Mar 29, 2005 at 9:19 pm #1216011
Horses poop in water which contaminates it. They tear up trails so that its like walking on sand and dust. They ruin campsites by pooping and pounding the vegetation into submission. It has been my observation that horse campers *in general* do not have the high standard of ethics that backpackers do, probably because they dont use any physical effort themselves. I have even had a horse camper steal my food from a bear box in Sequioa NP. I dont see how leave no trace includes bringing a 1000lb beast with you. Horses belong on private land, not national forests and definetly not national parks!Mar 30, 2005 at 7:57 am #1336369
That is a good idea to have designated horse paths and hiking paths, but I’ve never seen that anywhere I’ve been.Apr 27, 2005 at 5:50 pm #1336942
I don’t hate horses per se, but the humans that ride them are another story. I agree completely that they should not be allowed to destroy trails, meadows, campsites, etc. By virtue of their size alone it is impossible for them to “leave no trace.” I seriously doubt, however, that they are going to go away anytime soon, especially out west and here in Kentucky where there is a powerful horse culture.May 14, 2005 at 10:12 am #1337288
I dislike sharing the wilderness with sloppy horsepackers as much as sharing it with certain irresponsible hunters (similar culture) who basically act as if they have the right to do whatever they like to public land. Now I say that as a hunter. Horse culture might be very influential in certain parts of the country, just as snowmachiners in other regions, but organizations like the Sierra Club, NOLS, localized outdoor groups (outing clubs, Boy Scouts), and even local media outlets can be too, and they could all do a lot more to bring this issue into the light. But only if those like us keep making noise — and in more audible places than Chaff at BPL.
Every major university, and many community colleges, have an outing club, and a local enviro group. If horsepacking is a problem in your area, drop them a letter about it. You’d be surprised how responsive some of these groups can be, given time. They don’t mind being controversial, its good publicity.
Since NOLS has a horsepacking curriculum, I do think they should be at the forefront of political action for stricter regulations in wilderness areas. I’m sure there’s a few NOLS alumni on these boards, anyone know a contact? I think a gentleman named Tom Reed used to teach the course. An online petition is a relatively easy thing to organize, and with the backing of NOLS Horsepacking and some rangers from relevant regions, a few local policy makers might look at it.
Where are the problem areas in the U.S.? Lets get a short list going here, of the worst ones.May 14, 2005 at 11:01 am #1337289
@david_bonnLocale: North Cascades
I’ve had my share of profoundly negative exeperiences with horse parties.
In 1992 I saw a group stake their horses out in Benson Lake in Yosemite Park.
I’ve also seen a group of horses spook in a crowded camp and proceed to run over two (fortunately unoccupied) tents.
I also agree that most horsepackers don’t understand (and don’t want to understand) LNT ethics. A tiny minority of horse parties do enormous destruction in wilderness areas. Even the kindest horse packers hammer the wilderness more than an small army of hikers.
Where I live, I know quite a few people with horses, and there are still a handful of professional packing operations. Because the Forest Circus has basically completely hollowed out its trail maintenance operations, a lot of trails that are still on the maps aren’t maintained. Some of the ones that are maintained are actually only maintained by the horse people, on a volunteer basis. Most horse-people perceive themselves as a beleagured minority being hounded out of wilderness areas, and they have a point. Between budget cuts in trail maintenance that have left trails still accessible to hikers but impassible to horses, and increasing regulation they have effectively been driven out of of some national parks and wilderness areas. Though I do point out that a lot of those regulations exist because of complaints from hikers, and because quite a few Park Service and Forest Service people aren’t blind to the impacts that horse people have caused.
What can make that difficult is that horse packers, especially the guide services, are generally pretty well organized and often politically well-connected. It is tough to go after a guide service if they have several U.S. Senators as customers.
For me, probably the biggest single improvement would be to have segregated campsites for hikers and horse packers. Horses can spook for essentially arbitrary reasons (the tent incident I described above was, I think, caused by a red LED flashlight). Plus, I think hikers would be more charitably inclined towards horse packers if every campsite wasn’t covered in horse dung of varying vintage. It would also be nice if hitch rails were installed in designated horse camps, because that would save trees from eventual destruction when horses are tied to them.May 14, 2005 at 11:47 am #1337290
One positive is that horses get individuals who cannot have access to wilderness areas otherwise.
I guess the philosophical question is wether and individuals handicap would preclude the from visiting a “wilderness” area.
My chief complaint is a horse is allowed to sh&% wherever it wants pi%$ in streams it crosses. Horses seem to sh*& whenever a period of exertion occurs and this seems to be at the bottom of the little valleys in trails where the streams run.
