Yield to the Horse

Dec 4, 2013

Credit Roger Adams

As the number of public trails in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley grows, one group of users wants to make sure their voice is heard. Pitkin County is in the process of connecting more trails...and equestrians want to make sure they have access. Aspen Public Radio's Roger Adams reports.

“Its important that we all share the trails and work together.  We’re so lucky that Pitkin County is going to be involved in enhancing these trails.

That’s Carol Dopkin, president of the Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council.  The group was formed in part to give weight to the needs of equestrian trail users.  Dopkin says years ago when she would appeal to county officials about how to make trails safer for horses and their riders she was a lone voice.

“They said, ‘Well you know this is a personal thing of yours so we can’t do anything about that.’  And, I said, ‘Well, I’m going to gather some equestrians together.’ We’re going to have a voice; the voice of the horse.”

Today the Horse Council has about 80 active members and greater influence in trail decisions.  It’s similar to how mountain bike riders have organized around access to trails.

In Colorado, horses have the right of way on all public lands trails.

This evening (Thursday 12-5-2013) in Aspen, the horse council will hold its regular meeting and the issue of expanding the network of trails will be a central discussion. The equestrians will see a presentation on trails from Pitkin County Open Space officials.  

It is a balancing act for the county; to have a network of heavily used trails far from any authority.  Tom Detweiler chairs the trails committee for the horse council.

“With increasing numbers of users in the backcountry," he says, "with a diverse array of desires and needs everyone wants to get out there and have fun. And, so we all need to do what we can the make sure that everyone gets to have fun safely.”

In Colorado, horses have the right of way on all public lands trails.  This means that other users, hikers, bikers and all motorized vehicles must stand aside to let horses through.

“Everybody has to yield to horses," says Detweiler, "In all fairness not everyone is aware of that and there’s not a whole bunch of signage out there.  If you are a hiker or if you are a mountain biker probably one of the best things you can do is at least slow down, step off the trail and make your presence known.”

Next spring the Roaring Fork Valley Horse council will begin a public education campaign about trails and horses.  And, says council president Carol Dopkin, the group will hold meetings with other organized trail user groups like mountain bikers.

“Its been fun to meet the bikers and we all are working hard to develop a mutual respect and understanding of what we all do.  We need to be educated by the bikers and the bikers need to be educated by us.”

The trails presentation and horse council meeting will be this evening at the Rio Grand Room in Aspen.
More information:

Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council and Thursday 12/5/13 Meeting

Pitkin County Backcountry Trails