Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's spring, and thoughts turn to ATVs and horses

Now that spring is here, and we can contemplate riding outside, why not introduce a hot topic? I'm talking about all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs.

I hate them.

At the last three places I boarded, all more rural than suburban, we periodically had ATV riders on private property without permission, careening around. The noise terrified the horses and more than once a member of the herd came in lame. One morning while I was working I heard the ATVs and saw the horses I'd just turned out gallopping frantically around their field. I ran out to the ATV riders, wondering what I was going to do when I got there. They gave me the finger and drove off.

Why Why Why?
How ironic is it that people like me who want to get away to quiet rural areas -- parks, trails, and even private property -- have to contend with idiots who come to the same place but bring the noise and pollution of the city. It baffles and angers me. If you want to raise hell and a cloud of dust leaving torn earth behind you, go to a landfill! Leave what little is left of the natural world to people who appreciate it.

A few resources on the subject (biased, but true)

Newspaper article on ATVs and horses:

News-Review photo by Barbaraellen Koch
Horses grazing in the pasture at Mil-Ridge Farm, about 50 yards from the dirt track that ATV riders and dirt bikers had been using in Calverton. Several horse owners have testified that the engine noises were spooking the animals.

Bob Kozakiewicz, the attorney for F1, said opponents of the project have not produced one study showing that noise is harmful to horses.

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From the ATV Connection Web site...
Why an ATV Over a Horse?
Fuel: The
horse eats grass the ATV eats gas. Both pollute the air. A horse 24 hours a
day and an ATV only when the motor is running. The horse pollutes the ground
with urine and poop, the ATV doesn't do either, but some claim it pollutes the
Care: You take care of a horse the whole time
it is breathing. That means feeding and watering, cleaning the feet, doctoring
cuts, brushing it out before and after use, and making sure that it doesn't get
tangled up in a lead or picket rope. To care for the ATV you kick the tires,
check the oil and pour gas in it when needed.
Noise: One of the biggest complaints I hear
about ATVs is the noise they make when running. I agree they make noise.
However, horses aren't innocent either. They make a lot noise when traveling.
Shoes hitting rocks, saddle leather squeaking, snaps clanking, nostrils blowing,
and the most irritable of all, whinnying.

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From an ATV forum...
clipped from www.exriders.com
ahhh you gotta love horses...Last one that was on a trail around here, I just held it wide ****in open. Mind you guys I do have that TC shorty....Ya that horse was goin crazy Maybe if ya scare enough of them they will realize that horses and atv's do not mix
By the same token, no horse owner should ever get mad at you for spooking their
horse. They're on open land, on a public trail, and there are bound to be ATV
riders around. If their horse gets spooked by loud exhaust, then they shouldn't
be around them. It's not reasonable to expect everybody else in the world to
change their riding styles or areas simply because their horse is easily
spooked. If I can't stand loud noises, I wouldn't go to a gun range or a truck
pull. If your horse can't stand loud noises, don't bring them on an ATV

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Equestrians, hikers angry about off road vehicles from the Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

Northeast Washington counties look to all-terrain vehicles for economic boost from Oregonlive.com
Quote from this article: "These were remote, quiet trails people could hike and ride horses on," Petersen said. "Now they're opened up to motorized vehicles that have a lot of trouble staying on trails."

Wilderness areas face more than just mountain bike threat from Wildernesspolitics.blogspot.com
"Any user can contribute to the traffic jam, but the off-highway vehicles do damage disproportionate to their numbers. In addition to loud engines, they have soft tires and deep treads that bite more deeply than a foot or a hoof. When they go off-trail, consequences often follow: erosion, destruction of fragile desert soils or historical artifacts, and disturbance of wildlife habitats...Riders and hikers pay little heed to “No Trespassing” signs on property that abuts popular federal lands. The hikers are not hard to identify and prosecute, but the all-terrain-vehicle riders can be. A Colorado man, Joe Jepson, ordered two riders off his land last year. One ran him down, breaking his leg. The riders were never identified."

All Terrain Vehicle Safety: How to handle encounters with all-terrain vehicles while you're on the trail with your horse. From Equisearch.

