As mountain residents, we enjoy some of the most beautiful trails in the nation to ride our horses on. Not just a few, but several right in our backyards, not to mention the amazing places all over our state. Riders “down the hill” go to a lot of effort just to come to our local trails. While many local horse people are very comfortable riding local trails, others may need people to ride with, or the fear of the unknown keeps them from venturing out. Some friends moving here from the West Coast noted that in California, horse riders are more concentrated into communities, but here, we are spread out and it can be difficult to connect.
Trail riders come from all disciplines and use trail riding as a break from the arena or a horse’s usual job. Of course it is also a great way to socialize, enjoy riding and Colorado with friends and family.
As trail riders, we hold quite a bit of responsibility in our hands. Our most important job (other than staying alive) is as horse riding ambassadors to keep the trails and parking lots accessible to our horses and rigs. It is no secret that the majority of the local trail users are bikers and hikers. We are the minority, but pedestrians and bikers must yield to us, because plainly, we could be killed if something goes awry. Hold that privilege and responsibility with appreciation and respect.
Be kind and be aware of your surroundings. Most bikers and hikers encountered are aware of our frailty and predicament. As prey animals, horses get a little nervous when encountering fast moving people on wheels and people hiding in bushes ready to pounce on them, not to mention the dog that has been waiting for the chance for a good sniff of a horse. The majority pull off the trail, stand in a conspicuous place and talk to the horses. Avoid being rude or officious. We need to get along with our fellow trail users. Start a pleasant conversation with them to get them talking. Let them know that your horse needs to see and hear them.
Be proactive and aware of your surroundings. If possible, put the more trail savvy horses at the front and back of your party. That way, if a bike comes up quickly, the horse is less likely to react and cause a chain reaction. Of course, stay on the trail (unless muddy) and walk while passing other trail users. If you are on a young horse or one with little trail experience, keep your eyes open and as soon as you see a bike or person, talk to your horse and the person. If the trail allows, turn your horse toward the person/bike as soon as you notice them, so your horse can get a good look at them. If possible, pony young horses initially off of more experienced horses to get them used to the trails and other users.