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CosMonster
May. 15, 2011, 04:13 PM
I hope this is okay to post here, but I'm in the process of writing a guide book about horse trails in my state. We have tons of really great trails that are often designed specifically for horses (with pens and such in the camping areas even!) but aren't very well-known.

I would just like to hear from everyone...what kind of information would you like to know before going out for a day ride or camping trip on a new trail? I'm especially interested in input from you casual trail riders including folks who mostly do other disciplines but like to ride out for fun as that's the audience I'm writing for--we have lots of really serious endurance riders and back country riders in the area, but they tend to know all the trails already. ;) Of course any input is welcome, though! :)

I'm of course going to include distance, difficulty, and a basic writeup of the amenities as well as a general description of the trail and any special sights or features along the way, but I'd like to hear what you guys are interested in. What would you like to see in a local trail guide?

suz
May. 15, 2011, 09:03 PM
great idea, will you do one of vermont when you're done?
(i'm not kidding, this state really needs a riding guide for tourists and local alike(!
so being a bit anal about guides, i'd like to see (where possible of course)
a trail map, description of parking, turnarounds, bathroom,picnic tables, potable water, manure pit, firepit, etc.
than i can decide if i should bring the camper or just tent, hi-line or portable corral, that kind of thing.

it would also be neat to rate the trails, like ski trails maybe from easiest to most challenging, length, views, picnic stop, as well.

which state are you working on? i think pa has a decent guide to riding in state parks.

CosMonster
May. 15, 2011, 09:10 PM
I'm in NM...if it goes over well I'll do other states if someone will put me up for a few months so I can explore... :lol: ;) Great suggestions, I appreciate it!

Beverley
May. 15, 2011, 11:06 PM
A friend of mine wrote one a few years ago for Utah that is pretty good. In addition to what you list, he provided things like elevation at trailhead, steepest grade on the trail, distance and total elevation to be negotiated as well as length of ride (since there are subtle differences, three miles can take longer if it's steep or trappy), months of accessibility, temperature ranges, predominant trail surfaces, known hazards, whether weed free hay is required, GPS coordinates at trailhead, and other things! He also listed for each trail the relevant land manager office and phone, as well as area vets, feed stores, law enforcement, and extra tips here and there such as size and capacity of parking lots, dates or times of year to avoid, and such. He also notes whether to bring your own water (although I do that routinely anyway). It's also good to note water availability along the trail- we have a lot of trails around here that have plenty of water opportunities, others in the desert, often no water, and so that has a bearing on when you would want to ride such places (as in not on a hot day!).

Heart's Journey
May. 16, 2011, 12:28 PM
A friend of mine wrote 2 for Fla - called Florida on Horseback, volumes 1 & 11 - you can get them on Amazon.com i fyou wanted to check them out to use as reference

she divided Fla by region, gave hoofprints for various things - campground amenities, trail maintenance, shade, hazards, etc she listed directions, comments on the trails, etc very helpful. She wrote them before GPS's were big, but you should include coordinates. I am proud that she included 8 of my photos in volume 1 and dedicated the book to her husband and me. I gave her the idea and alot of info for the book

someone else put something together for Fla recently and it's in an online format, so she can sell you updates. A friend bought it, but I found it didn't list that many places and the info was what you could get yourself through research.

cutter99
May. 17, 2011, 06:45 AM
There are two books out by Caroyn Cook here in Pennsylvania- "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails" covering eastern PA and "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails 2" covering western PA. My friends and I have almost worn out sets of these since they've been published. I would highly recommend looking at them for an example.

Carolyn gives great directions to parking and trail heads. She goes as far to tell you what size rigs will fit into parking areas and which ones to avoid if you are using larger trailers.

She lists local professionals in each area in case of emergency, such as farriers and veterinarians. She also list places to camp or overnight as well.

Alll the information we have gotten from her books has been extremely reliable and accurate.

Char
May. 17, 2011, 07:49 AM
The actual, physical address of the trailhead is OFTEN left out of descriptions, at least in my experience in researching new trails to explore in Ohio. Often they give "directions". *cough* "It's located at the North East corner of Such-and-such State Park/Forrest off of Exit 7239 on Interstate 890. Only 20 min from the main roads!" WTF? I can drive right to it with my GPS if I only had a stinking address!!!!

