The sight of horses in places where horses are not normally seen can cause great excitement:
“Look, Mommy! A horse!”
“I see him honey. But I’m not sure he belongs in the mall. I think he’s lost.”
“Well sweetie, he’s taking the escalator to the second floor. That’s the automotive department.”
“Can I have one, Mommy?”
While everyone knows that horses belong in the country, there are exceptions. Take parades, for example. Or romantic open-carriage rides. City police departments occasionally have an equestrian unit. What could be more proper and legal than an officer of the law on a horse?
Another way horses are found in urban areas is by virtue of the grandfathered farm. While grandfathered status allows people to keep horses on their property, they’re still obliged to follow all other local ordinances. This often leaves little or no place to ride. Those who refuse to accept this inconvenience are called Urban Riders.
The Political Process
The most notorious Urban Riders I’ve ever known were two of my daughter’s friends, Anna and Andrea. For this pair, the city offered a multitude of trail-riding opportunities. They reasoned that unless it was specifically posted that horses weren’t allowed in an area, it was okay to ride. This kind of logic requires not only a scofflaw attitude, but also a rigorous rejection of common sense. That wasn’t a problem.
When violating local ordinances, it helps to have a cover of legitimacy. For Anna and Andrea, this meant parading around with a pair of stolen campaign yard signs, property of the reelection campaign for the local prosecutor. While illegal and ironic, using the signs made their activities appear legitimate. Yes, horses don’t belong crossing the busiest intersection in town, but to all appearances these girls were part of the prosecutor’s reelection effort.
One young police officer wasn’t fooled. He calmly explained to the delinquents that they had to take their horses elsewhere. The girls, covering their crime with a falsehood, feigned ignorance: “Sorry, officer, we didn’t know. It won’t happen again!” The cop let them go.
A few days later, the girls displayed the same boldness, but no imagination, and pulled the same trick. Since they already had the yard signs, they’d be breaking fewer laws this time. This was progress.
They went to the same corner, waved the same signs, and the same officer approached them. Again he told the girls they couldn’t be there. Again, the girls told the cop they “didn’t know.” And again, the cop let them go. It was as though the first incident never took place.
Unless the cop had been chasing horses away from the intersection all week, it’s doubtful he didn’t remember this pair. More likely, he was thinking ahead and understood something about the logistical nightmare of arresting riders on horseback. A car he could impound. But what the hell was he supposed to do with horses?
This was a bright young officer. Perhaps one day he will run for prosecutor himself. He’ll probably use horses in his campaign.
Time to Eat
Out on the urban trail, riders get hungry. One big advantage Urban Riders have over normal trail riders is access to plenty of fast-food places. Managing to find a great meal in the city while on horseback isn’t as difficult as it sounds – all you have to do is use the drive-up window.
Warning: Just because you’re riding a horse doesn’t mean you always get to go first. People in cars would just as soon run you over rather than wait an extra 60 seconds. Urban Riders have to stand in line like everybody else.
As veteran Urban Riders, Anna and Andrea knew they had to wait their turn. They could hear the customer in front of them place his order: “I’d like a double cheeseburger, large fries – there are horses behind me – and a root beer.”
“Would you like that super-sized, sir?”
The girls probably would’ve got away with this stunt had Andrea’s horse not pooped in line. That couldn’t have been good for business. And, as this sort of thing often does, it drew the attention of the evening manager. The evening manager threatened to call the police if the girls didn’t clean up the mess and leave immediately. I’m not sure how they could’ve physically done both.
In any case, the thought of explaining this to the young cop made the girls laugh. This made the manager even angrier, and he snarled something about prosecuting the pair. It took all they had just to stay in their saddles. But they were able to clean up the mess anyway.
On their next visit (horseless) to the fast-food place, the girls noticed a “No Horses” sign posted on the drive-up menu. I’m sure most customers had always assumed this was the case. Every sign has a story behind it, and seeing this one gave Anna and Andrea a sense of accomplishment.