ATVs and horses on shared use trails
from Ride-NewYork.com

Invasion of the ATVs from Country Connection Magazine

Riders throttle safety legislation from Oregonlive.com
For decades, the $5 billion-a-year ATV industry has advocated strict state laws on riding. But neither the ATV companies nor their trade group showed up in Salem this winter to support the safety bills, even though three of the measures were cribbed from the industry's "model legislation. The ATV industry has fought regulation in Washington, D.C., for years by saying it's a job for the states. But state ATV safety laws are a messy patchwork. A dozen states have no rules whatsoever. Others require helmets and training or set age limits, but the laws are rife with exceptions when riding on private lands or when a young rider is supervised by an adult."

Off-road rage climbs as trails get more crowded
from the Washington Post


  1. I bet you don't hate them as much as my horse does. There is a woman in our county (that I know) who was responsibly driving an ATV down the road with her 13 year old daughter (mentally challenged) on the back. Car came up over a rise and hit them. Daughter died and mother lost a leg. Very tragic. And they say people should wear helmets riding horses.

  2. ha...ha...ha

    me and a fellow barn member were just ranting about this very subject this past weekend...they were going all day on fields immediatly next to but not on barn property...and the increasing revving followed by short silence and then increased revving was driving us/horses nuts....thankfully the barn offers an indoor as riding in the outdoor would have been impossible....

    luckily for me my horse was freaked a little but not as much as when they decide to play 'hunter' out of the blue and start shooting guns off instead...that seriuosly freaked my horse out the last time a couple of weeks ago

  3. First, I'd just like to say that I'm not a huge fan of ATVs. I think they're inherently dangerous (hubby's a lawyer) and often driven by idiots.

    Kitty Bo, I don't know what state you live in, but even in MS it is illegal to ride an ATV on a public road. That is never responsible.

    ATVs helped a lot at my last barn. The barn owner/manager drug arenas, fixed fences, etc with his 4wheeler. Kids rode them near the pasture, but rarely in them (always slowly then) and we never had a problem. The horses became used to the noise and fortunately everyone knew everyone and generally kept from interfering with one another.

    One of my "horse heroes" is a woman that works with 4-H in Lafayette county. She once said that you should hold your horse in an arena while someone else revved a 4wheeler to get them used to the noise.
    Combustible engines and horses have to get along, and they can! ATVs are not always the horse's nemesis.

  4. Emily you make a great point about ATVs for farm work. I entered a raffle to win one at Rolex. Any horse would benefit from being desensitized to muffler-less motors idling or moving at a moderate speed.

    But at the barn I worked at in the nineties, they got a lot of good use out of golf carts.

  5. That "ATV Connection" clobtrap would be laughable if it weren't so sadly wrong. But if someone actually believes it then they probably are better off owning an ATV because they may be too foolish to care for a living creature.

    I think ATVs have their uses on farms and logging, and if riders are respectful it doesn't bother me so much. But spooking horses is not a laughing matter. I've had people (in trucks mostly) laugh and flip me off when they spook me horse as I'm riding it - before I've even had a chance to say something. It wouldn't be funny anymore when I crush their windshield.

  6. ATVs are so dangerous. I personally love them, but so many people use them irresponsibly.

    A handufl of kids from my highschool were killed in seperate ATV accidents. Flipping over, head on collisions, etc. Not a TOY!

  7. I love horses, but I also really like 4-wheelers. Its good for a horse to be desensitized to them. But that is of course if they are being used correctly, and not just to p*ss people off and scare the horses. Luckily my horses are on private land and my bro in law knows how to drive one correctly and politely.

    And of course it goes both ways, horse riders dont need to be on ATV trails and vise versa.

  8. As an endurance rider and trail builder, I am a FAN of ATV's...because I really, really hate carrying chainsaws and other trail-maintenance equipment into a trailwork site on the back of my horse. Yes, I have done it, and will do it again in national forests where ATV's aren't allowed. But the ATV is more efficient at hauling bulky stuff that are essential for building and maintaining trails that trail riders and endurance riders and everyone else wants to use.

