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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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..
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,