Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Under Attack

I used to ride my horse everywhere.
I'd ride miles and miles, and some of those miles would be on public roads and into residential neighborhoods.My horses hooves would click and clank, echoing against clapboard house, cement sidewalks and down city streets. It was melodic, in a way, just as melodic as an ice cream truck. From various houses children would come running outside. Even in the early sixties, a horse downtown or in a neighborhood was a sight not to be missed. Everyone of those kids wanted to pet my 'horsie', rub his sweet nose, feed him a carrot or have a ride. I obliged as many as I could, even then.
During the parades we entered people snapped pictures, waved and smiled. Everyone loves a horse.

At least they used to.

I am the President of a Horse club. We aren't big, but we raise a lot of money for charity, have schooling shows and hold the lease on a few acres on what used to be the edge of town. My members work very hard, giving of their own time and money to keep our horse arena in great shape. It isn't easy with just nine  people working and only three of those being men.

The property is owned, not by the horse club, but by the local Regional Park system. We pay an annual fee, and it ain't that cheap. We manage it with difficulty some years.
The Regional Park does not allow dogs in their parks. None. But because the Horsemen have been there for over sixty years, they tended to turn a blind eye to our members letting ours dogs run off leash, since we maintained the space and our dogs were well behaved. We would leash our pets when any other people would come to walk in the park.  Word got out, and soon others were walking their dogs off leash( illegally). We didn't say anything, after all, we own dogs too.

Lately, the dog walkers have gotten out of control. Not only have they decided as a collective whole that they 'own' the park, they are angry at the horses for being there. They have become abusive to my members, the very members that have allowed them to walk their dogs there.

Can you say 'Madbeyondbelief"?

I wrote to a local online newspaper, one that caters to the local population. He published a small article after talking to me, briefly outlining our stance that the dog walkers should try to be respectful of the park that they use freely.
Not saying that dog walkers suck.
Not saying that dog walkers are full of shit.
Not saying that dog walkers are disrespectful asshole that feel entitled.

No. Not saying any of that.

But the responses that have come back point to all of those things.

Yes. They. Do.

And that is only half of the story.
The other half is the City Ball Park next to the Horsemen's Arena. The ball field property is owned by the Regional Park, and the City of Martinez leases it for several Baseball fields. Their ballplayers park their cars right up to our entrance, block all but a ten foot path to our gate, and then have the nerve to ask us to park our trucks and trailers in a small car lot over a half a mile away and walk our horses into the park to use the arena that we pay for and maintain.

Yep. You. Heard. That. Correctly.
Next to the cars. Alongside the freight trains. And the families with kites, and bikes and strollers... not to mention that they want to put US out of OUR area so that THEY won't have to walk a few more feet to access their ball fields. I might add that we have one gate- there are four ways to get into the ball fields. They want to use our access because it is closer.

You can imagine how that conversation played out.

But the City of Martinez- who maintains the road accessing our arena, refuses to make them park where they ought. The City of Martinez refuses to paint the curb for horse trailers only.The City of Martinez refuses to give tickets for disobeying any posted parking signs. The City Of Martinez is now refusing to take my calls, even though I have been extremely polite. (Really! I have.)
That is because the City of Martinez want to take over the lease for the Regional Park that we have leased since 1970, and pave it for parking for their ball fields. Dog Walkers- are you understanding this?

After all- no one owns horses anymore.

I read today that equestrian ownership is on the rise. It is higher than any other type of livestock, and that includes cattle- beef and dairy.

Contra Costa County used to have the highest equine population per capita in California. Outside the City proper are -you guessed it- horse stables, and cattle ranches.And plenty of Regional Park and State Park property. There are more trails here in the San Francisco Bay Area than anywhere else in California. And do you know why? Because the horse owners of this area fought some hard won battles to make it so. (After all an acre of bare land here is worth upwards of $11,000.) Horse owners and clubs have held the developers at bay. Finally dog walkers and bicycle riders and day hikers (sort of ) joined the fray- but Horse owners began the fight- and now they are treated like red-headed step children by the very people that are reaping the benefits.

Do you think it can't happen to you? It won't happen where you live? Do you believe - like I used to- that 'outdoorsy' type people would help one another and be there on the side of the horse owner?

They aren't.
I am under attack.
And if you are a horse owner, so are you.


Carolyn Plath said...

Oh B! I'm so sorry you're having to deal with all this! It doesn't seem fair AT ALL.

Still, you are the perfect person to take it on. You have the brains and the backbone.

Stay Strong!

xoxo C.

Shirley said...

I don't envy you this battle.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I second Shirley's comment. I wish you and your club the best. I dare not say much more than that or I will sound like a ranting lunatic. ;-)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

A dog owner was letting his dog bathe in the horse water trough? Holy cow. I've always known that people are naturally focused on themselves and their own needs, but...

I'm seeing this type of problem everywhere. Horses require a lot of space, and when cities start getting crowded, people seek out space. Next thing you know, the horse facilities and trails are inundated with people doing other activities, many of which don't mesh well with horses, especially green ones. I feel like, as a horse owner, any space I move to is only good for about 10 years before people find me and ruin the place.

sunihali said...

You need to organize a demonstration. Gather all the horse owners and their horses and any friends of horses you can find and OCCUPY! Make a scene, B. Make a scene! XOX

Maia said...

Good Grief this is just awful. Take back your park. Take back your road. You are a child of the seventies. Let the MF's have it.

Let me think on this awhile. I'm sure there's some sneaky, small type legal thing that you can use.

Hmm. More later

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

So frustrating and sad!! The same thing is happening all over, I know. We horse people need to have a Nationwide organization to stand up for our own rights!


Laura Crum said...

That is awful. I hope you are victorious, but I know what you are saying. It is happening here, too. I recently met a dog walker who literally cursed me for riding on a trail that he regularly used-- (horses are permitted on this trail--as are dogs). I couldn't believe it.

C-ingspots said...

We see this same disdain towards horseback riders even in the wilderness trails that equestrian clubs create and maintain. Without people on horseback carrying chain saws and the like, many of the trails would be gone due to winter storms, fallen trees and growing brush, but hikers don't like to have to step around the horse poop. Imagine that!! This kind of thing really gets my dander up. Without a strong showing of like-minded people writing to their legislators, we are very likely to lose this battle eventually. I hope that is not the case, because if so, everyone will be on the losing end of something that was once wonderful...and rightfully ours. I wish you well and the best of luck!!

Corinna said...

Unbelievable! (but actually, sadly, entirely believable). Keep fighting the good fight- horses do deserve to stay. Napa County faced this when they tried to turn the Napa Horsemen's Association property into development- we all rose up with petitions, letters, and attendance at city council meetings. You have to rally the troops! Keep it up- we're all behind you! (and if you have a petition started, post it to your blog so we can all sign it and pass it around!)