    Conflicts between ATVs and horses occur when either (or both) surprise each other on the trail. A well-built trail doesn't have blind corners or sudden intersections. A well-built trail can support BOTH wheels and hooves (and hiking boots too!) but sometimes we've gotta work with the trails we've got, rather than the trails we want. So...

    TEACH your horse. I agree that you can't prep your horse for everything you might encounter, but it's a good bet you'll meet ATVs and motorcycles! Not all riders are rude. Make friends with a local who has a machine, and ask him/her to help you get your horse accustomed to the noise and movement. In the process, you will make a friend and teach somebody with a machine how to politely encounter horses who are freaking out. Maybe your new friend will teach someone else. It's not going to fix everything, but if you can help YOUR horse, it's a good start.

    My horses don't give a rat's patoot about motorcycles, ATV's, chainsaws, or fireworks, thanks to friends and neighbors who have gotten them accustomed to the sounds and motions.

    If only I could get the big mare over her terror of plastic grocery bags, my life would be complete.

  9. Useful in right hands, but so many are in the wrong hands! My neighbor losy his job (and insurance) and decided he could win $10,000 by making a great video of himself jumping his ATV over a pickup truck - but tore his face off on the side of the truck instead. When the air ambulance tried to land in my pasture, my horses took off running and went through the fence into the neighbor's woodlot. Lots of cuts and scrapes, and one nice big mare lost an eye. Qualify as idiocy?

    Snowmobiles are just as bad. There were snowmobile tracks all over my most remote pasture this past winter. I need to go back there and see what they did to get in, as there is no gate leading off the Posted property.

  10. Growing up in the boonies in WV, ATVs were far more common than my pony. As my entire community eagerly awaits deer season, I've always found it best to meet and befriend my neighbors. In my experience, ATV people are generally really helpful--I've always asked if I could follow them with my horses (on foot with greenies, of course!, and in the saddle if more experienced). Everyone shoots around here, has scary dogs, etc.--I've always just walked my horse up the driveway, dismounted and chatted for a bit. If approached in an appropriate manner, people are always willing to talk. I've asked ATV riders for advice about exposing my horses to the noise an ATV makes, and they are more than willing to pull out the machine, let my horses sniff it over and give it some revs while we are all on safe ground.

    However, I DO think there's a big stereotype that riders are "stuck up" and aren't willing to talk to others that use the trail. I've personally seen that when mountain biking--I always stop and ask if it what would be best for the rider, but I've met people that ARE rude. If you want to ride out, do your best to get your horse some experience.

    One of the funniest things that has ever happened was when an elderly gentleman that lived near the barn took time several nights a week to sight in his high caliber rifles. He had quite the collection!! :) He started shooting one evening while I was accompanying a rider/young horse combo out, and I simply rode my horse up his driveway, dismounted, introduced myself, the other rider, and started talking guns. We had a great chat and he was always very considerate of my riding time.

    If you're having problems, the best thing I can recommend is talk. Coming from a serious gun family, everyone wants to sight their arms in on a nice day and I think that goes for ATV riders on home made tracks! If you are comfortable talking to them, it's worth the time making an interesting conversation, learning about someone else's sport, AND serving as an example of what a "good" equestrian neighbor can be. I know I can think of 5 or more lovely chores that would be made so much easier by an ATV, and I know of several people that would be willing to have a paid afternoon getting them done for me! Maybe you can trade services--they might have a small child or teenager that would love to have a chance to pet your horse and learn a bit about equines. Be proactive. Develop a reputation among your neighbors that own these types of vehicles as a responsible person--not some "crazy" horse owner (I'm speaking from experience!). :) A little bit of your time will go a long way in helping other horse owners as well--sometimes ATV people just don't know or flat out don't care because no one has ever offered that friendly connection. The ATV community (just like the BMW one!) is very small and you can do a lot of good for other horse owners simply by getting to know one person and helping them understand your so-called "silly" animal. :)

    Yes, I agree that some people are irresponsible. But there are irresponsible horse owners, drivers, ATV operators, parents, etc., etc., etc. Hey, there's a REASON as to why I'm scared to take out my road bike!! But if you're stuck in a situation like this, take the time to give the other person a chance to be the good neighbor that you want!

