In which we consider crisis preparation, part three: stand and fight!

In part one, I talked about hunkering down against crisis.
In part two, the topic was the process of deciding how and when to run like hell.

Sometimes, however, you gotta Stand Up and Fight Back.
A  little bit of background information:  I studied karate for 13 years, and taught a lot of self-defense classes, mostly to women whom I would normally consider bigger, stronger, and smarter than myself.  And yet, when confronted with a hypothetical scary situation, their brains would chart a course directly into the Shores of Denial.  We could talk forever about plausible crises in the woods
and my students just couldn't settle down and cope with the thought. 

That's when I learned to help people think about crisis in terms of the unlikely.  Apparently, thinking about the Zombie Apocalypse allows people to make better planning decisions.  Who knew?

So, in the interest of rational thinking, let's explore the defense possibilities needed during the ZA.

You need a safe place.  Your house can be it, if you're there when the Bad Stuff begins.  Do you have supplies to ride out a siege?  (see the post about hunkering down)  Food, water, medications, clothing, a good book? 

Now, if the zombies are coming to your safe place, how do you intend to defend it?
Door locks?  Those are good, especially if you actually lock them (we don't, often).

Got a perimeter fence?  Those are also good for keeping your dogs and horses off the road, so if you've got that, give yourself a star.

Got a weapon?
At this point, a lot of people want to get a gun.  My experience is that guns, in the hands of people who don't use them often are more of a liability than an asset. (hunters and soldiers generally practice the use of their guns often; librarians and computer systems administrators, not so much),  You are best off with a weapon that you use all the time, something that your body is completely comfortable with handling.
If you do farm work, a shovel is a good defensive tool.  If you do trail work, I recommend a Pulaski.

If you're more of a homebody, look around at the stuff you use everyday.

I once got into an (absurd) arguement with an employer who was trying to implement an intentionally-vague "no weapons in the workplace" policy.  The employer wanted to make sure I didn't have a weapon in my truck in the parking lot.  I did, of course--you need a tire iron if you get a flat tire, and I was driving on low-budget tires.  I could put a big dent in a zombie with a tire iron, or better yet, a jackstand!  The employer also wanted to make sure that I didn't have a knife in my desk.  I did, of course--a nice sharp 4-inch metal blade embossed with the employer's logo.  This particular blade was designed for opening envelopes, but don't you think I could hack off a nice chunk of zombie with it?

The punchline, of course, is that the workplace--a library--is filled with heavy rectangular items, also known as books.  If you hit a zombie upside the head with a solid hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I guarantee that you'll gain a nice headstart towards the exit before Mr Zombie is ready to shamble forward again.


Now you're at a ridecamp.  What have you got to defend yourself? 
In my camper, the books are all paperbacks--not much good.  I do have a nice #10 iron skillet in the galley, though.  I could surely slow down some undeadness with that.  What else is in there?  Canned food.  Diet soda (shake and spray!).  Ice boots?  Hmmm.

In the horse trailer is a bunch of rope, a pair of scissors, a manure fork, and the trailerhitch spring bar.  Those can all be useful.  Heck, if I look around I can probably find a fair amount of manure--an excellent emergency projectile weapon!  Gravel is also always good.  If you anticipate zombie trouble, why not stash a few rocks in your pockets?

Get the idea? 

Okay.  Now you're out on the trail.  What have you got?
(I'll give you a hint:  four hooves)

I don't mean that you should teach your horse to execute war-manuevers (although it would be cool if you do).
(not my horse, not my photo)
Even if your horse is normally polite to strangers (mine is, barely), you can stay in the saddle and swing MyLittlePony's butt directly into the body of someone who invades your space in a hostile manner.  By doing this or something similar, you can knock a zombie off-balance hard enough to stop the forward lurch for a few vital seconds--enough time for you to leave. 

DO NOT DO THIS TO A BEAR!   Bears have weapons all over their bodies.  Back slowly away from a bear making loud but non-agressive noises (singing is good).  Get well away from a bear before using the spurs on your noble steed--bears will chase if you run.

DO NOT DO THIS TO A COUGAR!  Cougars will mostly leave rather than attack a person on horseback.  Stay mounted, talk loudly, give the cat an escape route while preserving your own escape route. 

If there's a creepy person on the trail
stay mounted, make eye contact, keep your escape route open, use that pony's butt if you need to (but maintain a long distance if you can), communicate with your riding partners, and keep moving. 

