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Horseback riders highlight the challenges they face on the trails

Posted at 1:16 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 12:55:04-04

BOISE, Idaho — The trail system in the Boise foothills is entering a new era as Ridge to Rivers looks at new ways to manage the trails with the increase of usage.

When Ridge to Rivers put out a survey earlier this year, only two percent of the responses came from horseback riders.

Many equestrian users have moved onto greener pastures, like Eagle Island State Park which features wide open spaces, separation of users on the trail, and a huge parking lot with pull-through parking.

"We are finding it difficult to find a place to ride," said Mary Beumeler who rides a Tennessee Walker horse named Strider.

Equestrian riders often use the foothills trails, especially those off of Cartwright Road. Now, they're hoping to raise awareness to help everyone stay safe on the trails.

“Horses are more a fight or flight. They are going to see a predator," said Karen Danley, a board member with the Foundation for Ada/Canyon Trails Systems. "They might think of you as a cougar and they are going to react to that."

A horse typically weighs more than 1,000 pounds so a reaction on the trails can create a dangerous situation for both riders and other users.

“If something that startles him, his first reaction is fear and he might lash out at you with his hooves or he may run right into you," said Beumeler. "It doesn’t make sense to a person, but it is very logical to a horse."

Trail etiquette requires hikers and bikers to yield to horseback riders and bikers need to yield to hikers.

No matter what, people should be alert when they come to blind corners on the trails.

Horseback riders ask other users to make noise and communicate on the trails if they see a horse to prevent accidentally spooking them.

"We are totally happy sharing these trails along with other users, but if it’s not safe and we don’t have parking we keep retreating to safe places," said Danley.

Eagle Island features pull-through parking and the foothills have spots designated just for horse trailer parking and that's something equestrian riders need to be able to access the trails and one of the reasons there aren't horses in some of the more popular trails.

But as growth continues and more people use trails in Idaho, the equestrian riders want to make sure they don't get left out of the discussion.

"Equestrians used to be able to ride on the Greenbelt and the foothills have got busier and busier over the years," said Danley. "We would really like a seat at the table and work together so we can come up with a true solution for all of us."