so that it wouldn't spook.  Then when she was ascending the steep bank of the arroyo, my neighbor started up a power tool that spooked her horse, and it galloped up the hill.  I wondered if it was just a coincidence that he made those noises, or if he had done it on purpose to discourage her from trespassing again. 

The land came with a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign that is very confusing, because it has evolved over the years.  First it said, "PRIVATE PROPERTY - ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK" or something to that effect.  Then someone added in a clause about no motorized vehicles.  Then the neighbors put an arrow pointing at their property saying no trespassing, and the old owners of my house put an arrow pointing toward their property saying that hikers and horseback riders could come that way.  Then they crossed out hikers and basically said that only horseback riders could come on their property.

We've been advised by our lawyer neighbor to replace the sign with one that say NO TRESPASSING period, because we could be held liable if someone got hurt on our property.  A short time later I heard hoof beats coming from the other side of my house and looked over to see the same three people who have been riding through my property four times a day over the past few days.  Right after I snapped this photo of the man, he looked at me, and started complaining to his friends that I took his picture.

I was like, "Really?  You're trespassing on my property, and you're complaining because I took your picture?"

I heard one of the women say, "I don't know what the problem is.  It's not like we're doing any damage."

That's true.  They aren't doing any damage, but sometimes our dogs like to lie on our porch, and if a horseback rider suddenly appears on our property, I'm sure my dogs will attack.  Then I'll probably be sued.  It's that same problem all over again where we couldn't take our dogs out front at our old house because that nosy neighbor kept walking her dog back and forth peering in my windows a dozen times a day.  As long as no one came on our property, our dogs were perfectly well behaved and stayed within the boundaries of our property.

I didn't mind the horseback riders coming through until Scrappy started barking at some of them and startled their horses.  Then I thought, "What if someone gets thrown and sues me for letting my dog bark as they ride past my back door?"

My neighbors are right.  I need to protect myself as a land owner.  Also, earlier today my son was out and he overheard some horseback riders complaining about our neighbors for putting up that fence and ruining their trail.  So, people obviously feel entitled to ride on private property if you let them get away with it for a long period of time.  They feel like it belongs to them, and they resent you for putting up obstacles.  Well, all these horseback riders are going to be surprised when they return to find a riding arena, mare motel, and hay shed built over their trail.

Things went downhill when my daughter got in her car to go visit some friends, only to return a few minutes later to inform us that her speedometer and power steering were not working.  Crap.  When it rains, it pours.

The last thing we did with that car was to take it in for a smog check, and now the entire electrical system is on the fritz.  She tried taking our geocaching GPS with her to monitor her speed, but returned a second time saying that the car was now lurching.  This is going to cost hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars to repair.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that we have managed to lose four years of my hard-earned income in the past two months.  Most of it was a down payment on this house, but a lot has been forked out for ridiculous problems like this.  We suspect having the car sitting out in the heat may have triggered the electrical failures.  So far, Arizona has been killer on our pocketbook.  Looks like I have to reassess our finances again and seriously consider some radical changes, because if this lousy luck keeps following me around, my family is going to end up homeless and camping in the desert with the coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions.

My husband's theory is that we can earn back some of our losses by putting up a toll gate at each end of our property for horseback riders.

21 comments:

Linda said...

My son's car just broke down today in Montana--about three hours away from home. Had it towed and now waiting until Tuesday for the mechanics to give us the bad news. We'd just spent $2,000 fixing it a couple of weeks ago and they gave it an all-over check and great bill of health. :/ So, I feel your pain. What a great area you live in now though...I sure hope you can find a way to keep afloat with the $$$.

horsemom said...

Along with the no trespassing sign, I'd stick a beware of dog sign right under it. That might dissuade the riders.

fernvalley01 said...

Great you got to meet CnJ she is a great lady! and a lot of fun.Maybe once the horses are home you can connect with some of these riders and ride with them?

lilyrose said...

