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avoiding accidentally trespassing?

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  • avoiding accidentally trespassing?

    For those of you who trail-ride off your own farm or ride places other than parks:

    How do you handle not ticking anyone off by accidentally trespassing while riding?

    My area : a rural area of 50-150 acre farms, individual homes, occasional patches of small woods, and a commercial property here and there all mixed together. Back county roads are windy and without any shoulders. With so many speeders and all the new traffic (lots of development), it's a bit risky to ride on the city/county roads. So it would be safer to avoid the busy paved roads and stick to trails, gravel lanes, and such.

    My dilemma: Not all end/start property boundaries are marked or obvious. Some folks don't give clear explanations where their farm ends when asked. Some people never seem to be home to ask. Some properties don't even have a residence; the owner is in another state and it's just a big investment. Sometimes a home is rented by one person, owned by another, but the only person you'll ever see is the renter's girlfriend; how do you easily ask for permission to ride?

    Today I was riding through my neighbor's farm with his explicit permission. I went past another cornfield that I thought was his... and a guy came out of his house across the gravel road. First words out of his mouth were "this is private property" not "hello" or "are you lost". I explained the misunderstanding (I was still between cornfield and the gravel lane). I think he was OK with it but I felt really weird to be greeted in such a way.

    Does anyone know if you're riding in Maryland on named roads (these would be shared by more than 1 house, usually blue sign instead of green), is it really trespassing as long as I am on the right-of-way and not on someone's lawn? If it is trespassing, do I need explicit permission from every homeowner in the development sharing the lane?

    And when you're going from Point A to Point B, what's the best way to make sure nobody gets mad at you? Do any of you actually go down to the county courthouse, pull tax maps for those properties to figure out which house goes with which cornfield or woods, and then get in your car in advance going door to door to ask permission? Do you just ride and take your chances, but approach people to ask if you do see them?

    If you're riding and realize you're accidentally on House A's property, how do you ask? I don't want to ride up his drive w/o permission to knock on the front door, but what do I do with the horse? If I am leading the horse up the drive, it's the same as riding him isn't it? Do I leave him tied by the road? How can I knock on the front door to ask permission if I don't have permission yet to come up the driveway?

    Sorry for the dumb questions. I want to learn the right etiquette and not be one of those "bad" horsepeople.

    Thank you!

    P.S. I know my questions seem a little absurd but 2 weeks ago in my county we just had a crazy homeowner shoot a shotgun at a car who U-turned in his private drive. Both people in the car went to the hospital to be treated for wounds and he's in jail now... but it's terrfying to think some people are so paranoid about tresspassers.
    Veterinarians for Equine Welfare

  • #2
    I never usually post on this forum, but saw this topic and thought it was timely, as I have the same question! We recently moved and are still learning where we can and cannot hack, introducing ourselves to the neighbors, etc. Shortly after moving I found a set of trails through the woods that bordered one of the cornfields I KNOW we are allowed to ride in. They were so obviously there, and joined nicely to the field that I assumed (yes, I know what assume means ) they were trails that the previous horse people had used. they come near some houses, and a couple just dump right into one yard, which, in the few times I rode back on the trails, I NEVER rode on (turned around as soon as I saw I was coming to an end). I rode on the trails both days last weekend, and a few days ago I went back again to find the trail tied off with a "Private Property" sign strung across it. I was flabergasted, a little peeved (I know property owners have all the rights, but what was the harm in having a couple of horses walk through the woods behind your house?), and a bit sad that it seems I might have ticked off neighbors. But I don't even know who owns the land the woods and trails are on, so I don't even know who to go to to apologize and see if we could get the trails back! And now I'm terrified to ride anywhere were I haven't been exactly told is ok to ride!

    Yet another problem with urban sprawl. Clueless city folk move to horse country, then don't want anything to do with horses.


    • #3
      Originally posted by yellowbritches
      what was the harm in having a couple of horses walk through the woods behind your house?

      As I understand it, the harm is that if you had an accident--even if it was your own fault, or no fault--your insurance company would seek reimbursement through the property owner's, which would raise their premiums, and they would, insanely enough, have a liability risk. In theory you (well, probably not you, but you know, some folks ) could (and do!) sue. "They knew horses used those trails, but they put in a sprinkler system right next to it, and when it went off, my horse spooked, I was thrown, I missed six weeks of work and now have chronic pain! They owe me!"

