aka What is Wrong with People?
aka Worse Trail Ride EVAH!!!
aka One Damn Thing After Another . . .
It was an absolutely breath-taking day yesterday. High of 70. Some wind. Melting snow.
It's been since November that N and I have gotten out on the trails together. We made plans. The weather cooperated. We met at the barn and got the horses tacked up, with boots on. N booted all four and I just did the front two. We were both hoping it would be a sunfilled, wonderful ride and were looking forward to it.
For background, Cali is in full time training with Cassandra, who is riding her T,W,TH and then N is taking a lesson with Cassandra on F,S. We trail ride on Sunday and Cali gets Monday off. By the lesson on Saturday, Cali was acting out at the increased work load and protesting being ridden. The plan today was to get them both on trail, doing the 7.5 mile loop of the Fairmount at a walk. No trot. No canter. Just an easy relaxed enjoyable day out in the sun. I put my Stowaway pommel pack on the Wintec with water and Gatorade (thanks Saiph for highlighting your pommel pack, because that's why I bought this one. Although I got the one with the two water bottle holders.) It hooked on my saddle much easier than trying to fit it to the Trekker and Ashke didn't seem to mind at all. I loaded one of the pockets with cookies and one with carrots. Today was supposed to be K and N's Day of Fun.
We climbed on at our usual place and headed across the parking lot. We were almost to the driveway when we realized there were two horses in the outdoor arena, running around like wild things. There was a huge pool of water at one end of the arena they were tearing through. Cali was a little concerned by them, so we waited it out until the horses had settled. Then we headed up the driveway, having to breech the deep pool of muddy water that is the driveway. Both horses did really well going through it, although they were both a little wound up by the change in routine. About the time we hit the end of the outdoor arena three things happened at the same time. The horses in the arena began to tear around, a car came rushing down the drive way faster than it should have been, and Cali spotted the big jump house outside a house at the corner. She began to buck. N got her controlled and slid off. I got off too, because whatever N is doing, I follow, and vise versa, so our horses are under the same pressure at the same time.
Cali continued to buck and jump. I asked N if we needed to go back and lunge, but she wanted to go on. So on we went.
At the edge of the sidewalk where we leave TMR property and cross the road there was a dead skunk and a guy fixing his bicycle. He had his bike flipped upside down and was working on the chain or the derailer, or something. Both horses were very spooky.
We hand walked through the neighborhood. The three block walk was enough to settle both horses and N got on about a block from the trailhead. I got on at the trailhead, because there was a huge rock. As we were walking up to the rock for me to use as a mounting block we both noticed an eight year old boy sitting on the edge of the sidewalk with his scooter. He was watching us with curiosity. Just after I mounted and we turned up the trail, the boy jumped up, got on his scooter and sped his way toward our horses hind ends. I yelled at him and told him to stop, while N was struggling to get Cali turned around so she could see what was happening behind us. The boy's father took that moment to throw a snowball at the boy. It missed and splatted on the pavement behind Cali. We wrestled the horses under control, moving to the side and letting the family pass us. The Fairmount Loop is a multiuse trail and horses are supposed to have the right of way, but it was just easier to let them go past us.
We started down the trail and crossed the bridge, which was pretty spooky, then as we were walking over sidewalk that was still covered in melting snow and Ice, we were startled by a group of people walking through the trees and brush just off the trail to the right. There was also a man with a bike coming toward us at the same time.
We should have taken it as a sign.
After we turned the corner, we moved into the grass and cut across the field. The ground was soggy with standing water in some places. The soil in Colorado is mostly clay, which makes for very slick footing, and Ashke slipped a couple of times on his back feet. We knew we would need to be careful where we directed them, going forward. N and I talked about the number of people we had already seen on the trail and opted to turn up the canal to start. It would be less populated than the sidewalk, had decent footing even in the wet, and would give both horses a chance to settle. We have never ridden the Fairmount Loop backwards, so it would also be fresh for the horses. It was a great decision and we were able to ride for about two miles before the footing got slick again. We had to go down a fairly steep hill which had standing water in the ruts, so opted to get off the natural footing and back on the sidewalk.
