by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Catherine and Kate Bell of Pattersons Corners are alarmed about local motorists’ lack of knowledge and care in interacting with equestrians who share the roadways. The mother and daughter use their road and the shoulder of the road to ride their horses. This use is completely legal. Their horses are well trained and do not react to cars, trucks, buses or even motorcycles as they pass. Nonetheless, these vehicles ought to slow down and move over while passing an equestrian for the safety of all parties.
Catherine explained, “we’ve had a couple of scrapes with people driving by, blowing their horns, or yelling at us to get off of the road. They don’t seem to realize that horses are flight animals and we’re on the back of them. We’re not wearing armour – we could get severely hurt, if not killed. Never mind them and their car: it would be like hitting a moose.”
Catherine has brought the issue up with North Grenville’s councillors, and Mayor Peckford even came to speak with her and Kate about the issue. In the spring of this year, the Municipality did issue a statement on social media asking drivers to slow down when passing horses and riders, and cautioning them about the dangers of speeding past horses.
But from Catherine and Kate’s perspective, much more needs to be done. Catherine recalls that just a couple of weeks ago, a motorist swore at her, telling her she ought to “get that horse off the road.” She’s feeling “very angry and tired from not being listened to and afraid that I’m waiting for the day we get hurt.”
Not only would a more broad-ranging public education campaign perhaps alleviate the situation, but Catherine wonders if North Grenville should explicitly establish itself as an equestrian community. Not only are there a number of professional riders and equestrian facilities, but many residents of rural areas keep horses in their backyards. From her network of other horse people, Catherine knows that many are in the same position as she: they are afraid to use the roads due to the erratic driving of some motorists. Perhaps the township could develop a logo or sticker stating that the area is an equestrian community so that the presence of horses on rural roads is normalized.
Many local horse owners use the rural roads to enjoy the scenery, access trails, or simply exercise their animals. As long as the horse is well behaved, this poses no issue to other people using the road to drive, cycle or walk their dogs. Until it becomes safe and normal to do so, equestrians will either be forced off of the road, or, like Catherine and Kate, start wearing body cams to record and protect themselves in case of an accident.
I am upset and also sad to see how society is changing in the North Grenville. I am particularly getting upset about the lack of respect for one another on the rural roads of North Grenville. North Grenville is presently doing a survey on how the community perceives future development and future living. This survey needs to include Sustainable Social Living for all of us (People, Environment and Economy). The Town of Kemptville, where I lived for 40 years, was an Agricultural Town, where we all respected each other and SHARED THE RURAL ROADS with local farmers. I am upset and also sad to see that rural residents like Catherine and Kate Bell cannot safely ride their horses on rural roads in Patterson Corners anymore because of ignorant car-driving idiots claiming that they own the rural roads and horseback riders don’t belong there. This is discrimination towards a sector of our society. North Grenville is expanding its urban development at an alarming rate which may have a negative effect on the way we, as urbanites and agricultural folks, ‘used’ to live in social harmony with one another in this community.
I spent a few days in Mennonite Country. I travelled the rural area around St. Jacobs, where many Mennonites are still driving their horse-drawn buggies on rural roads to and from local stores. Their road signs display horse and buggies to inform us that we need to slow down and allow space and show respect for horse and buggies when travelling down their country roads.
We desperately need road signs displaying horse riders on specific rural roads. We are still living in an agricultural community. We have many horse farms in the region.