Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Equestrian Trail Riders Alliance of Washington State

The Equestrian Trail Riders Alliance of Washington State - came in to being - after an informational meeting hosted by the Department of Natural Resources.   That evening, those in attendance were informed that over $1 million had been set aside from the department's sustainable recreation capital budget for user-specific mountain bike trails on North Mountain, outside Darrington, WA.  This information came as somewhat of a surprise to local horsemen who have ridden trails in the area for years. 
View from Stimson Hill
After the meeting, Butch was speaking to one of the local representatives of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.  (These groups are large, well funded & well informed.)  They were talking trails - trails in the North Mountain area & other areas outside Arlington, where an influx of bike riders have made their presence known in greater & greater numbers.  Something was said about horsemen "aging out" & that those trails, made in many cases by horsemen, would be taken over by attrition. 

On the way home, I couldn't help but think about all the horses in this state, all the money that is spent on their care & all the trails that we now are sharing...  My thought was to start a Facebook page in the hope that it might unite Equestrians.  A place where riders could go to find out about local trail issues, upcoming public land use meetings etc.  What I've discovered since, is that there are so many horse related pages, organizations, etc. that trying to combine those groups into one large alliance is a daunting task. 

As members of Back Country Horsemen - we are strong proponents of the largest & oldest nation wide Equestrian group that has traditionally lobbied for our continued use & expansion of Back Country Trails.  That is a huge undertaking in & of itself!  In volunteer hours converted to dollars, Back Country Horsemen Washington State alone contributed 2.5 million dollars to trail-clearing.  Nation-wide that figure jumps to 11.2 million dollars. 

The challenge, as I see it now, is our lack of a coordinated effort to protect our privilege to ride on Front Country trails - those trails that we use close to home for daily or weekly rides.  Parking for horse trailers is the most limiting factor in where we can ride.  Where parking is designated for horsemen - it's become the norm for those areas to be filled by small cars with bike racks.  When I mention it - the response is usually;  "Well, no one was here."  What other users fail to realize is that when we do arrive - we need the space!  Three or four friends who plan a morning ride - take up a lot of space & space for us is at a premium.

Horsemen have traditionally been non-confrontational, they keep to themselves & stay busy maintaining their farms, stables etc.  Each discipline sees the others as different & very seldom do they mingle.  That makes it so difficult for us to gain the numbers needed - to make enough noise - to be heard by local & governmental agencies. 

Even on the local tree farms, traditionally our go-to place to ride, the bike presence continues to grow.  New bike only trails have been built & more are in the planning stages.  Without change, without horsemen stepping up & to attend public meetings, to write letters when riding trails are at risk of closure, or when we are told that we will be sharing our trails....  While new trails are built for single user groups - the future does indeed look bleak.


  1. This was a big reason why I moved out of Nevada. After going to all the trouble to load up horses into my horse trailer along with all my equipment, a process that can take hours, I'd drive to the trail parking lot only to find that hikers and bicyclists parked in the horse trailers only section of the lot, and I had to turn around and drive the half hour back home. There was nowhere else to ride, because the county opened up all the other trails to motorcycles and ATVs, and my horses were terrified of them.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience - we don't get them back once they're gone...

    2. Thanks for sharing your experience - we don't get them back once they're gone...

    3. I am working hard on Whipple Creek Regional Trails would love to share the ideas and successes with you and the failures as we learn from them the most we have restored over 6 miles of trails they are equestrian shared use it is a struggle at times to work out the differences but it has to happen to save our trails whipplecreekproject@gmail.com 360 687 4760 whipplecreekparkrc.org facebook whipplecreeparkrestoration Clark County Washington

    4. get organized and work together it is the only way it works for the trails educate the other users groups

  2. Hi Connie, when is the next meeting on this issue? I've seen a couple that were in Darrington but was not able to go.

    1. I'll be sure to keep latest meeting info. on the Facebook Page!

  3. Glad to see this. I & 2 other riders were injured as a result of a mountain biker on a NF trail in AZ in 2011. There were a total of 6 equestrians injured in a 3 month period after the National Forest and city of Prescott,AZ colluded to promote mountain biking tourism. 2 of the injuries were compression fractures of the spine. Also despite 3 parking lots for cars, mountain bikers favorite place to park was in the small equestrian trailhead, often leaving no room at all for horse trailers. Anyway, my husband and I are moving to southwestern WA. We are going there house hunting in mid September. If any has a realtor to recommend, or horsey areas to move to where the trails have minimal mountain bike traffic, I'd really appreciate the tips as this is the kind if information you can't dig up on the internet. I love sharing trails with people who go the same speed I do or slower.