BTW: most badguys can't shoot the broadside of a barn from inside the barn, and zombies have notoriously bad aim.

In the "run like hell" post, Endurance Granny posted a comment about an incident where she and her horse met a person on the trail.  EG was feeling small and vulnerable, and wished for a gun to defend herself.   If the incident had ended badly, I would never be so impolite as to second-guess EG's actions; however, since EG obviously survived the encounter, I'm going to play devil's advocate and examine it a bit more closely: 

EG wrote:
I came upon a solitary "man" out there. At five foot two inches, and the cardiovascular fitness of a snail...that is a very BAD feeling. The one time it happened that I was very bugged I was heading towards the person. 

Let's assume for the sake of practice that the "man" was probably a zombie.  EG's gut feeling told her that something was wrong with the situation, and also the guy lurched around a lot, he smelled like rotting meat, and when EG made eye-contact with him and said "Good morning!" in a loud clear voice to allow him to know that she knew he was there, he only responded with the word "bra-a-a-ainnnnnnns." 

EG wrote:
It made me very glad that Phebes was good at leg yielding. I put her up into her power trot, applied some leg and zoomed on past on the other side of the trail. There are times out there that I wish I had a permit to carry (paranoid as that may sound), I'd feel safer.

Without picking on EG, I'd like the class to imagine a similar situation (or remember a similar situation if you've ever been in one), and think about the following:

1.  Is there a reason that you need to risk life and limb by continuing to ride forward into the grab-range of a zombie?  Why not, instead, execute a swift turn on the haunches, and go back the way you came?  Or get off the trail entirely and get far away, quickly?  Not very many humans or zombies can keep up with a horse when you move out across country.  Rather than move closer to a potential threat, turn tail and take a different route!

2.  How would a gun have helped in this situation, unless EG practiced not only carrying her gun but also shooting it with some degree of accuracy at a lurching target from the back of a moving vehicle (in this case, her horse)?   Also, unless EG practiced shooting her gun from Phoebe's back on a regular basis, would she not be risking a major horse spook-and-dump-your-butt-and-leave-you-for-zombiebait manuever?  A gun might be a nice visual deterrent, but if you fall off your horse while waving it around, you won't be happy.

As I said earlier in this post, your best choice of weapons is usually a tool that you can use without thinking about it at all, something that feels comfortable in your hand because it spends a lot of time in your hand under non-emergency circumstances.  If you don't want to use your horse's butt as a weapon, how about your riding crop?  Or your gatorade bottle--you could squirt the contents or throw the bottle--versatility!  Using the bottle has the added advantage of keeping you out of zombie grab-range as well.  What else have you got in your pockets or saddlebags that you can use? 

Be creative and think about it.  Put your best ideas in the comments for others to share.

I've been riding trails for a dozen years and thousands of miles.  Do I stay out of trouble because there is no trouble out there?  Or because I'm ready in advance to avoid it?  

Be ready, stay safe, and ride those ponies!


  1. Great series!

    Plotting out how to Escape From Memphis was a perennial hobby with my friends. (If you don't know, Memphis is on a major faultline and is completely unprepared for an earthquake - it will probably go post-apocalyptic when the Big One hits.) I've done a little plotting about how to escape from wildfires out here, and I think I could get everybody evacuated in an hour.

    I have a gun, and I will totally plug a zombie that comes in my house. I don't often carry while riding because I haven't shot from horseback - she's been near shooting and doesn't spazz, but on her back is a different story.) I think even more important than a weapon is the willingness to not let them eat you alive - hopefully I would go all honeybadger on the zombies.

    I think being on a horse is usually our best defense on the trail. If you're not a horse person, they are awfully big and imposing creatures. Most of us have gotten slammed into tree trunks enough to keep our balance even if someone grabbed our leg, too.

  2. I am so loving this series.
    Coming from a family of cops, I'd add if you have to turn tail and run from guns...zig zag. Really hard to hit a zagging or zigging target.

    For those who seriously want to pack firearms on horseback, I recommend looking into this sport: Cowboy Mounted Shooting. Target practice from the back of a galloping horse with experts to train you.

    I'm with Funder, our horse can be our best intimidation asset. Throw in a couple of comments "Step BACK, he kicks/strikes/bites/rears/charges" and some unsettling movement (leg yield back and forth? Spin?) and you have a psychological weapon.

