Meeting Horses On the Trail
One of the great things about the Horse-Shoe Trail is that it is shared by a variety of users, primarily hikers and horses. However, when these groups mix we must always keep safety in mind. It is important for all users to understand the basic behavior of horses and practice proper trail etiquette when horses and riders are encountered. A surprised horse can put all user groups in danger. Therefore, it is always important to follow these guidelines when encountering a horse and rider on the trail:
Use Line of Sight
If you are approaching a horse and rider traveling in the opposite direction, Stop. If you are approaching a horse and rider from the rear direction, announce yourself. Your voice is clearly that of a human and carries with it all the familiar experiences that the horse has had with humans. Your voice will not spook the horse, but if you are silent, the noise of your bike, dog, or running footsteps might surprise the horse. Move to the outer edge of the Trail and Stand where the horse can see you and can pass you with the greatest amount of clearance. It is also important that you move to the downside of the trail. However, please do not go off the trail into the woods and hide behind a tree. Hikers with backpacks or walking sticks can be particularly frightening to many horses.
Speak. This again distinguishes you as human, familiar and non-threatening. If this seems awkward, a simple, “Hi! Nice day!” will do. If other members of your party are further back on the trail, be sure to include this in your conversation.
Wait for Instructions from the rider.
Never assume that every encounter will unfold in the same way. You might be the first or the one hundredth mountain biker or hiker seen by this particular horse. Only the rider (and horse) has a feel for the best way to proceed. The rider might ask you to walk slowly toward and pass them. Or, particularly if the horse is tense, the rider may choose to let the horse gradually approach and pass you. Regardless of the plan used, you can add a great deal of comfort to the situation for the horse by calmly talking. Maybe you’d like to pet the horse. Just ask, and then wait for instructions from the rider on the appropriate way to approach.
Please instruct your children how to behave when meeting horses on the trail, based on the instructions above. Good instruction from you will teach them how to be safe around horses the rest of their lives.
If you have a dog, please, for the safety of your dog, keep it on a leash at all times whenever you are on the trail. And keep firm hold of the leash when encountering a horse and rider. Even the most sedate dog will usually get very excited when seeing a horse and fail to listen to the commands of his owner. So, please keep your dog on a leash and enjoy a pleasant and safe walk.
Following these simple steps will go a long way to ensuring that we all have a safe and fun time on our multi-use trails.