SNow + mUD = SNUD
Two days above 50 degrees have turned my local trail to a slushy mess; I’ve decided it is best to stay off.
I ride regularly in a network of community trails shared by runners, hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, and families. Ten years ago, it was mostly horses, hikers, and during season, hunters, on the trails. Occasionally we’d come across ATVs. Almost always polite, they would stop, shut off their engines, and let us pass. Never bothered my horses much.
A lot has changed in ten years. The buffer of privately owned woods surrounding the conservation area are now subdivisions filled with mini-McMansions. One of my favorite trotting trails abuts a house. Just three years ago, it was in the middle of the woods.
Those of us who ride regularly are hearing rumblings that we may be told horses are no longer welcome. Complaints about hooves damaging trails, manure, and safety of non-riders have surfaced.
Some of my fellow riders have ridden these trails for over twenty years.
Is it fair?
I’m not sure that matters. There are more of them than there are of us.
Trail riders in heavily populated areas must change habits or we will be denied access. That means staying off trails in mud season, removing manure from trails, and remaining polite as we approach non-riders, even when they are not polite to us. We are the ambassadors of our sport and of our equine companions.
To ensure equestrians retain access to trails, we must support them through advocacy and maintenance. How? Represent equestrian needs at local meetings. Spend time volunteering for cleanup days. Membership in organizations, such as Bay State Trail Riders Association, that advocate and maintain multi-use trails is a great place to start.
If we do not do this, horses, like ATVs, may no longer be allowed and horses on public trails will become a distant memory.