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200 children?

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  • 200 children?

    Hi all -- don't usually post over here, but had a trails encounter yesterday and would like your opinions on how I handled it.

    Background: we trail ride in the state forest adjacent to the boarding barn. It can get pretty busy with dog walkers, runners, bikes, ATVs etc. Occasionally we encounter something really extreme, like a bunch of guys playing paintball (mare was NOT happy!) I usually take her out by herself, though she'd prefer to have a buddy horse. She's a bit nervous and looky by nature; I take her out to expose her to "strange things" and keep us both from getting too bored with endless circles in an arena. The forest is mostly walk-only because the trails are rocky.

    After my lesson yesterday, my plan was to go across the dam in the middle of the forest, trot her up the big hill on the other side once or twice, and come back to the barn. This would be about a 45 minute ride. The dam was a problem for the mare for the longest time, but with multiple trips out there and a lot of peppermints, she eventually decided that it was OK to cross it.

    So we're heading down the dirt road toward the dam, and *something* was bugging her. Her ears were pricked and she stopped... I saw movement in the woods, kicked her on a little, and then realized that there were about 200 elementary-age kids on an end of the year field trip, arrayed from our side of the dam, across it, and up the hill on the other side. These were kids from a rough part of Lowell (which is a rough town in general), most of whom had probably never seen a horse before, and they got really excited. The teachers were great in keeping them from rushing Feronia, but I decided that riding her through that many kids, on her own, wasn't a great idea. I did, however, make her go forward until she was about 50 feet from the nearest ones. (well, OK, for some of that she was going sideways, but still moving toward the kids...) One of the teachers came up and took our photo, talked to me and petted Feronia. A few of the kids took photos, from a distance.
    And then I turned her around and we rode in other parts of the forest.

    Truth be told, I could have ridden her on through, but I was more worried about the kids than her. If it had been one class, 30 kids or so, I wouldn't have been so worried... but hundreds? She loves kids and loves attention, but there was too much chance that some kid would do something stupid, especially since they didn't know much about horses.

    Feedback/ideas? I feel like I did the right thing.
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

  • #2
    Wow. I've come across a lot on the trail (peacocks, ATV's, mountain bikers, wild animals, cattle, etc.) but never a swarm of children! I think you absolutely did the right thing. I would be very concerned about my mare kicking one of them if they encircled her, so I would have certainly kept my distance for the kids' safety. I don't think that's one of those things you use as a training experience, when kids are involved!

    Comment


    • #3
      You absolutely did the right thing. There is no way you could anticipate what every one of those children might do. Their safety and the safety of your mare was way more important.
      "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."

      Comment


      • #4
        Even if you had the most bomb-proof horse, I agree you did the right thing. The situation you encountered had 200 possible ways for going wrong. The need to desensitize your horse to that many children is negligible (when is THAT going to happen again?!?) and children can be as unpredictable as horses... possibly more so.
        That said, it was nice that you stuck around long enough for them to take pictures. There's probably at least one kid that went home and counted that as the highlight of his/her trip!

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        • #5
          Right thing. I was once on a horse that kicked a kid that came rushing up to pet him. Very glad it just knocked the wind out of him and he wasn't permanently injured (though likely he is still afraid of horses). It could have been very bad.

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by oldpony66 View Post
            Even if you had the most bomb-proof horse, I agree you did the right thing. The situation you encountered had 200 possible ways for going wrong. The need to desensitize your horse to that many children is negligible (when is THAT going to happen again?!?) and children can be as unpredictable as horses... possibly more so.
            That said, it was nice that you stuck around long enough for them to take pictures. There's probably at least one kid that went home and counted that as the highlight of his/her trip!
            Well, I have to say we encountered about that many children last year, but not all at once. It turns out the day we chose to trailer to the state park and have a nice trail ride was also the day of a HUGE Girl Scouts event there! So we were constantly meeting kids, dogs, families etc., but usually in very small groups.

