Horsemen are competing with other users of publicly owned land, and it is important that public officials do not forget us. Organizations that support and promote trail riding are important in the political arena. Equally important are the volunteer groups that help maintain riding trails on public land. I make an effort to turn out during trail maintenance days at the sites we commonly ride and also to dismount and clear those obstructions that we encounter during our rides.
I know we need to share trails with other types of users, but I would rather not ride on trails where there are large numbers of other people. I would encourage parks to develop trails with certain types of recreational use in mind. The hard surface of a regular bike path is not good for horses’ hooves and I hate to leave a pile of manure in the middle of a trail that other users need to dodge. I am sure that other users would rather that we police manure similar to what dog owners are supposed to do but unfortunately the volume a horse produces is not easily carried off unless you are in the trailer parking lot. In most locations nature takes care of horse manure rather quickly.
Learning the trails at an unfamiliar site can be a problem, and it is good to go in the company of someone already familiar with the site. Trail riding can be a group activity, just between friends, or as part of an organized group. It is a nice way to get to know other riders in a totally non-competitive environment. For those who like a little bit of competition there are organized events like judged pleasure rides and endurance trail rides. I have done both and had an enjoyable time with each.
There are also equine riding vacations that feature trail riding at locations far from home. Some people do long-distance trips with their horses and stay at equine bed and breakfasts or campgrounds. One Western rider we know traveled the West with his horse. He discovered that local stockyards would often agree for a small fee to have his horse turned out in an unused pen for the night while he slept in a nearby motel. We traveled to a very nice equine bed and breakfast at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia. We made a couple of riding stops on the way down and back, and it was a nice long weekend of riding in new places. We have also done trail riding while on vacation trips. Some of these were just unplanned day rides, but others where planned equine vacation trips. Tour groups, like Equitours, offer opportunities for trial rides all around the world. We have had variable experiences with the equine vacations we have done. Just like there is nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed, there is no substitute for riding your own horse, but who can afford to fly a recreational animal 1000 miles? Often, but not always, you find yourself with a sub-par mount. However, the deciding issue for our enjoying a riding vacation has always been the other riders and the group leader. Our inn to inn trip in Vermont was particularly enjoyable because we were with a very compatible group of experienced riders and a leader who appreciated the abilities of his group. We had a great time going for long canters, jumping logs, seeing beautiful scenery and at the end of the day having great meals with good company.
Trail riding is very different from what constitutes the rest of my existence, that is to say my modern existence. It is as if one is transported back to another era. Your horse is under you and walking along a dirt path through the woods with its wildlife, fresh air and vistas unspoiled by the hand of man. You wonder how many other people have never taken the time to experience such bliss and beauty. Maybe someday you too will pass my way and share the trail of
The Accidental Horseman.
I have included a description of parks in which I like to ride on the link page.