<Off soapbox>

:winkgrin:

Good luck with your guide, I've often wished that there were one for our state as well.

cutter99
May. 17, 2011, 08:08 PM
Char, I agree with you about the ability to put an address into a GPS. The books for PA were written about 7-8 years ago I believe, before GPSs were widely used. I agree that it would be so much easier to be able to program it in and go! I spoke to a park ranger yesterday about parking for a state park and he could not give me coordinates for a location, although he did his best to give me a good description. I will be visiting the parking lot without truck and trailer first to 1) make sure I can find it and 2) make sure I can fit in with a crew cab truck and 32' lq trailer!

HorsingRound
May. 17, 2011, 08:42 PM
IMO it'd be helpful to have either a link to a GPS of the trail, or a CD with the GPS of the trail(s) on it.

I post some of my rides, and refer to other people's rides, on Everytrail.com. The file containing the GPS of the trails can be uploaded to one's own unit.

lawndart
May. 18, 2011, 09:19 AM
There are two books out by Caroyn Cook here in Pennsylvania- "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails" covering eastern PA and "Ride Pennsylvania Horse Trails 2" covering western PA. My friends and I have almost worn out sets of these since they've been published. I would highly recommend looking at them for an example.

Carolyn gives great directions to parking and trail heads. She goes as far to tell you what size rigs will fit into parking areas and which ones to avoid if you are using larger trailers.

She lists local professionals in each area in case of emergency, such as farriers and veterinarians. She also list places to camp or overnight as well.

Alll the information we have gotten from her books has been extremely reliable and accurate.

Just FYI, I agree with this statement, but since these books were written, Natural Gas drilling has really hit the northern parts of PA. Places I used to ride, are no longer safe, at least while they are setting up the well heads. Most of our State Forest roads are built for small, slow, minimal traffic. The Gas trucks are big, fast, and have attitude :eek: You do not want to meet them with a trailer behind you. Or on horseback. :no: So until this dies down (if it ever does) I would certainly call around before hauling to any of these trails. Most of the trails South of Interstate 80, seem safe, so far.

CosMonster
May. 18, 2011, 11:28 AM
Thanks for all the great suggestions, guys! The GPS coordinates especially, I don't think I would have considered that. I really appreciate it. :)

katarine
May. 18, 2011, 12:09 PM
I just want it well organized and in bullet list or spread sheet form.
Size of parking area
what facilities if any
length of trails and rough estimate of toughness (like a 1-4 scale)
water available on the trail: again a simple yes/no/seasonal
relevant regulations/hunting dates or links to that data
GPS data
is overnight camping allowed in parking area and in the woods/on the trails

cutter99
May. 18, 2011, 01:40 PM
Lawndart- Do you know if Cook Forest has been effected by the drilling? It's on my bucket list of places to go and I was hoping I would get there this year!

howardh
May. 18, 2011, 06:33 PM
it is always nice to know if you will encounter water on the trail somewhere for the horses to drink. I ride much more conservatively if i know my horses won't be able to drink until they get back to camp.

lawndart
May. 19, 2011, 10:50 AM
Lawndart- Do you know if Cook Forest has been effected by the drilling? It's on my bucket list of places to go and I was hoping I would get there this year!

I'm sorry, I don't know. Most of the State Forests have ranger station number you can call to find out trail conditions. If I could FIND my ride PA trails book, I'd have that info! Sorry.

JollyBadger
May. 23, 2011, 01:28 AM
The actual, physical address of the trailhead is OFTEN left out of descriptions, at least in my experience in researching new trails to explore in Ohio. Often they give "directions". *cough* "It's located at the North East corner of Such-and-such State Park/Forrest off of Exit 7239 on Interstate 890. Only 20 min from the main roads!" WTF? I can drive right to it with my GPS if I only had a stinking address!!!!

<Off soapbox>



Amen to that - an actual address or specific directions to the campground are a huge help, especially if there is no guard shack, park office, or campground office located on the premises. If it's a privately-owned campground, then contact information for the owner or a web site is always helpful. If it's public or state-owned, then contact information for the park system is a huge help.

A good description of the camping facilities is a must; not just a general "amentities" list, but more detailed information about the size/type of trailers that the campground can accommodate, the number of sites available, whether or not stalls are available or if there are tie-lines/posts provided for the horses.

