Horses On Soft Trails - Surprisingly Little Impact-
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  1. #1
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    Horses On Soft Trails - Surprisingly Little Impact

    I was recently riding in a local trail system that has both mtb and equestrian usage. The trail system dries pretty well after storms but there are a fair number of soft spots. I turned into a trail that had had some horse traffic. Most of the trail wasnít impacted but some of the soft areas had divots a couple of inches deep. I was ready to start cursing when I realized the equestrians had ridden through the soft areas a foot or so offset from the center line of the trail. The center of the trail was rarely impacted and the majority of mtb traffic follows a narrow line down the center of the trail. I was floored how little impact the horse divots in the soft soil had on the mtb riding experience. I used to think of horse damage solely as black or white (and severe damage down the center of the tread is black or white). I now realize careful equestrians can impact soft trails but largely mitigate their impacts to mountain bikers. Now the question is how do you educate equestrians to simply stay out of the center of the trail in soft patches.

  2. #2
    sbd is offline
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    The horses here pretty much tator sections by the times things dry out

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  3. #3
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    Reputation: Vespasianus's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
    So the horses damaged 90% of the trail but since 10% is OK, the conclusion is that horses don't do much damage?
    It is the Right of the People to Alter or to Abolish It.

  4. #4
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    Careful equestrians?

  5. #5
    Big Mac
    Reputation: mbmb65's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
    The issue is trail damage. Erosion, stream sedimentation, shit like that. It is not measured by how much it impacts mountain bikers. Thatís just silly. What makes you think that?

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vespasianus View Post
    So the horses damaged 90% of the trail but since 10% is OK, the conclusion is that horses don't do much damage?
    Agreed, plus that remaining ten percent is likely to erode pretty quickly when rain washes all the soil into the low spots created by the horses.
    You'll end up with a mud pit in that soft spot that will need to be filled in and armoured to prevent it from coming back. Work that will likely be done by a mountain bike trail crew as the mud pit won't bother the equestrians.

  7. #7
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    Reputation: roughster's Avatar
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    Also, horses riding on the "sides" widens the trail. So singletrack becomes double/triple track to semi-fireroad.
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  8. #8
    Professional Slacker
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    Jun 2004
    We as a group (mountain bikers) should start complaining to land managers about how equestrians are....basically buttholes.

  9. #9
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    Where I live in western Colorado, the horses on trails tend to create a square trench. What may have begun as a decently built trail, within a few years has a steeply bermed critical edge. And a likewise steep backslope. The tread tends to be flat across, and about 16" wide. And the steep sides make creating effective nicks quite difficult. The constant digging in with the front of the hooves breaks down the tread soil. Which then washes away with the first rain storm. Also, many of the trails designed in the past by equestrians are fall line trails. Since a beast of burden is putting out all of the effort, the trail is designed to cross a hill in the shortest arc possible.

  10. #10
    psycho cyclo addict
    Reputation: edubfromktown's Avatar
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    Sep 2010
    Good luck educating equestrians!

    In the mid Atlantic region, they tend to direct the horses toward the high side of MTB trails and/or ride when they are too soft from rain and freeze/thaw.

    Both of which trash the trails far worse than any other four leggers, hikers or mountain bikers.

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  11. #11
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    Video of horse with a surprisingly large impact on rider (and trail):

  12. #12
    Wanna ride bikes?
    Reputation: *OneSpeed*'s Avatar
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    Here's an example of a very serious impact.
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    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  13. #13
    Thinking about riding.
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    Dec 2014
    OP doesn't understand what damage to a trail is. It has nothing to do with the rider experience, it's about sustainability of a trail. A trail with hoof divots every three foot is not sustainable, regardless of where they are in the tread.

  14. #14
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    Reputation: curly1's Avatar
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    Aug 2012
    This is not a battle we're going to win. The answer to this over-debated topic is education, signage and not being a dick. This goes for both sides.

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