Four Shocks and No Handlebars
A friend of mine in Oakridge, OR, who is prominently featured in the MTB documentary Pedal Driven, also happens to have horses that she loves to ride. She recently invited me out to the stable to spend the day riding with her friend Kim, who is very active in the local equestrian community and a professional horse trainer. So why not? And it was a blast! I've ridden before in arenas and on guided rides, but never with the freedom that being on a trail with friends invites.
There's something to be said for being out in the woods and having a very different view of the beautiful surroundings. I rarely get to look down at the forest floor from 7-8 feet up. The trail also feels very different with four shocks and no handle bars. My friend's horse Cheyenne and I have a lot in common. She's a Mustang from Nevada and I'm a wild girl from the Sierra Nevada. She likes to stop and eat a lot and while I learned many equestrians won't stand for that, I could relate. She's sort of a slacker and hangs at the back of the group but loves to open it up an haul ass when the opportunity arises (yep). She was a fun horse to ride and I'm looking forward to spending more time with her this summer.
I also learned a lot from my friend. Laura, about what she does to help both mountain bikers and equestrians get along on the trail. Laura always wears her IMBA/GOATS hoody with pride when she's at equestrian events and out on the trail (GOATS is the IMBA chapter in Oakridge). She talks about her passion for mountain bikes and advocates for better communication and understanding between the groups. She even goes so far as to back her horse off the trail when it's doing it's business and hopping down to kick horse manure off the trail when she sees it so everyone can pass through without getting poo on their tires or hiking boots.
It was very fun to hang out with a couple of great ladies and their horses, and also really eye opening. I hope we can continue to appreciate the different ways that people enjoy the outdoors and keep building positive relationships on the trail. And, if you're not so psyched on sharing the trails you ride with horses, I would encourage you to find a way to get out for a ride on one, have a beer with a horse trainer, or otherwise try to connect with their community. They can be pretty rad!