Trail Sharing Success Riders, Hikers & Equestrians Learn Skills at Tails & Tires

On Saturday, March 18, a diverse group of hikers, bikers and equestrians came together for the first Tails and Tires workshop of 2017. It was a special occasion, coming on the heels of the recent statement of cooperation between Horse Hill (Alto Bowl Horse Owners Association) and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) to work together towards a successful change-in-use of the Bob Middagh Trail.

The workshop began with a lesson on how horses think, with insights into their predator/prey nature. Participants learned to look for signs indicating a horse might be distressed – such as pinned back ears or the whites of a horse’s eyes clearly visible.

Any time you encounter an equestrian on the trail, three key actions begin the act of safely passing a horse:

Announce your presence (by saying “hello!”)
Slow down (and be prepared to stop) and
communicate with the rider.

Of course, it’s always a two-way street.  Horse riders need to communicate in a respectful manor and should be aware that some people may be unfamiliar with, or even afraid of horses.

After establishing these basics, volunteers demonstrated safe interactions between horses, bikers and hikers, and showed what might spook a horse. Following these controlled examples, everyone was encouraged to hop up on a horse to experience what it is like to ride something without brakes or handlebars.

Much of the basic trail etiquette lessons reinforces tenets of the “Slow and Say Hello!” campaign, which includes “be aware of your surroundings”, “don’t block the trail” and “be respectful to other trail users.” Everyone learned about indicators on the trail that might require adjusting one’s actions. For example, fresh horse apples on the trail that tells you that horses are likely ahead and you should take extra caution around blind corners. And regarding earbuds, if you have to use them, only wear one (it’s the law on roads and pathways).

To test that everyone was paying attention, the workshop finished with a quiz and gifts handed out, such as t-shirts, hats and boxes of CLIF bars.

Following the Tails and Tires segment of the day, Marin County Open Space staff members led everyone on a tour of the Bob Middagh Trail. Here they discussed the installation of bridges to enhance a seasonal wetland and identified where they’ll reroute the trail to assure a safe passing width and grade. Work will begin on the trail this summer and, weather permitting, could be open to bikes by fall.

Test Your Knowledge

Quiz questions to test your trail etiquette knowledge:

  1. When approaching other trail users, what are (at least) two things you should do?
  2. When you encounter a puddle completely across the trail, should you go around the puddle or through it?
  3. You approach a horse and rider on a trail. On which side should you pass?
  4. What are several signs that a horse is on alert and may spook?

A big thanks to Bay Area Barns and Trails for picking up the tab for the post-workshop pizza! Also thanks to Supervisor Katie Rice and Parks and Open Space Commissioner Roger Harris for joining us at the workshop and on the trail tour.

Upcoming Events:

We’re planning a broom pull on the Bob Middagh Trail later this spring. Look for details in an upcoming bulletin – and you can subscribe to the MCBC Trail News through your google or Apple/ICS calendar.

QUIZ ANSWERS:

1. Slow down, say hello, howdy or hi; stop; ring bell; move toward the edge of the trail.

2. Go through it, as going around widens the trail and impacts to the environment and wildlife.

3. Trick question, the best thing to do is ask the rider for direction. We’ll also accept downhill side, as horses are spooked by things above them, like predators.

4. Whites of their eyes are visible, ears pinned back, stepping backwards or acting erratic

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