Share the Trail: Tips for horse owners that are considerate to others and the Earth

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Ever come back into the house and discover dog poop on your shoe? If so (and who hasn’t) you know that feeling of disgust that accompanies the groan upon discovery. Non-horsey people feel the same way about horse poop too.

Happy Horse Healthy Planet.Poop on Shoe

With all the snow on the ground this might seem too early for this article but in reality trail riding is right around the corner. As I sit down to write this I do it as a rider, a runner and a hiker. I write as a mother, grandmother and nature lover too.

To give you more insight on my perspective I will share with you some background. My children and I compete as a family in a10K every year and we usually start serious training just about the same time horseback riders start hitting the trails each spring.

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I also really enjoy taking my grandchildren for long walks on the trails near my house to explore nature.

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Most of the time this does not create a problem. Recently though we had a break in our miserable winter weather and I think everyone that has been cooped up hit the trails, my family and a lot of horseback riders, included.

RidingI noticed right away (as horse people will) that there were quite a large number of manure piles along our route. Directly in our route in fact. As my daughter struggled to keep her dog from eating the poo and I tried my best to avoid walking in it with my granddaughter, my blogging brain started working.

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How can we as horseback riders best share the trail, be considerate of others and reduce our impact to the earth? Many of you share a trail with bikers and pedestrians, all of you share the trail with the environment.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Trail10 Trail shared by bikers, riders and pedestrians

After taking that recent walk through the trail of manure landmines, I realized that many horseback riders don’t have a clue as to what it is like to be on the trail without their horse.

It’s important for me as a horsewoman that we have a good relationship with the non-horsey set to assure we can continue to ride the same trails they use. In my area and many trail areas (especially parks) non-horse people out number horseback riders.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Birdwatchers Birdwatchers having to navigate around horse manure

As a runner I want trails that are safe, clean and fun. In addition I want to take my grandbabies on trails that are also free of poo, dog or horse.

While working for National Park Service I researched trail etiquette and rules that exist in the 106 National Parks that offered equine activities. After reading the list I remember thinking “These are rules?” I was surprised they would need enforcing because of how logical they were. Common sense really. But my most recent trail experience proved otherwise. As horse people we should all adopt these same principles of trail etiquette and remember we share the trail. With that I offer the following tips:

On All Trails

  • If you haul into the trail be mindful of picking up any manure that gets onto the parking area. Keep a muck bucket in your truck bed and pick it up before you leave.
HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Trail Sign Some places even have compost bins to put it in. It is your responsibility to clean the parking lot and riding area of any manure, hay or feed before leaving the area. HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Manure Bin On your journey to the trail, as well as during your ride, try and move your horse off the road before letting them “go”. We all know the feel and sound of a horse when they are about to drop a pile, so when your horse starts to slow and/or grunt, guide your horse to the shoulder. HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Traiil9Better yet, if your horse is quiet enough, get off and kick the pile to the side of the road or into the grass.

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  • Travel responsibly by staying on roads, trails and areas designated for equine use. Educate yourself about these trails prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies.

Horse Trail

  • If its wet and rain has caused the trail to become muddy and eroded, its best if you just stay home. We all know how a horse can turn the grass in your fields to mush, so riding around the muddy areas on the trail just creates more mud and erosion.

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  • If you come to a river try and be mindful that someone’s child could be playing just downstream. It’s fine to let your horse take a drink but splashing and pawing causes disturbance to the riverbed, and manure can carry pathogens to swimming areas.
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  • Racing or riding at excessive speeds can cause damage to the ground and plants, most trails restrict your riding to no faster than a canter.
  • When on a public road riders shall obey traffic laws in accordance with their state laws.
  • We should prevent our horses from damaging trees or undergrowth. Grazing on the grass is fine but not foraging on the bark or branches. Try not to let your horse grab at tree branches as you walk. If you stop for a rest, cross tie them between two trees instead of tying them directly to a tree.

