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Horse Riding on Private Property
 By Winniefield Park   •   20th Apr 2017   •   1,653 views   •   0 comments


Iíve been riding for several decades now and there is no doubt that I find getting to trails a little more challenging than it used to be. When I was younger, we knew all of our farming neighbors and it was easy to cross the corner of a field or travel along the headlands of a crop to get to our favorite forest trails. But, the city is moving closer and that means that owners of the properties we once had access to arenít quite as complacent or welcoming. Fields are being sectioned for housing. Fences are going up. And, often fields are now planted to the very edge, rather than leaving headlands and lanes to travel. Unfortunately, I canít just assume that land I rode on twenty years ago is still available to me now.

In some places there are Ďright of waysí and if it is a path or trail commonly used, even if it crosses private land, you may not need permission to ride on it. Where I live, there are legal easements and common law right of ways - accesses to cottages, water, scenery or other resources. These are recorded on land registry documents. So to ensure you are accessing a path or trail legally, you need to be familiar with maps and documents at the local land registry office. Your province or state will have trespassing laws as well, so itís wise to be familiar with these if you ride out often.

The first rule of riding on private property is to ask permission. On public lands, this isnít necessary, but often to get to public lands, you must cross private property. A little research with your local government office will tell you who owns what land. Or, if there is a house nearby, you may be able to just knock on the door.

The second rule is to be respectful when asking permission, or when on the land. Itís common sense to stay off of planted areas. Some owners may want you to move or remove poop. And of course, leave gates opened or closed the way youíve found them. Donít cut fence wire (Iíve seen dirt bikers do this!), or knock down rails. Permission to cross land isnít permission to change anything.

If you are riding along a roadside, donít veer onto peopleís lawns. Some get really testy if you put horse tracks into their perfectly manicured grass. Some donít even appreciate the fertilizer you leave behind.

Obviously, if a property is surrounded by fencing, or has posted private property signs, you can be assured that there is a reason the owner does not want you on the land. Just stay off it. I know of situations where the owner might have welcomed horseback riders and their intent was to keep out motorized trail vehicles. Unfortunately, though, like the mythical lemmings, those on wheels are inclined to follow any sort of path, even one covered in nothing but hoof prints. So access to all is declined.

Owners arenít just being difficult when they donít want anyone horseback riding on their property. If you are hurt while you are on their property, they could be liable. This means that if you can prove that you were hurt because of something on their property - say you accidentally rode your horse into an old farm implement hiding in the grass and had a bad accident, they can be blamed. An owner might ask you to sign a waiver to use their property, but even that isnít a guarantee they wonít end up paying if something happens. So, rather than take that risk, landowners just donít give permission at all. Of course, in terms of liability, insurance is a must for horse owners. This covers you for any injury or damages your horse might do to someone else.

So just like knowing the rules of the road when driving, we need to know our rights are responsibilities when riding on private property.

What are the Ďrulesí about common paths and trails in your area?
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