Thursday, May 7, 2015

Petting the pony

Do you let people pet your horse at home?  On the trail?  Why or why not?  Karen's post got me thinking..

I have fairly firm boundaries around letting people pet Confetti at the barn.  I think it's incredibly rude to go wandering through the barn petting all the horses.  You never know who bites, who's cranky, who's sick, so on and so forth.  If I see people doing that, I'm usually disinclined to have them pet Fetti - or I'll make it explicitly clear that I'm very generously allowing them to pet her and they should ask first.  "She's friendly if you want to pet her shoulder" is a common phrase.  I know she's not mouthy, she's good with kids, and she enjoys the attention.

We're fairly memorable.  I have a blonde horse with braids that goes in hot pink.  I don't want to come across as self-centered or anything, but we stand out and I frequently get recognized.  Or my horse does, anyway!

On the trail, it depends.  If we're on a serious conditioning ride and heading out, I probably won't stop.  I'll wave at kids.  It's not that I'm being rude, but I pass people at least once every minute or two for the first two miles unless I'm riding in the evenings.  I try to stop and walk if it's awfully dusty, but if it's a wide trail and they keep moving, we'll probably keep moving too.

Sometimes we see kids that are clearly awestruck and just dying to pet the pony, but too shy or polite to ask.  Those, I will often pause the timer and stop for.  It makes their day.  Again, she's good with kids, and I'm initiating the offer on my terms.  Kids running up to me?  Nope, not happening. 

To some extent, I see us as being trail ambassadors: we're out on trail a lot, and we're very memorable.  I want people to like sharing the trail with us.  I'm happy to let runners keep jogging by us, or cyclists keep going (where it's safe to do so), or let the kids pet the pony when the kids and pony are all on board with that idea.  The more positive experiences people have, the more equestrian trails we will keep, or at least, that's my hope.


  1. It's a tough line to walk . . . . do we act as great ambassadors for the horse, or do we allow Joe Public to treat us as a petting zoo? Are we assholes to trot past, muttering "my horse doesn't like kids" or do we stop and pray our horse doesn't stomp at a fly and catch a small child foot?

    I guess it comes back to "is it our responsibility to spread the love?" We are also very memorable (think unicorn. seriously.) and attract a lot of attention. I have no issue with waving my hand and smiling at the masses of people who oooo and aaaahhhh at us. I really don't think I need to do more, however. I'm not overtly rude, by any means, but I am adamant that I not put myself or Ashke in a position to be sued.

    Because the bottom line is, if something happens it will be me that gets held accountable for the injury, publicly and legally. Whether it's our fault or not, I will be the one that gets to pay. Not because I initiated the incident, but because our society has raised a generation that values money over personal responsibility.

    It's the same way when I take my dogs out in public. I have a very sweet girl that is really timid. She doesn't like strangers and will bark or growl at being approached. Even when I say "she is not friendly" people are like "I'm a dog person" or "all puppies love me" and then they are totally offended and accuse me of having an aggressive dog when she growls and snaps.

    So, I figure if I am going to be accused of something, better it be accused of being an asshole that doesn't want their animals touched, than an idiot trying to explain in court that the twelve year old got stomped by my horse because she spooked him.

    People should just recognize that horses and dogs are not public property, they should ask first before approaching, and should listen when told they should not approach.

    End of rant. . .

    1. 100% agree.. it is a tough line to walk, and there's really no *right* way to do it. I should have clarified better, I wasn't trying to judge you or accuse you of doing it wrong or anything! More that it really made me think about what boundaries I have and why I have them.

      It's interesting, I have such clear 'do not touch without permission' mental boundaries with the horse at the barn, and even with dogs. Somehow, somewhere along the lines, I switched things up specifically on the trail.

      I suspect part of it is that I (and those around me at the barn) haven't really been exposed to much in the way of horse-related lawsuits, so we'll still do things that could potentially get us sued because we're not worried about us or the horses getting hurt. That seems to be what drives most of my interaction decisions: does this feel safe for everyone involved? Do I feel like I'm in danger? Is my horse having a good day or not?

      Definitely something more for me to think about - very much appreciated!

    2. I didn't question your comment or feel judged. I just wanted to continue the conversation that started on my blog with those readers on your blog. It is interesting how different opinions are based on location or experiences.

      I really didn't realize that I was really hands off until the experience I had with the people in the car who flipped a U in the middle of the street and came tearing up to "pet the horse." They were in their mid-20's. After that incident, in looking back, I realized how negatively I react to people wanting to touch or pet him.

      Anyway, it was interesting to read your perspective. :)

  2. i love letting ppl - esp kids - pet my mare. i'm fortunate in that she's super friendly and LOVES kids (and is gentle enough with her mouth to take treats from toddlers) so no real concerns there, tho i do try to keep them out of the head flick danger zone...

    but really, i just remember being a young horse-starved kid who's day week or month could be totally made by the merest of interactions with a horse - and i hope that the little kids that pet isabel get that same gleeful feeling

    of course the flip side is that some horses are not safe for random pets, and most people don't know how to be safe around horses. when i first started helping out at a farm, the barn manager very succinctly said to me "don't pet that horse bc i don't have time to drive you to the ER" and, well, i got the message haha.

    so yea... it's a balance, and i definitely encourage ppl so ASK first (tho i always say yes)