Top Tips When Encountering Equestrians on the Trail

By Karen Chaton, Local Equestrian. Published with permission by Carson Valley Trails Association.

Many trails in Carson Valley are experiencing an increase in use and will likely continue to do so. We are fortunate to live where there are so many beautiful and varied trails with fantastic views
that are open to such a variety of trail users. These trails are shared by hikers, bikers and equestrians alike. Here a few tips for helping understand horses on the trail and what you can do to help.

Narrow Trail – What to do?trail courtesy yield
If you are hiking up a narrow trail and an equestrian approaches from behind, moving to the side of the trail on the downhill side is very helpful. If the horse should spook, it will usually be away from the other trail user towards the uphill side.

If you are hiking down a narrow trail while an equestrian is riding up, it is always helpful if you can backtrack to allow for a safe spot for everyone to pass. It is difficult for horses to backtrack downhill, and we greatly appreciate your helping us! Likewise, by communicating with each other on the trail, we can work together to safely pass one another.

Do Horses Like When I Say “Hi?”
Yes! Horses and equestrians love saying “hi.” A friendly word of greeting reassures horses and also lets their riders know of your presence. If you are with a group, letting riders know how many others might be ahead is helpful so that they can prepare to safely pass them.

A talking backpacking hiker can be particularly soothing to the horse. That backpack, for whatever reason, can sometimes be scary to the horse.

That Tree or Rock Looks Like a Good Spot, Should I Step Behind It?
A hiker, biker, or other trail user should avoid stepping behind a rock, a tree, a bush or out of sight from a passing horse. If the horse has seen you, he’s looking for you! And with the sudden disappearance the horse can become nervous. To a horse, that disappearing human could suddenly jump out and eat them! Even if the horse did not see you go behind that rock, tree or bush, a snapping twig or a rustling branch as a horse goes by can spook the animal. Horses are friendly and so are we! Please stay in sight. We would like to see you and say “hi!”

What Can Bikers Do To Help?
To a horse, bikers can appear quickly while making very little noise. If you are a biker and see an equestrian ahead, please do not be shy! The horse would like to hear your voice before you approach. If you could please just reduce your speed and say hi to let the horse know you are nearby, it is most helpful to the horse and equestrian alike.

What Can Dog Walkers Do to Help?
If you are walking with your dog(s) and encounter an equestrian, it is greatly appreciated if your dog remains on leash. A horse can sometimes become frightened by unleashed dogs who approach too closely or suddenly. This can trigger a horse’s natural flight response. It is always greatly appreciated if you and your leashed pet yield to the side of the trail and say “hi!.”


Thank you to Karen for her helpful tips. Remember to always pack out what you pack in, there is no “poo fairy”, and always carry water in this high desert elevation.