The horse is a prey animal. It is literally hardwired into the horse's brain that his survival depends on a quick escape from predators. A simple case of mistaken identity
or even an unfamiliar noise can mean injury or death. As a result, the horse insists on making his own evaluation of approaching objects.
Equestrians will work with a horse to increase the number of objects and situations that the horse can handle comfortably
but even the seasoned trail horse will
revert to instinct if faced with surprise.
It's the element of a surprise that throws mountain bikers,
equestrians, hikers and all user groups into conflict. Only
communication, experience and human discernment can compensate and
make the situation a positive one.
Here is what the horse needs in order to separate "mountain biking
human" from a "hungry, horse-eating predator":
SPEAK in a calm friendly voice. This is EXTREMELY important as this distinguishes you as human, familiar and non-threatening.
This is even MORE IMPORTANT if you are approaching a horse and rider from the rear, announce yourself
well in advance!
DO NOT BE SILENT in your approach! Your calm voice will let the horse
know you are human. If you are silent, the noise of
you or your bike could simulate a predator's surprise attack and the horse
could react badly.
Even a simple "Hello?! How are you today?" will let horse and
rider you are approaching.
2. STOP. A predator would crouch and line up the attack. By stopping, you have taken the first step in distinguishing yourself from a predator.
3. STAND to the outer edge of the trail on the downhill side where the horse can pass you with the greatest amount of clearance. No predator in the world would do this.
and wait for instructions, never assume that every encounter will unfold in the same way.
The rider might ask you to walk slowly toward and pass them or they may want to
pass you. Regardless of the plan used, you can add a great deal of comfort to the situation for the horse
by calmly talking.
When it comes to dealing with multi-use trail conditions, many user groups and sometimes
an un-predictable animal (or human!) behavior it is the responsibility of each trail user to apply good
Thank you for taking a minute to read about trail procedures
and ettiqute. Practicing it will go a LONG WAY in ensuring our user group is
included in future multi-use trail plans.