|Skills and Ethics for Equestrians as per The Backcountry Horsemen of Washington
Be Considerate of Others
Many people go into the backcountry to enjoy the peace and solitude a wilderness setting can provide. With increasing numbers of backcountry users, this solitude can be
hard to find. Being considerate of others and practicing good camp and trail etiquette ensures that everyone enjoys the visit.
Sound travels easily in the wilderness Be aware of your noise level. If you use bells, try to keep away from other groups. If you bring pets (check local regulations) keep
them under control at all times. A well behaved dog can be an excellent companion on a backcountry trip. Conversely, a rambunctious dog can create impacts by digging,
barking and frightening horses and wildlife, which can detract from yours' and other people's experience.
Some backcountry users are unfamiliar with horses Few hikers know they should pull off on the downhill side of the trail, you may need to ask them to hold up while you
pass. If instead, you are the one being overtaken, remember the hiker is packing a load and has a right to be on the trail too. Find a good spot to let them pass. A little
conversation as you pass each other may reduce the chance of your horses being spooked.
Riding in small groups will reduce dust. It will also make meeting and passing other groups easier and safer, especially in rough, rocky terrain. Exercise caution when
meeting loose dogs, llamas, pack goats, bicycles or motorized vehicles.
Any of these efforts work to create better understanding and appreciation between different backcountry user groups which benefits us all.
Minimize Horse Impact
Horses and mules have great potential for leaving long-lasting impact in the backcountry. They generate pressures up to 1500 psi on each foot. Horseshoes intensify those
pressures and increase shearing force on soils and vegetation. As grazing animals, they compete with wildlife for available feed and can over utilize a meadow if not
properly attended. As large animals reacting to fear, boredom, hunger and discomfort they can do damage very quickly. A frightened horse can girdle a tree within seconds
if it is improperly tied and then sets back on the lead rope violently.
In Popular Areas, Concentrate Use
Concentrating use on durable surfaces is a simple and effective method of reducing the impact of your backcountry visit. Main travel corridors and popular destinations
typically have well-established trails and campsites. Make decisions and choose practices that will cause the least amount of damage and leave only short-term impacts.
Stay on trails Impact on wildlife, soil and vegetation can be minimized by traveling on constructed trails that, in many cases, have been designed to accommodate heavy use.
Ride single file on the designated path. Do not shortcut trails or switch backs. Muddy stretches and most snow banks should be crossed, rather than skirted. If you carry a
saw, you can help local land managers by cutting and removing deadfall in the trail. Rerouting trails around obstacles causes vegetation damage, erosion and development
of multiple paths.
Horses in a string cannot be perfectly managed. The attentiveness of the horse packer, length of the string and traveling pace are all factors affecting string management. If
extremely difficult terrain must be negotiated, loose herding may be best while negotiating such terrain. Animals that are free to place their feet around obstacles are less
likely to cause damage to the ground, to themselves, and to their handlers.
Pull off for rest breaks When taking rest breaks, choose a site well off the trail so that others are not forced to leave the trail to go around you. When possible, pull off on a
durable surface such as dry grass or sand. For short breaks, you may be able to hand-hold your horses; however, if you must tie up, choose live trees at least 8" in diameter
and wrap the lead rope around the trunk twice before you tie the knot. For extended breaks, use hobbles, highlines, or pickets. Tend the horses often. Nervous horses
which trample or paw the ground while tied can be hobbled to prevent damage to the tree roots. Manure piles should be kicked apart and scattered, and any pawed ground
should be filled in.
|Photos by Kim Habel
|Camping and trails are open to equestrian use May 1 - November 30
For more local equestrian info check out
BCHW, Scatter Creek Riders
You Tube Video
|Photo by Derek Pearson