Wow lots of rambling, but I really don’t appreciate the fact that they can go in wilderness and forest areas where I cannot take my mountain bike.May 14, 2005 at 3:17 pm #1337291
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
I’ve got a candidate for your shortlist of areas badly impacted by horsepackers. It is the Upper Kern Basin/Milestone Basin in Sequoia Nat’l Park. This is a beautiful, very fragile area which is all above 10500′. They have made a real hash of it over the years. I have lodged a number of complaints with park rangers and Forest Service personnel and they all tell me the packers are untouchable due to political connections. If a short list given to media savvy folks would help, then please put this one on the list.May 15, 2005 at 12:05 am #1337297
@jcarter1Locale: Pacific Northwest
I second the Upper Kern, especially Cannell Meadows. Hiked up there via Cannell Creek last weekend. There was snow on the meadows, but where I could walk on dirt I realized it wasn’t dirt, but rather an endless line of last season’s horse poop. Couldn’t find a place to sit down and eat lunch!
I’m sure glad I didn’t hike all the way up there (4400 vertical feet in 8 miles) during summer only to find my ‘remote’ location is accessible by horse trailer and car campers!
Between the horses, bikers, heavy rains, and – yes – motorcyclists, the trail up was more of a groove than a trail.
And when I finished, I saw a sign that I missed on the way up, which read something like “Danger: Plague. If you are bitten by a fly and get sick within 7 days, go to an emergency room.”
Nice. Nothing like that to end your trip on a high note.May 18, 2005 at 11:19 am #1337348
Sounds like a terrible situation about the Kern. Never been to Sequoia personally. But I will see if I can pass this on to a group that could run with it. However, if any of you guys ARE locals to that area, please please consider my suggestions above regarding local groups and advocacy outlets. I don’t mean to sound like I’m especially well connected in conservation circles, but I do know some avenues for sending info. I’ll post a follow-up, but locals are in a better position to speak out. With some photos and a page-long writeup, it would not be hard to publicize this issue.
Remember: Even ‘politically untouchable’ guide services are not impervious to bad press — after all, they are businesses. Potential consumers should know what they’re buying into, and very fortunately, having a senator as a friend doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.Jul 19, 2005 at 8:08 pm #1339261
@waterloggedwelliesLocale: United Kingdom
I recently went on a backpacking trip in the United Kingdom with a party of about fifteen boy scouts. We were walking along a small river on a trail when a horse rider approached from the other direction. As is normal, everyone stopped walking and moved to the opposite side of the trail to the horse. So there we all are standing there as the horse and rider starts to pass us with our backs to the river. Well the horse gets half way past us when it decides that it doesn’t like scouts with their big rucksacks etc and stops. It then skitters back and forth, naying and swishing its tail, rearing up etc etc, which if your eleven and a boy scout, hell if your 33 like me, thats one scary moment, especially when your only option to get out of the way is the river behind you. Now no one got hurt but as far as im concerned, lets keep the horses off the trail. Dog !*!? is bad enough to deal with, let alone horses!!!!Jul 19, 2005 at 9:03 pm #1339262
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
generally i have had negative experiences with horse packers and their clients. keep in mind that for some people this is there only way to gain access to the wilderness due to physical limitations,etc. My experiences have ranged from RUDE packers to beer guzzling, boom box blasting, 5 person tent, stand up coleman stove types ruining everyones enjoyment. nothing is worse than climbing 2000 ft on a 90 degree day and all you smell is horse poop.Jul 19, 2005 at 10:12 pm #1339263
I would generally agree with everything that has been posted about horses. There is a small chapter in the back of Ray Jardines PCT hikers guide that outlines why horses don’t belong on fragile trails. I live next to a lake in Kansas with a 10 mile trail around it. Whenever it is muddy the horses that are on the trail( I don’t know how many but I wouldn’t say alot) just destroy it. Here are a few things horse people seem to be good for-Manure on trails and at trailheads, Trash on trails, Serious trail damage if it is the slightest bit wet, and stupid trail shortcuts if there is a blowdown or a really bad mudhole that they created themselves.Jul 26, 2005 at 8:48 pm #1339547
Janet L BesanceneyMember
Um, we aren’t all that bad. I run a LOT of back country, and don’t like the disrespectful horse packers anymore than I do the disrespectful backpackers (and I have come across a lot). But we have stayed off the public trails this year with the horses in East TN just because it has been so wet, and I know very well what a horse can do to a trail. Not to mention it can be dangerous for the horse to run a trail that is torn up.
I also know if your horse isn’t trail ready and proofed, it shouldn’t be there. Kind of like all the so called “K9” handlers I have to deal with that don’t have a clue. Not all of us are unprofessional.
