In the following article, Reno Toffoli discusses how to safely ride near equestrians on our local trails. You can read Reno’s full article on trail etiquette here.

A rider, possibly Bud Wathen, outside Spring Canon Ranch near Stout Colorado.

Equestrians get their own rules and they’re really pretty simple. Horses are herbivores and they think that everything wants to eat them. Because of that, they’re skittish and they don’t like big loud things that move quickly.

Here’s the deal with equestrians: If you see horses up ahead (whether you want to overtake them or pass the going the opposite direction), stop where the rider can see you and announce your presence. Do this at a considerable distance if at all possible.

If you are coming up behind a group equestrians and want to overtake them, here’s what to do after you’ve made initial contact with them: Give the rider time to respond and position their horse. They will probably want to get off the trail a ways and turn the horse so it can see you. Some may want to dismount the horse. Only proceed to pass the equestrian when the rider has given you the ok. Usually, once they get the horse where they want it, they’ll tell you to come through. Ride very slowly past the equestrians and everything should be alright. If a horse spooks when you go by, I’ve always just stopped and waited for the rider to get control again. They should tell you when it’s safe to proceed. Put a little distance between you and the equestrians before you resume full pace, just for insurance.
If you are passing equestrians head-on (going opposite directions) once you’ve stopped and made initial contact, you may just be able to stand by the side of the trail and let them pass. The rider may take the horse off trail and wide around you or they may come right up the trail next to you if there’s no room to go wide. Give them as much space as you can and keep cool as they go by. Horses scare me so I’m pretty careful around them. I don’t make any sudden moves or dig through my backpack, or anything like that. I don’t really expect herbivores to be predictable so I’m always prepared for the worst. Once the equestrian(s) get by you, Give them a little distance before you ride away. Horses don’t like weird things going on behind them, If you try to take off the instant a horse clears you and it hears your shoe snap into the pedal or just the crunch of gravel from your tires, it can spook. Let them get 50-100 feet down the trail before you resume.
Things not to do when approaching equestrians: Don’t bear down on them and stop at the last second; that’s a great way to spook and injure a horse, a rider, or yourself. Don’t ride behind a horse; that’s a great way to spook the horse and get kicked. Never try to pass an equestrian unannounced! That will not be a happy ending.