Caution, horses

6

To the Editor:

Last year, it was quite exciting to find that the State Forest had blazed new bridle-path trails throughout the forest. I ride regularly, and after a while, the fire lanes lose their luster, if you know what I mean. I have been enjoying these trails, and lately have happily noticed that more people are also using them to hike, bike, and walk along with their dogs. 

Recently I was riding the Derailleur trail, when about 25 yards away, a bicyclist suddenly came around a bend. My horse is very reactive and spooky, and was startled. The bicyclist stopped, got off his bike and pulled to the side so we could pass. I was thankful. As we exited the Derailleur trail by the corner of the airport, we came upon two more bicyclists who were quietly standing reading a map. Unfortunately, my horse was again spooked, spun, and started running in the opposite direction down the trail, dragging me along the ground behind him. My calves were bruised and I could not ride for a month. The bicyclists were very kind, and helped me get home. 

A few months earlier I was riding a narrow bridle path when suddenly I spotted a bicyclist quickly coming down the trail toward us. Before he could stop, my horse spooked and spun and galloped at high speed in the opposite direction, leaving me in the bushes with a much-bruised back. The cyclist did not come to help me this time, although I called out for help. I was able to walk home. 

Now, I can guess what you are thinking: “Why in the world don’t you get rid of that horse?”
This brings me to my point. I would like to suggest that the State Forest department post signs warning that anyone entering a trail could encounter a horseback rider. I don’t think most people consider this when out in the forest. Most people don’t encounter horses much, and don’t realize how dangerous it can be to the rider, the horse, or the bicyclist or hiker if the horse is startled on the trail. There are two signs at the beginning and end of the bridle path that runs from the Heath Hen statue to the West Tisbury School parking lot. I am hoping, through this letter, to educate others about the existence and danger when encountering a horse and rider in the forest, and also maybe get some more caution signs to help keep everybody safe. Thank you!

Dawne Charters (Nelson)
West Tisbury