Caution, horses


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



  1. if doesn’t sound like anybody except possibly the last cyclist could have done anything differently. Those are multi use paths for everybody. I’m afraid you may have a mount who isn’t well suited for trail riding.

  2. so if I am riding my bike in the state forest, and I see a sign that says I may see a horse, what am I supposed to do ?
    Sorry Dawne, but I honestly think you need a horse whisperer to calm your horse down.
    You have also been very lucky to have not been seriously injured.

    • Well, you are supposed to give the horse the right of way. You are suppose to stop and let the horse safely pass. On those narrow paths you could be on top of someone before you ever see them though. You are supposed to use all the caution possible. This horse doesn’t seem to be very trail safe though and you are right that she’s lucky she hasn’t been seriously hurt.

  3. I can help… been a horseman for 45 years pleasure,showing,galloped racehorses,bred and broke my own racehorses also rode other peoples horses that needed certain bad habits or fears resolved. Take your horse in hand at the stable outdoors and present them with a bike. First just a bike lean it in a fence or barn and let him observe from a distance and slowly lead him closer letting him stop when he wants.the goal would be for him to be

  4. Close enough to stretch his neck out and touch( snort at) it. This could take 10 minutes or days working a few minutes at a time. Once hes comfy with that put the bike in a different spot and do it there. Progressing to having someone standing with the bike,then pushing the bike then riding it .but give him room and time. You stay on the ground. Step by step till you can be on his the barn where hes ‘home’. Then do the same at the trail head and go from there. Take your time let him touch it go at his pace so he trusts you and gains confidence?

  5. Most horses spook at bicycles. Yes you can work on desensitizing them but it is still very common for them to spook. Put them next to a tractor, a 4 wheeler, a truck, they are fine. Bicycles, I still don’t understand. But I always say, a horse is a 1,500 animal, no one wins when a horse spooks. I do not want to get injured and I do not want anyone on a bicycle to get injured, the reality is both can be injured, so yes I could definitely want signs making people aware if they encounter a horse.

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