Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sustaining Equestrian Trails - full article

June 30, 2017, by ELCR
By Denise Y. O’Meara for Equine Land Conservation Resource

Here’s a wellness aspect you may not have considered – the condition of your horse trails. A poorly designed or maintained trail can lead to that most dread situation, denial of equine access.

To remain available to horseback riders, trails need respectful treatment. From design to maintenance, from concept to long term preservation, careful thought and actions are paramount for equestrians to sustain trail access.

The relationships that you have with landowners and managers need to be nurtured and maintained too. Lack of respect for these relationships will likely lead to angry people and closed trails.


1. Whether public or private, trail landowners and managers have a stake in the value and condition of their land. Trail abuse by equestrians makes them very unhappy.

2. Land owners and managers are always concerned about liability. A lack of understanding about liability protections can prevent a trail from ever being built or close one to use. See: ELCR Article, How to Assure the Reluctant Landowner

Photo courtesy Mike Riter
3. Horses are tough on land. The torque of pointy feet leads to churning of soil and plants, creating conditions for erosion.

4. Stormwater runoff makes trail erosion possible. Once erosion starts it needs to be corrected quickly. Clay soils are especially prone to erosion.

5. Rider behavior on the trail can result in enjoyable outings. Or it can undermine trail owner/manager relations. Contributing to erosion by riding off the trail, riding in wet weather conditions, leaving trash behind, not watching out for other users and not reporting trail damage are examples of bad rider behavior. See: ELCR Article, Rules of the Ride – Model Rules for Trail Riders

6. Community planners make decisions about land use in your trail areas. In fact, they probably already have. Research current and future decisions that may affect your trails access. Without this knowledge, you may miss the chance to prevent trail closings and to help guide recreational and equine accessible trail planning to your community. See: Three Words Every Equestrian Should Know: Land Use Planning

7. The combination of bad rider behavior, poor landowner/manager relations, degraded trail conditions and uninformed equestrians, you will eventually lose access. Trail Gone. No New Trails. This Means You...

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