      Some states (Vermont is one) have laws that make it less of a liability risk for property owners, which makes folks here a lot more willing to allow equestrians/hikers/snowhoers/x-country skiiers access to trails on their land, and it's good for tourism.


      • #4
        Having lived in the country for many years, and being an outdoors person, I can understand people not wanting others on their property. First, there is the liability issue. Then, look how many inconsiderate people will trash your land with litter, or open gates and leave them, or even ride right through your yard after a heavy rain. Being a hunter, and knowing that is becomming increasingly unpopular with people, I believe it is important to respect others rights, especially as pertains to their property. If I don't have written permission, on my person, I stay off others property. It is my responsibility to know the boundry lines of the property I'm on, and if I'm not sure, I don't use that property until I am.

        One thing I use to help gain permission is a 'Release of liability' form available from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. I provide this form, signed, to the landowner (not a renter). This form states that I promise to respect the property, not litter, leave things as I found them, and also releases them from liability for any accident I may have. My safety is my own responsibility. It also has my name, address, phone number, and a description of any vehicles I may be driving. Another useful tool is to volunteer to help them with their chores, or when hunting, to share any game harvested. Christmas and birthday cards are a nice touch, as is a neat, respectable appearance and a humble attitude. Can you tell I've been at this a while?

        How about public trails? We're lucky, in Ohio, to reportedly have more miles of public equestrian trails than all the surrounding stated combined. With a truck and trailer, one can find all manner of places to ride safely and legally. If you don't have said transportation, look for a riding buddy that does. Contact trail riding clubs and your state Horse Council. Ask your Vet for leads, ask everyone you know.

        I know road riding can be the pits. I trust our horses completely, but not the idiots in the cars. Good luck and don't give up.
        Odi profanum vulgus et aceo


        • #5
          When I moved to Podunk, I went and introduced myself to the neighbors. The closest was about 1/4 mile away, but I wanted to make sure they knew I had horses.

          I asked about where I could and couldn't ride, and every last one of them gave me permission to ride on their land. However, I never ride where someone has a "No Trespassing" sign posted. I figure it's their land, and I'd hate it if someone decided to take it upon themselves to come on my property if that was posted.

          There's a huge tract of land that belongs to the local hunt club beside and behind my property, and they've been more than happy to let me use their land. I didn't until I asked, though.

          Maybe it's a little more laid back where I live because most of the folks have been there for generations. Besides me and 2 more sets of neighbors who are coming in from Connecticut and New Jersey, everyone else has been there for years and years. And all of us have horses, which goes over really well with the local livestock owners.
          Homeopathy claims water can cure you since it once held medicine. That's like saying you can get sustenance from an empty plate because it once held food.


          • #6
            It has been on my mind a lot lately as I do not like riding on roads.

            Snowmobilers join a club that works on obtaining permissions from land owners. In the permit letter, they explain that they will not trash the land, will respect the speed limit, etc. Also, they explain about the liability issues ( I don't remember exact wording of it). We agreed to permit snow mobilers go across our land.

            Now, I'm thinking that I'd like to do the same thing for horses but will need help to develop a good letter showing that we will not go over crop land, will not sue them for accidents, etc. I do not know if it will be well received by my neighbors......
            Will get a dream horse!
            More riding, swimming, and rowing, less posting


            • #7
              Yes, I do pull tax maps (thay are online although sometimes hard to interpret!) and find the owners or just go knock on doors to ask. I've met some wonderful older residents that way! And not one has denied access.

              Thre is one property however, that I have not done that for. Mainly because it has been horse trails for many, many years and the farmer who leases it does not have a problem with us riding through. I know, probably not the best thing to do but I have a huge fear of being denied access and cut off from the reservoir trails.
              \"And indeed the love that the horses of the Rangers bore for their riders was so great that they were willing to face even the terror of the Door , if their masters\' hearts were steady as they walked beside them.\" The Return of the Ki


              • #8
                I too am faced with a similar, maybe worse problem. There are no good shoulders to ride on here where I live (Kentucky). There is 400+acres within riding distance from me, and I was refused permission to ride there by the owner. He is afraid of liability. Kentucky law protects him completely. all he has to do is put up this sign..


                Under Kentucky law, a farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, or other person does not have the duty to eliminate all risks of injury of participation in farm animal activities. There are inherent risks of injury that you voluntarily accept if you participate in farm animal activities."

                (4) Failure to comply with the requirements concerning warning signs and notices provided in this section shall prevent a farm animal activity sponsor or farm animal professional from invoking the provisions of KRS 247.401 to 247.4029.

