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Bridges on the Trail

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  • Bridges on the Trail

    We have an ATV club that has a trail system throughout the state that they allow horse riders to use. There are a LOT of trails in my immediate town and surrounding towns and we use some portion of them while we are out.

    Last summer while out, there were a few bridges we encountered on horseback that the club had built, and unfortunately the spaces between the boards wasn't small enough to allow safe crossing on a horse - a foot could have, and would have, easily gone through the spaces. Which got me thinking...

    What is an appropriate space size on bridges to ensure a normal sized hoof will not go through? Nothing bigger than 2 inches? Smaller?

    I'm trying to come up with ideas, so that I may present suggestions to the ATV club in an effort to make some of their bridges more horse friendly. Not asking them to go out and replace all their bridges, just offering some information so that they could keep us in mind when they build or repair their bridges.

    I was thinking this morning that I would like to support them by paying annual membership dues even though I don't ride an ATV on their trails, I'd like to show support for the work they put into the trail system that we enjoy on horseback. I'm also going to volunteer when they do trail work days so I can show my appreciation for the work they do.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

  • #2
    I think your idea of volunteering with them is great, share the trails and the work! As for the bridges, I think some horses would tolerate 2 inches, but I personally think that leaves a lot of scary gaps for some. 1 inch maybe? Some of our bridges (that are for cars and pedestrians/horses) have decking boards over top. Others have rubber-type mats. The best are covered in compacted stone dust. How great that the club will work with you on this!
    "Do your best, and leave the rest, twill all come right, some day or night" -Black Beauty



    • #3
      A lot of the state parks I rode at in the Northeast hae smaller wooden bridges like you described. There was not much gap in between the wood boards. I think with any gap you raise the possibility of a horse hanging up a toe, shoe, or boot.

      The picture posted below is from one of the multi-use bridges in the park I rode most frequently. It is used by hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. When you look up, you can see no gaps in the wood planking.


      The bridge below was done in TN this winter, and again the boards are fairly tight.

      "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


      • #4
        Usually you run the decking for the horses in the direction of travel rather than perpendicular to travel , this spreads the load of the horse's weight over a greater area, allows for easy replacement of worn wear boards Usually at least 2 inch thick lumber is used and is usually placed in the center-line of the bridge providing a pathway for the horses that does not have gaps

        If this is a very wet area, wood will become slippery and another decking materiel should be used.
        There are multiple trail construction guidelines on various US Gov sites


        • Original Poster

          They will not build with no gaps at all because they want snow and water to be able to melt and run through the decking surface, not pool up and rot the wood.

          I sent the president of the ATV club this photo and he responded that they could do something like that, but would probably do 2 strips, on each side, so it would serve as basically tire wear decking on the structure as well. They have a club meeting tomorrow night and he's going to run it by the other club members to see what they can do.

          He said they do have some bridges just outside town that need repair this spring, so they will likely repair in a manner that suits the horses as well as the ATVs.

          "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


          • #6
            If you do not already have this here is a link to all of the US Forest Service Trail documents

            USDA Forest Service Standard Trail Plans and Specifications


            • #7
              I agree that 2" is too big--picture the breakover happening right at the beginning of the gap, so the toes dives in...over and over. Scary bridges can be really fun to ride tho--says she who rode the swinging bridge during Tevis, even though she hopped off and hiked all the way up to Devil's Thumb.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by Lisa Preston View Post
                I agree that 2" is too big--picture the breakover happening right at the beginning of the gap, so the toes dives in...over and over. Scary bridges can be really fun to ride tho--says she who rode the swinging bridge during Tevis, even though she hopped off and hiked all the way up to Devil's Thumb.
                Good point. I think they are going to do as I pictured above.
                "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."