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Bears on the trail

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  • Bears on the trail

    I have the pure joy of riding trails around a reservoir in Connecticut. Bears are really encroaching in this area, people see them all the time. We see lots of deer on horseback but never a bear....yet. These horses we're riding are excellent trail guys...super comfortable out there, having fun and good at their jobs. Should we be worried about coming upon a bear? Not sure any of us has seen one on real life. If so, what do we do, if anything, other than be cool and steady.

  • #2
    I'm also in the northeast, and here's the advice I got a few years ago on this subject. Fortunately I've never had to use it.

    Don't sneak up on them. If you're talking/laughing/etc. that's fine. If you trail ride quietly, put a bell or some of those old style petal bell boots on your horse so you make some noise.

    Be alert. If you see something, stay as far back as you can and wait for them to clear out. You don't want to risk getting between a mother and a cub.


    • #3
      We have bears in the park where we ride and around the stables off and on all summer. Most of the horses get used to them. The bears do tend to wander away from us. Horses do vary in their response. My horse sees things sooner than I do. The last bear we met on the trail, she just stopped ears up and looked at it. It walked away from us in the direction we wanted to take so we just turned around and went home the other way.

      As with all trail hazards like bikes, ATVs, loose dogs, your personal safety with bears is really determined by the behavior of your horse. You are much more likely to be hurt by your horse spooking, spinning, bolting, bucking, etc than by anything the bear will do.

      The yearling cubs do sometimes want to get in the turnout arena and play tag with the horses. That doesn't go over so well.


      • #4
        I've had two bear encounters. The horses were interested but not afraid. I even took photos, then later thought about how dumb I would have felt if my horse had spun me off while I was clicking those shots, lol. I don't think most horses mind too much, but as always, if you get scared, they tend to pick up on it.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the perspectives! Helpful....
          Happy trails


          • #6
            Assuming black bear - the following advice is for BBs.. I have no experience with grizzlies.

            If you are on horseback there is a very minimal risk of being attacked by one.. but even then best to respect their space.

            We have a lot of them here, but no problems with when we encounter them on the trail. They are shy, and in my experience are not going to go out of their way to encounter you - if anything the opposite, they go out of their way to not encounter you. Your horse will see them before you do, most of the time..

            Don't be afraid that you will sneak up on them. Horses are very loud even at a walk; they know you are there. If you encounter one that isn't walking away from you, don't push up the trail. It likely has cubs keeping it grounded to where it is. Best to turn around.

            IME horses do not like them, even if they are fine with dogs or other animals on the trail. I think it's a rare horse that is okay with them in proximity; or a horse that is used to seeing them. I've encountered a black bear twice on our home trails. Non-event, but depending on the horse some are very worried.

            Any time I encounter one, I turn around and walk home for the day. Better than falling off because the horse spooked and walking home on foot, and better than pushing up and having an angry momma near you.

            FWIW, our trails are adjacent to our paddocks.. I have no doubt the BBs have come through our property before, and seem to live nearby with no issues.
            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


            • #7
              I had one encounter with a bear on a trail. It was a female black bear with two cubs. She and her cubs crossed the trail about 100 yards ahead of us; I was riding with another person. My horse, who I had bought only fairly recently but who had come from rural upstate New York, was unfazed, although she was happy to stop and wait for the family to cross the trail and move off.

              We stopped for a few minutes and then kept going. Total non-event.
              "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


              • #8
                I only had experience with black bear entering our horse-campsite, and the humans were more excited than horses. They ate while humans were banging everything to scare it away.

                That said, I saw this video and had no clue that bears could move that fast. Now I would think twice..



                • #9
                  Keep a bear bell on your saddle when trail riding.

                  We have bears in our neighborhood and I've come across them when I'm out with a horse and don't have a bell. I've never come across one when I've had a bell on my saddle so I'm assuming they're doing their job.

                  Cheap and effective.


                  • #10
                    My horse and I came across a bear last week, our first (although I see them on my road from time to time). Although she alerts at deer and such, the bear elicited a desire to spin and bolt for home. Luckily we had the same effect on the bear. I had my horse stand and watch it go up the hill through the woods, and seeing this, she was fine with moving forward again.