Your husband's comment cracks me up! Seriously, people around here feel entitled to ride anywhere they please if you let them. I would let them know they are not welcome to cut through your property. We know of one man who was sued by a rider that was cutting through his property-uninvited. The guy was bucked off his horse when the property owner's dog scared him. Stupid people. We have never crossed anyone's property without asking permission. Those riders can ride along Broadway to get to the horse gates there into the state trust land. I wouldn't feel bad about keeping them out.
If you can-try to keep your cars parked in the garage or under a carport. The sun and heat kills cars (and their paint jobs) here.

Reddunappy said...

Well at least horseback riders are better than the old creepy neighbor!!

A short fence with the sign? ever a section of hotwire across the front, doesnt have to be hot, but a cheap way to do it! Unfortunately we live in a sue happy world.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

How fun that you had such a nice lunch with a blogger friend. Wish you had taken photos!

I bet you are enjoying having your kids around you again. That's a huge plus living in AZ, I imagine.
Too bad about the car issues, though. I hope they don't end up costing that much. It would be better just buying a new 'used' vehicle instead.

I think it's a pretty stupid concept that riders might sue a homeowner when they ride across a land owner's property and they get hurt from their own horse. That's like a robber tripping and falling while stealing stuff off your property. They have absolutely no rights at all to sue for damages when they are trespassing.

As you remember, Valerie was hurt while riding across the edge of one of our neighbor's properties, when the pack of dogs came out of the lady's house and attacked her gelding, Scout. He fell backwards on top of her and broke her ankle, and then Valerie laid there while the neighbor watched and did nothing as her pack of dogs jumped and licked her all over.
Valerie didn't sue, because she had no right. But it would have been common courtesy if the neighbor could have least gotten control of those dogs.
All of the neighbors back behind us are welcoming to all of us to ride and hike on the perimeters of their properties. In fact, several of them have even created and cleared trails for us. They seem to like seeing horses, dogs on leashes and friendly neighbors. I'm grateful they do. These days it seems so many neighbors, especially those that move in from the city and suburbs, become anti-social and unfriendly, and put up fences and barricades and block any access to nearby trails, just because they can. If only the tables were turned they would possibly be a little more open-minded and friendly.

Thankfully there are still many ranch owners who live by the code of the old west and allow riders to access their land, as long as the riders remember to leave the gates the way they found them.

~Lisa

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate here...If people have been allowed to use that trail in the past, they simply may not be aware that the property has sold to someone who choses not to allow access. You are perfectly within your right to do that. However...part of having good neighbors is also being a good neighbor.

These are horse people, like yourself, who are just out enjoying their horseback time. Is it really so difficult, if you are already out there, to introduce yourself and simply tell people that you are the new owner and are going to be building horse facilities that will close off their 'route', so they should probably look for an alternative trail to get to where they are going?

As fern mentioned...these may potentially be people that you could ride with in the future...if you are ugly to them about riding across a trail that they have obviously had access to in the past, what are the chances of them wanting to get to know you and/or ride with you in the future?

I just hate to see you bring the ugliness you endured in NV with you to your new life in AZ. I think you are a much nicer person than that.

Once Upon an Equine said...

I was hoping you wouldn't have any neighbor issues in your new neighborhood.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

First of all, an ATTORNEY told me that horseback riders have every right to sue land owners in Arizona if they get hurt riding across their property. Anybody can sue me, even a burglar who cuts himself on my glass while entering my house. Also, there is a law that if the public is allowed to use your property for six years straight, you lose the property. It automatically becomes a public easement. Considering that that majority of the money I paid was for the land, and not the tiny house, I don't want to lose the land. So, I have to protect myself.

Secondly, I'm not sure what I said that gave the impression that I was being ugly towards these people. I was just sitting on my patio taking pictures of the wildlife and thought I'd take a picture of the horses and riders too. It was the riders who got snotty with me. I didn't say anything to them, because I was so shocked by their behavior towards me. When I write, "I was like...", I'm writing what I'm thinking, not what I'm saying.