Driving directions should take rigs of all sizes into consideration. It could be a really beautiful, well-kept campground with full hook-ups at every site, but if the road to get there is steep or narrow, with twists and turns that a large rig simply couldn't get through and there are no alternate routes, then that's the kind of stuff people would need to know before even making reservations.

If it tends to be a more quiet campground vs. "party central," that may also be worth noting. Is it exclusively a horseman's camp, or is it open to all types of campers?

Granted, sometimes you just can't guarantee who your next-door neighbors will be, but some campgrounds are much more strict than others when it comes to enforcing rules about noise, loose dogs, vehicles-per-site, riding speed through camp, etc.

Another thing worth knowing is where the campground is in relation to the trail system. I've seen some places advertise that they have "immediate access" to some large trail system - but what they don't mention is that you have to ride an hour (or more) out on one trail just to get to any of the other trailheads, and then ride that same trail to get back to the campground at the end of the ride.

When it comes to the trails themselves, I like to know how well-marked the trails are, trail lengths, terrain type, and how to access up-to-date maps of the trail system. Are the trails generally wide-open or narrow, steep or level, rocky or muddy, paved or gravel or dirt or sand? Do equestrians share use of the trails with any others (hikers, cyclists)?

Also, any information regarding land management and conservation - such as policies of closing trails due to weather conditions, river levels, etc. and how to access up-to-date reports - would be useful. Any points of interest along the way, such as historical sites or places that welcome horseback riders to stop and tie up? Any wildlife common to the area that may pose a threat (venemous snakes, aggressive species, etc).

Personally, I'd steer clear of trying to come up with a "rating" system. For example, saying "this is a great novice/beginner" trail or "don't attempt this trail unless you and your horse are experienced and in good condition." I've seen people take rating systems way too personally when it comes to evaluating their own riding abilities.

lawndart
May. 23, 2011, 07:33 AM
When it comes to the trails themselves, I like to know how well-marked the trails are, trail lengths, terrain type, and how to access up-to-date maps of the trail system. Are the trails generally wide-open or narrow, steep or level, rocky or muddy, paved or gravel or dirt or sand? Do equestrians share use of the trails with any others (hikers, cyclists)?

Also, any information regarding land management and conservation - such as policies of closing trails due to weather conditions, river levels, etc. and how to access up-to-date reports - would be useful. Any points of interest along the way, such as historical sites or places that welcome horseback riders to stop and tie up? Any wildlife common to the area that may pose a threat (venemous snakes, aggressive species, etc).

Personally, I'd steer clear of trying to come up with a "rating" system. For example, saying "this is a great novice/beginner" trail or "don't attempt this trail unless you and your horse are experienced and in good condition." I've seen people take rating systems way too personally when it comes to evaluating their own riding abilities.

What PA did was color the areas of trail red that were rocky and steep (and they are seriously rocky ;-( believe me!) It is also coded differently when you are riding on the road, or on the trail.

In the Ride PA trails book, the author listed area Vets, Farriers, and I think hospitals, JIC. Great idea. She also listed driving conditions to the area, and how long their rig was.

Somewhere the rider/driver has to take responsibility for checking this stuff before hand. There should be a central number you can call and ask informed questions. But if you are driving a rig that is 28' long, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure you can get there safely.
It is our responsibility as equestrians to make sure our horses are as prepared to get out there on public trails as they can possibly be. It only takes a few incidents to turn people off horses totally.

Please remember to clean up your site before you leave, day or overnight camper. Nothing like a pile of horse poop to turn off the general public. Or a pile of trash.

(Comments not directed toward JollyBadger, just quoting her to comment on)

prudence
May. 23, 2011, 09:40 AM
Who do horsemen share the trail with? In California we have various signage showing situations such as bikes yield to walkers who yield to horses, no bikes allowed, no horses allowed. The main thing I want to know is how many bicyclists I will encounter. Some trails are open to all but the bikers don't usually like them - too far out, rough tracks.

Also it's good to know if there is a fee for parking.

Good luck with your project!

JollyBadger
May. 23, 2011, 05:06 PM
Somewhere the rider/driver has to take responsibility for checking this stuff before hand. There should be a central number you can call and ask informed questions. But if you are driving a rig that is 28' long, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure you can get there safely.

It is our responsibility as equestrians to make sure our horses are as prepared to get out there on public trails as they can possibly be. It only takes a few incidents to turn people off horses totally.

Please remember to clean up your site before you leave, day or overnight camper. Nothing like a pile of horse poop to turn off the general public. Or a pile of trash.