    And in doing all of these things, you'll be developing the kind of horse you want to have--solid and sane despite crazy things. The kind that sells in an afternoon based on her reputation for being a solid citizen no-matter-what (FYI, she wanted an easier rider than me!!). Going to a simple show is not as hard as seeing a bunch of ATVs zoom around for the first time!

    Sorry for the super long post, but in living here, I've seen lots of things that could set the bar for stupidity. I don't think I'd ever personally want an ATV, as some kids that were in high school with me were killed on one, but I do appreciate the mechanical attraction. Runs in the blood I guess!

  11. A view from the western world...

    At shows, people dry ATVs, scooters, golfcarts--really, whatever they want, whatever speed they want--all over the place. And if your horse spooks then he's not broke enough.

    We have ATVs drive all over our county, and we actually allow neighbors to drive on our property around the hay field, next to the horses. None of the horses care, now--flighty TB and stud colt included!

    Can they be dangerous? Sure. But perhaps their crappy attitudes is because they know that people HATE THEM without knowing/asking/talking to them. If they're on property they're not supposed to be on, put up signs. If they ride around, call the cops. End of story!

    But my plan is always to ask them to drive around if they want, but they have to leave if I go on the trail. This way my horses are desensitized to the sound and shapes, and the ATV-ers are happy with us and respect the rules.

  12. Ok, here's the deal. The ATV's and minibikes are illegal in the State Park behind my house. That does not stop them. They have rutted up every trail at some point and when they make the trail an impassable mudhole they cut a new swath through the forest.

    I will say, that most of the time, if I am still in the saddle on a moderately controllable horse around here, the ATV people do tend to slow down and ease off the throttle to try not to scare my horses.

    An an adjacent area, they rode through the farmer's cornfield to blaze new trails and ruined acres of prime field corn. They also rode through a water detention basin, carving packed trails that affected the basin's water recharge rate. They have ridden along the banks of a restored lake tearing up the vegetation and disturbing the breeding area of frogs and turtles and damaging the lakeshore.

    These are all kids and adults out to have fun who have no education whatsoever as to the damage to the ecology their riding habits can cause. I can usually find ways to ride in order to avoid them, but the woodland cannot avoid them. They need a less ecologically sensitive area to "play" in.

  13. Hey dressage in jeans, I have heard (in a video I think) the western perspective that english riders (esp dressage) have horses spook at flower pots b/c they aren't properly broke. I agree in part, but would love to see an experiment where a john lyons type takes a hot dutch warmblood and works with him.

    We all know dog breeds have varying temperaments -- border collie work ethic, jack russell energy level, etc. Would a western guy be able to turn a hot/excitable type into a cow pony? I'm not sure. I DO think that english/hunt seat/dressage riders tend to de-emphasize manners and respect on the ground and under saddle, focusing more on the dressage performance.

    I am certain that Harv could be desensitized to an ATV driven by a responsible citizen. I'm not sure he'd ever deal well with the careening, dirt spewing, engine revving nut case. It would be interesting to prove me wrong.

  14. All horses? Maybe not. ;) But I do own a crazy, english TB, and he does just fine with the ATVs too. (Heaven help you if a rabbit jumps in the trail though).

    But it is a interesting thought. Western horses HAVE to get used to these things; they're everywhere at shows. You couldn't show if they didn't! I suppose it's like a dressage horse getting used to the judge gazebo/car/booth. They have to get over it or you'll never show successfully. Is it necessity? Or temperament? Or both? Dunno. ;)

  15. My horses are conditioned to accept the noises of ATV's and Gun shots etc, but the local ATV riders INTENTIONALLY try and run horse back riders down with their ATV's. That just isnt' right.

  16. I've encountered mostly polite ATV folks who slow or stop to let horses pass. But even these riders have done horrible damage to the trails. Every low point becomes a mud pit, and the deep ruts get deeper every season, the topsoil is gone to dust and blown away so that regrowth can't occur. Their environmental impact is what I hate.


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