Cali, who had been moving fairly well, suddenly got reluctant to go forward. N and I were trying to diagnose why she was being sluggish and decided maybe she didn't like the mud in her gloves. We were going to stay on the sidewalk for a while, so were hoping the mud would flake off and she would be less reluctant. She was walking sound, just not real willing. We talked about turning around, but going back on the same trail we went out on has proved problematic in the past and we were about half way around the loop. We continued forward. When we got to the next bridge, I swung down and walked Ashke across because there was caution tape flying in the wind. I mounted up and we headed toward the switchback trail.
Before the flooding last year, there was a trail that cut across the field and connected to the sidewalk just as it begins to climb to the headland. It was challenging, in that it cut across two ditches, which Ashke insisted on jumping. After the flooding, they closed that trail, due to the undercut banks, the large boulders that had washed down, and the unsettled footing. Which means the ONLY trail we could ride on was the sidewalk. I was just as happy to continue riding on the sidewalk, which we did, meandering toward the second bridge. Just as we were walking up to cross the bridge, which was being crossed by two couples on foot and several bike riders, a woman on a mountain bike doing close to 40 miles per hour wove her way through the groups at speed and shot toward us. I knew Cali was jigging behind us and I did what I do when bikers are approaching too fast, I threw my hand up and yelled at the woman to slow down. She almost hit Cali on her way by and then stopped just behind us. Cali spun around to face her. N was absolutely furious. I was pretty pissed myself.
The woman on the bike stopped just behind us, flying off her bike and screaming, "What the fuck is your problem?"
I responded, as I always do, with "You need to slow down around the horses. Someone could get hurt."
Now, most times, people are pretty accepting that the 1100 pound animal that's dancing around in alarm might need some special consideration when being approached by riders on bikes. Additionally, in Colorado, bikes are required to yield to all other trail users. The Fairmount Trail is a multi-use trail, meaning it has walkers, bikers and horseback riders. There are signs posted all over the trail saying that bikers are supposed to yield to everyone else. It also has a yield sign showing bikes yielding to riders and walkers. Horses always have the right-of-way. Always.
The other woman replied, "This is a bike trail, you shouldn't be on it, and if you don't want to deal with the bikes you shouldn't be here." There were more expletives in that sentence that I edited for content.
I said, "Horses have the right-of-way." N was saying the same thing, absolutely infuriated with her attitude.
The other woman exploded, "There's a horse trail marked across the meadow, you should be riding there. This is a bike trail and bikes always have the right-of-way." (Edited more copulation expletives.)
N responded by screaming, (there was no talking), "The trail is closed due to the flooding. We can't ride that way." (Also edited for expletives.)
The other woman responded that we should have gotten off the horses and walked, because this was a bike trail, which was just a flat out stupid thing to say. She insisted that it is only a bike trail and bikes always have the right of way.
N was starting to argue with her when the bike rider dropped her bike and threatened N. She was slapping her chest and throwing her arms out wide, daring N to get off her horse and come fight her. She threatened to kick N's ass. There were lots of cuss words. It was very high school.
N was not going to get off. I think, if anything, she would have ridden over the woman with her horse. Or at least tried. But she wasn't getting off. There were more profane insults thrown at each other, then the woman picked up her bike and headed out. We went to cross the bridge and Ashke refused. He was upset by the conflict and acting spooky, so I got off and hand walked him across. Cali followed. There were a pair of bike riders on the far side who asked if we were okay. (I was shaking from the adrenaline). They explained they were horse riders too and acknowledged that we were in the right. I led Ashke over to a culvert and used it to get on his back. We had taken two steps when Cali channeled her inner rodeo horse.
She tried to bolt and buck at the same time, putting some serious effort into the protest, and one of the hind foot gloves tore free from the gaiter, whizzed loudly as it sailed past my head and landed in the brush behind us. I have no idea why N wasn't tossed. She wasn't. She says it was the saddle, which allows her to ride out anything Cali tries. She brought Cali back under control and we both got off. (Ashke tried to bolt, but listened when I asked him to stop.) We found the boot that had been kicked off, unbooted her other back hoof, then decided to hand walk them back. Cali was beside herself and overwrought by everything that had happened. It was safer to be on the ground. We weren't going to try going any further. So, we turned around.