    As for the standing and fighting part, um, thanks for the kick. There's something about preparing an earthquake kit that makes one feel one might be creating a jinx...and that's just silly. What if it's Zombies?

  3. Barns are great places to find things with which to defend yourself!
    Once when I was galloping horses my boss (he was 70 years old) had this other gallop boy that would work for him part time (in between drug/alcohol binges). One day he shows up and is just absolutely wired. Demanding that Don give him an advance on his pay, and basically just ranting and raving. It was really quite scarey because I thought he was going to attack Don. I remember looking over and seeing the shovel and thinking, if he hits Don or jumps him I'm gonna smack him with that shovel as hard as I can! Luckily, it didn't play out that way.
    We do keep a couple guns here, as the cops are about 45 minutes away and Todd leaves for work about 1am every day. I just feel safer knowing I can defend myself if needed. I do have a permit to carry, but the horses aren't broke to gunfire so I don't usually take it with me on the trail. The dog is a good deterrent as well, although he isn't really and "attack" poodle!

  4. :( I'm sad this series is over. I want more.

    Semi-serious question here: I know it says loads about me, blah blah blah, it bugs me that I'm like this, I'm working on it, etc, etc, etc...:

    I really don't like making eye contact with Zombies. I can fake it and do well in a zombie-horde situation, but I feel too...I dunno - exposed on a one-on-one situation of walking past a zombie. Or even people who I know aren't zombies.

    So, say, when I go walk my dog on the riverbed, I never know where to put my eyes when someone is walking towards me. Usually it's not a problem, because most people are just as awkward as I am, but if the person is a real zombie, or is giving off a definite, dangerous "I'm a freakin' zombie" air, any hints on where to look? If you avert your eyes too much, it makes you seem like a victim. If you stare too hard, it incites anger/rage. Maybe just ignore them and hope they're bad at reading body language?

  5. Funder and Jane make a great point: verbal intimidation is a powerful tool. "Stay BACK, she KICKS!" is a good one, especially if MyLittlePony is whirling around (because the rider is cueing her to do so)....

    Becky, if you were walking a real dog, and not your cockerpiddle or one of my floofs, you could talk and make eyecontact with the dog instead of the zombie:
    "Now, Headsplitter darling, don't attack the nice zombie--remember how much ichor you got in your fur after you dismembered the last two? You can play with your friends Throatgasher and Lungsmasher when we meet up with them in just a minute, dear."

    With floofs, it just doesn't sound quite right, although Mims does make a convincing leap/twirl/bark/growl at the UPS guy.

    Carry a nice stout "fetching" stick, even if your dog doesn't fetch. Get it comfortable in your hand, twirl it around and whack it on tree trunks as you go.

    Remember your "horse show posture": back straight, head up, shoulders back, nipples can see where you're going, and a look in your eyes that intends to slay the competition. With that kind of posture, you WILL make eye contact, and the zombie will dissolve from the strength of it.

  6. To turn around that day was not in the cards. I was at mile 23 of a 24 mile training ride. Not going to backtrack my horse because some stupid man shows up in the woods! Did it give me pause? Yep, it did. It would have given me considerably more pause had I been on foot. Phebes is not a warm and fuzzy horse, she's all for moving out away from a strange person. Had the vibe been stronger would I have done anything different? Probably.

    A gun. I'm all for packin' heat. But I would not do so unless I understood the safe operation of the weapon, and could hit the broadside of a tree and desensitized my horse. The firearm puts me out of harms reach where a shovel, a rock (with my throwing arm)and a broad axe really don't! I figure I can drop someone by dumb luck by the time they get to me cause for sure I'm not outrunning anyone.

    On another note I'm told if the wind is in your favor that wasp and hornet spray to the face of an attacker is very disabling and gives one time to flee. But if the wind blows your way, pardon my french but you are "fill in the blank."

    Of course I can't hit the broadside fo a barn, nor can I flee an attacker except on horseback. Journey would stop and check the guy out for a peppermint...

