Horses and natural resources can coexist

By Tom Lollis

horse in forestOf all the non-motorized nature trail users, the horse is the hardest on the environment. Over time, trail riders can leave behind gullies, eroded stream banks, silted streams and angry land managers calling for a ban on horses.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to Gene Wood, Clemson forest ecologist and a national leader in horse trail construction. “We can preserve the ecological integrity of the forest and use horses for recreation at the same time,” he said.

He recommends using gravel and synthetic materials called geotextiles to hold the gravel in place and harden wet or muddy trails. To prevent a gully from forming on hillsides, trails should fit the contour of the land and be hardened with gravel in the switchbacks. Also, stream crossings should be built to keep horses off stream banks as much as possible.

These and other guidelines are in a new book, Recreational Horse Trails in Rural and Wildland Areas, that will be available free in 2007 through the USDA Forest Service. The book was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program through the American Horse Council.

For information: Gene Wood, 864-656-0319,