Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor:I am writing this letter in response to the Aspen Times Weekly article “Collision Course.” The Times left out a major group of trail users who are also vitally interested in the future of the trails in the valley – horseback riders – of which I am but one of hundreds here.Equestrians use the trails with hikers, bikers and mechanized vehicle users. We all need to learn to share the land safely. Besides determining which trails can be used by which groups in environmentally friendly ways, we all must be educated about the trail etiquette for everyone’s equal enjoyment. What many people may not realize is that horses are not just big dogs, they are “prey” animals not predators, and as such see everything unusual as a threat to their life.They may be 1,000-plus in weight, but to a horse, a hiker with a huge backpack could be a mountain lion in disguise. A person on a vehicle riding up behind is not “a person on a vehicle” but an unknown monster – horses cannot separate the person and the vehicle without many years of trail experience. The result can cause serious injury or even the death of the rider, the horse, the bicyclist, a dog, or anyone else around. The key is for the nonhorseback rider to stay visible, stop or move slowly and “talk” so the horse knows you’re a person. Trails that are wide enough for bicyclists and hikers may not be wide enough to accommodate a horse and rider at the same time.Moreover, equestrians can and do serve as a valuable safety net for others. Just recently, a few friends and I – all on horseback – rescued a hiker deep in the wilderness who had probably at least a torn ACL, but no cell phone, and really no way to get out for timely medical help. That is what sharing the trails is all about – to help and assist each other.New in our area is the Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization created to educate others and to ensure access to our wonderful White River National Forest, Maroon Bells Wilderness, Frying Pan Wilderness and many other places. The Horse Council wants to work with all the other recreational groups in the valley – as we are working already with many of these local organizations.Anyone interested in the Horse Council can find out more by logging on to http://www.roaringforkvalleyhorsecouncil.com. Thank you.Roberta McGowanMissouri Heights
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