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  • Remember pedestrians and bikers may not know how to react to meeting horses on the trail so its best if you keep your horses at a slow walk while passing pedestrians.
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  • If you are passing other horses try not obstruct the trail or make unreasonable noise that might spook the other horses.
Public and National Parks

In addition to the trail tips above the following are specifically for National Parks:

  • There are many historical and cultural artifacts that can be damaged so stay on the trail and don't jump the stone walls, fences or other structures.
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  • If you are in a National Park you may need to feed a "weedfree" feed prior to entering the park and while you are there. Invasive plant seeds from your horse pasture can be introduced into the park through your horse’s droppings. The problem of invasive species is very real and has been described as the largest conservation concern of the 21st century. Check with the agricultural department for your state and also the state you’re traveling to. These offices can tell you what’s legal to bring along and also (possibly) where to get these supplies. Keep the tag or certificate stating that your feed products are weed-free; you may need to show these documents before you can enter parks or forest areas..

Rider and Horse

Here’s a listing of the U.S. National Parks with equestrian offerings (listed alphabetically). Trail riders are well-advised to check with individual facilities for locations, hours, admission information and other details in advance.

Acadia National Park –Maine

Assateague Island National Seashore – Maryland and Virginia

Badlands National Park – South Dakota

Big Fork National River & Recreation Area – Kentucky and Tennessee

Big Thicket National Preserve – Texas

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Colorado

Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina and Virginia

Bluestone National Scenic River – West Virginia

Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah

Buffalo National River – Arkansas

Canyon De Chelly National Monument – Arizona

Cape Cod National Seashore – Massachusetts

Capitol Reef National Park – Utah

Catoctin Mountain Park – Maryland

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area – Georgia

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park – Maryland, Washington, DC, and West Virginia

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park – Georgia

Chicksaw National Recreation Area – Oklahoma

City of Rocks National Reserve – Idaho

Colorado National Monument – Colorado

Coronado National Memorial – Arizona

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park – Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia

Curecanti National Recreation Area – Colorado

Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Ohio

Death Valley National Park – California and Nevada

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Devils Postpile National Monument – California

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve – Washington

El Malpais National Monument – New Mexico

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Colorado

Fossil Butte National Monument – Wyoming

Gateway National Recreation Area – New Jersey and New York

George Washington Memorial Parkway – Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – New Mexico

Glacier National Park – Montana

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – California

Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona

Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming

Great Basin National Park – Nevada

Great Falls Park – Virginia

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Reserve – Colorado

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina and Tennessee

Greenbelt Park – Maryland

Guadalupe Mountains National Park – Texas

Gulf Islands National Seashore – Florida and Mississippi

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument – Idaho

Haleakala National Park – Hawaii

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park – Alabama

Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas

Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor – Illinois

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Indiana

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway – Wyoming

Joshua Tree National Park – California

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail – Arizona and California

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park – Georgia

Kings Mountain National Military Park – South Carolina

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Alaska

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area – Washington

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – Arizona and Nevada

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area – Texas

Lassen Volcanic National Park – California

Lava Beds National Monument – California

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail – Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington

Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky

Manassas National Battlefield Park - Virginia

Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Historical Park – Vermont

Missouri National Recreational River – South Dakota

Moiave National Preserve – California

Mount Rainier National Park – Washington

Natchez Trace Parkway – Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail – Mississippi and Tennessee

New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve – New Jersey

New River Gorge National River – West Virginia

Niobrara National Scenic River – Nevada

North Cascades National Park – Washington

Olympic National Park – Washington

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – Arizona

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia

Ozark National Scenic Riverways – Missouri

Padre Island National Seashore – Texas

Parashant National Monument – Arizona

Pea Ridge National Military Park – Arkansas

Petersburg National Battlefield – Virginia

Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona

Point Reyes National Seashore – California

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail – Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, DC

Redwood National and State Parks – California

Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

Ross Lake National Recreation Area – Washington

Saint Croix National Scenic River – Wisconsin

San Juan Island National Historical Park – Washington

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area – California

Saratoga National Historical Park – New York

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks – California

Shenandoah National Park – Virginia

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota

Valley Forge National Historical Park – Pennsylvania

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area – California

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – Missouri

Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota

Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve – Alaska

Yellowstone National Park – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

Yosemite National Park – California

Zion National Park – Utah

Now that we know how and where..... let's hit the trails!! Of course with consideration for others and the Earth.

Peace and good rides, til we meet again,

~Laura

The Horse Hippie The Horse Hippie