Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002
I have not contacted Becky from Oregon, but the following two points make clear that 1) the terrain and landscape from one part of the state or country cannot be compared to another in order to justify the faulty assertion that horses/bikes get along; and that 2) the only "bomb proof" horses work for your local law enforcement and won't be found in backyards or at commercial boarding facilities.
1) As to the faulty assertion that "Horses/bikes get along"
First, the terrain of each part of the country is different: some areas are sandy, some rocky, some very steep, some open with far sightlines, some without any sightlines. So, prima facie, I don't buy the argument from Jim Meyer (Trails4All, Orange County) or Mark Flint (IMBA) that if it works in ________(you name it), it works everywhere.
My experience in Los Angeles shows that the soil and terrain are keys to any discussion before permitting a discussion about any change of trail use. In the Park closest to my home, the terrain is very steep, winding, and without stopping-distance sightlines. The trails criss-cross so many times that user restrictions are impossible to enforce. The trail beds are DG. This park has always been a horse and hiking park -- principally because the land surrounding it is sanctioned by three cities for horsekeeping. It is the only place the locals can ride. They do not own horse trailers, so they rely upon safe access to the park trails. The safe park land supports at least five rental stables and several boarding stables. The riding population in the park is extremely high. There is a whole community economy built around this activity that thrives bec! ause of the very presence of a safe park for horseback riding. This economy includes condominiums and apartment buildings where your unit comes with a paddock in addition to a garage.
In another park about 5 miles away, the soils, sightlines are the opposite. The ground is flat, open and the soil is rocky loamy sand (eons of outwash from the mountains). This area is also surrounded by city-sanctioned back yard horsekeeping, rental stables and horse boarding facilities. The interesting thing is mountain bikes cannot ride through these soil conditions because they bog down. Even with "fat tires." Horseback riders in this wash say they do not see mountain bikers and more than one rider has directly attributed it to the soil conditions. One could say----"Here we just get along." I rode there two weeks ago, and I agree: the footing on trails is so deep that no mountain biker could ride there. Well, here we get along.
2) The only place you will find a "bomb proof" horse
In my experience, the only bonified "Bomb Proof" horses are stabled at a Police Department's Mounted Unit barn. When the Police Department is recruiting horses for service, they tend to only accept certain breeds of horses: for, example, they tend not recruit Arabian horses. They tend to recruit Quarter Horses. Why? Because certain horse breeds are naturally more shy prone then others. Quarter horses are known to be generally quieter by temperament.
The candidate horses are put through a series of grueling, hard exercises specifically designed to de-sensitize them to loud noises, sudden movement, sudden flashes, crowds, etc. I have heard this training in the nearby equestrian center. Alot of booms, flashes, fluttering things and sudden actions taken with the horse. Some horse don't make the cut. The Cops take only the top performers.
These horses are the police officers' closest companion once they successfuly emerge from training. No one I know in the horse world has the time or resources to desensitize a horse. We ride for recreation not for battle.
It is a false assertion to say say riders should "learn to control their mounts." It is convenient for mountain bike lobbyists to take this position because it blames the some else for problems on the trails.
In closing, I will not speak for others, only for myself and my areas. I suspect however many many will agree with my position. The great fallacy in all the self-congratulatory discussions by mountain bikers about how "we get along" is their continuing ignorance of how the disparities of land and geology affect trail safety/use. And they just don't understand the nature of the beast.