So I have been meaning to post about this subject for some time now but could never really convince myself to put it out there on the internet where I can never take it back. However, after my most recent experience my mind has changed. I think it is time we adjusted the rules of trail etiquette when it comes to horses. As it stands right now all shall immediately yield to the high and mighty horse should one encounter one on a trail. Now I recognize that this is a safety thing for the rider as startling a hours could be potentially dangerous. I do not refute this fact but the part that rubs me wrong is the attitude that the riders have during these unfortunate encounters. Just about every time I have been forced to yield to the almighty horsemen, the horsemen has hardly been gracious and has more frequently spoken to me in an annoyed manner suggesting that my very presence has ruined the whole day's ride or more often than not they have scolded me for doing something improperly. I have been chided for failing to not announce my presence on the trail soon enough then in the next instance was scolded for alerting the riders too loudly. Now I ponder, how should one announce one's presence quietly from a significant distance? I have also had the unfortunate occurrence of crossing paths with the "noble" beasts while in the midst of tempo runs where maintaining a certain effort is kind of the point. On two separate occasions I have been forced to stop and follow the horse slowly until the rider could find ground suitable enough for him to allow the horses delicate feet to leave the trail. I felt like asking the rider if perhaps it would help if I were to lay down a bed of rose petals for the horse to trample. Please note that both of these instances occurred in areas of the trail where the sides were merely flat tall grass.
This brings me to my next issue with horses, the condition of the trail. Running down a trail that has seen any significant horse traffic is a miserable experience. Not only is there concern about having to actually encounter a horse and deal with the riders and their attitudes but the trail itself is pretty useless. Just about every time the footing on the trail is absolutely terrible because of all of the hoof-prints. Now I conceded the is little or nothing that can be done about this but the other, more offensive, ways in which horses ruin the trail do have solutions. I am of course referring to horse urination and defecation. Running down a trail where horses have recently passed is always an adventure in bounding over puddles that could qualify as small lakes of urine and tip-toeing past mounds of feces large enough as to worthy of being given names like so many mountains. These factors combine to make certain trails virtually impassable via any other mode of transport than the horse and this is why I take exception.
Are there solutions to these problems? Yes, there are. Perhaps a runner should just learn where the horses are and avoid those parks. This is the de facto solution that now exists but it is a shame because it limits access to great areas to train such as the Garden of the Gods, Bear Creek, and Greenland here in the springs and I'm sure countless others throughout the state. Perhaps we should just ban the horses. While this solution suits me alright it is however rather unfair to those who prefer to recreate on horseback. No, the solutions I propose are this: 1. we can keep the same rules about yielding the right of way on the trail but we need to establish a set etiquette about how to alert the rider you are approaching and how quickly that rider must clear the way if need be. Also, if the rider refuses to deal with the runner in a respectful manner he or she can expect to receive no respect back and this is to include a cease to waiting for the horse to move. 2. While little can be done about the ruined footing or lakes of urine, horse owners should have to pick up thier horses feces, immediately. We expect dog owners to immediately scoop and carry away their dog's "business" and those piles are at most 1/8 the size of a good horse deuce. While not all dog owners follow this (that's a whole another blog itself) it is the proper etiquette and without it our trails would be riddled with old crusty dog turds, which coincidentally is what the trails of the Garden are like with horse deuce. Now horse owners may not fancy hopping of their steeds to letdown there to fill up a plastic bag (or two!) mid-ride but it wouldn't be long before someone invented a receptacle that attaches to the horse or saddle to catch such things in action thus eliminating the need to dismount. Heck, there may already be such a thing I don't know I'm not a horse person. That's it, two little changes to the accepted trail etiquette and I feel that we would have much better trail interactions and for that matter trails themselves.