  7. I have comments!!!! Of course I have comments....

    It IS hard to fire a gun off of a horses back - or while holding on to their reins/leadrope - unless your horse is very solid in that particular skill. It's made doubly hard by the fact that it's MCUH better (unless you have copious amounts of training) to fire a gun 2 handed - much better accuracy. Good luck doing that with your horse. So, let's assume you are likely to miss shot. The problem with shooting zombies on the trail is that you rarely know where your shot will go....because the trail is made up of all sorts of hidden things - like hikers around the bend and such. Because of the unpredicatbility of the horse, I would never presume to shoot something "real" off a horse (.357, .38, 9mm, 45 etc.)because of their unpredictability of screwing your shot, and then hitting something you didn't intend to (not to mention other things like - can you clear a jam in a semiauto mounted effectively?). I would dismount to shoot a "real" gun. you are on the ground and *I* think there is a much better chance of you getting away if you are on the horse, than dismounting, holding the horse with one hand, and brandishing a firearm with the other.

    What I WOULD do is carry a pellet gun. They are realitvely quiet, not likely to kill, and are useful in other ways than being threatening. When riding for a wild horse sancturary, we regularly carried pellet guns to drive wild stallions away from us if necessary (mostly the young studs in the bachelor bands were the issue). I would feel comfortable shooting one off of horse back - BUT I think this is NOT your first line of defense with zombies. Brandishing a pellet gun (or "real" gun) in attmept to scare them, could backfire and cause the zombie to do something out of fear that they might otherwise not do. My theory with a gun is don't draw it unless you are going to shoot the zombie with it. It's more useful hidden.

  8. Just for the record, I am NOT recommending shooting zombies with pellets - it's just likely to piss them off, or scare them into doing something unpleasant. LIkely if you can't scare them into running away with your horse, the pellets are just going to irritate them....I'm just pointing out a pellet gun as a useful tool for other situations.

  9. Mel makes a LOT of good points (thanks, Mel!). Here's another thing to consider:

    If your weapon is taken from you, will you be in greater danger than you were without it?

    If your weapon is your own dog, the answer is "no." Very few people get shot by their own dogs.

    If the weapon is your riding crop, the answer is "no." You and I know *exactly* how much a riding crop stings, yes, but it won't cause permanent or even temporary injury unless it gets stuck in your eye. People who don't use a riding crop regularly don't know that, and will try to keep from being hit by it--it's a good deterrant, and unlikely to misfire and hurt a bystander

    If the weapon is a firearm...uhm, bad things can happen. Your assailant isn't on a horse. Unless you have a tricky safety catch, most zombies can figure out how to shoot a gun they've never seen before. And although zombies can't aim for diddly, the potential for harm is much higher.

  10. Aarene, I think I <3 you!

    In case of the Zombie Apocalypse, I plan to surround my house with treadmills facing out. Zombies won't be able to get in!

    In case of Vampire attack, wild garlic grows in my lawn at an astonishing rate. The horses are safe too, as it also springs up in the pasture, much to my consternation.

    I have a Pugnacious "shark", who is teething and can annoy any zombies who get into the house. But first, they have to get past the black monstrosity we call "Great Dane" and through my "Australian fluffs", who love their Mommy to no end. And let's not forget the Australian fluffs' minions called "hair balls"! They can cause slippage on hardwood floors if you don't know they're there.

    My house also comes equipped with lazer cats and cat-obastacles, a dressage whip by every exterior door (because I chased coyotes in Oregon with them), multiple sets of cooking knives and oh, around the equivalent of 50 boxes of books. Some weighing almost as much as a small bale of hay (thvm Neil Gaiman for your Sandman omnibuses!).

    Mostly, the loud, angry noises emanating from inside my home when the 40# fluffs and the 130# monstrosity bark is enough to deter Zombies. Better yet, they tell me if something is afoot outdoors!

    On a more serious note, Zombies tend to avoid people and homes who have big, black dogs. Partially, it's a social stigma. In many cultures, black dogs are seen as evil. So, perhaps Becky and your other readers with teeny fluffs just need to adopt black monstrosities of their own? Not only would they be doing their shelter a favor because these dogs are adopted last, but they'd be saving a life that may well save their life or their loved ones lives some day.

  11. Couple of things - first, brandishing a gun constitutes felony assault, unless you're in immediate danger. If the person isn't a bad person, you could be in trouble. If they are a bad person, they get to think how quick they get to their gun. If you're going to pull a gun, you ought to have a plan to fire it.

    If confronted with a wild animal (excepting bears), apes and monkeys have known for a long time that when faced with danger, you make a lot of noise and throw things (monkeys prefer poo, I'm thinking rocks and sticks for me). Guess what? We're a bunch of hairless apes, and making noise and throwing things still works for us, too.


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