            I should add, my horse is awesome! She's figured out, mostly, that I won't overface her, and she's game for a lot of things that she would not have been when I bought her. I hope to tackle bridges and "real" water crossings (creeks wider than say 3 feet ) sometime this year.
            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

            Comment


            • #7
              One time my Mom and I trailered to a local trailhead for a nice leisurely ride.

              We were met by about seventy five LARPers in full Lord of the Rings getup, with flags and swords and even hobbits with fuzzy feet and Wizards and...Power Rangers? That was a very strange day. Thankfully, we did not meet the Power Rangers, but we did encounter some very nice hobbits on their way to Mordor.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by sterling2000 View Post
                One time my Mom and I trailered to a local trailhead for a nice leisurely ride.

                We were met by about seventy five LARPers in full Lord of the Rings getup, with flags and swords and even hobbits with fuzzy feet and Wizards and...Power Rangers? That was a very strange day. Thankfully, we did not meet the Power Rangers, but we did encounter some very nice hobbits on their way to Mordor.
                I think you posted about that encounter here before, didn't you? I remember reading it and opening another tab to figure out wth a LARPer was! It was a hilarious scenario

                I guess even if meeting 200 kids on a trail is likely, I still wouldn't ride through them... not 200 kids whose main experience with horses are My Little Pony toys or Spirit videos. It is good for your horse to be desensitized to little kids running around but I just don't think putting your horse in the middle of that is wise... for the kid's sake!

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                • #9
                  Absolutely the right thing, or at least the same thing I would have done. I like the peppermints....we did the same thing yesterday with a going thru tunnels first in line training ride.
                  ********
                  There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by sterling2000 View Post
                    One time my Mom and I trailered to a local trailhead for a nice leisurely ride.

                    We were met by about seventy five LARPers in full Lord of the Rings getup, with flags and swords and even hobbits with fuzzy feet and Wizards and...Power Rangers? That was a very strange day. Thankfully, we did not meet the Power Rangers, but we did encounter some very nice hobbits on their way to Mordor.
                    Oh, that is hilarious! I have a lot of friends who are LARPers and can just imagine.... The closest we've come to encountering LARPers was the guys playing paintball, running around in the forest and shooting at each other. They had all the soldierly gear and took the game pretty seriously. The mare was NOT amused; we skirted the edge of it for a few minutes to get to an alternative trail. Because she's so opinionated, I prefer to not just turn her around if we encounter something she does not like. Letting her get the upper hand in an argument tends to cascade into a lot of Dominant Mare behavior. (She's a Morgan; she knows she is smarter than I am!)
                    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You did absolutely the right thing! The chances that at least some kids would have made moves your mare would have found frightening was about 100%. She would not even have to have kicked anyone, possibly just moved sideways getting away from one, knocking over another, who would have started screeching . . . etc!

                      My first teacher always taught me: Think of the absolute worst case scenario, and head it off at the pass.

                      Even on the most bomb-proof, kid-friendly (ex-handicapped-riding school horse!) I own, I'd have done the exact same thing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I was hiking the Appalachian trail...backpacking after 7 days in the deep forest and was headed out that day at Winding Stair Gap near Franklin, NC. I heard them LONG before I saw them but came across probably 75 kids and teachers on a field trip hike. It was unreal how much noise they make after 7 days of isolation like that. I almost turned and ran back into the woods myself!

                        I certainly would not have taken my horse into the middle of that either. You can't predict what kids might do and if one had run up on your horse, he/she might have been kicked or hurt.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Well, I pretty much knew I did the right thing I was disappointed that we couldn't cross the dam; it had some water on it and most of the times we've crossed it, it's been dry or had a few puddles that Miss Water Averse could avoid. We'll get another chance, but probably not until fly season is over...
                          You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                          1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yep, you did the safe thing (which I think is the same as right thing).

