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Don?t pooh-pooh 700,000 horses

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I’m writing in response to (Jon Brandt, Auburn State Recreation Area) Ranger’s comment from the May 29 article entitled “Mountain bikers, equestrians try to play nice on trails” ... “the equestrian community they’ve classically been in a defensive position because they’re shrinking in comparison to the mountain bike community, which is growing.”
Equestrians make up for an enormous population using the trails. According to the California State Parks Recreational Trends 2006: “By 2010, one in five Californians will be older than 60. The senior population will double by 2020 and they are making more time to pursue recreation activities.” The Trend’s 10 “Most Preferred” recreation(al activities) did not include mountain biking, horseback riding was!
If you go to www.ParkWatchReport.org, an informational report site for our park system, you’ll see there are 29 equestrian trail user groups and eight mountain bike trail groups.
The majority of trail users are hikers, runners, dog walkers, and those on foot, including horses. Compared to a 4- to 5-mph walking pace (occasionally faster for a horse trot), the bikes can travel up to 20 mph, thereby seeming to run out of trail faster.
There are miles of bike friendly trails without threatening the foot-traffic-only trails. If horse activity appears to be “shrinking,” it may be in certain areas because of the danger illegal cyclists pose by riding on trails designated for foot traffic only.
In the 2005 American Horse Council report, recreational horse owners spend $1.9 billion in California each year.
Of the nearly 700,000 horses in California in total, approximately 315,000 are used in recreational activities, including those enjoying our parks’ trails.
Diane Dixon-Johnson, Greenwood