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  1. #1

    Default Encountering Horse and riders Public service announcement

    Another thread got me thinking maybe this post would be useful for some folks in the safety forum.
    I think most negative interactions between different groups of trail users stem more from unawareness than anyone being intentionally rude. So here goes.
    Horses tend to have a strong fear the unknown instinct,,, they also cant see that well dead ahead or dead behind.
    #1 thing you can do when encountering a horse/rider team is open your mouth and speak up , any horse fit to be on a trail will instantly recognize a human voice and disregard the unknown object., no reason to stop, freak out,and especially dont hide behind a tree and freeze.. Just keep on walking your same pace , give the greeting of the day, most likely the rider will return it. If the rider is having issues for some reason, they might ask you to stop so they can move horse out of your way.

    If you are passing from behind,, again human voice, but wait for a response from the rider .
    "Hey how are you,,, OK if I pass on the left ? "
    Give them a second to respond, some will turn and face you some may just answer,

    Generally speaking equestrians dont really need any more than that.... There are a few that are a bit stressed,,,, But, like I said,, If you speak, and give a few seconds, you have been polite and done your part to share the trail IMO.

    Ive got 1000's of mounted trail miles in multiple states so feel free to hit me any questions you might have.

  2. #2

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    What's the general order for yielding the right of way on a multi-use trail?
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

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  3. #3

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    Back in 2015 I was backpacking Benton MacKaye trail and camped on Trail 149 where it splits up to Fodderstack Ridge. Two horseback riders approached my camp out of sight and about 100 yards away from me and my "stank". One of the horses got a whiff and reared up in a panic and fell backwards off the trail bank doing a somersault and of course throwing its rider. Could've killed the rider I guess. I heard hollering down the hill and they finally got the horse back up and the rider was incredibly angry and "ready to shoot the thing" his words.

    Trip 165 394-XL.jpg

  4. #4
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Exclamation Right of way rules on trails

    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    What's the general order for yielding the right of way on a multi-use trail?
    https://www.telluridemountainclub.or...il-467x624.jpg

  5. #5

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    I usually step off the trail and ask the rider what she wants me to do. Last time, the rider said to just stay there and "she is a scared" probably of the hiking poles. At least where I live, horses have the right of way.....even to cars.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Back in 2015 I was backpacking Benton MacKaye trail and camped on Trail 149 where it splits up to Fodderstack Ridge. Two horseback riders approached my camp out of sight and about 100 yards away from me and my "stank". One of the horses got a whiff and reared up in a panic and fell backwards off the trail bank doing a somersault and of course throwing its rider. Could've killed the rider I guess. I heard hollering down the hill and they finally got the horse back up and the rider was incredibly angry and "ready to shoot the thing" his words.

    Trip 165 394-XL.jpg

    Hey Tipi,never having encountered your "stank" I can't say for sure but most horses I have known can shy and rear up at so much as a shadow.There's a reason they use mules at the Grand Canyon I suppose....

  7. #7

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    This I knew, but did want to emphasize. I stop and usually don't say much not knowing if it might spook the horse so I appreciate Dropdeadfred's perspective. Also, hikers should know if they are stuck for a bit trailing behind the horses because the trail might be too narrow to pass, that the horse does have the right of way. Imagine it's a school bus.

    What are other things hikers do that might spook the horse?
    Does the clickety clack of hiking poles put the horse on edge?
    Would it be better to pass silently or perhaps keeping up a conversation with the rider once the go ahead is given?
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  8. #8
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dropdeadfred View Post
    #1 thing you can do when encountering a horse/rider team is open your mouth and speak up , any horse fit to be on a trail will instantly recognize a human voice and disregard the unknown object., no reason to stop, freak out,and especially dont hide behind a tree and freeze.. Just keep on walking your same pace , give the greeting of the day, most likely the rider will return it. If the rider is having issues for some reason, they might ask you to stop so they can move horse out of your way.
    Hiking in the Rocky Mountain area a lot I've encountered numerous horsemen (and women) on the trail. Generally I agree with what you wrote but not the part about continuing to walk towards them. The more correct approach is to greet the rider then step off the trail and allow them to pass. Continue to have conversation as they go by as riders, and horses, behind the lead rider may not have heard the initial encounter. I also wait a few seconds after the last rider has passed to return to the trail. I have never had a horseman pull off the trail to allow me to pass. They understand that they have the right-of-way. This is not an issue. I have had them stop for a brief conversation but that is about the extent of it. If they are breaking on or right next to the trail I initiate conversation and then continue to pass. As an aside, I've always hiked with trekking poles and have never seen any reaction from rider or stock in reference to them.
    Lonehiker

  9. #9

    Default

    Well depends on the width of the trail,,, On a multi use trail, I feel kike its muti use and should be shared. Little courtesy goes a long way.

