I hate riding on the roads. Over the years, Toronto has been encroaching, and most of the drivers are now urban sorts who have no idea just how dangerous it is to whip past, inches from my stirrup. Not just dangerous for me, and for my horse, but also for them. Hitting a 1000 lb horse is quite deleterious to the front of a car and generally hard on the driver too. Our road has now become a secondary route for those who want to avoid traffic on the major highway around the corner. So there is a lot of traffic even though it’s single lane with little to no shoulder, and a lot of hills.
In addition to just plain old common sense, I am also influenced by having had a neighbour’s horse die in the ditch beside my driveway after they were hit by a truck. She was thrown clear and was fine, albeit battered and bruised, but the horse never got up. It was quite a few years ago now. But it always sort of lurks at the back of my mind.
Our fields and trails on the farm, and on the farms across the road are impassable right now. With heavy clay soil, the horses sink deep into the areas that have melted and are very wet. And if it’s not melted, it’s all still ice from the big ice storm we had in December. So I have been riding up and down our farm lane since the ice melted off it.
But after riding up and down that lane at least 800 times in the last few weeks, I just wanted to poke my eyes out with a sharp stick. So today, with some beautiful warm weather (finally!) we tacked up Ares and Diego (okay… first I CLEANED Diego, ugh!) and headed out to try our luck on the roads. We headed north and through the rather harrowing tight curve around the ravine. Ana and I both got off and led the horses. Diego was really very good about it all. He’s not afraid of cars, or school buses, or even big trucks. Ares was a bit more worried about things at the start. Once around the curve, we headed across a sideroad to the overpass over the 404. That’s a very busy highway. Ares was a bit concerned about it, but again Ana got off and led him. Diego has been over it a few times before, so he was not so concerned.
I thought it would be pretty quiet after that, but it turns out that Friday is garbage day over there. Apparently it’s also “take your bike out in the sunshine day” too. And “walk your dog day”. We were passed by a very large tractor, several school buses, a peloton of bicycles as well as quite a few individual bikes, multiple motorcycles, about 300 cars, and a zillion rattly trucks. A couple of horses in a paddock galloped over to see us, bucking. Ducks flew up out of the ditch. A dog threatened us. A lady was power walking in an orange track suit. Diego was horrified by her. I’m not sure if it was her fashion sense or the very odd speedwalking gait that bothered him. The ditches were littered with trash. Old real estate signs, broken recycle bins, old clothes, etc. Both horses handled it all pretty well, considering it was their first outing on the road in months.
Consequently, we just walked almost the entire ride. But we were out for 3 1/2 hours and did about 18 km. I have reset my Garmin watch to kilometers instead of miles. It’s kind of crazy that here in Canada we measure distance riding sports in miles. We do kilometers for everything else. So I figured it was time to bite the bullet and switch.
The warmth and sunshine was lovely. It sure did feel good to finally get out and go somewhere. Even if it was a bit terrifying here and there…