Saturday, June 2, 2012

You Want My What?

Permission?  You want my permission?

In another post I had written about some some horseback riders who rode through my property with bad manners.  In the case of one rider, she squeezed between two vehicles on my driveway, and then rode along the northern perimeter, despite my neighbors to the north putting up signs asking riders not to go that way.  She also had a dog off leash, which would have been bad news if my dogs were out and off leash too.  Obviously, you can't exactly keep a dog on leash while riding a horse, but if you know you have to ride through a variety of private properties between your barn and the trails, it's better to leave the dogs at home.

Then a group of riders came through the correct way, but got pissy with me when I took a picture of them while I was out photographing the wildlife on my property.  Their attitudes were what threw me for a loop.  I know I used to take pictures of my annoying neighbors at my old place when they were trespassing and staring at me, but this was not a case of me trying to deter the riders.  I just saw a photo opportunity.  Afterwards, I realized that it would have been more polite of me to ask their permission to photograph them, just like it would have been more polite of them to ask me if it was alright to ride through my property.  If they were regulars, they'd have noticed the FOR SALE sign had come down and different cars were in the driveway.

Anyway, that post led to a debate over whether or not property owners should risk allowing strangers to ride on their land.  In my old neighborhood, I had a neighbor who allowed me to ride on her land, but we knew each other well.  We had an agreement that she would need to keep doing her thing, whether it be hammering in broken fence panels or knocking down hay, so if I rode there it was at my own risk.  If my horse spooked and I got hurt, I wouldn't hold her liable.  I already knew from boarding my horses there that she wasn't really good about cleaning up nails and wires, so I always had to watch where I and my horse stepped.  She also had a loose dog and often let her horses loose into the common area as well.  These were all potential hazards I was aware of and willing to deal with, because I was being given the privilege to ride on her land.

So, this morning I was working out on the gym equipment in my garage when I noticed that a piece of insulation was hanging from the wall.  A gentle breeze was blowing, and with each gust, the insulation ripped a little bit more.  I had to abandon my morning workout to find a ladder, some duct tape and some scissors, and get to work repairing the insulation.  While I was up there on the ladder, two ladies came around the corner on horses and we startled each other.  I think us humans were more scared than the horses, and I thought, "Oh my gosh!  How fortunate that these are not spooky horses, because there could have been an accident."

I said hello, sorry to scare you, and one of the ladies asked if I was the new owner of the house.  She then did an amazing thing.  She asked for my permission to ride through.  I thought, "Now, that's more like it.  That is good manners."

I said they could ride through as long as they had an understanding that it is at their own risk, that I have dogs that bark when people and animals come on our property, that I will be building a horse facility on the trail soon, and that I don't want to get sued.  They have to take personal responsibility for their safety and expect the unexpected when crossing my property, such as coming upon someone standing on top of a ladder with a chunk of insulation in her hands..

The ladies agreed and told me some of their horror stories about landowners getting sued by horseback riders.  They told me the history of the land, how they used to ride to the north, but my neighbors put up signs and a fence to keep them out.  They had a good attitude about it and understood that those neighbors are concerned about their liability, unlike some of the riders who we have overheard complaining about the neighbors blocking their path.  She told me that after the riders were blocked by the neighbors, the people who owned our house let them come through, and when they saw the house go up for sale, they were worried the new owners wouldn't let them through.

This rider was over-the-top friendly, offering to ride with me and show me all the trails.  She told me that she rides every morning and goes to some ghost town.  She also recommended a vet.  I was looking at her and listening to her, thinking that she could have been the twin of my neighbor friend back in Nevada who let me ride on her property.  They were alike in so  many ways.

The tough part about deciding whether or not to let the public use your property for recreational purposes is that you almost have to know who you are dealing with.  Are these people responsible, respectful, and trustworthy like the ladies who came through this morning?  Or will there be people who feel ownership over the land and resent the real landowners for whatever they do that startles them or inconveniences them during their recreational activities?

My annoying neighbors at my old place were constantly startling me and my horses every time I rode on my own property, so I got to the point where I would only ride on Sundays when they were gone or I transported the horses off the property and rode elsewhere.  That was a tough situation, because legally the neighbors could do whatever they wanted on their own property.  It was just annoying to me that they could never seem to be quiet and leave me alone when they were home, even if just for a minute.  So, I'm super sensitive now about doing something that startles horses passing through on my new property.  I don't want to ruin their ride, but I also have to repair the house and take the dogs out from time to time.

This is the grayest gray area I've ever found myself in.  If I try to make it black and white and go to either extreme, there could be negative consequences. I actually worry more about my family members.  My husband is still taking chances by taking the dogs out off leash, believing that they will come to him when he calls, but he's risking having them getting stung by scorpions and bit by rattlesnakes.  My daughter put a rubber rattlesnake on our front porch, and the dogs charged it, completely ignoring my calls.  We both have experienced losing the dogs to a rabbit chase.  I've been training myself to wrap the leash handle around my wrist before opening the door.  You never know what's going to be right outside that the dogs will see before you can even get through the doorway.  I think it was Lilyrose who told me she knew someone who's dog got mauled by a javelina before the owner could do anything to stop it.  I've also looked outside to find coyotes at the edge of our porch.

