Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Would You Do?

by Laura Crum

OK—I had a sort of near wreck the other day that really pissed me off. I would like to tell the story and get your feedback.

My son and I and a friend were gathering the cattle (on horseback) from the pasture at our local practice arena while the proprietor ran the sprinklers on the arena ground. We had the cattle in the small pen behind the arena and were trying to push them through the back gate into the crowding alley. The cattle, knowing what that meant, were resisting. My son and I were right next to the arena fence, totally focused on the cattle, when, with no warning, the big commercial sprinkler, mounted on the fence one foot away from us, roared to life with a huge clack and whoosh---and a blast of water right into our horses’ faces.

I jumped a foot. My son yelped in surprise as he got drenched. And the horses? I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d jumped five feet sideways. It was really quite a shock. But bless their good little hearts—Sunny and Henry threw their heads in the air, they might have snorted and sidled sideways a bit. But neither of them really untracked their feet to speak of as the water suddenly (and loudly) sprayed right at them.

We all stared at the damn sprinklers in disbelief as water shot out at us, too startled to do much of anything but gape and sputter and get soaked. I looked down the arena to where the proprietor leaned lazily on the fence, having just changed the valve to activate the new set of sprinklers. And I saw red.

We finished pushing the cattle into the alley and herding them into the chutes, getting quite wet in the process. I didn’t mind the wet. It was no big deal. Our horses dealt just fine with being “rained” on, after they got over their initial surprise. But when I got done with the cattle I rode up to the proprietor and bawled him out.

Just so you know, that isn’t done at this arena. The proprietor is the boss. Everyone does what he says. No one argues or answers back.

Me, I told him (loudly) that he was an asshole for turning those sprinklers on with no warning while my son and I were right next to them. I pointed out that he could easily have gotten us dumped. I said if my son had been hurt, he, the proprietor, would be dead right now.

The proprietor looked startled. So did everyone else.

“Did your horses spook when I turned on the sprinklers?” he asked innocently.

“You know good and well that its just luck that they didn’t,” I yelled back. “They’re solid horses but any horse would jump at something like that. We might have landed on that metal fence.”

“I don’t mind you dinking around with me,” I added, “and I don’t care about getting wet, but don’t you dare put my kid in danger.”

“I didn’t know you were there,” he protested. “I wasn’t thinking about it. I was just turning the sprinklers on.”

“Well that’s pretty god damn dumb,” I said. “I would hate to think my son or I could have been killed because of your stupidity. Maybe you should learn to think a little.”

At this point the small group of people at the arena is completely silent. I can feel myself running out of momentum. After all, we are OK. Sunny and Henry, chosen by me for their bombproof ways, have protected us from harm—yet again.

But I still feel righteously pissed off. I still can’t believe he thoughtlessly turned that sprinkler on with no warning while my son and I were sitting right next to it on our horses and he expects me to think that’s OK.

“I apologize. I didn’t do it on purpose,” he says. “Don’t be too hard on me.”

Well, leaving aside the fact that this guy never apologizes, I realize I’ve said all there is to be said.

“All right, I forgive you,” I say, “but try to look out for the kids, anyway. Lets not get anybody hurt or killed.” And I ride off, still pretty upset.

My friend, who was gathering cattle with us, but not right next to the sprinkler when it went off, rides up next to me. “I think you over reacted a little,” he says.

I’m still pissed. “How so? He could have got my kid hurt or killed—and for such a stupid reason. All the care I take to keep us safe on horseback—I never could have predicted he’d turn that sprinkler on right then. How can I protect us from that?”

In my mind I know I did protect us from that wreck—by choosing Henry and Sunny. But both horses have spooked before and I totally would not have blamed them if they’d spooked then. I would not have blamed them, but I’d probably have been sitting on the ground, or worse yet, crashing through the metal fence. It simply caught me completely off guard. Normally I’m aware of stuff my horse might spook at and ready to ride the spook. And my son? I don’t like to think about what could have happened.

So here’s my question. Was I right to go off like that? Was that an appropriate response to that situation? Or did I over-react and make an ass of myself, as my friend thinks.

I have been blamed before for my too hasty temper, and I know I am quick to get angry. Maybe I should have been more tolerant?

I have to say that the arena proprietor has endangered people, including children, before, by making thoughtless decisions, and perhaps I’ve just had a belly full of this crap. But, in truth, I am no longer very tolerant of ANYBODY whose foolish, ill considered choices stand to hurt me or my child. I would like to give them all a piece of my mind. There is no part of me that is willing—any more—to condone poor behavior by my silence or wishy washy response. Call me old and cranky, but I’ve had it with being a victim of stupidity—in any sense, at any time. I try to respect others, and I expect—make that demand—respect in return. And by my lights it was totally irresponsible, let alone not respectful, to thoughtlessly turn those sprinklers on without warning when two mounted horsemen were right next to them. Especially when one was a ten year old child. Not thinking is not an excuse. People, you NEED TO THINK. Other people can die or be badly hurt when you don’t think—particularly when horses are involved.