    Bikes and hikers are supposed to yield to horses anywhere I have ever been. But as mentioned things change and happen.
    The stop turn and face while being passed is usually for bikes,,, I tend to move out a bit and dont get passed by people on foot. But alot of people putz along at 2-3 mph, typical stock horse walking pace.

    Stopping and saying nothing is really one of the worse things you can do,,, horse saw something but now has no idea what it is and may have no idea what you are.
    Main thing I was trying to get out there cause I do see it alot... and I know all intent in the world is to just be polite and enjoy the day.

    While there are no such thing as so called bomb proof horses, I fully admit that there are alot of horses that basically have no business on a public trail. Either due to owners skill, horses lack of training, or just their disposition.
    I mean dang a horse freaking out at a stinky guy 100 yards away needs some work.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    This I knew, but did want to emphasize. I stop and usually don't say much not knowing if it might spook the horse so I appreciate Dropdeadfred's perspective. Also, hikers should know if they are stuck for a bit trailing behind the horses because the trail might be too narrow to pass, that the horse does have the right of way. Imagine it's a school bus.

    What are other things hikers do that might spook the horse?
    Does the clickety clack of hiking poles put the horse on edge?
    Would it be better to pass silently or perhaps keeping up a conversation with the rider once the go ahead is given?
    Things that spook horses.Well,that would be most anything but first you have to be able to see the world from the horse's point of view.They are an animal not known for self defense although they can get aggressive but it's very rare.They subscribed for eons to the old adage,"A good run beats a poor stand".So of all the domesticated animals out there,horses have what we would call "the fight or flight syndrome" minus much concept of fight so you can bet your bottom dollar they will run at the drop of a hat at even the slightest suggestion of what they perceive to be a threat.Bolting away is their overwhelming reaction to most situations.

    Another thing that freaks them out of course is anything on their backs which is why it's a bit of a big deal to get them "broken" to ride.They perceive anything on their back to be predatory and worthy of a good run after doing their best to shake it off first.

    I have a theory that when they see a person with a huge LUMP on their backs that it makes them just a little bit paranoid for fear that thing might jump on their back next.So,as much as possible I try to face the horse and rider and also pull my hands,arms,and poles toward the center of my body so they don't see appendages waving around that could cause them concern.And I get off the trail and stand still so as not to spook them.Talk slow and move slower is the best approach but even at that they can still be "anxious".The good news for owners is that most of the time age will prove to calm them down considerably because their energy levels are lower.

    One last comment,Watch their ears.If they flatten their ears parallel to the ground you can bet they are upset and anything can happen at that point.And it goes without saying that you really don't want to be behind one in hoof striking range because they can use their feet to kick with if they feel threatened enough.Ditto for their front feet.
    So it's always a good policy to give the horse and rider plenty of space.

  11. #11
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    Default

    My favorite example of how different groups may not understand each other are the conflicting traditions of hikers and trail bikers. Hikers say uphill hikers have the right of way and trail bikers say downhill riders do.

  12. #12

    Default

    Why I like to bring this up, I am involved in all 3 hobbies, why I think most problems stem from being unaware vs rude.
    Even though bikes are suppossed to yield,,, and the parks here have the signs posted,,, I always motion up hill bikers to keep going... as I know it sucks to have to stop your momentum going up hill.

    I also tell bikers, about needing to yield coming down hill, as they are kinda fast and really quiet,, both horses and hikers can get surprised. But I also know for every fun down hill there tends to be an uphill and bikers like to build speed.

    Population is growing, trails are being more used, communication and understanding and figuring things out, is way better than griping and complaining which will only result in ham fisted LAWS written by bureaucrats that dont do any trail hobbies.

  13. #13
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    Default

    What are other things hikers do that might spook the horse?
    Does the clickety clack of hiking poles put the horse on edge?


    years ago, I was on the horse trails in the Greenbrier part of the Park that comes out of the stable...

    These trails are not on the dollar map, nor in the brown book...

    But they are on the NPS map and they have signs with trail names and distances...

    and they are open to hikers as well, but since they aren't on map/book, they
    hardly get any foot traffic.....

    and those trails make a few different option of loops along with seeing chimneys and a cemetery......

    there's only a small portion of those trails that are used by the stable and they are torn to hell...

    A group of horses and riders came towards me and it spooked the horses pretty good..

    The guide said for me to lay my poles down as that's what freaks the horses out and to step a good distance off
    the trail----i was already about 6 feet off the trail....


    they all passed but the horses still were a little spooked and did some mild bucking...

    which, of course, freaked all the riders....

    they were just tourists out for a quick horse back ride in the Park...

    my thought was that maybe the horses should be better trained especially in a Park which
    gets the numbers of visitors as the GSMNP...