Secondly, we do introduce ourselves to riders and let them know that we are building a horse facility on the trail if our hands aren't full at the time they come through, or if we have the energy. Some days it is so hot that getting up and walking out to where they are is exhausting. And there are so many of them. I can't introduce myself full-time. I figure they'll come through again when I have the time or the strength to chat.

Most riders follow the trail across our property, but the woman who squeezed between our cars and shed shocked us with her brazenness. She could have put a dent in our cars, and she brought her dog so close to our backdoor where our dogs were sleeping. Plus she was ignoring the rules of the sign that directs horseback riders to go south.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

One other thought: I just read through my posts and I don't think I ever really expressed my feelings regarding the horseback riders. First off, I don't mind them if they are respectful of my personal property and my privacy. My original intent was to let them pass through, but then we started receiving all this pressure from the attorney neighbor and other people we've met in the area to close off their access. Their arguments make sense to me.

Also, the riders have started riding across my other neighbor;s property too, and he has complained about that. So, basically, we have neighbors on both sides of us who feel like the previous owners of our property were making things difficult for them by allowing the riders to come through. So, who do I make friends with? My immediate neighbors or people passing through who could have just as easily greeted me instead of having conversations amongst themselves about their resentment toward the land owners?

I haven't altered the original sign yet, because I haven't made up my mind on what I want to do.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I should probably just write another post, because this is more complex than I can explain in comments. In the case of the boys who ride their horses and ATVs on our property, we're setting ourselves up for failure because since we allow them to ride their horses on our property, they ignore the sign that says no motorized vehicles. They definitely push the boundaries. So, in their case, it would be simpler to just say no trespassing period.

I'm sure that if Lisa and Val were my neighbors, I'd have no problem letting them ride through, because they are nice, respectful ladies, but I have to wonder about some of the people I've dealt with in the past few days.

Also, these riders are not going around the perimeter of my property. They are riding right past the windows and doors of my house, riding through my rock landscaping, and cutting across the middle of my property.

Cut-N-Jump said...

It was great meeting you too! I am sending you a link for a good, reliable and honest mechanic. They are hard to come by!

I would block off the property. What are they hurting? Well the trail will become a rut, horses crap, people will start leaving trash and yes, if your dogs scare their horse- which could happen anywhere- they could and likely would sue even if it happened because they were on your property without your permission. Sucks but true. Welcome to the Litigation Nation folks.

You can still be friendly to them, but even friendships have their limits of how far do I go or let them go before things need to be addressed? Do I let them walk all over me or just step on my toes, not trying to make waves? Ask yourself this- If they are that self centered and feel it is their right to do, take or ??? Do you really want them as your friends? Probably not.

The chick riding up between your cars? I would have gone out and handed her her ass on a plate! Seriously? I have seen the whole side of a car kicked in by a horse. Is she going to pay for the repairs? I doubt it. Who cares if she thinks you are mean or what she thinks anyways. Obviously she lacks that capacity of reasonable thought or actions resulting of such. Just my $0.02 for what it's worth.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I forgot to add- Horsemom suggested putting up a "Beware of dog" sign. Because everyone is sue happy and things, an insurance company can drop you or jack your rates because of signs like that.