OK, end of rant. Am I just a jerk? What would you have done?

PS—If you would like to win a copy of one of my mystery novels, scroll down to my post titled “Summer Book Giveaway” and enter your name in the comments. I will be drawing first, second and third place winners this Friday, and each winner will get a book.


KarenTX said...

ABSOLUTELY the sane thing you did! I'd be wondering about the intelligence of the "proprietor" around any animals. Geesh, how stoooopid can a person be?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I wouldn't question your behavior anymore. You probably taught the proprietor a lesson he'll never forget and perhaps spared him and someone else from something worse happening in the future.

Daisy said...

I do not think you over-reacted!! Now that Proprietor will THINK before he turns on the sprinklers. There are few horses who would have reacted as gently as yours did!

Unknown said...

No overreaction on your part. Doesn't matter that you were okay. What matters is you don't turn on a sprinkler with two riders standing right next to it without at least warning them and giving the riders a chance to leave the area first. I'm completely surprised the owner would think that is acceptable. I've ridden in arena sprinklers, but as you mentioned, we knew they were coming on or they were already on when we entered.

horsegenes said...

I had a conversation with a trainer the other day that I am still kind of stinging over. I was at a cutting lesson several months ago and there was a guy working on the electrical in the arena. He was on the other side of the arena panels about 8 feet from where I was waiting for my turn to work cattle. Mind you - I was just sitting there relaxed watching the other riders trying to absorb as much from there lesson as I could. He - without warning - fires up a large, loud, sawsall. That is not a tool that I usually associate with an electrician. My mare went straight up and wheeled around. She was as pissed as I was. Bared her teeth and went at this guy. She came back to me with a check of the reins, but I really wanted to let her have him. He realized immediately that he should have said something and apologized. I told this story to the trainer as an example of how this mare thinks, (if it scares me I am going to kick its ass) and she says to me... "Really Kelly... that was your fault for not being prepared. No one should have to consult with you before they do anything. It is your job as a rider to be prepared for anything." OK... I guess to some extent I agree, I should be prepared for anything that could or would normally happen in any given situation. But if it is out of the norm, man made, something that is controlled by a human, something that you would not expect to have happen, then the idiots that are doing it should have the common courtesy to speak up and say "hey I am going to fire off this saw". Just a heads up would have been the polite thing to do. If it is accidental or something out of someone’s control then yes that is all on me. If that had been a less experienced rider they would have been on the ground and then the electrician would have felt like an ass. And everyone would have been up in his face. People don't get on the band wagon until someone gets hurt then they will point out what should have happened. You should be commended for taking the more proactive approach. I wasn't there and can't comment on the level of your confrontation, but my momma used to say that you catch more flies with sugar than you do with salt. I try to remember that. At least start out with sugar and see how far it gets me. If they don't get it or get snitty, I go straight to bitch mode.

Same trainer…. Was concerned that I was sitting on my horse with a leg crossed over the saddle horn – but thought it was safe for her seven year old daughter to go down the fence after a cow on a hot cow horse (who had bucked the day before) with no helmet.  Sometimes I just don’t understand peoples priorities.

Leslie said...

Laura, as I read I felt myself in your position. I too have a short temper when it comes to stupidity, and I would have reacted too. Plus the fact your son was there, I'm sure that's where your protective instinct was anyway. If you had been there without your son, you may not have had the same reaction, but still po'd and called the owner on it. I think the owner deserved the lashing. Maybe he will think about things from now on. Others may have been through similar situations but just never called him on it.

MaryAnn Myers said...

Okay, I'm new to your blog. I was researching something and it came up, and I totally sympathize. Did you over-react? Perhaps just a little. Was your anger warranted, most definitely. As you said, you and/or your son could have been hurt had the horses spooked or the cattle turned on you both. I say take a deep breath and let it go. You had your say, he knows how you feel, and....hopefully he'll pay better attention next time he's ready to turn the sprinklers on.

Mikey said...

I think you were in the right.

FD said...

I would, and have, done the same thing. That's the kind of thing that puts small businesses out of business when something inevitably goes wrong.

I was teaching freelance; a group of four kids aged 7-9, on ponies, in an arena which I'd hired for two hours.

When the proprietor came in with a horse I was narked, but we were currently only using one end. Chalked it up to complain about later. However, then she proceeded to work on 'desensitising' with balloons. When the two year old colt (predictably) got loose, I lost the plot, and my temper.