Let’s not bash them all in the same batch, ok?Aug 4, 2005 at 9:11 am #1339923
On a popular trail in Tierra del Fuego, down along the river, horse poop made it undesirable to pitch a tent. A hammock allowed me to sleep above the stuff. Too bad — there are some lovely sites. Up high, though, no problem with horse droppings, if you could find a flat spot.Aug 4, 2005 at 9:33 am #1339925
I have backpacked to Emmigrant Wilderness since 1975. For the last 5 years I have been physically tunable to return to my beloved wilderness. This year I was able to take a horse packing trip to Deer Lake. I am profoundly grateful for the ability to visit an area which had become completely unavailable due to my disability. The packers were all extremely polite to the (often) surly backpackers. We were carefully instructed not to bring radios, etc. and we left the campsite cleaner than we found it…and the packers checked for garbage too. And our camp was much farther from the fragile lakeside than the backpackers’ camps. When I had the ability to backpack I felt the same way many of you have expressed. Little did I know that in 30 years I would no longer be able to do the thing I loved the most…camping in the wilderness. So, I am just posting to let you know that loving the wilds as you doesn’t end when you become older and less strong.Aug 4, 2005 at 11:54 am #1339931
Hate is a pretty strong word. I don’t love ’em, but have never had a particularly negative experience with them either.
The guides that I have talked to have loved their work, been competent outdoorspeople (albeit not of the LNT mindset), extremely knowledgable about the mountains that they work and it’s inhabitants, etc. Having guided myself, I can say that they have to deal with the full range of people from the great to the yahoo.
I also deeply respect the fact that they represent a culture that your average backpacker hasn’t much interest in understanding. At the very least, consider expressing distaste with respect and perhaps with some hint of an open-mind. In some areas of the rockies, ranchers and guides have become effective advocates for wilderness – and in fact have been inistrumental in preventing incursion by oil and gas developers.
So I guess my take on it is – 1) voice opinions with respect to avoid so alienating them that there’s no room for discussion; 2) focus on restricting use in areas where they do the greatest harm; 3) remember that their livelihoods are invovled and nothing gets your back up faster than a threat to your ability to tend to your family; 4) many of them guide to keep family ranches and family histories alive. In the end, there is room for all of us.Aug 15, 2005 at 4:00 am #1340359
On several occasions female horse riders have deliberately tried to ride me down. I stress that in not one case was I doing anything provocative. Perhaps my quietness made me look vulnerable. The mentality seems to be the same as that of small men with pitbulls.
As a teenager I was pelted with stones while cycling quietly past a string of racehorses. Note that you cannot reach down from a thoroughbred to pick up stones. A significant minority of the people who ride regularly have personality issues – i.e. they are total arseholes.
More of a problem are the numerous riders – the vast majority – who are not in tune with their mounts. When I’m riding my bicycle round country lanes, horses know when I’m approaching from behind. The horse turns its head for a better look, but the rider snatches at the reins to straighten the horse up. There are a lot of ignorant people on horses now who are incapable of learning from their animals.
Given that horseyculture is booming as farmers try to find something which will give a reliable income, horses skittering around scouts will become much more of a problem in future and people will be hurt.
I’m an elderly country boy who has seen an awful lot of horse-riding, some of it done very well indeed, but, on the whole, horses and more especially their riders are a thorough nuisance for others using the countryside. These days I live on Motorbike Island, the Isle of Man. Here, motorcyclists of all ages are more considerate towards walkers and cyclists than are horseriders. That’s quite an indictment.Aug 15, 2005 at 5:59 am #1340361
So some common threads between the horse crowd in the american west and the u.k. are that (1) it involves, at least in part, people who are trying to maintain econonic viability for agricultural lifestyles in a time of increasing consolidation of agribusiness…while it’s a bit off topic, I say good for them and good for us.
(2) You’ll meet ‘arseholes’ where ever you go, though I’m not sure that incompetence is quite the same. And you’ll meet wonderful people where ever you go…
At the risk of sounding the “pollyanna – why can’t we all just get along”, and from an American perspective on the issues facing our wilderness areas, there are bigger fish to fry. Horsepackers and outfitters are more naturally allies than foes. I don’t like camping with them either, so I try to find out where the outfitters go so that I can go somewhere else. That is different than suggesting that they not be there at all.Aug 16, 2005 at 1:54 am #1340412
We can’t get along because the horseriders don’t want to. In the UK when I was a kid, it used to be a class thing. Perhaps there is still a slight hangover of old-fashioned thinking in the horsey community but now it mainly seems to be lack of consideration combined with the aggression that some use to cope with living in a small, crowded country. Also, it is hard to get along with someone who could kill you out of sheer incompetence.