We crossed the first bridge headed back down the trail, talking about the incident with the woman. I told N that if something like that happened again, I was pulling out my phone and taking pictures. I knew she was in the wrong, by riding too fast and not yielding (not just to us, but to the other trail users), but that when she threatened to kick N's ass and offered to fight, it was assault. I wanted to register a complaint against her with Jefferson County and the City of Golden and Arvada. Cali had just begun to calm down and we were approaching the second bridge. There was a family at a picnic table with a dog on the near side. I asked them if the dog was likely to bark. They said no and so we headed for the bridge.
Just then, the woman from the earlier altercation came back. I think she turned around deliberately to come back and find us. The path we were on can be ridden in a circle, so they didn't have to turn around. When she biked past me she made a nasty comment, then rode directly at N and stated something about bikes having the right of way and we needed to watch out for her. She swerved her bike toward Cali, trying to prove a point, and N snapped.
N whipped her dressage whip toward the woman's helmeted head. It whistled as it went and cracked pretty good when it hit. It hit the helmet and not her shoulders, which I thought showed great restraint on N's part.
The bike woman freaked out. She dropped her bike in the middle of the path, and went after N. First she tried to grab Cali. She almost got the reins out of N's hand and I was thinking, "What the hell is she going to do if she ends up with the horse?"
Then she tried to grab at N, who began to hit the woman in the head and shoulders with her dressage whip trying to keep her away, while trying to control Cali, who was now jumping around and freaking out. (Ashke, however, was standing there watching with his ears pricked. You could hear the thought in his head, "Oooo, look, chick fight.) After N kept the woman from grabbing Cali, there was a short tussle over the bike, which N also won. So, now N was standing over the bike, with her horse and the dressage whip.
The other woman went after N again, ending up on the far side of Cali, where she tried to throw the dressage whip into the brush, which was kind of funny, since it landed right at the edge of the concrete in a tangle of brush. It landed right in front of her and I was able to pick it up. By this time, I think the woman was beginning to regret starting the fight. She no longer had her weapon and N was not backing down. Her water bottle was lying on the sidewalk, near to where N and Cali were and she asked if she could get it. N said something along the lines of yeah, go ahead, it's not like I'm going to kick you in the teeth. The other woman did the chest bump thing again.
The guy who had been riding with her said to me, "You pull off your girl and I'll get mine to go on." I just shook my head. I wasn't going to intervene, unless N needed me to take Cali. It was pretty obvious it was winding down. The girl grabbed her water bottle, got her bike and amidst a chorus of f-bomb insults, we parted ways. Thank the gods, she didn't come back after that.
We continued to hand-walk towards the barn. I was exhausted and so was N. When we got past the hill that was slick with clay, we moved off the sidewalk and onto the dirt. There we remounted and managed to ride about a mile or so in calmness and peace. At that point, we just wanted to be back at the barn. We reached the canal and the horses were somewhat relaxed. I pointed out it was not the kind of day where we should be asking what else could go wrong, not wanting to tempt fate or present a challenge to the Gods.
Not two minutes later there was a loud whirring noise, with a lot of zzzzz sound in it and a pop. The horses both tried to bolt, then whirled and stood. N thought it was a bug or insect of some kind (it did sound like that) but as we continued, I realized there was a group of kids and their dad setting off rockets in the soccer field next to us. We moved off the canal and onto the concrete sidewalk, then met a woman with a small dog that tried to eat us. That was the final straw. We both dismounted for good. As we approached the final bridge, we were interrupted by a woman jogger who literally jogged up behind us and tapped N on the shoulder to ask us to let her by. We had no idea she was there.
It's a damn good thing neither of our horses kick. Although, I am tempted to teach Ashke. Maybe people would be less stupid if they were being kicked at.
N has always said one of these days she was going to hit a rider with her dressage whip.
We made it back to the barn without any further incidents. However, I don't think either of us will ever ride that trail again. There were way to many bikes and the riders don't understand they need to slow down when they go past. We can ride the mountain or we can trailer out to other spots. I'm tired of dealing with the people who think they should be entitled to ride as fast as they want and we need to get out of their way. There are a lot of comment threads on the biking boards about the Fairmount and how the bike riders hate the horses. It's just not worth it.
I do believe N is going to register a complaint with the City of Golden.