Sharing Trails Safely Benefits All Users!

As trail users, whether we hike, run, ride a horse, or ride a bike, we all want the same thing….to be able to use our trails safely and have fun as we enjoy being out in the great outdoors. Because there are more and more of us out on the trails than ever before, we need to up our game a bit in terms of awareness of other trail users. Trail safety has come to the spotlight of many trail management agencies and organizations, and a big part of trail safety is knowing how to share trails with other types of users. The trails that SUTA develops and maintains in partnership with Medford District BLM are all non-motorized multi-use trails. This means they are open to hikers, runners, equestrians, and bicyclists. SUTA’s trails are also narrow in places, and on steep slopes. It is critical to be aware of other users, and pay attention to the yielding order of trail etiquette, for the safety of all users. At all times, horses have the right of way! This is due to the unpredictive nature of horses; they are prey animals, after all, and their genetics are programmed to perceive threats and kick into a fight or flight response. A hiker approaching from the front or rear may look like a predator to a horse, so it is a great idea to stop, stand back off the trail, and speak as the horse and rider pass so that the horse can recognize you as human.

Equestrians may be a minority user on our public trails, but they face the greatest risks, due to the prey psychology of their mounts, ready to bolt or buck if they feel threatened, and also because they are about 6 to 8 feet higher than other users, thus, have a longer way to fall. Head injuries and serious torso injuries are common results from equestrian accidents, and most are completely preventable if all users share the trail safely.

Bicyclists are likely to be the fastest trail users, and therefore have the primary responsibility to be aware of what is ahead of them on the trail, and to SLOW DOWN when line of sight is obscured ahead. The last thing anyone wants is a head-on collision between a bicyclist and another user, especially an equestrian.

The standard trail yield etiquette dictates that bikers yield to all other users, that hikers yield to equestrians, and that equestrians have the right of way in all encounters. Please do your part, as a responsible public lands trail user, and STOP, SPEAK, and STAND BACK, when you encounter an equestrian on the trail!

Let’s all contribute to sharing our trails safely, so that all of us can have a safe and enjoyable trail experience! Thanks!

Your SUTA Volunteer Board of Directors

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