"You were aware of your dogs aggression and did little to nothing to prevent an attack or encouraged it..." You are on your own and they drop you like a hot rock. It has happened before.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I did a little research for you..and your attorney neighbor. This is copied and pasted from New York's Recreational Use Statutes (But they are the same or similar as the laws for Arizona...link below)

"people depend upon the use of private property for outdoor recreation. To encourage landowners to keep their lands open to recreationists, legislation was passed in 1956 that limited the liability of landowners who allowed recreational use on their property when no fee is charged and the landowner receives no other consideration from the recreationist. Numerous recreation activities have been added to this list in General Obligations Law (GOL) 9-103: hunting, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, bicycle riding, snowmobile operation, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, sledding, hang gliding, speleological activities, boating, and the cutting or gathering of wood for noncommercial purposes.
GOL 9-103 does not totally exclude the liability of landowners toward recreationists. Assuming no fee is charged, the statute states that the landowner owes no duty to keep the premises safe for entry or use by recreationists pursuing the listed activities, or to give warning of any hazardous condition, use of property, structure, or activity on the property to persons entering for recreation. However, landowners are not protected if they intentionally harm a recreationist, or if they "willfully" or "maliciously" fail to guard against, or warn recreationists of, a danger on the property." (like a beware of dogs sign?)

"Question: Can I be sued for natural situations or hazards, such as if a rider's horse trips over a rock or falls down a steep slope and is injured?

A:Anyone can be sued, but to be successfully sued, the recreationist must prove that you (1) knew of a dangerous condition on your property, (2) realized the possibility of the recreationist encountering it, and (3) willfully or maliciously failed to eliminate or reduce the hazard or to warn the recreationist of it; and (4) he or she must show proof of actual loss or damage. Generally, previous courts have ruled that landowners have no duty to warn about naturally occurring, readily observable natural situations such as lakes, streams, or steep slopes."

"Question: I can't warn all recreationists because some don't ask permission. Can I lessen my liability by posting my land?

A:Generally, no. Posting 'No Trespassing signs' on your land gives you the ability to prosecute a trespasser, but courts make little if any distinction between trespassers and those who have permission to use the property when it comes to liability. Every landowner is responsible for keeping his or her property safe from foreseeable dangers involving others."

"Q. Is posting required to protect landowners from liability?

A. No. Whether the property is posted or not, the General Obligations Law protects landowners from liability for non-paying recreationalists on their property. Because of this protection, recreational liability lawsuits against rural landowners are uncommon. Recreational activities covered include: hunting; fishing; canoeing; boating; trapping; hiking; cross-country skiing; tobogganing; sledding; speleological (caving) activities; horseback riding; bicycle riding; hang gliding; motorized vehicle operation for recreation; snowmobiling; non-commercial wood cutting. This protection does not apply in cases of willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against dangers."

"Q. Why allow others on your property?

A. Most people who want to enjoy outdoor recreation are not troublemakers. They are people much like you who respect property, people, and the environment. Responsible guests can help you care for your property."

Here is the actual link for Arizona's Laws on Recreational Use Statues that encourages land owners to allow public access for recreational use on their lands:

http://www.prm.nau.edu/prm426/rec-use-horse.pdf

~Lisa

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Here is the website for the Arizona Recreational Statute in it's entirety.

http://asci.uvm.edu/equine/law/recreate/az_rec.htm

ps..You may want to print it up and share a copy with your Attorney neighbor, too.

~Lisa

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

In addition, the horse riders might like to know that they can print up a copy of the statutes and snow it to any land owner that they would like permission to ride on their land:

"All states have recreational use statutes.

They were enacted to encourage land owners to make their properties available free of charge (or for only a nominal fee) to the public for recreational uses.

The encouragement takes the form of protecting the land owner from legal liability for any accidents that may happen when the user is on the property for recreational purposes. The only exceptions are for intentional harms and for gross negligence.

Recreational uses include a wide variety of activities. Whether specifically mentioned in the statute or not, horseback riding is a recreational use.

Of course, the land owner retains the right to deny access to the public and the right to eject any member of the public who misbehaves while on the property.

If you have neighboring land on which you would like permission to ride, tell the owner about your state's recreational use statute. Or, better yet, print it out and give it to him. Relieving his fear of legal liability may tip the scales in favor of his giving you permission to ride."

