Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Horses and Highways: Not a good combination

So my mailbox is full of the story about how the guy who was traveling across the country in a horse-drawn wagon got hit by a semi. Video (non-gory, prior to the accident) at the link. Another news story.

While this is a sad story and I hope that he and the remaining horses will recover, it brings up a point I almost brought up again when we did the carriage horse story -- which is that I do not believe horses and cars are ever a good mix. I mean, look at the video -- it looks like an accident waiting to happen, and it was.

Sure, many of us grew up in the days when it was safe enough to ride your horse to town for an ice cream cone. Even today, I have a neighbor who rides his horse down the road. We all know to watch for him, slow down and pull wide, and nobody on our street drives like a fool. But it's a 35 mph in the country - not a highway with semi trucks!

Riding or driving a horse on heavily-trafficked roads is a recipe for disaster, in my never-humble-opinion. Look at the dangers we face on the roads. Drunk drivers? Everywhere. Stoned drivers? Check. People jabbering away on cell phones, texting, arguing with their spouse or trying to discipline their kids in the back seat? Everywhere. The only reason I feel semi-safe on the roads is the large hunk of good old fashioned metal that encases me and helps protect me from the idiots. On a horse, I would have no such protection - and neither would the horse.

Every time a car and a horse tangle, the horse loses. That's a fact.

Putting a vehicle that travels 3 mph on roads with vehicles that travel 60 mph is a very bad idea. You can scream all day that it's legal and that other drivers should simply be more careful, but that doesn't change the reality that you've set yourself up for a bad accident. At least with the carriage horses, everybody is going slowly, in downtown traffic and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic as well, so drivers are more likely to be on the lookout for obstacles. (I'm still not crazy about it, but it's not as bad as driving them down a 60 mph highway)

The world is full of arenas to ride horses in, and trails of all sorts - well maintained or rocky and challenging if that's more your speed. There are wide fields with no vehicular traffic. I simply don't understand the appeal of riding or driving a horse around cars, when we all know how people drive and what kind of damage a typical car can do to flesh and bone (much less a semi!).

"Bob Skelding, 49, was driving his team of horses on a stretch of roadway that had little or no shoulder. Two 18-wheelers traveling side-by-side crested a hill, and one of the trucks hit the RV from behind."

Yeah, I feel sorry for him. But I feel more sorry for the horses, who did not sign on for this ill-considered journey and now are dead or suffering as a result. And I feel sorry for the semi driver, who had no reason to believe he was about to encounter a vehicle moving way below the speed limit over the top of that hill, and now has suffered a traumatic accident that I am sure will haunt him forever.

C'mon's 2009, not 1909. There are better places to ride and drive your horses. Stay off of busy roads! If you want to "slow down" your life, WALK across the country.

P.S. For any newbies to the blog, I've posted before that I care about horses' welfare much more than I care about human feelings. Horses are innocents who cannot protect themselves, and humans do not die from hurt feelings. So feel free to tell me I'm just horrible to criticize a man who's in the ICU but it won't change my feelings on the matter.