Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not a Petting Zoo

I don't know that I have ever experienced anything like the complete disregard of personal boundries as I have experienced in the past several years. I read a blog about this subject a couple of weeks ago (FB I think) and the author was discussing the public conception that dogs are public property somehow and available to be pet and loved and teased at will. For me, it isn't just the dogs, but the horse as well.

Random pictures of his loveliness.

So far, I have been chased by boys on bikes waving sticks and yelling something about catching the Unicorn. I've had boys on bikes leave the sidewalk to ride across grass while yelling something about the magical white unicorn. Thankfully, they were not waving sticks and my magical white unicorn travels faster then they can on grass. I've had little boys (six or seven) threaten to throw rocks at us while we are riding by in order to make the horsie go faster. (That's when the Momma voice is most effective." Boys are all about the chasing, killing and claiming of the magical white unicorn.

The girls however, are worse. They race towards us, arms wide, squealing in sheer joy at the sight of the magical white unicorn. They are usually shedding scooters, bikes and skateboards in all directions. They are usually dressed in sandals or open toed shoes (which gives me nightmares, thank you very much) and are acting the total fool in their approach. So we are faced with squealing, gyrating hordes anytime we are on trail.


Now, don't get me wrong, I was horse crazy as a little girl. There is not a point in my life where I did not want a horse, want to be around a horse, want to be touching horses. Even when I declaimed I would never ride again, I still wanted a horse. I can remember knowing where any horse in the immediate area was, even after I had horses of my own, but I do not ever remember wanting to chase and kill a horse, or run up to it in flip flops and throw my arms around it's neck.

I think the worse part is the parent's are encouraging this behavior. 

Last night, a young boy about seven or so was playing with a soccer ball with his dad. They kicked the soccer ball toward me and came racing after it. I moved Ashke to the edge of the park we were riding around and kept an eye on the ball. Not that I think he would do much, but better aware and prepared than caught off guard. The man started gesturing toward me and talking to his son. The boy hung back and shook his head no (smart boy). I could hear the guy saying something about how he should come pet the horse. The boy did not want to. We rode on before the man could do anything else.

On the way back was a woman and her daughter (ten or so). The daughter saw us from clear across the park and came over riding her scooter, with her mom close behind. I was riding a single track trail through the grass. The girl threw aside her scooter and came racing toward me, arms waving. I asked Ashke to dance sideways (this is a trick I learned with Queenie - a sensitive horse can always be made to appear fractious with a tightening of the legs). Ashke already knew we were headed home and became a bit bouncy at the conflicting requests (forward from the legs, slow from hands and seat). I moved off the single track and began to circle around and the girl followed us, saying "I want to pet the horse." Ashke went lateral at that point and I said to the mom, "He does not like kids." The mom said, "she just wanted to pet him." And I answered, "We are not a petting zoo." This may become my favorite line of all time on trail.

It seems that just like dogs, people in public venues believe horses are fair game. When I rode a lot with N, she would always stop and let people pet Cali, but I would not. Ashke likes adults okay, but he really doesn't like kids. And just like the little girl in NY (?) who got her fingers bit by a police horse, I don't want to risk Ashke hurting someone. Yes, I do have liability insurance, but I also believe it is my responsibility to keep Ashke from being in a situation where he might hurt someone.

Thankfully, he is always willing to run like the wind to get away, if need be.

14 comments:

  1. I agree with you! I like it when they ask to pet, that gives you the option to say know. Thanks Karen!

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  2. You should get a shirt that says "We are NOT a petting zoo." I love it!! :D

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  3. I usually let people pet my horses, but I have rules about not running, screaming, waving things in the air if they want to do so. I actually just did a post on this a week ago. I have a big problem with anyone who feel entitled to pet my horses. If they ask nicely and just want to - not feel like they should be allowed to, I'm much happier to oblige.

    http://diyhorseownership.blogspot.com/2015/04/you-dont-own-me.html

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    1. I had a friend tell me that a stranger on trail who approached to pet her horse, tried taking his bridle off. I don't usually let any one come close. In our litigious society, it seems the smarter choice.

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  4. I rarely see anyone when riding (so very fortunate and grateful to have access to miles and miles of trails on private land!), but my horse lives right by the road in a small neighbourhood, and is well known by everyone locally. I let people give him a treat, provided it is only one, and they stick to carrots and apples. More than once have people yelled at me because they came to see him and we were out riding, or seeing that my truck was there assumed it was okay to let themselves through my closed gate to pet the pony. Some people are idiots!

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    1. IQ's drop sharply around horses and dogs. I swear.

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  5. I think Ashke handles things a lot better than my horse would:) All the scooters and running! My horse would have galloped to the next county. We do quite often encounter people who want their picture taken with him, though. Sometimes they ask or sometimes they don't. I never know how to respond because I want to be pleasant and encourage people to have positive interactions with horses, but sometimes I really don't feel like stopping for the petting, questions, and photo shoots. I've sort of resigned myself to it but I'm glad you've found a way to respond:)

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    1. People take our pictures all the time, usually without asking. It's like they are encountering us in the wild for the first time.

      I do make exceptions to the no touch rule if I am on the ground, they have proper footwear and they only touch him on the shoulder or neck. No treat feeding. Ashke is fairly lippy and I don't want to be responsible for someone getting bit.

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  6. It was in Baltimore, and it was a police horse that bit the little girl's fingers. Super gentle horse too, but who knows if the little girl had been eating candy; it sounded like the horse thought she was offering food. :( The ENTIRE police dept was sued by the girl's parents and they have threatened to shut down the mounted police section. Because of that, NO ONE touches my horses on the trail. And I now have liability insurance specifically for them too. They are animals and even the best-behaved one can act like an animal at any time.

    I love your approach! "We are not a petting zoo"....I think I'll be borrowing that phrase in the future!

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    1. I got insurance based on the event in Baltimore and will continue with it going forward. With adults, I will use that phrase. With little kids I've been saying "My horse does not like kids." and then we dance away.

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  7. Agreed! I love that phrase :) I literally had a kid (okay...I admit, I'm 16. The kid was actually maybe 14, which is still a kid but old enough to know better.) come after my horse and I on the trails on a bike flat out yelling and acting like a lunatic throwing things, while my horse was already fresh and spooked by the crazy wind. Despite me telling him to back off, he kept going, and I had to turn my horse and basically just move on and take the long way home in awful weather because he was going right towards us while we were trotting. Seriously could've ran into the kid, yet he continued on.

    Horses are big animals, and they aren't little harmless things. Even by accident, a horse could step on someone's feet and cause huge damage. People shouldn't assume that they can just run up and pet them and do whatever, and interrupt a ride. It's not respectful or safe.

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  8. AMEN to this! We meet people out on the trails behind our house all the time. Fortunately they are usually much more respectful, but it's always worrisome. If someone asks nicely, I will often allow a pet on the shoulder, and/or if the child and parent are respectful, sometimes I will offer. It very much depends on the situation, though.

    Be careful out there!

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  9. Eeeesh. I'm thankful for living in BFE!!!!

    And if I behaved that way as a kid my mom would have tanned my hide! I was the shy kid watching intently hoping and wishing for an invitation to pet the horse. Never was I bold enough to approach. Only gaze stalker-like at the horse as it came near.

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