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Sharing Multi-Use Trails

Safety and Courtesy on Multi-Use Trails

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Riders and runners on multi-use trail

Runner and rider on a multi-use trail.

K. Blocksdorf 2004
Many riders have access to the growing number of multi-use trails being established. State and provincial parks, private trails, and rail trails are ideal for horseback riding. Unfortunately, in some areas, horses are not welcome, largely due to misunderstandings between users. Courtesy and a little extra care can help leave a favorable impression of horseback riders. Here are a few ideas that can help keep all users safe and happy.

  • Don’t canter, lope or gallop unless you can see well ahead of you that the trail is clear of other users.

  • Walk around corners, bends and across trail junctions.

  • Walk single file past other trail users.

  • Be aware of how repeated horse traffic can cause erosion over time. Spread out on hills instead of making a deep single track. Be aware of how hooves may damage surfaced trails. Ride slowly or move off to the side.

  • Always, whether on the trail or in the ring wear your helmet and safe footwear or use safety stirrups.

  • Ride a horse that is trail wise. Before heading out on trail make sure your horse is accustomed to pedestrians, bicycles, ATVs, dirt bikes and any other traffic you may encounter.

  • Take the initiative to move off the trail, especially for pedestrians. Many people are intimidated by horses.

  • Don’t litter.

  • If your horse is startled by the sudden appearance of another trail user politely ask them to say hello so your horse can recognize them as another human.

  • Not everyone takes horse manure for granted like horse lovers do. If your horse drops manure on the trail, get off and clear it off the track. Trails in some areas have been closed to horses for fear of contamination. Once exposed to the sun, horse manure has little in it to contaminate ground water. Even if you fall face first in a fresh pile, it’s unlikely you’d pick up any harmful bacterial. However, don’t expect non-horse people to know that.

  • Clean up after your horse in the parking lot if you’ve trailered in. Don’t leave manure, urine puddles, or old hay lying about. Bring a muck bucket and a manure fork to clean up with. Wash away urine with a few buckets of water.

  • Dirt bikes, ATVs and other motorized vehicles may be encountered on some multi-use trails. If you are riding in an area where you will meet these users try to stay out of their way. Better yet, try and establish an understanding between vehicle users and horseback riders so both can enjoy the trail safely. This might require a little more time on your part, but it will be worth it if unfortunate encounters or accidents can be avoided.

  • Always, always be polite, even if someone is impolite to you. Do everything you can to leave other users with a favorable impression of horseback riders.
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