Mountain bikers and equestrians learn how to share the trail

Equestrians and mountain bikers on the same trail at the same time … by mutual agreement? Yes, you read that right! On Saturday, October 13th, the Disciples of Dirt and the Back Country Horsemen braved forecasted showers to learn about each other while riding trails together at Elijah Bristow State Park. What started out as a meet-and-greet in the equestrian parking lot graduated into exercises that had us bikers flying down the trail hootin’ n hollerin’ towards the horses.

During our exercises we were asked to do some high speed passes and skid right in front of the horses. We said we don’t like to skid. That, coupled with the fact we keep our bikes well maintained and in top shape so we are able to go up and down hills in the utmost control with very little noise or impact to the trail, was a surprise to the equestrians. So with that… some tips:

What the mountain bikers learned about horses

  •  To a horse, mtb’ers are swift, silent, and low to the ground in ways that resemble their natural predators. 
  • •  Make yourself visible to the horse and rider. Talk with the rider so the horse knows there is another human near.
  •  Pass when instructed and on the downhill side of the horse if on sidehill trails since a horse’s natural predator attacks from above. Keep talking in a friendly, calm voice.
  •  Do not pass from behind unless requested to by the rider. An equestrian should turn and face you. A horse can spook and kick if approached from behind.
  •  Just like us, equestrians take new riders out who may not yet know how to react when encountering a bike on the trail. So treat everyone with respect and not assume they are a master yet.

What the equestrians learned about mountain bikers

  •  Mtb’ers are respectful of the trails
  •   We do not go skidding around every corner
  •  Most mountain bikers are in total control while on the trail 

What everyone learned … is that we can all get along. We all rode or trotted away from this experience with a new-found knowledge and respect of each other. Yes, there is no doubt we use the trails in different ways and for our own purposes, but at the end of the day sitting around the BBQ with trail folk is rad … regardless whether they are on foot, hoof, or on a couple of knobby tires. 

Now if we could just get control of all those pesky deer that kept running in front of us 😉

—Shawn Litson