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Obtaining Property Owner's Permission to Ride

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  • Obtaining Property Owner's Permission to Ride

    Hi folks,
    I am struggling with this...piecing together trails. What's the best way to go about successfully getting permission?
    How did you ask various landowners for permission to ride through? Either vacant property or active farmland, etc.
    Any success stories out there? How did you do it? What did you say?
    Did you offer to sign a liability waiver? or were you asked to?
    How do you approach them? Phone? Letter? Knock on the door?

  • #2
    I have permission to ride through about a half dozen properties and I have not actually asked permission once! Each instance started simply by striking up a neighborly conversation (only once not on horseback) and folks have just said things like, "well you know if you just cut through our field there you could get to xyz trail..." One 'neighbor' (she's like 5 miles away so I use the term loosely) was working out by the road and we stopped to chat. She ended up getting on a 4-wheeler and showing us a trail that cut through her property connecting two public trail systems. It's amazing how super people can be! No one has mentioned a liability waiver.
    I think if I were to actually ASK, I would do it in person, and would say something along the line of "I ride xyz trail and I think if I were to cut along the edge of your field it would keep me off the road, which would be safer. Would you mind if I did that?" And then if the answer were 'no' I would just say I understood and that would be the end of it.
    Also, while asking or after being offered, ALWAYS offer something in return... cleaning up the trail, use of your property if you have trails, tomatoes from the garden, fresh zucchini bread... you get the idea. Make sure they know you appreciate the latitude they are giving you.
    I have a friend who HAS to cut through a lot of private property to have any trails at all. She has only had one neighbor turn her down, and they actually labored over the decision and apologized profusely, adding that it was a liability concern and they weren't comfortable with how waivers would hold up.
    Last edited by oldpony66; Sep. 24, 2012, 08:43 PM. Reason: added info


    • #3
      Research "Recreational Liability Statutes" in your area.
      They exist in many states. Near me the snowmobilers
      were responsible for getting these into law but they
      benefit many who would like to have access to trails on
      private property and offer substantial protection to

      I have found that volunteering for an area activity can
      open a lot of doors. In my area it was 4H horse activity.
      Might be pony club, church, kids sports teams, school...
      People who see that you "contribute" are more inclined
      to return the favor and open their land to you.
      Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
      Elmwood, Wisconsin


      • #4
        We have asked most of our neighbors while chatting in conversation. All have been very nice to let us ride over their property. One has a hay field which we make sure to stay on the very edge of (and not ride when the ground is wet and punch holes). He actually has started mowing 'trails' for us on the edges of fields. (Grows his own veggies to sell but did take some of my cukes this year) One has 4 wheeler trails to a couple of 'beaches' at a nearby lake. We help keep the trails and beach area clean. (LOVES my romaine lettuce)

        One 'neighbor' further away we had never met. They had a gated drive with the house way off the road - so no real opportunity to just 'run into them'. One day while out riding down the road the gate was open, my MIL announces that 'we' are going to ride up to the house and beg. Actually she meant that *I* was going to do the begging. I was petrified...what to say...how to start? As we're 'arguing' about who is going to talk a car stops at the mailbox. Had to be fate right? So I flagged them down and commenced to begging and saying we'll be happy to sign a liability waiver....ANYTHING. They weren't the actual property owners but called them for us. Property owners asked us to come back later and sign a waiver. They asked us to also help keep up trails. (They love just about ANY veggies I take them)


        • #5
          Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
          Research "Recreational Liability Statutes" in your area.
          They exist in many states. Near me the snowmobilers
          were responsible for getting these into law but they
          benefit many who would like to have access to trails on
          private property and offer substantial protection to

          Definitely look into this. This is a primary reason snowmobilers in NY have 11,000+ miles of trails to ride. In NY it's called the General Liability Law. Protects the landowner unless they do something stupid like string barb wire across the trail during the middle of the season. If you know this law for your state, and can provide the landowner with a copy, it can go a long ways.


          • #6
            Foxhunting clubs have to spend a lot of time and effort on this, or they won't be hunting. I'd advocate friendly person to person, knock on door approach. And once you get permission, EquineJunky's approach of periodic gifts of veggies is just the right long term attitude.

            By way of further clarification and manners- biggest issue hunt clubs have is, when they have permission for 'the hunt' to cross private property, that permission does NOT extend to individual members when just out riding, not as part of a day's hunt. Carrying that over to what you are looking for- don't make the mistake of assuming that because 'others' have permission from a landowner, 'everybody' does.

            I will add an anecdote from my own experience- had a house in northern VA with a county non-motorized trail easement across the back of the property, and I was fine with that. But, one fine day, I spied a horseback rider down in the creek bottom, cutting a trail, and had to go and stop her- because she was helping herself to our property that was NOT along the easement. She somewhat huffily said well, that was the only place that would work for a trail, and I had to pretty firmly tell her that she'd better work with the appropriate county authorities- as noted, a liability issue for us as landowners (not to mention basic lack of manners on her part toward the landowners!).


            • #7
              I've always asked in person and not on a horse. Generally everyone has been friendly and receptive. I reciprocate by always following their "rules" to the T (like one person asks that we ride single file through his property and another asked that no more than 3 people ride through at a time). We also bake them all cookies at the holidays, etc.
              "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
              So you might as well have a good time"


              • #8
                We've only got one neighbor's property to cut through to get to the 60+miles of public trails on the other side...a rather gruff-looking, intimidating fellow who never waved hello on his way down the lane. While working up the nerve to approach him I scoped out what it would take to get to the trail on his side of the place and unfortunately it entailed going down his drive and cutting through his yard. I figured there was no way he'd agree, almost didn't bother asking but one day I heard him out on the mower and figured what the hell.

                He turned out to be a rather agreeable fellow and readily offered up his property for us to cut through, even the yard so long as we stayed along the tree line and came back to pick up any piles our horses left behind. I offered liability release forms but he declined.

                I also second gifting some goodies to neighbors who let you use their property. In my neighbor's case I'd often see him drinking a Bud Lite while mowing his lawn when I pass through on the horse. Now about once a month he comes home and finds a 12-pack of it sitting on his porch. I've noticed he always has a big smile on his face and waves when I pass him on the lane since I started doing that.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                  Research "Recreational Liability Statutes" in your area.
                  They exist in many states. Near me the snowmobilers
                  were responsible for getting these into law but they
                  benefit many who would like to have access to trails on
                  private property and offer substantial protection to
                  In my state (VA), these only apply to crossing land to get to a public recreation area.

                  I ask in person as well, with comprehensive liability waiver available for review.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks guys! I appreciate the feedback


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by GaitedGloryRider View Post
                      ...a rather gruff-looking, intimidating fellow who never waved hello on his way down the lane.
                      The guy on the other side of my horse's paddock fence seemed this type. I paused one day along the road to compliment him on the new siding on his house. Now he waves to me all the time. Sometimes I think the gruff types actually thrive on this sort of passing acquaintance. They can be neighborly and still keep to themselves.

                      And free beer or veggies never hurts
                      Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                      • #12
                        Reminds me I need to send a nice basket to our neighbors for yet another season of lovely riding where we were able to enjoy riding through their property.

                        Btw, this would be a GREAT article for a magazine, maybe I will post it as an idea on FB for Trail Rider...
                        Appy Trails,
                        Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
                        member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org