On the driving thing - I agree. Those people with the 40' trailer/LQ combos especially need to be sure they know their own limitations. It is helpful, though, to know if there are routes that should absolutely be avoided even if they seem more "direct" on the GPS or map.

And I second the "clean up your site" comment. Pulling in to a camping area, especially one with a hitching rail or tie area, to find that the previous campers apparently didn't believe in mucking out, is not a fun way to start the camping trip. And if the campground doesn't have dumpsters or garbage bins. . .yeah. . .you're going to have to "pack out" your trash.

It amazes me how many people will just leave a bag of garbage at a site rather than haul it out when they leave.:mad:

Cartfall
May. 24, 2011, 10:06 AM
Are the trails cart friendly? Down here in Florida, we have a lot of folks who like to trail drive (yours truly one of them).

That is not to say that the trails have to be 2 tracks, just wide enough for the average 4 foot wide cart. Most riders don;t think about that because they never drive their horse.

Are there ditches or canals that have to be manuvered through?

Actually I can go anywhere a rider can go if there is 4 feet of width or no sheer drops into canals etc.

The knee knocker trails are the ones that will stop a cart unless there is space enough to get around the narrow tree widths. Is the a dense under brush that would not allow for a cart.

Are there walk throughs that a cart can get through or are gate combinations needed?

I would check with local driving clubs to see where they like to go and add that to your information.

analise
May. 24, 2011, 02:39 PM
Someone else mentioned general trail condition (rocky/muddy/etc) and I just want to second that.

For instance, we called up to Gettysburg ahead of time to find out what the conditions were like and were assured that it was fine as the trails are flat and drain well.

Which...they were....until you got up into the hills and trees and suddenly were contending with up-to-draft-horse-knee deep mud because it takes forever for the trails to dry out up there.

prudence
May. 24, 2011, 08:17 PM
Here is a website that describes our trails. Everything needs updating which is just a fact of how we and the world grow.

http://www.garlic.com/~lbha/TrailWelcome.html
Click on trails on this page

This page is mostly out of date but has a nice layout:
http://www.garlic.com/~lbha/TrailChart.html

One more link - to google earth files of trails. You can easily make them or find them.
http://mtb.hammerinwheels.com/files/?sortBy=name&sortOrder=asc

puddleplasher
Jun. 12, 2011, 02:34 AM
Here's the website I'm working on. I think it will always be a "work in progress", I can't picture it ever really being "done".
http://www.kingcountyexecutivehorsecouncil.org/TrailList.htm My goal is to ride every trail on the list, and I'm about halfway there, adding more detail to each listing as I go; for the ones I haven't hit yet, I rely on reports from others. Who knew a county could have so many trails...

The main thing I try to make sure people know of is the driving information: what's the address of the trailhead, how much room is there to park, is it a loop-type parking lot that they can pull through (or will they have to be good at trailer-backing), that sort of thing, where you could find yourself in a real pickle if you didn't know it ahead of time.
Somewhere the rider/driver has to take responsibility for checking this stuff before hand. Agreed - and I want my website to be one of the places they can check. Having to drive there ahead of time in your passenger car just to "be sure" is a pain.

The hardest thing is actual trail maps. Creating your own complete, accurate trail maps is time consuming and there are potential copyright issues with whatever map you use as a "base", sometimes. So I've been relying on already-created maps when possible, and providing links to those. One guy I link to a lot who has managed to make his own: http://www.trailmeister.com/

I concur with those who want to know what "else" am I likely to encounter (mountain bikers, bears, streams, busy roads, whatever) - that helps people know whether their horse is "ready" for that kind of experience.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with... my dad has retired to NM and I'd love to do some riding down there...

'plash

Polydor
Jun. 12, 2011, 04:27 AM
Sounds like a great idea!

What about a list or small pictures of the common harmful plants in area/state wide?

P.

lawndart
Jun. 12, 2011, 09:36 AM
I clicked on the trail meister site, just to see how it was set up. It is no where near complete for the State of PA. You would be better off contacting the State Forest Office of the area you want to ride in. Most of them have a shared-use trails system map that is pretty accurate.

If there is an established trail group in an area, they might be willing to be contacted for up to date local trail conditions, road conditions, etc.

puddleplasher
Jun. 12, 2011, 05:56 PM
Yeah, he's not complete for our state (WA) either, he posts them as he rides them -- for obvious reasons, since he's mapping as he's going. I don't know who he's going doing stuff in PA, he lives near here.