                (5) Nothing in KRS 247.401 to 247.4029 shall create a duty for a farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, or other person to give a warning to a participant engaged in a farm animal activity with his own farm animal, or to a participant whom the farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, or other person knows to possess reasonable knowledge of or experience with the inherent risk of farm animal activities, or who has represented to the farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, or other person that he possesses reasonable knowledge or experience with the inherent risks of farm animal activities.

                It covers vets, farriers, trainers, pony rides,basically says you cannot sue because you automatically accept the risks.

                He still said no....

                I used to live in Hunt Club Country, it was AWESOME...I miss it very much.

                Cheryl,owned by Banjo, 5 yo OTTB


                • #9
                  I think the best way to avoid being where you don't belong is not to ride somewhere unless your 100% sure you are allowed to be there its just a common sense thing. Before buying this farm I farmed about 30 miles from the Twin Cities here in Mn. It was in the heart of what became hobby farm country many people from the city buying 5 and 10 acre parcels to have horses. I was totally amazed at how rude horse people can be and have no regard for others property. Riding through crop feilds, leaving gates to pastures open, throwing beer cans in feilds, I even had one lady I caught stealing hay off my feilds and her reason was she didn't think it belonged to anyone ( guess she figured it baled itself ). I can see why land owners don't want horses ridden on their property so often the privelage is abused.
                  Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.


                  • #10
                    The snowmobile people here also go door-to-door getting permission. They have a written contract, bend over backwards to accomodate landowners (time of day trails can be used, speed limits, change of route), and have their own $2,000,000 liability insurance policy.

                    I'd also remind folks riding on others' land to never ride when the ground is damp enough to leave hoofprints. When I lived in eastern Mass., we lost a key bit of connector trail because some #&*@wits rode through when the ground was sodden, and tore up the lawn.


                    • #11
                      Maybe this can help you find approved riding locations in your area. Also, you can call the DNR.

                      I've got the 3 things men want. I'm hot, and I'm smart!

                      -The 6th Member Of The Bareback Riders Clique-


                      • #12
                        Boy am I glad that someone decided to open the can of worms.

                        I live in a somewhat rural part of southern California. Although, most of my training consists of pavement. Any training up hills are through an area that's determined as "no trespassing." I've been riding through portions of this area for years and try to make sure there's no damage when passing through these avocado/citrus tree lands. As for gates, if I can't go around them, I just go back since most of them are locked. No one has really made a stink yet, but I don't exactly want to be shot at either, and worry when someone might just pull out their shotgun.


                        • #13
                          Group of riders are the worst.....that does not make me feel good. I've been taking my girls out on rides on our land but we are getting bored with our farm. We'd like to expand beyond our farm...nonetheless, we will be deligent about being invisible and being friendly at the same time. I do not want anymore lands closed up to us, riders.
                          Will get a dream horse!
                          More riding, swimming, and rowing, less posting


                          • #14
                            Thanks, I feel better now. My daughter and I went riding on our "Pillsbury Doughboy" horses, SillySunny and Charm's Pop just a few minutes ago - boy, what a difference from riding on Abby. It feels so FREE!
                            Will get a dream horse!
                            More riding, swimming, and rowing, less posting


                            • #15
                              here in Colorado, it is up to You to find out where you may and may not ride - and ask permission to cross private land. What I did was get as many maps as I could that showed public and private lands and did my homework - however, we are blessed with A LOT of public land.

                              I would suggest you either join or form a horsemans council - here is a link to our local one - www.roaringforkvalleyhorsecouncil.com - or check with your state level horse representatives...we have the Colorado Horse Council - both types of groups act as advocates for horse owners, who BTW pump much money into an economy

                              secondly - write a trail guide to your area if there isn't one - here is a link to a good resource for books - http://www.extendinc.com/twohorse/about.htm - click on maps or books - get people enthused to go out and make deals with land-owners

                              Unless we stand up and be counted, this situation is only going to get worse as land is chopped into smaller and smaller pieces - mountain bikers and hikers have done great work with getting local authorities interested and committed to trails for them - we can do the same!

                              Let us Unite!
                              Visit us on Facebook!


                              • #16
                                Just ask, or stick around long enough to know what land sits abandoned, which land gets visited.

                                If caught, play dumb AND polite and apologetic all at once. I have had one lady go bananas on me, and I was riding on the right of way, not HER land at a walk. She's nutters. I didn't argue, I just kept apologizing and walking my horse away. Done.

