Audrey Pavia
March 12, 2012
donkey and llama in Norco, California

Photo by Audrey Pavia

This is one of the yards filled with critters I saw on my ride the other day.

When I ride Milagro around my town of Norco, Calif., I almost always take the same route. We climb from the flatter, older part of town, where we live, to the higher elevations. It’s only a couple-hundred-foot climb, but it takes us into the newer section of the community, which has all the nice, new homes and well-groomed bridle paths. Plus, it gives Milagro a good workout.

This last time, Milagro and I and my friend Michelle and her horse, Teddy, decided to stay in the flatlands. It was too hot for an uphill ride (85 degrees Fahrenheit in early March — typical of Southern California), so we rode across town toward the river.

I hadn’t done this ride in a long time, so I forgot about all the sights along the way: goofy signs in people’s front yards; well-manicured lawns next door to yards with 3-foot-high weeds; a giant Gumby and Pokey next to one driveway; and, of course, dogs charging the fence, trying to scare the horses on the trail. One particularly bad spook was brought on by two toy poodles that waited until Milagro was completely relaxed before they leapt out of a bush and threw themselves, barking, against the fence. After my horse and I recovered, I commented to Michelle that the mutts were lucky my riding crop wasn’t a sword, or there would be poodle shish kabob for dinner tonight

The best sight of all — and what made the ride worthwhile, despite the darn dogs — was the assortment of critters in people’s yards. Many were right along the trail, roaming around front yards turned into paddocks, while others could be seen just in the back, behind the house. I started keeping a mental note of all the different animals, and by the time we’d gotten home after our 90 minute ride, I’d seen llamas, alpacas, a donkey, pigs, goats, a sheep, chickens, miniature horses and a buffalo. The only animals missing from the ride were emus and ostriches, which we could have taken in if we’d gone in the other direction.

It’s hard not to love a town where you get a barnyard tour like this while riding around the neighborhood. On the other hand, you have to have a good horse to not get dumped when one of these critters starts trotting toward you as you pass by on the trail.

Charging dogs notwithstanding, it was a fun day that reminded me of how lucky I am to be living in an urban-farming community.

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