In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.



There’s something about being on a horse that makes people want to say hello.

I do most of my conditioning rides on the grid of agricultural roads surrounding my farm.  Just about everyone who passes in a car, driving a tractor, or riding a motorcycle offers a wave.  Once in a while, someone stops to chat.

Sometimes, they’re concerned about my safety.  (This occasionally leads to offers of new places to ride on private property.)  Sometimes, they are horse people curious about Consolation’s breed, hoof boots, or tack.  Sometimes, they just comment on the pretty day, the pretty horse, and (without saying so outright) the pretty nice feeling that most people make the world a better place.

Just last week, a guy pulled his truck over to ask if he could introduce his lovely, half-grown Weimaraner to Consolation in the hope that the pup would be less inclined to chase horses in the future.

A couple miles up the road, a faded sedan stopped in the oncoming lane.  The window rolled down to reveal the gentleman with the Walkaloosas, who occasionally drops by my farm astride his mare.  His face was unusually ashen, his eyes hollow.  I asked how he was, and he said not well.  We talked horses and weather.  And then he said he’d lost one of his grandsons the day before.  The boy was three months old.  Found dead in his crib, of unknown cause.  A foal was due at his place any day; I should drop by.  I said I would.

Then there is the woman who rents the old house at the S-bend.  Her driveway is full of old cars from a lot owned by her husband, who recently passed.  She has a new mare, a gentle, senior Paint found on Craigslist for $250.    Perhaps we’ll ride the irrigation road some evening, and she will tell her story.

Two of my favorites have names I don’t know.  One is the mail carrier, always cheerful in her white Jeep with the orange light on top.  Sometimes I wonder how much she knows about me, from my mail, and seems to like me anyway.

And, there is the farm worker with the battered, two-tone pickup he drives among ditches, fields, and barns.  We pass each other often, sometimes several times a day.  My clothes and activities change — from breeches for riding to jeans for training to shorts for sprinting — and our frequent, speechless encounters make us laugh.

There is the husband and wife team that drives the school bus, the cattle rancher whose stock sometimes turn up on my land, the gardener whose handiwork I always slow to admire.  There are the cyclists who call out to let me know they’re passing, men who cut the motors on their chain saws though Consolation isn’t spooky, the reining competitor whose trailer I once borrowed for a veterinary emergency.  Kids who wave, kids too shy.  Dog-walkers.  Seasonal workers grinning under broad-brimmed hats.  A loose collection of folks who know almost nothing, yet almost everything, about each other.

People sometimes ask if I get bored of riding by myself.  Not often, I say, and I’m sincere.  But the truth is, I don’t really ride alone.


20 responses

  1. I ride alone at home probably 50% of the time. I could tell a lot of the same story. I know I see things around here a lot of others probably don’t take notice of.

    Many horse friends comment and talk about how dangerous that must be riding the roads. I must have really good neighbors; as most of the time I feel safe. Most pull over or slow down. And if they don’t, there is plenty of room on the side of the road. The scariest thing that ever happened was my own fault. I was running up a hill and didn’t realize I couldn’t hear the traffic over the wind. I crested at the same time as a truck from the opposite direction. Both of us were on our own side of the road, but it startled all of us. I did a sharp right and dropped my mare down into the ditch, circled & come out okay. But my heart was pounding!

    If I didn’t ride the roads, I wouldn’t get to ride as much as I do. Not an option.

    March 27, 2011 at 5:34 am

    • Ditto that! I just don’t have time to trailer out to trails every time I want to ride. And, I actually enjoy riding along the roads — good company and, as you said, lots of detail to see. 🙂 I do a LOT of handwalking with my horses before riding them out on the road. Before I get on, they’re at the point where they hardly flinch even at the huge, noisy farm trucks. On my early rides, I dismount if I even suspect a problem with a particular vehicle. Gradually, the horse and I gain mutual trust and can face down anything — though we still move aside for the big stuff, of course.

      March 27, 2011 at 5:42 am

  2. It’s good to have neighbors. Nice that you and Consolation are out there.

    March 27, 2011 at 9:53 am

  3. This post really resonated with me. When I lived on my farm in Goshen, Virginia last year, my only options were to ride along the country roads or the 16 mile loop trail in the mountains that probably hadn’t been cleared of debris in more than a few turnings of the seasons. People driving trucks and cars and riding bicycles always slowed or even stopped when they neared us, and I met one of my closest friends this way.

    Now, I have to trailer 30 minutes in any direction if I want to ride. I miss Goshen.

    March 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

    • Ugh, that’s a long way to go! I like to trailer out sometimes, but it surely is nice not to NEED to.

      March 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm

  4. Gosh, what I would give to have a nice neighborly community like that.. I have a total of 13 miles around my place that I could use for conditioning, and did for a couple of years, until I nearly got hit twice, one of which was an intentional attempt to scare me and my horse.. it worked.. I don’t ride out on the roads anymore unless Tom can come along with..

    It is nice to have the option that you have to not haul anywhere. It certainly makes it more conveniant!

    March 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    • Ugh! 😦 I did have some kids throw a firecracker out a car window at me once, and there are a few people who don’t see any point in slowing down or moving over (either would be fine), but the vast majority are very considerate.

      March 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm

  5. Dom

    I got a smile from this entry. We have our regulars on our route (which winds partially through suburbia) and it’s nice to have an excuse to chat sometimes 🙂

    March 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    • 🙂 It made me smile to write. How dorky is that?

      March 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm

  6. I do the majority of my conditioning on the roads and alone as well 🙂 I actually prefer it “alone”. It’s always nice when people stop to say hi! Unfortunately we still have almost 4 ft of snow but the roads are slowly clearing of ice.

    March 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    • Four feet?!?! Ack!!!

      March 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      • Yeah, Alberta winters are brutal! Long, cold and snowy. We are finally starting to melt now though. Flooood! LOL!

        April 1, 2011 at 8:12 am

  7. Rosanne

    It sure sounds like you have some pretty good neighbors. We’re fortunate here too. All we have to do is head up our dirt road about a mile and we’re in national forest or head the opposite direction and we’re on BLM land. The roads scare me around here-no one wants to slow down. 😦

    March 28, 2011 at 8:28 am

    • 🙂 Sounds great! I have BLM land just 6 miles away, but a lot of people go out there for target practice. I prefer not to be a target.

      March 28, 2011 at 8:29 am

  8. Beautiful. It makes me wish for riding off the property and in the community. It’s possible to trailer out to some nice trails, but I love that you know your neighbors from your rides. That kind of connection is hard to come by these days.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

  9. Pingback: Welcome to the April Blog Carnival of Horses | EQUINE Ink

  10. Every now and again I have come across your blog. I must pop over more regularly. I really resonate with this post. I have nowhere immediate to ride (my cob – good natural endurance, but so not an arabian or a barb!) but on the roads and and I do enjoy the regular round of neighbours I meet.

    I only once met discourtesy, when a load of cars shot by, diverted from the main road, on the way to a GAA match – Sunday morning, a religion around here.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:17 am

    • Glad you dropped in! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      April 17, 2011 at 6:48 am

  11. Pingback: Welcome to the January Blog Carnival of Horses | EQUINE Ink

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