As I pointed out, (sharply I admit) the insurance indemnifier only covers her for accidents, not for her providing unsafe premises.
Her excuse was the same as the guy you ran up against - 'I didn't think, didn't mean any harm, and anyway no-one was hurt.' I then pointed out that actually, 'I didn't think,' is expressly NOT a defence in law and had anyone been hurt, she'd have been up shit creek without a paddle, because her insurers wouldn't have covered her, AND she'd have been open to civil and criminal lawsuits. I considerably upset her and I didn't care one bit. Terminated the lesson there and then, and got our money back too. Additionally, the parents agreed with me to use another arena in future, even if it wasn't so close.

In that case I was so angry I forgot to be tactful, but I have on other occasions when I couldn't afford to let loose, been successful with sympathetically pointing out that 'x is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and gee, it would be a terrible shame if that happened to you, blah blah, gosh-durned regulations and health and safety etcera.'

TBDancer said...

Property owners are the first to complain about the cost of their liability insurance, but you can bet that if something had happened (a horse or rider or innocent bystander) had gotten hurt, the liability insurance would have gone WAY up. You were right, he was a jerk. End of story.

Laura Crum said...

Karen TX--This proprietor is actually very knowledgable about livestock and is a very experienced horseman, which makes it all the more annoying. I honestly believe that his "thoughtless" actions are the result of a lot of repressed anger. In short, he isn't consciously malicious, but there is a subconscious impulse to "provoke"-and this is a sort of behavior I have run into quite a bit, both in the real world and here in blog world. And I'm not particularly patient with it.

Nuzzling Muzzles--I do think he got the point--and wouldn't have if I hadn't been forceful.

Deanna--You are so right. I am very grateful for Sunny and Henry and I promised them, yet again, that they had earned many happy years of retirement.

Angelia--Yeah, a warning would have done the trick.

kel--I agree with you that the guy with the saw was in the wrong. But if he wasn't a horseman, there is some excuse. In my case the guy was a very experienced horseman. And yes, others have told me the "more flies with sugar than vinegar" thing. I guess I deserve it. The truth is, I was just too angry to care.

Leslie--You are right. If my son hadn't been there I probably would have shrugged it off. It was the danger to him that made me see red.

Mary Ann--Thanks for your comment and welcome to our blog. Hope you visit again. And I have let it go, actually. I feel OK about what I did. I just thought it would make a good topic for a blog post.

Thanks Mikey. I always respect your opinion.

FD--I feel much better having heard your story. I'm not alone(!) In actual fact this particular man probably would have paid no attention to a more kindly worded comment, but the truth is I flat lost my temper.

Thank you, TB Dancer. There were a few minutes right afterward where I was feeling that I was the jerk. Some reflection made me think that what I did was more or less right, and the supportive comments are cheering.

Alison said...

It's interesting that we are all women commenting about losing our temper and then in some small way feeling bad for it. Sometimes you just gotta let it out when a person is stupid enough to endanger others. And really, humans can be self absorbed and selfish (my daughter and I were just commenting on it today). Plus in your case, Laura, the term "pissed off mama bear" is accurate!

Anonymous said...

I think you were totally in the right too.. as I was reading I felt my own fury bubble up.. What a stupid, moronic thing for him to do!!

I think since you blasted him, he'll think more carefully about what he does in the future. It may be his property, but if he's given permission for people to ride there & use his facilities, he needs to respect them! If he's got a problem with people in his space, he can close it to public use.

Don't ever let anyone make you feel like you overreacted in a potentially harmful situation like that. Who cares what they think? You made a thoughtless person aware that they were being an idiot. Cheers to you!!


Once Upon an Equine said...

I can't tell if you over-reacted or not. I tend to overreact at things and my husband is always saying, "Easy now...", "Be nice..." etc, to me. But that was a very unusual, scary, and surprising event and your first thought is to your child's safety. I'd be mad too. You were right to give that man a piece of your mind. He should know better and he needed a strong reminder to think before he does ANYTHING when there are riders in the area. That aside, this is a good example of how you can't prepare your horse for everything. Might be difficult to recreate that incident in the next despooking clinc. Wow! Thankfully Sunny and Henry handled it well.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--Yes, as women, we do not feel entitled to tell a "tough" guy off. As a matter of fact, I do feel entitled these days--or at least I feel that I'm as entitled as any man to speak my mind. I notice that men don't always care for this so much (!)

Jamie--I'm afraid I make rude gestures at thoughtless, dangerous drivers, as well. I want them to know that its NOT OK for them to drive in such a way that they endanger the rest of us. So I guess that's just my personality. Thanks for the comment--made me smile.

Once Upon an Equine--That's a very good point. As a matter of fact, I have never done any "despooking", or gone to any clinics, for that matter. I chose Henry and Sunny for their reliable, solid (and quite frankly, lazy) ways, their vast experience both in the arena and outside, and the fact that they are both in the double digits. And this choice has paid off. I do not personally believe that despooking is very effective. I have heard too many stories about the horse who has been despooked to plastic bags and still runs off when he meets one in an unfamiliar setting.