  4. This is a problem everywhere! I and 2 others were injured in a wreck caused by a mountain biker, 6 equestrians in total injured in a 3 month period in Prescott, AZ, in 2011, after city officials, mountain biking groups and the National Forest colluded to promote mountain biking tourism. Two of the injuries were compression fractures of the spine.
    I love sharing trails with those who travel the same speed or slower than I.
    Anyway, my husband and I are moving to southwestern WA. We'll be visiting in September to house hunt for a horse property. If anyone has tips on where to look near trails with minimal mountain biking going on, please let me know...or tips on a realtor etc

  5. Mountain biking as an issue has been around for 40 years (and has not gotten any better) In Marin County, Ca they have been successful in limiting access by bikes to some trails by hikers and equestrians working together.
    After the accidents in Prescott,AZ a group was formed to represent hikers and equestrians. Their website is, www.friendsofarizonatrails.org.
    Here's a good article on the adverse effects of mountain biking,http://www.culturechange.org/mountain_biking_impacts.htm
    Los Angeles does NOT allow mountain bikes on LA trails, here's an article about it, http://theequestriannews.com/2011/04/19/l-a-city-ban-on-trail-biking-holds/
    Marin County, the birth place of mountain biking, has instituted speed limits for bikes on the trails and will ticket them, http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/articles/cyclists-can-get-a-speeding-ticket-at-the-birthplace-of-mountain-biking-w202476
    The problem is their speed. Mass x velocity = impact force.
    MB'ers use an app called, "Strava." On Strava they can track their speed and the trail they're on ,post it to Strava, where all other users can see it. Strava identifies the one with the fastest speed as, King of the Mountain, which of course, encourages others to try to beat that speed.
    Some land managers have been successful in shutting down trails to MB'ers by looking up bike speeds by named trails and collecting the data, which is compelling as a major safety issue. Presenting such information to DNR, would make a strong point.

    1. Thank you Kelly for your informative comment! I've posted those links to the ETRAW page. We were lucky enough to really not have many issues until these last few years - as more people move to the area. Now we find ourselves "sharing" all our riding spaces.

  6. When going to meetings, writing letters and interacting with land managers and or politicians, its important to remind them of the economic impact of the equine industry on Washington, here's a link http://www.bchw.org/lnt/main/BCHW_TheEconomicImpactoftheHorseIndustryinWashingtonState.pdf
    We don't just have a horse we put in the garage when we're not riding, we buy trucks, trailers, feed, saddles and tack, support veterinarians, feed store, trainers and farmers. According to this article, that's 250,000 jobs in Washington along and an economic impact of $5 BILLION dollars on the state. Frame the points you are making in terms of money, jobs and tax dollars and your politicians will be on your side. You can never talk too much or too often about the economic impact that we have. be a broken record.

  7. Glad to help. It's an old problem and there are success stories out there, being organized and working with hikers who are tired of being run off the trails is key.
    In an earlier post you alluded to some regarding equestrians as an "aging," trail user group. Were that so, the economic impact in WA would not be $5 billion plus. trail riding is the biggest equestrian activity. Another point to make is small trailhead parking lots, usurped by other trail users, are a pinch point denying equestrians access to trails. 10 years ago I read an article that women over 40 were the fastest growing demographic group in horse ownership. Once the kids are grown, and one's career is generating nice income, that's when people can afford horses, and have the time to get into horse ownership. So we will always appear to be an "aging," trail user group. Not to mention, horseback riding is a recreation that those whose mobility is impaired, can enjoy. Many have hip or knee replacements, and hiking or biking is not a viable recreational activity. Another way to view it is that to limit equestrians you are having an adverse impact on older and mildly disabled voters and tax payers.
    BTW, the governor of Missouri, some years ago, signed a proclamation that horses and mules represented a historic use of trails in that state and cannot be denied access to any trail, or words to that effect. Might be worth pursuing, and it would provide guidance to federal land managers in WA. Back to the $5 BILIION economic impact on WA.

  8. Here's a link to the story on Strava speed data resulting in the closure of bike trails in Palo Alto, http://www.tetongravity.com/story/gear-tech/strava-speeds-help-mountain-bikers-get-banned-from-california-park
    Here's a link to a story on the problems trail users have had with bikes on Palo Alto trails, http://paloaltoonline.com/weekly/morgue/cover/2000_Jun_28.BIKERCOV.html

  9. Here's an opinion piece regarding a "Right to Ride Horses" on state lands in Michigan. http://www.theoaklandpress.com/general-news/20090526/guest-opinion-bill-backing-right-to-ride-horses-on-trails-deserves-our-support

    This bill did pass. There's a similar one in place in Missouri. This might be an approach to consider for WA.


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