~Lisa

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And for all of us who enjoy trail riding or who own property that trail riders would like to access, you may want to share this website with them. It has links to all of our 50 state's Recreational Use Statutes, especially for horseback riders:

http://asci.uvm.edu/equine/law/recreate/recreate.htm


~Lisa

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And finally, since one of your concerns was that if you allowed continual access to your property, the visitors to your land could possibly claim it as your own....this is not true and is not permitted under this statute:

"2. If an owner, lessee or occupant of premises gives permission to another person to participate in recreational activities, upon his premises:
(a) He does not thereby extend any assurance that the premises are safe for that purpose or assume responsibility for or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by any act of persons to whom the permission is granted.
(b) That person does not thereby acquire any property rights in or rights of easement to the premises."


~Lisa

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Well, I didn't figure you would like my comment NM and I'm sorry for that...but your posts are starting to get that same stressed, angry feel they did when you were in NV. You do know that your blogger buddies care about your right? That kind of stress is NOT HEALTHY! Believe me, I have been reading your blog for enough years that I was fully aware that you were most likely not verbally ugly to the riders you took pictures of. That is not your style.

It's not worthwhile to give a diatribe of my personal experiences with property and equine liability laws, but hearing the word ATTORNEY and they said this and they said that does not intimidate me in the least. Have you considered the fact that this ATTORNEY has their own ulterior motives for 'counseling' you on liability and easement issues?

If disrespectful uses of the trail are the problem...THAT is the problem and you people as property owners have the right to close off the access. It just pisses me off that an ATTORNEY is feeding you 1/2 truths to accomplish his/her desire.

The fact that someone 'could' sue you for injury while crossing your property is a reality. But as you pointed out...a burglar could do the same thing. So could a traveling salesman that tripped over your doormat. Everybody knows 'someone' who was sued over something stupid...odd how they never remember to say how the lawsuit turned out. ?? I would suggest that if you do continue to allow access that you post equine liability signs at either end of the access. Insurance companies suggest that ANYONE with horses post at least one of these signs in a prominent location. It won't necessarily stop a lawsuit...but does go to prove that the owner is attempting to warn people that there is an inherent risk.

As for the easement issue...that is a load of crap. There is absolutely NO premise for the continuous use access easement law when it comes to recreational trails across private property. Even an adjoining property owner who uses an alternate access across private property has a difficult time forcing the owner of said property to continue to allow access if they chose to shut it off...As long as there is an alternate and publicly accepted access. Recreational users have absolutely NO expectation of a 'right-of-way' on private property...especially if there is a publicly accepted alternate route, as Lilyrose indicated there was. Have valid concerns about the trail? Contact your local Planning and Development office. Don't go off the self-serving crap your ATTORNEY neighbor is telling you.

CnJ is absolutely correct about the 'Beware Of Dog' signs. Ironic how posting warnings about horses can help protect you and posting warnings about your dog can make it worse.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - Your research is in plain English. Thank you for taking the time to do all of that. My attorney neighbor also gave us some literature regarding her side of the argument when we first moved in, only I can't understand a word of it, because it's all legalize.

BEC - You sound like you have a lot of experience from both perspectives. And you are right -- I am angry right now, but it's mainly because I'm losing so much money through ridiculous, unexpected problems, and my dreams of being able to enjoy new home ownership are going to hell in a handbasket. I don't need the added stress of worrying about my dogs startling a horse and someone getting injured. I just want to take whatever route will lead to the least amount of trouble, because I'm tired of getting screwed by unfortunate circumstances.

achieve1dream said...

Good grief. I'm not going to get involved in all of the legal stuff because I don't know about all of that, but I'm in agreement about putting up no trespassing signs and not allowing access. I was also going to mention the beware of dog thing. Not a good idea lol. I wish people weren't so sue happy. Ugh!

I really hope things settle down soon. I hate unexpected financial burdens. It is cool that you got to meet a blogger. That must be so fun! And I love the sunset picture. So beautiful!