My grandfather used to plough with horses and the Shire horses which pull the Fullers beer dray round London are gorgeous. Heavy horses are the real deal and we are going to need them when the oil runs out but the rest should all be sold to the Belgians.Aug 16, 2005 at 5:43 am #1340413
Dare I ask what becomes of Belgian horses?Aug 17, 2005 at 1:39 am #1340459
The same as to dogs in the Philippines.
But I don’t want to sound too strident, and this is part of the forum’s Chaff, so here’s a description of something I saw while driving near Worcester.
A group of men in fancy dress where charging their horses across a field by the River Severn. They were part of the Sealed Knot and were re-enacting the battle of Worcester. Later, on the local news, I heard they had been charging towards men with pikes – presumably less sharp than the real ones used in the Civil War. But perhaps not because 45 people ended the day in hospital, almost certainly a higher casualty rate than in the original battle.
You know you are in a tolerant country when organisations like the Sealed Knot are admired rather than banned!Sep 12, 2005 at 8:48 pm #1341553
Oh boy am I glad I found this thread. Time to vent. I’ve been building up resentment against horsepackers for years and it all climaxed this weekend. I was backpacking near Mt. Rainier in a fairly fragile part of the William O. Douglas wilderness. After dodging fresh “land mines” for the entire length of the trail, I finally got to my beloved lake. In the two years since I was there last, the fragile grasses have been trampled into mudholes. Most of the good bivy sites are covered in turd. Plus, I don’t trust the lake water anymore because it’s probably full of mudpies.
We have to dig catholes 6″ deep and sometimes pack out our TP but horses can just unload wherever they want. I think I’m going to start squatting right in the middle of the trail from now on. Seriously though, they should at least be required to wear something to catch the poop. I’ve seen those on urban horses before.
I hiked up to a beautiful, fragile alpine meadow near the PCT last year, only to find a fenced-in “pen” full of horses once I got there. These people had packed in an actual electric fence and put it up in the middle of the meadow so they wouldn’t have to tie the horses up. Well the electricity went out in the middle of the night and in the morning the horses were running amuck, trampling grass and dispensing fudge.
Here’s another problem I have with horsepackers: people bring large, dangerous animals onto the trail and then we’re supposed to accomodate them by getting off the trail on the lower side so we don’t spook them. If the horse does buck, we might fall backwards and roll down a hill or off a cliff. Ray Jardine had it right when he recommended we get on the high side of the trail so that if it does buck, WE’RE in less danger.
Well I feel much better now. Let me just add that I do respect people who are disabled and have no other means of getting into the backcountry. And I do think that used responsibly and in the right places, they’re probably okay. But please put a bag on them to catch the poop!Sep 12, 2005 at 11:23 pm #1341557
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
my heart sank as i read of your pristine conditions ruined. here in the east, some state parks have clearly marked bridle trails (as well as x-cntry ski trails). however, the owners/riders often don’t like to stay on them and off the easier backpacking trails, so one needs to be careful where one steps. i stay off of the bridle trails. they should have a similar courtesy – too bad, many don’t.
grew up right across the street from a farm that also raised Morgan Quarter horses, but don’t really know much ’bout horses myself. wonder why someone would take a questionable horse (one easily spooked) on the trail? could be dangerous for the rider as well. in dogs such behavior (excessive fear) generally points to either poor genetics (too much inbreeding before out crossing with another line) and/or poor socialization (i.e., exposure to the intended situation or a similar situation) as a pup.
i know this much, ever since i was a kid, the few time i’ve actually encountered a horse on the backpacking trails (instead of just seeing evidence of them), i don’t move to the low side. it’s considered potentially too dangerous. i just move a bit farther off (if possible) the high side of the trail. don’t see why i should be the one placed in the greater danger on the “no horses allowed” backpacking trails.
fortunately, out here, many trails have a lot of higher, steep, rocky places that horses can’t get up. in many places, i can just move a bit higher, above the “poop”-line to get water from a small stream.Sep 13, 2005 at 8:21 am #1341568
My worst inappropriate place for horse plops: in the only water source within ten miles (a little spring). With thousands of acres of desert all around, somebody let their horse take a dump in three square feet holding the only drinkable water I’d seen in two days.
I filtered it twice and drank it for two days on the way out.Nov 6, 2005 at 3:09 pm #1344482
@pkhLocale: Nova Scotia
I didn’t use to hate ’em. Thought they were more or less cute, I suppose. But on a recent hike into Pollets Cove (Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia), a semi-wild young filly actually stomped my precious Cloudburst tarptent, snapping the rear pole in two. I got some charming photos but . . . . .
Nah – I hate ’em!!
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