ELCR.org - Full Article
Horses have been a critical part of human progress from the early days of our history. They have carried men and supplies in times of war and peace, pulled the plows of farmers’ fields and were the main source of transportation during the settlement of the American west. Horses were the backbone of farms, the transportation to town for supplies and social activities, and a family necessity. Historically, many trails were created by horses ridden by people who needed to get from point A to point B. Today those trails are a critical part of recreation in open spaces and parks. Over the decades, the role of horses in daily life greatly diminished in both importance and numbers. As a result, horses are little understood by modern community members, especially trail users.
The modern horse is generally confined to a barn or small (5 acres or less) pasture area. They are mostly used for pleasure riding, showing, racing and the like. A few modern horses are working horses, and most of those are used in ranching and the production and management of other livestock. Many horses retire from ‘work careers’ to become pleasure and trail horses.
The Rise of Trail User Conflicts
A decrease in the number of boarding stables in or near urban areas, and community planning and zoning ordinances that place farms further away from urban areas place the typical trail user, or for that matter, equine enthusiast, far from any horse facility. Thislack of accessto horses creates a situation where many trail users have no experience with them. The number of horses on the trails has rapidly diminished in the last 100 years while the number of hikers and bike riders has increased exponentially. This has created the potential for conflict between the user groups. For example, hikers and equestrians don’t like fast bikes, mountain bikers want the challenge of single-track trails, and everyone wants to be out in open space enjoying the day. And no one wants to be told that they can’t be there, or they aren’t welcome...
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