Thursday 4 July 2019

Trail and Road Etiquette - What Do We Think?

Recently, with nicer riding weather here, there have been a ton of awareness type videos and posters being shared and distributed by our local equestrian community, mostly via facebook. Lots of guidelines for sharing the roads and trails, usually focusing on educating other users.

I think education is great. I think sharing roads and trails with everyone is great. Making everyone safer, also obviously a great thing. This website has some good tips and rules for sharing the road.

Seems reasonable?

I hate to say it though, but to me a lot of the equine-centric materials being distributed come across as entitled and honestly, unfair to other users. Ditto for some of my fellow riders, who I've seen in person being quite demanding of other users. Just one example, but I know people who ride three abreast down the middle of the road and expect traffic to wait for them. I guess they can do it, but it doesn't seem overly safe or like good PR for equestrians. I recently ran into a group of lovely ladies who had been told off by a rider whose horse was scared of their dogs, so thought the appropriate thing to do upon seeing me coming was to hide themselves and their dogs in the bushes next to the trail :D

Bear with me, I have a few thoughts on being a responsible and fair user of shared outdoor space:

- If I am taking my horse out in a multi use space, I think the respectful thing to do is ensure my horse is as prepared and safe as possible for that. I realize I am incredibly lucky to own Bridget, who is level headed in most situations. I'm doing my best to make Sophie just as solid, but it she doesn't turn out to be reliable, I will certainly be getting help and/or making decisions about when or if we share trails with other users. 

- I think it's unreasonable to expect the world to leave me alone in a big happy horse riding bubble. I'd expect pedestrians, trucks, cyclists, ATVs, and motorcycles to want to (politely) overtake me. I expect people to make mistakes and have bad days, for the weather to do crazy things, for strange situations to arise. My horse and I need to be ready for that, not just happy and safe in perfect circumstances.
All alone in our happy bubble...for now.

- Even though I *could* ride somewhere and there are no signs explicitly telling me not to, it doesn't mean I should ride there. I think I've mentioned before, there are some trails I simply don't ride. For example, the local mountain bikers put a ton of work into a few downhill spots and it seems very unfair for me to dig it up with horse hooves and risk damaging their bridges, etc. We also share our crown forests with active logging and resource interests - again, just because theoretically it's crown/public land, is it really a wise choice to ride through active areas during working hours and force the operators and drivers to shut down and wait for me?

Last year there was some facebook drama from equestrians upset at how busy the swimming beaches at a local lake...'their' lake access to be precise. I tend to keep riding past if people are there picnicking and swimming, it seems safer. The land is public, and it's only busy for a couple of months out of the year.

- Communicate. Let other users know your intentions, wave them past, smile, say hi. Thank them if they've stopped to let you pass on the trail or given you extra respect on the road. It's so easy to get into a zone and take things for granted.

I don't know, maybe some of the educational stuff is just trying to err way on the side of caution and be super safe by saying things like motorized vehicles shouldn't ever pass horses, bike riders need to stop and get off as you pass, etc. I feel like if I didn't have horses, though, I might be a little resentful of the lengths we ask others to go to just to share a trail.

Thoughts? :)



  1. oh this is a hot topic. I think that if everyone had common sense and then used it, there would be far fewer accidents. I find that a lot of 'city folk' are so removed from animals that they have no basic understanding of how they could react. I think having clear guidelines is good. I hiked a park in Arizona that was very clear as to who could use a particular trail (bike, pedestrians and horses) and who yielded. It was nice to see that and it was very well respected.

    1. We've just started implementing signs at trail heads, but it can be a little tricky here given it's mostly crown land and so there is no real 'owner' of the trails and the provincial govt is certainly not interested in maintaining or managing them. The worst place for me as far as riding with ignorant people is the local farmers market - despite signs saying not to, they park on the road and around the equestrian grounds and a number of them seem to think my horses are part of the experience and get far too close with cars, babies, dogs, strollers, etc.

  2. I'm with you. I've ridden with riders that when a biker or runner doesn't precisely follow the rules (that let's face it, probably only equestrians pay attention to) they lose their shit and yell at the offender. You know who that helps? No one. It makes your horse nervous, it makes the other person resentful, etc. I always greet those approaching in a friendly way. I let them know that the two humans interacting makes my horse feel more relaxed - that typically does wonders for everyone's attitude. There are also single-file trails here that I won't go on. They tend to be filled with mountain bikers and it's just not a joy to constantly be riding up on them and having them get off onto a steep slope. HOWEVER - I do agree with Teresa that there are some "city folk" types that think of horses more as machines. I've had bicyclists completely ride up Gavin's butt before passing. Those people get a sharp rebuke and are lucky to not have gotten a kick.

    1. I've been so lucky with bikers - they've been awesome here. The only ongoing complaint I have is with loose dogs, particularly as the main trail head is adjacent to the equestrian club grounds and there are frequently excited dogs running around while their owner looks suprised their dog doesn't magically know what to do around horses. I always am nice about it because 99/100 the owner is honestly surprised their dog ran away from them, but say to be careful because Bridget kicks (she doesn't, but that seems to get the dog owners to take things seriously) That being said, the very worst offender is a fellow rider who takes her (not well trained) dogs along on rides.

  3. Oh, I love the "hide my dogs in this brush when I see a horse" move. The park that we ride out at most often is seriously an equestrian paradise. People are so use to sharing the trails with horses that I've never run into a problem there. If they're not sure how to act or where to go, they generally just call out and ask. Friendly communication is key, entitled horse people! ;)

    1. There's a park in the suburbs of Vancouver like that! It was paradise to ride there (and a bit counter intuitive since it's 'the city/full of city people') I try to be extra friendly locally to make up for some of the entitled people, but I wonder if some trail etiquette info/posters/clinics targeted towards riders might be an idea here.

  4. You inspired a whole nother blog post by me tonight. Thanks for the image, I have been trying to explain that to Germans but there is no equivalent here.

  5. I concur with you on so many of these points! Especially communication. One of our wilderness areas gets easily up in arms over any hoof prints on the trails. Never mind that horses are 1. allowed to be there and 2. outnumbered by hiking visitors by at least 1000:1 - probably more! When I ride up there I always make happy banter with any hikers I see and answer their horse questions, let them take horse selfies, and generally try to be a good advocate. I tell anyone riding with me why I do it, too, so that they can hopefully take that knowledge and use it elsewhere so we can maintain a positive image.

    I'm also TOTALLY with you re: not riding some public trails even though I'm not forbidden from them. Our local mountain bike scene is HUGE and they've put a ton of work into our trails. I wouldn't dream of going on 90% of those trails with my horse at any time. Of the other 10%, I would only consider going on them if we were in a period of drought (rare occurrence!) and if I was riding on a week day evening when no one else would be out. Gotta keep all user groups happy and coexisting as much as possible!

  6. Definitely agree with other posters who say common sense matters most as well as communication. My biggest pet peeve is dogs off leash!!!! Dogs should be on a leash in a public space.