Horse advice at Trail work party

My Friend David Muse posted on Facebook that the local Horse group was having a work party to work on National Trail Work day. The trail system of some local trails that are about an hour North of Atlanta called Jake Mt trails. Having had horses until I was 18, and being an avid cyclists for many years, I knew I should get out and ‘give back’ to any trails, whether I ride them or not – since there are so many trails that I do ride.

I was particularly interested in working with this horse group since I had ridden one of the new trails that had been ‘re-worked’. Now, anytime a new trail gets re-routed, it is usually for the better…..BUT not until the trail has been ridden many times to sorta ‘break it in’. This trail however, had seen some usage on some muddy days and the horses seemed to be doing more damage than a 12 hour mt bike race. The trails were rough & nearly impassible in 1 spot from the amount of muddy hooves. It really needed some work and some drainage!

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So, I got up that morning, got some things together and headed up to meet this group. I signed in, we had a quick organizational meeting about what the plan of attack was for the day, grabbed our trail work tools and we headed out.

Flagged for water pooling

The goal of the day was to alleviate some low spots on the trails that hold water. This way the trail isn’t as muddy after it rains and hopefully anyone that uses the trail does less muddy. Trails get the worst damage when they are muddy!

After starting to get to work, we got chatting as we fixed a spot and moved up along the trail. The environment was laid back & happy. Everyone here knows that we are each volunteers and are here because we care about the trail usage and maintenance.
As I chatted with several different people at different times it was obvious how happy the horseback riders were to have the extra help from the Mt bikers! I learned that the horseback riders were just as concerned about loosing trails as Mt bikers are. And they were thrilled to have the extra help from us to maintain ‘our’ trails.

Post trail work luncheon

It was funny how I went into this work party slightly disgruntled about horse hooves that tore up a section of trail, then came out of it realizing that many of us have the same desires of having more trails, and enjoying the outdoors. I also later thought – there are bad apples everywhere – and at some point we are all going to meet someone that is disgruntled or a rotten apple in the bushel. Just like road cyclists vs. car drivers and Mt bikers vs. horseback riders – don’t let that 1 rotten apple be your only impression! These were great people and very thankful to see us working together.

After working all morning it was decided that we would finish at 1 and have lunch, so we all headed off the trails.
David summed it up best here:

“Few things compare to walking off a trail, filthy, sweaty, starving and thirsty and seeing a lunch table set up in the shade across the parking lot. The lunch spread was glorious.”

While eating lunch post trail work, we swapped stories of trail work, trail re-routes that had happened or areas that needed more attention, but also they shared some good information about how to better handle a situation where you encounter horses – Talk! It doesn’t much matter what you say, b/c talking to the Horse actually helps a horse realize you are a person & not something to be freaked out about. Horses can be easily spooked by things and they are not predators, so by nature they tend to be defensive. So, when you talk to them, they are less likely to buck or kick – and neither you, nor the horseback rider wants that.

I really came out of this experience with a re-newed outlook on how horseback riders see Mt bikers, often not as us against them, but more of a fellow trail user. They were really good people and were very welcoming and helpful.

Hopefully we can all keep that in mind next time we pass each other on the trails we share.

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