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

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Share the Trail Cover

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. 


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


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.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Dog on Trail

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.


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.


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.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Trail 7.

  • 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.


  •  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.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Kids in Creek

  • 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.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Horse Eating Tree

  • 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.
  • HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Shared trail
  • 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.

Happy Horse Healthy

  • 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,


The Horse Hippie

The Horse Hippie

3 thoughts on “Share the Trail: Tips for horse owners that are considerate to others and the Earth

  1. Hi! Found you from a friend’s Facebook post of the what to do with Ribbons ideas. Just great! I’m a mompreneur that created DrinkDuets to cut down on the waste of water and plastic associated with bottled water. These reusable tags make it easy to keep you and your drink together. Around the barn and on the show grounds. Would love to talk to you more about them. Regards, See our FB page Drink Duets and !

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Interesting that horse owners think that “kicking the manure to the side of the trail” solves a problem. What if dog owners did the same thing? I went for a 9-mile hike in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon yesterday and I’m appalled at the PILES all along the trail. Stink. Flies….on my boots…tracked into my truck when I completed my hike. Nuts! If I want to spend time in a stockyard I know where to go. There are signs at the trail head for humans and dog owners telling them what MUST be done with waste. But horse owners? Nada. Just kick the smelly piles to the side of the trail and continue on. Total bullshit. (horseshit)

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