Initially, in my mind, I set out to “attack” rude drivers and tell of all the dangers of horseman versus driver. I have changed my mindset completely, partially due to the fact that most rude drivers wouldn’t read this to begin with. So, this is my approach.
I, too, am a driver; I’m also a rider. I’m writing to thank those drivers who slow down considerably when approaching a horse and rider on the road. A driver might ask: Why would someone be out on a road with a horse in the first place? My answer: We are forced to be. A rider might ask: Why don’t people slow down when approaching horses on the road? My answer: Maybe they have no idea of the dangers of not slowing down.
I would like to approach this realistically from both sides — the rider and the driver.
Dear rider: You should be well aware of the dangers of riding your horse on any road before you leave the safety of an enclosed area. You cannot assume that all drivers are horsemen or know how horses may react to different situations. If you plan to take your horse out onto the road, surely you must know that there are “horse-eating monsters” at every turn (trash cans, dogs and dump trucks come to mind). Everyone puts out trash, there are dogs everywhere, and dump trucks must use the roads. Guess what else, riders? Teenagers rev their engines, spin their tires on pavement and speed. People ride four-wheelers, golf carts, dirt bikes, motorcycles; we all have to share the roads. People walk dogs, stroll their babies and fish in the canals. Be ready for anything — even other horses. Be ready for any possible disaster when you hit the road. Train your horse. Be in control of it. Pay attention to your horse, your surroundings and yourself. Stay off of your phone! Plan to have some sort of “company” on the road. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are riding, you will encounter at least one of the above. If your horse can’t handle what might or could happen on the road, stay off of the road. You are equally responsible for a mishap or a disaster.
Dear driver: Most of the above applies to you as well. Florida law says that horses (like pedestrians) indeed have the right of way. So yield, slow down, be courteous, and be cautious. Guess what, drivers? The scariest scenario I can think of is this: You’re driving home from work one evening, the weather is superb, you’re talking to your “someone” on the phone or maybe you’re just in a daze thinking about your weekend to come. You’re cruising along, not much over the speed limit and then out of nowhere, bam — a horse appears as your new hood ornament, and a person is now occupying what used to be your windshield. Not funny. Worst yet, could it be your fault, the silly, spooked horse that shied into your lane or rider who wasn’t paying attention? It’s no matter. You are the driver.
The essential message to riders and drivers: Be aware of each other. Be prepared for the worst. The roads are for everyone. Share. Be considerate. Riders, only go out on trusted horses and pay attention while riding. Drivers, never assume a horse/rider sees or hears you. Please don’t do anything that could potentially harm horse or rider. Drive safely.
Jennifer Hager, The Acreage
Editor’s note: Hager is a member of the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors.