Other Voices: Town not just horsing around with pathways ordinance

This is in regard to the article “Bitter pathways debate muddles LAH election of new vice mayor” (Oct. 18).

Boy, did this article touch a nerve. There is no dispute. The property owners knew the pathway was there when they bought the property. They deliberately built and landscaped over the original route. If they had left it alone, the pathway would have cost them nothing.

There is a segment of society that believes the rules don’t apply to them. More often than not, these people get what they want because it costs too much money and too much time to try to enforce the rules. That’s not a dispute. That’s just antisocial, wrong and bad.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that Los Altos Hills was incorporated in direct response to a decision by the city of Los Altos to ban horses. The town was incorporated to protect and preserve the keeping of horses.

Yes, there is Fremont Hills and Westwind Community Barn. But boarding stables, which these are, are the equivalent of zoos. Don’t get me wrong, I love zoos. But there is something magical about interacting with the animal world in its natural state. So it goes with horses being ridden in and among the larger human community, as they have been for 10,000 years.

Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t stop me on my horse and tell me how wonderful it is to see the horse. If not that, a car or five slows down either to take a picture or let some excited child take a better look.

To do that, equestrians need the pathways. But Los Altos Hills isn’t very good about supporting its riders and horses. Pathways are illegally obstructed, either partially or completely. Driveways are left slick after sealing, which means we have to ride in the streets to avoid slipping and falling. Crossings are inadequate; it took five years of lobbying to get the town to install an equestrian crossing at the public arena. And there is a constant effort by a small minority in the community to disable the pathway system entirely by rewriting the ordinance itself.

Even more important to understand is that horses in the world today are having a hard time of it. In her book “Falling for Eli,” Nancy Shulins, Associated Press special correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, says that an estimated 170,000 horses a year in the U.S. become “unwanted” – 100,000 go to slaughter and the other 70,000 suffer worse fates.

The four horses I own all have been saved from “worse fates” and have been given a life by being able to live on private property in Los Altos Hills and spend their lives getting ridden around on the pathways. My sister says I am saving the world one horse at a time. I can’t do that without those pathways. Cooperating with an ordinance that may be a little inconvenient isn’t the end of the world for a property owner, but it could be for a horse.


Deb Goldeen is a Palo Alto resident.

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