|Recently during a national celebration, private fireworks were so frightening that a horse running in fear broke through his pasture fence and was injured so badly that he died. The incident, which took place less than ten miles from my home, generated newspaper articles, and a number of letters to the editor and rebuttals. While there was sympathy for the horse owner ,there was also one letter that complained that people like her were trying to spoil the holiday fun for everyone by complaining about fireworks.
I can not imagine an animal lover saying something like that, particularly when people know how even cats and dogs kept inside can be upset by the noise of fireworks in the distance. The sad reality is that there are many people who cannot empathize with household pets let alone large animals like horses. Unfortunately, the bad news for horsemen in my area didn't end there.
Even here in Amish country, where horse and buggies on the streets are a common sight, there are a few sad cases each year of wrecks between horse drawn vehicles and motorized ones. In the tangle between car and buggy, the horse always loses.
Recently, there was another horrible case that occurred while one of the foxhunts was crossing a fairly rural road. The traffic on the road was stopped for the hunt to cross the road, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, when a speeding car rushed up on the stopped vehicles. It swerved to avoid hitting the cars and instead struck a horse and rider. The horse suffered two broken hind
legs, and the rider was seriously injured, but to make matters worse, her child and other youngsters riding with the hunt saw the entire incident and its ugly aftermath. They were right there while the horse was put down and the rider taken away in pain to the hospital. The child's pony was so startled it bolted and dumped him in the street before running away, but thankfully he was not seriously injured.
This accident happened on a rural road that is well traveled by cars, but it is also heavily posted with low speed limits and horse crossing signs. Local people know the hunt rides through the area and they go a bit slower when they might be about. Less careful drivers never think about riders crossing the road, and they ignore the "slow" signs. The unfortunate fact that both these incidents point out is that the more suburban sprawl brings development to the countryside, the less neighbors understand one another. The rural horse owner and the owner of the high priced house in the new subdivision may come from different lifestyles that can generate major conflicts.
Even if the farmer was on the land first, he may not have as much clout as the new homeowner. If enough neighbors protest the smell of manure, or the noise of other farm operations, they can pass nuisance ordinances that effectively drive farming - and horsemen - out of the area. Even if you are not personally feeling the pinch of surrounding development on your property, there are reasons to keep aware of what is happening in the region. The more visible horsemen are in their community, and the more active they are in local activities the more aware their non-horsemen neighbors will be of them.
It is always a good plan to take the first steps to ensure you are on good terms with your neighbors. Please remember that they may have no experience with horses and have no idea what can be dangerous to the animals or themselves. If you trail ride and must use roads, remember that these drivers don't expect to see riders on the streets, and may have no idea how to safely pass them.
Getting to know your neighbors may not be a high priority when they are not fellow horsemen, but they can become your allies if you make them friends. It never hurts to introduce yourself to the new people in the area and warn them where they might see riders on the roads. You can also gently let them know that loud noises may spook horses. If you are on friendly terms, it will not be
difficult to ask a neighbor to give you an advance warning when they plan to have a party or some large event so you will know to keep your horses inside that day. If you can communicate well and get along with the neighbors, you may even get invited to the party.