The whole situation just makes me nervous.  If I were just an old fart with no pets who putters around the patio like the previous owner, I wouldn't be concerned about horseback riders coming through either.  Ultimately, I just don't need any trouble, and want to protect myself from being sued, but also don't want to piss off someone enough that they might vandalize my property as revenge for blocking them out.  My neighbors had trouble with the ATV riders when they blocked them out, and they had to get the police involved.

In other news, four wildfires broke out around my old home due to lightning strikes.  A couple of them are under control now while the other two are still being stubborn.  Between all the wildfires we've already experienced in our new home and what I'm reading about around my old home, this could be a tough summer involving some very poor air quality.  Two nights now we've smelled heavy smoke inside our house and looked around for the source, thinking the house was on fire because the smoke was so thick.  I'm pretty sure it's the neighbors behind us sitting around their illegal campfire.  I can't really see, but it looks like a flicker of fire behind the trees.  I think they know they are doing something bad, because the flicker and the smoke smell suddenly dissipate when we come out on the porch where they can see us looking in their direction.  They must be cooking something, because they definitely aren't using the campfire to stay warm.  The nights here are hotter than the days in my old neighborhood.


Dreaming said...

In Colorado any land that is not fenced can be ridden on legally. But, I don't know where the liability stands.

Anonymous said...

Of course, someone saying they will not hold you liable does not mean their insurer will not. If someone gets injured their health insurer is free to sue you to recover what they have paid for their care, their disability insurer to recover what they have paid out, etc. No one can waive the legal rights of another, even (or especially) if the "other" is an insurance company.

TeresaA said...

it's a tricky balance- wanting to be a good neighbour and balance safety for you and your pets. Where I live people are pretty free with each others property. To be fair, once you're in the woods it's hard to know when you've crossed property lines. We allow ATVs and snowmobiles on our property because I'd rather then be there and we know then have them trespass. And I don't want to tick off the neighbours.

One solution is to have a 'ride at own risk' sign and/or have people sign a waiver.

however, it all sounds so much better then your previous situation.

Breathe said...

It's good to come by and catch up on your place in the world.

It is quite a dilemma about riders on your property. There are several right of way options in the nieghborhood we ride through, but invariably you come thru a yard or two.

I'm glad you had a positive encounter and found a riding buddy, perhaps.

It was good to see the horses doing well at the new boarding facility. Will you be building a barn similar to your old one?

I love all the photos. It really looks so much more peaceful. Could you set up a dog run to minimize the rabbit chases?

By the way, I was working on my writer website (which has been a mess for years) and came across your lovely review. Thank you! If you don't mind, I'm going to quote it.

I hope to see you writing soon as well.

Cheryl Ann said...

Yup. Welcome to the desert (hot nights...) It was 78 degrees here one night last week, but only 70 yesterday morning and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, I think we are in for a long, hot summer! Be careful with your dogs around coyotes. A fellow teacher's dog was killed while she and it were out on a walk. A coyote just ran up to it, bit it, and killed it and ran off! NEVER trust them!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Breathe - You are welcome to quote my review. I love your writing. It's inspirational.

No, I'm just building a pipe panel four stall mare motel like most of the barns around here, and I suspect it will only be used as shade and a way to separate or confine the horses on special occasions.

We've been trying to figure out how to design a dog run, but it's not really possible with the way the previous owners set up the property. We have to control where the dogs go in part because of all the stickers and plants with sharp spines. We'd have to demolish some walls, tear out some plants, and grade the ground in addition to putting up a fence, which we can't afford and really don't have the space for. There are also shade issues. There are issues anyway you look at it. I prefer to just live here for a while and find out about the hazards before doing things like I did in Nevada.

fernvalley01 said...

Huh, still a tough call, but nice that they asked

Anonymous said...

Dreaming is correct about Colorado having a "no-fence" policy, it's a free grazing thing. We have a place in the mountains and had a neighbor who had cattle and he just let them graze the area and if your property wasn't fenced then you had cows in your yard and plenty of people complained to him but, he always cited the free grazing, no fence deal. Isn't there another way for riders to get to the trail besides riding thru your property? I would never ride my horses thru someone's property especially if there was a house and cars right there. It would be different if it a vacant piece of property with no buildings but, this is not the case. I'd feel like a total trespasser riding thru someones yard. I'd take the long way around not the shortcut.

horsemom said...

Honestly, I would put up a sign tell riders to keep off my property. I wouldn't want my dogs potentially kicked, I wouldn't want a potential illness being carried in that could infect one of my horses when they are finally on the property, or the horses getting stirred up every time a new horse was coming across the property. This is your place, it is their problem to go and find a new path. There are far too many "what ifs" that could happen that a nice big sign will fix.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

New Mexico is a Fence-Out State, and follows the 'common law of the west'.
A property owner has the responsibility to himself to protect his own property by fencing out whatever may damage or trespass on his property.

I'm pretty sure Arizona is a Fence-out State as well.


Mikey said...

We have a liability sign up at our gates. You can buy them at your local feed stores. It looks almost exactly like this one

I've heard it's not 100% if someone decides to sue you, but it dang sure helps.

achieve1dream said...

Yay for meeting new riding buddies. Cool! :D I hope you can get your fences up soon, then it won't matter if someone wants to ride through because they won't be able to lol.