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Do you hate horses too?
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Troy Baker
(tjbst47) - F
Do you hate horses too? on 03/29/2005 22:19:38 MST Print View

Horses *BEEP* 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!

Troy Baker
(tjbst47) - F
horse paths on 03/30/2005 08:57:43 MST Print View

That is a good idea to have designated horse paths and hiking paths, but I've never seen that anywhere I've been.

Craig Carver
(CraigC) - F
No horses, please on 04/27/2005 18:50:43 MDT Print View

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.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
horsepacking and LNT... act! on 05/14/2005 11:12:02 MDT Print View

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.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
@#^$^& horsepackers! on 05/14/2005 12:01:10 MDT Print View

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.

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Mountain Bike on 05/14/2005 12:47:20 MDT Print View

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.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Short list of areas badly impacted by horsepackers on 05/14/2005 16:17:38 MDT Print View

Hi Jason,
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.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Kern River on 05/15/2005 01:05:00 MDT Print View

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 *BEEP*. 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.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
cowboys and politics on 05/18/2005 12:19:25 MDT Print View

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.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Do you hate horses too? on 07/19/2005 21:08:21 MDT Print View

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!!!!

Edited by waterloggedwellies on 07/22/2005 11:12:29 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
horse packers on 07/19/2005 22:03:42 MDT Print View

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 *BEEP*.

Shane Jones
(brandyjones) - F
Horses on 07/19/2005 23:12:49 MDT Print View

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.

Janet L Besanceney
(kira2167) - F
Do you hate horses too? on 07/26/2005 21:48:48 MDT Print View

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?

(sammyl) - F - M
Horses require hammocks on 08/04/2005 10:11:29 MDT Print View

On a popular trail in Tierra del Fuego, down along the river, horse *BEEP* 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.

horses in the backcountry on 08/04/2005 10:33:25 MDT Print View

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.

jack flanagan
(jackflanagan) - F
Do I hate horses? on 08/04/2005 12:54:44 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by jackflanagan on 08/04/2005 12:58:26 MDT.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Horses in the Great Outdoors on 08/15/2005 05:00:32 MDT Print View

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 *BEEP*.

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.

Edited by JNDavis on 08/15/2005 05:01:54 MDT.

jack flanagan
(jackflanagan) - F
Re: Horses in the Great Outdoors on 08/15/2005 06:59:50 MDT Print View

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 '*BEEP*' 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.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Horses and the Great Outdoors on 08/16/2005 02:54:06 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by JNDavis on 08/16/2005 02:58:21 MDT.

jack flanagan
(jackflanagan) - F
Horses and the Great Outdoors on 08/16/2005 06:43:01 MDT Print View

Dare I ask what becomes of Belgian horses?