How to Handle Equestrian Encounters

How to Handle Equestrian Encounters

Dealing with bike vs equestrian encounters is, for the most part, a settled issue in many jurisdictions around the United States. Back in the 90’s when mountain bike riding took off there were a number of legal and territorial fights taking place between pro-equestrian and pro-cycling groups. As time has past these arguments have been settled in mutually agreeable ways and mitigated by an ever decreasing number of equestrian enthusiasts. To this end IMBA advises that all cyclists come to a complete stop, dismount, and communicate with equestrian riders when encountered on either dirt or pavement trails. Cyclists should then head the instructions or requests provided by the equestrian rider.

Tandem bikes are a bit different, for obvious reasons, and while a large number of horses have been broken to accept single cyclists the low volume of tandems creates a dangerous cocktail when tandem teams approach horses. Horses are intelligent creatures and will recognize and remember single bicycles but seeing one rider pedal by followed closely by a second rider can cause a horse to spook.

To avoid dangerous interactions with equestrians tandem teams are encourage to follow these rules of the road when encountering a horse and rider:

  1. Immediately slow to a safe stop. When approaching from the rear slow to speed equal to or slower than the speed of the horse.
  2. Announce your presence with a friendly hello.
  3. Request instruction from the equestrian rider “is it okay for us to pass” or “do you need us to pull off the trail”.
  4. Abide by the instructions of the equestrian rider.
  5. If not instructed to do so ask before speaking to the horse. Generally equestrians appreciate you speaking in a calm voice to the horse to help the animal learn that you are not a predator.
  6. Once clear of the horse take care not to make abrupt movements or loud noises until you are well away from the animal. Most spookings occur when riders think they are clear.

The number of equestrians has dropped tangentially over the last decade making encounters more and more rare. This drop in volume has created the adverse effect of increasing the chances of coming across a non-broken or easily spooked horse. Taking your time and working with the equestrian rider will ensure safe and happy rides for both your tandem team and the equestrian.

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