It has been a long winter, especially March, and even us fair weather riders are anxious to get in the saddle. But with spring comes challenges that as responsible equestrians we must face. We are in that time of year when the snow comes off and leaves soft ground. This can lead to three problems.
First, is the danger of getting horses bogged down in mud, even to the extent of losing an animal. This has happened and we should always approach muddy or wet areas with extreme caution.
Second, is the danger of ending up on ice in a shaded area. I know of instances where the trail looks clear but under that thin layer of dirt there is ice. On a hill that can result in disaster when a horse goes down and a horse or rider is injured. This happens more times that we like to think.
Third, and this is the one that we have to be particularly aware of when we are riding. There is no simple way to put this but to say do NOT do damage to the ground. When it is soft our horses can leave large holes with their hoofs. We do not want to put that strain on our horses in the spring and we do not want to leave trail damage in our wake. We need to look around and see what tracks we are leaving.
This past winter trails were groomed in Riverside State Park for cross country skiing and fat bike riding. These are great winter sports that we share the trails with. However, some equestrians rode these trails and did some damage. Again, we need to be responsible for what we leave behind.
Speaking of leaving things behind, let’s make sure that we clean up manure at the trailheads. It is easy to put manure back in the trailer and take it home so we can leave the trailheads clean for everyone’s use. And of course we never empty manure out of a trailer at the trailhead, even into the bushes.
Recently a diverse group of trail users met with County Parks to talk about trail damage. We agreed that everyone has a responsibility to maintain trails and did not want to finger point at any specific group. We carefully worded the sign attached to this article. This is good information no matter where we ride.
Our land managers have the responsibility of keeping the trails and surrounding areas open for a variety of users to enjoy. If equestrians are shown to be the ones doing the damage then we will be the ones asked to leave. We will have no one to blame but ourselves.
As equestrians let’s set the example by helping to keep trails in good condition and respecting the rights of other trail users. We want to maintain our right to use these great public lands.
As the sign says “Spokane County relies heavily on community volunteers to build and maintain these trails for YOU to enjoy”. Back Country Horsemen is one of the groups helping to maintain trails on a variety of public lands. We enjoy doing the work and have fun. If you would like to join us, or are interested in our other activities you can learn more at www.PBCHW.com or call 509-466-2225.
That is enough preaching, now go out and ride, be safe and have a good time.