Trail Etiquette for Horse Riders

Trail Etiquette for Horse Riders

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Riding on the trails in the Hills of Headwaters is a wonderful way to enjoy time with your horse and friends while taking in the scenery. Many of the trails in the area are open to hikers, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers as well as equestrians.  Being respectful of the land as well as of other users allows everyone to safely enjoy the experience while also preserving the trails for future generations.

The following eight tips are a guideline to keeping you and your horse safe on the trails.

  1. Take Responsibility– Before heading out on the trail, get informed about where horses are permitted and not permitted.   Obey trail closure and seasonal use signs. Ride only on trails that are marked as being open to horses and stay on those trails. Don’t make new trails or use unsigned trails. In winter, stay off groomed ski and snowmobile trails.
  2. Leave a Small Footprint – Horses can cause a lot of damage to the trail. Do your best to the leave the trail as you found it. Avoid going on wet trails even if there are no closed signs posted. If your horse leaves tracks deeper than 1/2” stay off the trail. Kick manure off the trail (hikers and bikers will appreciate it). Take out what you take in and nothing else (leave the wildflowers and wild life behind).
  3. Control your Horse– Before taking your horse on the trail, train him to handle situations that may occur there. Horses that kick, bite or are very spooky are not safe on a shared trail. Always ride with a more experienced horse and rider especially if you or your horse are new to trail riding.
  4. Go Slowly– Enjoy your ride at a leisurely pace especially when your view of the trail ahead is restricted. To avoid damaging the trail or causing injury to other trail users, keep to a walk or a gentle trot. Never gallop on the trail.
  5. Expect to Meet Other Trail Users – Keep to the right when meeting oncoming trail users. If you are passing someone in front of you, make sure they know you are behind them. Pass in single file on the left after getting their permission to pass. If they are traveling with dogs or children, ensure they have them under control before passing. If others are passing you, tell them the safest way to get by. If you stop for a rest, move to the right side of the trail so that others have room to pass.
  6. Right of Way on the Trails – Whoever is travelling uphill is given the right of way so that they don’t lose momentum.   This applies for bikers, hikers and horse riders.
  7. Communicate – When you hear or see other trail users, speak up to let them know you are there. Call out a friendly greeting so they aren’t caught by surprise as they come around a corner.   You can decrease negative encounters by educating non-horse people in a friendly and respectful manner about how to safely approach and pass horses.
  8. Safety – Always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Carry ID on yourself and on your horse in case you become separated. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Carry a basic first aid kit as well as a cell phone, water and some food.

 Prepared for Headwaters Equine Leadership Group, Education Sub- Committee by Anne Gage