Myself, I can't wait to see your end result for NM.

'plash

pj
Jun. 12, 2011, 06:13 PM
[QUOTE=cutter99;5610623]
She lists local professionals in each area in case of emergency, such as farriers and veterinarians. QUOTE]

I think this would be a great addition to any trails book!!

CosMonster
Jun. 12, 2011, 06:55 PM
Wow you guys, I don't check this thread for awhile and there is a ton of great information added! Thank you all so much, I am so grateful for your suggestions. :)

puddleplasher, I'll definitely share the end results with COTH. I'm actually talking with my publisher about maybe getting some vouchers for free downloads or something. :) I started doing it as mostly a fun goal to make myself get out and ride new trails (my property is in foothills and surrounded by undeveloped BLM land so it's easy to get into a rut of just riding at home--not that that's entirely a bad thing! ;)) but I think it will help a lot of people.

Right now we're having extreme fire hazards here in the SW and many of the trails I had planned to ride are closed entirely or closed to horses (the fire hazard is so extreme that they're concerned about horseshoes sparking against rock and starting a forest fire, from what a forest service employee told me) so I'm doing some basic legwork. I don't want to publish anything without riding them myself.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to ride what I can and post it on my blog, as sort of a teaser and to feel out the reaction. I'll update this thread with those posts as they come. The first one should be up by the end of June. :)

Cartfall, I like your suggestion about driving-friendly trails. We're in the Rocky Mountains and a lot of the most interesting trails are also not very developed, so even if they're easy for riders I think they may be difficult or impossible for drivers. I did used to drive quite a bit as a teen so have some idea, and I think I will make a note of cart friendly trails in the book. Thank you!

eta: regarding mapping, I have a Garmin GPS which maps my routes and I'm pretty good at superimposing that over Forest Service/BLM maps (at least so far :lol:) so I'm trying to figure out a way to host that. I know I can share them with other Garmin users really easily, but I'm trying to figure out a way to share that with the general public. And my publisher is checking on the legality of that...it's nice to have someone else doing it for me! ;)

AKB
Jul. 4, 2011, 09:04 PM
I like to know about hazards. If the parking area is right next to a major road, and there is no fencing between the parking area and the road, we might not bring the 3 year old. If we have to cross a narrow bridge, I'd like to know that the bridge will hold my 1600lb draft. If the trail is very steep and rocky, the barefoot horse might not be the one to come unless we bring his boots. Is the trail narrow, cool and shady or is it a big wide dirt road that goes through open fields? I might not want the wooded trail if it is very windy and downed branches will be likely. Do the creek crossings flood with every rain? I don't want to get there and find a 4' deep, swift water crossing after 1/2" of rain.

Sithly
Jul. 4, 2011, 10:05 PM
Maybe a rating of some type to indicate whether or not a horse needs shoes. You could use a little horseshoe icon or something. :lol:

One shoe = only dirt, grass, or sand. Two shoes = some rocks, a few gravel roads. Three shoes = mostly rocky. Four shoes = extremely rocky, rough terrain, jagged rocks.

Doesn't matter for me so much because I always bring boots just in case, but it does affect who I bring with me. Sometimes I want to bring the barn rats, who are often riding borrowed or leased horses.

HillnDale
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:34 AM
Haven't read all the posts so sorry for any redundancies. Here's my list:

- Water: yes, no, seasonal is fine,
- Parking: big rig, small rig, size of turn-around, crowded?
- Shared use issues: Might there be ATVs, mountain bikers, riding through campsites, a picnic area popular for rowdy b-day parties, hunters in the bushes?
- Land use issues: What kind of land is it? Is it used for mining, logging, as open range? Is there enforcement of usage rules? Can dogs come?
- Hazards: River crossings, road crossings, bridges, single-track ravine trails, rocks, boulders, tree-fall, etc.
- Safety: How long till I can get to a phone, vet, hospital, someone finds me lying in the ditch?
- Weather: Seasonal information of interest. Shade, no shade, windy, etc. When to expect or avoid horseflies, ground wasps, rattlesnakes, mosquitos, trail closures, snow, over abundance of nettle, poison oak, etc.
Why bother: What's nice about this trail? Good footing? Nice loops? Beautiful scenery? Off the beaten track?