  14. #14
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    I remember years ago my next door neighbor had horses and I remember her saying something like horses see objects as twice as big as they actually are. Probably another reason they spooked easily.

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    A factor not mentioned much so far (except by TNhiker) is that some riders are mere tourists, not experienced equestrians. They may have zero idea of how to control a horse and zero idea of how a horse will respond to hikers or other scary stanky people. In those cases, you can't expect the rider to be knowledgeable enough to know whether it's safe for you to pass or not, whether you should stand 6' away or not, whether you should approach and pet the horse or not. They're just trying to stay on the horse and hoping the horse knows to follow whoever is leading.

  16. #16
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    Default

    This has nothing to do with what to do when encountering horse and rider but just a little story. Me and my buddy were on the NET, it had just gotten dark and this guy rides up on us on a horse. It's hunting season so me and buddy have bright safety orange on and both have our headlamps. This guy says something like "What are you guys doing, it's hunting season, you can't be out here in the dark, I almost just got shot at" .... he was actually really cool, we talked for a bit and after he left me and buddy put 2 and 2 together and said "No wonder this guy almost got shot at, he's got no head lamp/light, he's wearing dark clothes, it just got dark and he's on a horse!"
    NoDoz
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    I'm just one too many mornings and 1,000 miles behind

  17. #17
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    Last Sept, while heading south on the AT through GSMNP, I encountered evidence of horse traffic, but no actual horses. The trail on this section was clearly marked "no horses." I believe GSMNP authorizes horse traffic at designated locations, but obviously not where I was walking. Poop was all over the trail, but more annoying was the degradation of the trail, which was narrow and contoured downhill to the right side. an unsafe condition, in my opinion. I wonder if any of these "house people volunteer for trail maintenance.

  18. #18

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    Bikes yield to hikers, both yield to horses is the common right of way rule for multi-use trails.

    Stepping off the trail for horses to pass should be approximately 6-feet off the trail on the downhill side (presuming there is a definable lower side over the other). Don't make sudden movements or noise, I find continuing a low tone conversation seems to help. Being asked to drop poles is indication an animal is either poorly trained, ill suited for multi-use trails, or has a "tourist" rider in the saddle, perhaps all three. The request is likely based on experience with the animal so I comply with the request as I do not want to be a few feet from a freaked out, rearing horse, though agreed a horse that has demonstrated this tendency should not be on a public multi-use trail until the behavior is modified.

    Bikes can be dangerous on multi-use trails as they can move at high rates of speed very quietly. Some bikers are very courteous to be sure, others are from the entitlement class and have difficult personalities. Accidents involving bikes moving fast around blind corners where most accidents occur and running down hikers in their path are not uncommon. Having the right of way does not automatically translate to getting it, so I take it by getting as visible as possible when bikes are an allowed use. On curves I move to the outside of the curve, which is usually the high side, for visibility. There is little to no advance visibility to a fast moving bike on the low inside of the curve down in the ditch that commonly forms on curves from bike use. This allows me to see/be seen by approaching bikes. I can either quickly leap off the trail on the high side if necessary or the biker will slow a bit and move down toward the ditch (which they are supposed to do). Though not required, I will typically yield to an uphill biker when I am going downhill or if they are overtaking me on an uphill as a courtesy.

    Those are the "required" yieldings on multi-use trails. I was taught years ago to observe some "courtesy" yields when meeting other hikers that I continue to this day: Yield to the uphill hiker so they do not lose their pace rhythm and momentum. On narrow log/suspension/cable bridge creek crossings, the first to arrive has the crossing unless they wave the other side to pass first. Do not sit at or otherwise monopolize a view point or mountain summit/high point when other hikers are present. While these are not required rights of way, observing them does tend to make the experience a little better for both me and those whom I yield to.

  19. #19
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    So very interesting to learn about talking to the horse and rider that you meet.

    I will make sure to do that better in the future.

    Out of curiosity, would the average horseman pickup on and appreciate that could be driving the conversation? And how far away before greetings?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stepinwolfe View Post
    Last Sept, while heading south on the AT through GSMNP, I encountered evidence of horse traffic, but no actual horses. The trail on this section was clearly marked "no horses." I believe GSMNP authorizes horse traffic at designated locations,

    I wonder if any of these "house people volunteer for trail maintenance.
    In fact they have helped with packing in mulch to Cosby Knob and Peck's Corner Shelters.

    And on several occasions they have packed in supplies for the Rocky Top trail crews.

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