RiderWriter said...

I'm with you; I would have opened up a big 'ole can of whoop-as* on the proprietor. YOU DON'T MESS WITH MY KIDS.

Well, I say that, but IRL I kind of stink at confrontation. :-/ Nevertheless, I would definitely have said "something" to the guy. That was completely ridiculous. And like what other folks said here, he should actually be grateful that you called him out on something he shouldn't do if he wants to keep his liability insurance. Hitting folks in pocketbook is always effective!

Glad you and your son are okay. I probably would have caused a wreck by shrieking and panicking, so I think you handled the mounted part well, too.

Laura Crum said...

Rider/Writer--Thanks. I was actually so surprised I was pretty much speechless for the first few seconds. Once I'd caught my breath and realized that our good little horses had not dumped us, I was furious. I'm afraid I used the "f-word" rather loudly, as in WTF. So much for being a good mom.

Mrs. Mom said...

Oh hell NO you are not out of line. Laura, you have MOMMA BEAR RESPONSE. That response is a GOOD thing. Maybe now owner dude will fricken THINK before he does dumb shit like that.

Glad Sunny and Henry kept you and your sweet son safe. Glad that you have taught your son so well, and that you too have a good seat on you.

You did right. Least in my book anyways ;)

Unknown said...

Mamma Grizzly is always right. Period.

He will think twice. And that might just save someone else from injury.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

You were NOT out of line. Who knows what might have happened? You guys were very lucky and I hope he thinks twice about doing such an asinine thing again.

Anonymous said...

Something similar happened to me yesterday. Took a trail ride on my mare as the heat and humidity finally broke. Riding my good minded mare down a gravel road and to the right of us from the weeds in the ditch explodes a kid who yells "Yee-ha!" and jumps up on to the road directly in front of my horses' nose. She snorted and sniffed the kid. I on the other hand went ballistic on the kid because A) he did it on purpose and was lying in wait for someone to come along, B)we live in a small town and I know this kid, his parents, grandparents and actually he was a student of mine three years ago and C) he has done this before to my friend who also has a good minded horse that not much bothers but my friend didn't want to make waves so she just let it go.

Long story short, I marched the kid home and told his mom what he'd been doing to entertain himself and she took it from there.
Told him in no uncertain terms he was grounded, no TV, no friends, no computer and extra chores plus she explained the part about getting himself killed or the rider or the horse getting killed or hurt if it took off down the road and a car came along.

This boy is ten years old and the proprietor of the arena you were at is I'm sure considerably older and I would expect him to know better--even the sprinkler system in the produce section of the grocery store warns you its about to come on--so no I do not think you overreacted.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks Mrs Mom--I have a feeling you might have had a similar response. Ya think?

Breathe--I'm not sure this particular guy will think twice in the future when it comes to others--he might be a little more wary around me, though.

Voyager--Yes, we were lucky. The horses could easily have dumped us--and I wouldn't have blamed them a bit.

1st horse--Well, that kid was clearly malicious--though perhaps he didn't realize what might come of it. I think you did entirely the right thing.

Mrs. Mom said...

LOL Someone would have had to rope me and drag me off his carcass had my child been hurt or my horse been hurt. As it was, I imagine it would take a great deal of self control on my part to NOT step down and whup the snot out of him for potentially getting someone hurt or killed ;)

Yep. I might need to recapture my Hermit Status. My BS tolerance level is getting mighty low! ;)

Shanster said...

I haven't lost it much but I HAVE and when I do - it is total see red and the FU comes right out... ater it is all over I can reflect but when it hits....? Nope. No way. Rational, sugar, more flies with honey goes right out the window.

Think it was a normal reaction and it's good you let the guy know. He apologized which to me says you got thru to him. Like you said - maybe just for you - but that is still worth sum'thin!

Laura Crum said...

Mrs Mom--I got a big grin picturing you "whupping the snot" out of this guy. I think you could do it and I'd enjoy seeing it. I know what you mean about the bullshit tolerance getting low. I fired off a very testy email yesterday to someone whose need to be controling and secretive about plans (plans which affect me) had finally just pushed me too far. No cuss words, but a pretty sharply worded comment to the effect that this behavior was unnecessary and very frustrating. I think I need to be a hermit, too.

Shanster--That was it exactly. I was not planning my response. It was sort of a whole-body reaction.

Country Mama said...

You were absolutely in the right and I would have reacted the exact same way had it been my kid. My horse would have bolted when he turned those dang sprinklers on. She's already broke 2 lead ropes from the water hose spooking her. Anybody who is around horses should know better. Horses no matter how bombproof can still be unpredictable.