Jay Allen Sanford 12:09 p.m., May 24
This is a true story of the male ego and road rage on horseback.
I love the quiet solitude of a Saturday afternoon horseback ride. The clear blue skies in rural San Diego County. The warm breeze. The smell of sage and lilac watered by the winter’s rain. Hawks soar above and doves cooing in the chaparral beside the trail. The rolling gait of my Tennessee Walking horse. I am riding on one of the few remaining large undeveloped parcels of land left in Valley Center. My world is at peace.
Now it is time to return home, bathe the horse, eat dinner with my wife, maybe watch a movie or sit outside to look at the stars. In order to get home, I must ride on my neighbor’s narrow driveway which goes down a hill, through a dry creek bottom and then up a short hill on the other side.
Because of the hills, creek bottom and surrounding trees I cannot see from one end of the driveway to the other. As I near the creek bottom, I hear the roar of motorcycles approaching on a collision course.
I ride my horse as far off the road as possible and await the arrival of the dirt bikes.
The first one comes through the dry creek and accelerates up the other side before he sees me and my horse. The young motorcyclist is on one of those smaller bikes and regaled in full brightly colored motocross gear. The horse whirls and tries to escape the whine of the two-cycle engine and flash of colors. I yell at the driver to slow down. The motorcyclist looks in my direction and continues without slowing.
Before the first driver is fifty yards down the drive, a second bike comes through the creek. Same deal. He only notices me only when I yell at him to slow down. The horse’s sense of panic escalates. When I yell at the second motorcyclist to slow down, he merely looks away and races on to catch his buddy.
Before the sound of the second bike fades, I hear a third motorcycle coming harder and faster than the first two. I can tell from the deeper pitch of the approaching engine that this is much bigger bike and the driver is using that extra horsepower to catch the younger drivers. I become more passionate about getting the driver to slow down while struggling to control the horse.
I begin yelling sooner and louder to make my presence known. As anticipated, this third dirt bike is larger, nosier than the first two and the rider older. The horse is fighting the bit and trying to make a break to escape the terrorizing whine of motorcycle engines and sight of streaking color.
The third driver finally looks in the direction of me and my panicked horse, salutes us with one-half of a peace sign, cracks his throttle open and roars after the two younger motorcyclists.
I guess this is when my brain stopped working.
After gaining control of my horse, I turn the frantic 1,300 lb. beast in the direction of the escaping motorcycles in order to pursue our tormentors. Given the horse’s panicked state of mind, it is not difficult to spur him in a full gallop. We start to chase that rude, inconsiderate and dangerous driver of the third dirt bike who doesn’t understand that a peace sign requires two fingers and not just the middle finger.
What am I thinking? As my wife so eloquently reminds me, I am doing what men do best. Acting without thinking. My blood is boiling and I am riding like the wind. In my mind, I see myself as the good guy chasing the bad guy. I am the proud Native American pursuing the noble buffalo in order to feed my village. I am a man protecting my turf.
Was I just trying to scare the rude, inconsiderate motorcyclist by giving chase for a minute or two? Or did I really want to catch this teenager and explain the rules of the trail and proper etiquette between motorcycles and horses? These were questions asked by my wife much later…..of course, I have no clue.
In a split second, I am galloping up the driveway and onto the dirt trail in pursuit of my prey. Two hundred yards down the trail, it curves sharply to the left. As I round the curve, I discover the dirt bike hung-up on a rut in the trail and its helmeted driver standing beside the fallen bike in the middle of the trail.
At the same moment I see the motorcycle and driver blocking our path so does the horse. The dumb animal does the intelligent thing and makes a quick left to avoid trampling the obstacles in his path. My body proves the laws of physics are still in effect. In other words, when the horse went left, despite all of my tremendous riding skills to stay in the saddle, my body keeps going forward and I leave the saddle landing on the ground with all the grace and poise of sack of potatoes falling off the back of a truck.
Even with the unimpressive arrival, I am still ready to seize this opportunity to explain in a calm and fatherly manner the rules of riding motorcycles in the presence of horses to this teenager in addition to explaining that a peace sign needs two fingers, not one.
I climb stiffly to my feet and turn to face my antagonist. The motorcyclist removes his helmet and starts towards me. The immature teen has become a 40-something adult male. “What the #@&#@?!@# think you are doing yelling at my kids? You #@?!@#$# chasing us.”
My brain finally engages. Time for the ego to take a reality check. It becomes apparent that to continue with my original plan of teaching this guy a lesson could cause an escalation of the situation into one with limited options for a peaceful and mutually meaningful outcome with a successful exit strategy. --- ie. This could easily become a knock-down, drag-out, full-on adult (?) male brawl or an opportunity to use invading armies to find weapons of mass destruction rather than using diplomacy.
In an attempt to find a way out of this increasingly uncomfortable situation, I respond to the profane, half-a-peace sign waving, adult (?), motorcyclist by saying: “It is not worth the argument. I’m going home.”
Now, where is the horse? Unencumbered by a rider on his back, the horse decides to complete his mission of getting away from the noise of dirt bikes and men yelling. Utilizing the best deductive reasoning of a horse, he wanders off into the head-high brush for twenty feet until he can no longer go forward.
So I follow him into the brush. Fighting the horse’s panic, big feet and close quarters I work my way around to the horse’s head to get the reins and lead him out of the brush to the trail. The two younger riders have returned looking for dad as the horse and I emerged from the brush. Climbing back into the saddle I offer a parting shot: “Ride carefully and please remember that we are all trespassing.” I slowly ride home.
Dismounting at home, a sharp pain shoots through my right foot when I step down from the saddle. From the patio, my wife watches me limp as I put away the saddle, bathe the horse and put him up. “What happened to you?’ she asks.
“Get me a beer, bag of ice and 800 mg of Ibuprofen and I’ll tell you the story.”
A couple of beers later while allowing me to retain as much of my male ego as possible, she convinces me it is time to go to the emergency room. Four hours later, I have crutches, a cast, a broken foot and strict instructions to put no weight on that foot for ten weeks.
Two adult males and a horse. The only one of the three that acted like he is supposed to act was the horse. Who got hurt? Not the horse. Who acted stupid? It wasn’t the horse. Maybe if men acted more like a horses, the world would be a safer and more peaceful place.