                            I was driving my Shire hitched to a cart on a road near by old barn. A car with flashing yellow lights passed me going very fast with a guy on a road bike pedaling behind..."OK", I thought, "biking for charity"...we stopped, horse pooped in the road and a car stopped and told me there were 200 bikes behind him in a road race....I could have just driven on in the road blocking things or be safe. I played safe and parked near on the grass 25' off the road....and waited. A rider or two came by, dodgeing the fresh pile...then a phalanx of bikes 6 across and 20 deep came over the hill...only the front row saw the turds and they tried to dodge them. What an interesting display of ass over teakettle and profanity. We were sitting watching the dinner-&-a-floorshow, my horse didn't seem to mind and it was a bit of payback for the Wash DC road bike jerks who "own" the road on the weekends with their amazing attitudes.

                            Safe is good and I guarantee there would have been a jerk in the group who would have caused a problem.
                            "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I was once trail riding, all by myself, nice and quiet, and all of a sudden a huge mass of people came over the hill running down the trail towards us. Horse was WTF? the people kept going and just went by both sides close enough to touch horse, who was freaking out but didn't have anywhere to go; second a gap opened up in the crowd horse and rider moved in accord to shoot out cross-country off the trail, dodging through the trees to get away. Lucky the horse didn't kill anybody that day.

                              Turned out they were doing a race on the trail and didn't bother to put up signs or anything to warn other trail users of the event.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I found myself surrounded by a throng of unruly children on a trail once, riding a horse I'd *just* gotten that week and it was only my second ride on her of course. Had no clue how she was going to react. We popped over a hill in a little clearing and BAM there they were. Before I could even get her turned around we were surrounded with squealing kids of all sizes, grabbing at her and touching her. I guess I'd stumbled on a rather large picnic or group outing, probably about 20 kids and 8 or so adults. Even the parents were jockeying for a position near the most dangerous spots, directly in front and behind her. OMG horsey I wanna pet the horsey can my kid pet your horse etc etc, even had a couple toddlers shoved in my face.

                                I tried to stay polite and was asking them quietly to move back a little but of course no one was listening, they just wanted to pet the horse. The mare stayed relatively calm but was definitely on high alert which was a pleasant surprise in an unpleasant situation. Then all of a sudden her head went up, ears went flat against her head, every muscle went taut and she felt like she was ready to explode. I didn't know what just happened but I knew it wasn't good. Started getting firm with the parents, told them they needed to get the kids back NOW in a loud voice. All of a sudden one of the moms drags a little boy from underneath her udder area and all the kids around her back end start screaming "EWWWWW he's licking the horse!" Kid has this stupid grin on his face and dirty horse sweat all over his chin. That's when I realized this kid had gotten underneath her and was licking her, likely around her teats. GROSS!!!

                                I yelled "OUTTA MY WAY NOW!!!" at the top of my lungs and pushed the mare forward. Got her out of there, turned around and hollered back at them (mostly at the mom of kid that was licking her) "you're lucky this horse didn't take all your heads off!"

                                I could tell everything in her was telling her to blow and she kept her cool. The mare is a keeper for sure. Now that kid who was licking her by the teats? Boy ain't right.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I've been in the people swarm before. Folks parted around the horse and closed behind as it passed. Nothing happened. Did I mention this was with stud horses? Ours were 2 & 3 yr olds. Nothing happened. Out of the stall into the swarm, down the aisle, out the back door, back into the aisle on the other side, into the sale/show ring. Nothing happened. Then back through the swarm to the stall. Didn't bother the horses, didn't bother the people.

                                  It was an Amish auction/stallion parade and it rained, so probably at least 1000 people in/near the barn. Not sure of the exact people count, but I remember they made thousands on dinner.

                                  There were about 20 studs there, no problems with any of them.
                                  Visit my Spoonflower shop

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                                  • #18
                                    red mares, the difference is that the people in your swarm were probably older and knowledgeable about horses (I'm guessing, since you said it was an Amish auction so presumably they were there to purchase livestock). None of them would probably run up and under a horse, or pull its tail, or suddenly shove a hand up into its face. That's what would concern me about being in quietann's position!

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