                                If I 'caught' someone on our place, the very least they need to do is be really really NICE and POLITE and apologize if they are not welcome- not snarky or uppitty. It's mine, I'll share it as I wish- it is no one's right to be there but me and mine.

                                You can definitely get tax maps and know who owns what. and by the by, don't call and ask if you can 'hack your horses out here' = to nonhorse people, that's jibberish. Speaka da plain ainglish


                                • #17
                                  This is interesting. I live in Texas, and in a rural area. I am surrounded by farm land and if it's not fenced and there are no crops growing in it I ride around it. Only time I've gone in crops is when I was spooked by traffic and it's a my saftey or the crops. I go in places that have fences down or gates left open. If I'm asked not to ride somewhere I don't. I'm the only person who does ride in this area. I ride a lot along the the one lane county roads. The only gates I ever open are one neighbors, when I take a short cut through his property. I don't do it very often but I've alerted them to cows out and other problems enough time that I don't think they care. They all know I'm the only one who rides around here so I suppose if they have a problem they will let me know. IF I had an accident I would just say it occured on my land.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by gothedistance

                                    tbtrailrider -- I feel sorry for you that the land you mentioned is closed to riders, but...respect the landowner's decision and find somewhere else to ride. Even in the most prestigous hunt country there are landowners who have shut off their land to both casual riders AND foxhunts, despite all the diplomacy measure that can be brought to bear. Riding on private land is a much treasured privilage we can ill afford to trample.

                                    All is not lost, after a bit of driving around today, I think I discovered a route to the place I really want to go...a 1600 acre Wildlife Management Area. Horses are allowed. It's probably a 4 or 5 mile hack altogether with really good shoulder for a third of the way, a small road for a third, and good shoulder the rest of the way. I am not giving up on the 400 acres though, I recently met a fella named Bill who lives near it (adjacent really)who bought his farm from the guy.(That's a whole nuther story,and a good one ) He has permission to ride there, which tempts me to just go and ride there anyway...Bill said he would speak with the landowner, but it's been a month and no word.



                                    • #19
                                      I am one ot those land owners that have quit letting folks be on my land. When asked I simply say nothing personal but I have had too much trouble in the past with allowing permission.

                                      I found 2 horses staked in my alfalfa field one day. When I approached the owner she said, "This grass better than mine." Hell yes it is better I fertilize, control weeds and irrigate.

                                      My wife and I used to go out of our way to meet and greet the new moveins. To the point of making hundereds of jars of jams and jellies. We would take a loaf of homeade bread (typically still warm) and a jar of jam over and introduce ourselves. We looked at everyone as friends that we haven't met. I spent hours after many snowstorms on the tractor cleaning driveways for people. Most of the time before light and without them knowing who did it. We let many folks ride camp and or cross the land with never a thought. Now we are the grumpy old SOB's that never share. It is because of the twits that have no respect.

                                      We still grant permission and are very generous with the neighbors that we trust, but they MUST prove worthy of that trust.

                                      Lostfarming in Idaho


                                      • #20
                                        I'm really hoping not everyone is serious with their responses to this issue. If so then I can see why theres problems. Its called RESPECT if its not given do not expect to receive any in return. To start with just how does one accidently trespass on anothers property? If you don't own it or have specfic permission to be on it by someone who does then its not an accident you rode onto the property on purpose plain and simple despite what lame excuse you use.

                                        If a land owner doesn't give a mother and daughter permission to ride on their land it doesn't make them some type of evil person it simply means he doesn't want them riding there get over it.

                                        If caught on someones land play dumb? Ya and why not lie as much as you can to them also I'm sure its going to build trust that will help all horseback riders for years to come.

                                        I've owned 100's of acres since 69 and can honestly say I've never had a problem with snowmobilers. They have always asked permission to use our land and every few years come and cut the brush back on the trails they use. I own a gravel pit and only twice have I had dirt bikers in it that didn't ask permission first. I cannot tell you how many times horse back riders have trespassed here but its literally in the 100's. I've heard about every stupid excuse there is why one of my favorites is " well you have horses " thats one to stupid to even reply to.

                                        Just from the few responses on this thread I can understand more why horseback riders have such a bad reputation with land owners. Its called RESPECT way to many do not give it.

                                        There is always the option of buying your own land to ride on that way you can let the whole world on it and do as they please.
                                        Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.