Monday, April 30, 2012

How to Approach a Horse's Ass

A number of milestones occurred during Sunday's run. My first double-digit long run (except for my too-long warm-up before the Dirty Dash 10K). My first 20-mile week. And my first almost-trampled-by-a-horse experience while running.

I almost got trampled by horses once in high school while taking pictures for my photography class, but that's a different story.

Martini had attempted a time trial Saturday morning to see if he was fast enough to BQ at the upcoming Cleveland Marathon, and then ran 25 miles with some of his other running friends. Thinking he should be worn out enough to run at my slower speed, I texted to see if he wanted to join me for 10 miles on the local trails.

And then I made a big mistake: I let Martini lead the way. 

If you remember from my Dirty Dash warm-up, Martini has a knack for going to wrong way and adding mileage when I'm not ready for it.

Mistake No. 2: Sunday was warmer than advertised, heating up to the mid-60s by the time we got out to the trailhead. I brought water and Powerade, but not my handheld bottle to bring anything with me on the run. About halfway through, my mouth was dry as a bone.

Mistake No. 3: My first thought was to get my run in and then mow the lawn. Due to a slight scheduling conflict, Martini wasn't available when I had planned to run. Instead, I mowed the lawn first and then went for my run.

Add those to my erroneous thinking that Martini wouldn't be pushing the pace beyond my limits, and you get my legs revolting after eight miles. Unfortunately, we still had a little more than three miles left to get back to the car. Didn't I say I wanted to run 10 miles? Refer to the big mistake above.

Part of Martini's route took us across the Valley, Langes and Wetmore bridle trails. There were many signs of recent horse activity, if catch my meaning. And if you don't, I mean fresh poop.

We passed through the Wetmore trailhead and saw many horse trailers, and I say, "I'm surprised we haven't seen any horses yet."

Speak of the devil ...

Suddenly, we came upon two riders approaching, who kindly stopped to let us pass. Shortly thereafter, we came upon two more riders from behind.

Now, I've never been in this situation before. The Nation Park Service safety page says that everyone should yield to horses. Makes sense, considering the whole possible death by trampling scenario. But what do we do here?

Before we could signal our approach, the male rider heard us coming and said something to his female companion that we were coming.

She snaps, "Say something!"

"Oh, we weren't quite ready to pass yet," Martini responds.

"You can't just run up behind the horses," she growls.

We apologize and ask which side to pass on. I thank them and apologize again as we pass.

Now, I get that we should have given earlier notice. But what is the proper etiquette, here?

Looking back at our first encounter with the horses coming toward us, we should have stopped and deferred to the riders. When in position to pass from behind, should we have given notice, allowed the riders to stop their horses, and then walked past them?

There are a number of bridle trail that link up the hiking trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They provide a convenient way to vary your route and avoid roads, but you need to respect the horse riders if you're going avoid nasty encounters.


Nitmos said...

It's kinda foolish for a horse owner, in this day and age, to expect anyone to know horse etiquette. Also, not worth knowing? Spittoon etiquette and stagecoach repair.

To me, this is all on the horse owners. If I bought a llama out on a busy trail, I wouldn't expect others to know proper llama etiquette. I would tell them that they should spit on it first.

Ironman By Thirty said...

I'm disappointed. I thought this post was going to be about you meeting Nitmos...

I've passed horses on my bike (usually on a dirt road) without thinking twice about their being some sort of horse etiquette. Next time, I think you should run up behind them, smack their asses and yell "YAW!". That should prompt them to pick up the pace.