Trail damage and erosion is one of the most effective reasons trail managers use to close trails. You shouldn’t be surprised to find a trail that has been ridden in the mud one day closed thereafter. This can also include rocked trail if it is too wet. A horseback rider should always make a conscious effort to preserve the environment they are riding in. This includes an honest evaluation of the trail condition and an effort to minimize damage to it. What to do? First, consider the weather when you make your weekend riding plans. A Wednesday rain shower can mean sloppy trails through Saturday and Sunday. Just because sunny skies are forecast on the day you plan to ride doesn’t mean the trails will be in good condition. Wet trails are all the more tempting to ride when you’ve already invested time and energy getting to the trailhead. To avoid the temptation, try calling ahead to your local park management office or check websites to see if they’ve been updated about the trail status. Wet trail riding is bad for the environment, your gear, bad for the trails, and riding in the rain is pretty miserable.
Don’t go around puddles, go straight through them. If everyone goes around the outskirts of a puddle it damages the sides of the trail and widens it. Going through the puddle keeps the trail at the same width and minimizes trail damage. Always stay on the trail. Even if you find your favorite trails are too wet to ride, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the saddle. Consider alternate riding locations with better drainage or head onto forest roads, gravel roads, or even paved routes if it is safe with low traffic. Training rides on the road will help you on the trail this summer plus it’s a great excuse to get out and enjoy the weather on your horse. If your local trails are wet this time of year hold off on that trail ride and put in some training miles instead. Your body, your horse, and your trails will thank you this summer. By Denise Schieffer