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“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing
that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”


~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

National Trails Day

Celebrate with Gratitude
By Lora Goerlich

Couple's Ride

National Trails Day is an occasion for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds to celebrate and preserve the beauty of our nation's trails. Observing this day can vary greatly among different user groups, each bringing their own unique perspective and contributions to the table. Among these groups, equestrian trail riders stand out for their historical and ongoing commitment to trail advocacy.

Having faced many challenges over the years, equestrian trail riders have repeatedly found themselves at the forefront of battles to preserve existing trails; opportunities to create new bridle trails are rare. And, due to changes in land use policies, pressure to include other user groups and disinformation about horses in natural areas. equestrians have experienced significant loss of trail that started in the 1970’s. Despite these setbacks, equestrian trail riders have demonstrated an enduring, unwavering dedication to safeguarding inclusion. Equestrian trail riders are known for their substantial contributions through volunteering and funding. These efforts not only benefit the equestrian community but also enhance overall trail experiences. By working collaboratively with land managers and other stakeholders, equestrian trail riders in many regions have played a vital role in ensuring trail accessibility.

Within public agencies there are sometimes advocates on staff who play a significant role in preserving and maintaining bridle trails. Although they are uncommon, these dedicated individuals possess a deep understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by horse trail users. Their expertise ensures that the specific requirements for safety, accessibility, and environmental sustainability are met, creating a harmonious coexistence between natural areas and recreational activities. Their steady and knowledgeable presence is commonly instrumental in preventing changes that could adversely affect bridle trail users. They actively engage in policy discussions, offer valuable insights during planning phases, participate in labor intensive trail maintenance, oversee volunteers, and often serve as a liaison between the equestrian community and public agencies. Their efforts help to safeguard the interests of horse riders by advocating for trail designs that accommodate horses and riders safely, ensuring that trails remain open, well-maintained, and mitigate any potential conflicts with other trail users.

 

On National Trails Day 

  1. Celebrate the riders who contribute to and promote trail ethics; the ones who choose to abstain from riding when conditions are unfavorable; the ones who stay on designated trails; the ones who ride sober… the ones who follow the rules. Following established park rules and sustainable trail use practices contribute significantly to keeping trails open and sets excellent examples for non-equestrians and fellow trail riders.

  2. Celebrate volunteers. Many advocacy groups are forty to fifty years strong with committed volunteers who have been supportive for just as long. Volunteers may act alone, or they may be affiliated with an organized club/group. Volunteers may opt to stay strictly within their organization's hierarchy, venture out to labor on the trails, or both; every role is meaningful.

  3. Celebrate current inclusion opportunities because that means someone inside the public agency is supporting equestrian use.

  4. Celebrate the park trails where volunteerism is optional because this allows riders more free time to ride and enjoy the trails! Afterall, don’t equestrians have enough upkeep responsibilities?

  5. Celebrate agency advocates because they are carrying a heavy load and likely receive criticism from both the equestrian community and the agency they work for.

  6. Celebrate parks (and staff) who prioritize horse trail maintenance and safety because both help shape positive trail experiences and sustainable trail use.

  7. Celebrate fortitude. The average age of equestrian trail riders is nearly fifty years old. If you are still riding into your golden years; while raising a family; through financial or any number of other hardships; experiencing physical limitations; or losing steam after decades of horse caretaking… celebrate YOU! 

  8. Celebrate your trail mount(s). Everything expected of an equine companion is at their owner’s discretion. In the natural world, horses/mules would never choose what humans want them to do or achieve.… treat them well.

 

Observing National Trails Day alongside equestrian trail riders is a tribute to their resilient spirit.

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