HORSEPLAY: Just kick it off the trail

DISMOUNTING AND KICKING the road apples, otherwise known as horse manure, to the side of the trail is what we equestrians are asked to do when we ride multi-use, close-to-town trails. Easier said than done for riders such as myself — short, with short legs, back problems, old age and arthritis — who require help getting a leg up and over the saddle before riding.

It’s not that riders whose horses have left those little green nuggets splat in the middle of a trail — in full view of those city slickers who’ve moved to a countryside ripe with smelly cows, horses and myriad wildlife (say hello to our resident elk herds) — are purposely leaving it behind.

Far from it! Perhaps the rider is riding with friends who are yakking away, laughing and having such a good time they simply haven’t noticed when their horse plops a glob on the trail.

Maybe a single rider unknowingly left a blob behind because she (or he) was either daydreaming and lost in thought. Or she had music blaring through her headphones and was singing loudly at the top of her voice to her favorite song, and she noticed angry hand gestures by fast-approaching fitness walkers because she was singing off-key.

And then there are those riders who don’t know good trail etiquette includes dismounting to kick the manure to the side, the same as bikers, runners and walkers are supposed to stop and step to the side of the trail when a horse approaches.

So, you see, there could be a number of valid reasons why a splotch would be left on the trail, gathering flies, much to the disgust of a passerby. In my youth, I would have been a bit defiant at the mere idea I had to roll off the back of my horse to punt my horse’s recycled grass off the trail. After all, the horse isn’t carnivorous, or an eater of meat. His plant-based excrement is highly biodegradable and provides fertilizer to the soil.

It could also be because we never had to worry about cleaning up after the horse when trail riding when I was growing up.

The times we live in now are not as simple. According to the U.S. Census in 2019, we have about 119 million more people living in the United States now than when I was a teen. That translates into millions more people who enjoy outdoor activities the same way you and I do.

As the population has grown, so has the need for rules and regulations; the opposite would mean a world full of chaos — just imagine that!

Great is the need for all of us to step up to the plate and take the lead in showing our fellow man respect. To try to be considerate of the few who react unfavorably to a little slop dropped on a pathway, like, say, when riding though Robin Hill Park, Olympic Discovery Trail or the Larry Scott Trail. Those three are among the most popular trails on the peninsula open to equestrians. They are a breezeway of happiness shared by bicyclists, hikers, runners and walkers, too. We all need to try to be aware of our surroundings and practice leave-no-trace or pack-it-in, pack-it-out techniques.

So how can we who are height or health challenged get on our horse when there’s no mounting block, rock, tree stump or even a ditch for a horse to stand in while I climb aboard? As a side note, it’s less strain on a horse’s back if everyone used some type of mounting block to saddle up, rather than pulling oneself up by the saddle horn.

More than 20 years ago, I began a quest to find a mounting aid to help me get in back in the saddle of my 17-hand horse should I need to pee out in the wilderness. I still have the E-Z Mount Stirrup that attaches to the stirrup and adds a few inches. It was never easy to step into the lower stirrup with my left foot and then lean over the saddle while I took my foot out and then into the original stirrup. I think the only reason it worked is because the horse had a prominent backbone that helped hold my Australian saddle in place when I put weight in the lower stirrup.

However, the same saddle when sitting on my rounded quarter-horse’s shoulders tended to slide off to the side — disaster!

Now, finding an aid is also about my personal responsibility to dismount to give-the-boot to those little dumps of dung.

Portable aids I’d like to learn more about include:

Solo~Ride sounds promising because it isn’t attached to a saddle, thus no chance of it slipping to the side when you step in the stirrup. It’s also handy for those who ride in English saddles, or bareback, it’s anchored by a heavy duty nylon webbing strap that’s wrapped around the horse’s upper right front leg and then attaches to a D-ring on a strap that goes over the horse’s shoulders. The left side of the strap has an adjustable metal stirrup. See it at hairybackranch.com.

Easy Mount Step Stool is a 10 inch tall step. Both it and its 4 inch taller version, Dura-tech Easy-Mount, have aluminum folding legs for quick storage and a 5’ tall nylon cord to pull it up once you’re in the saddle. I’ve heard some have attached the cord to a long dog lease so they could loop it over the wrist to reel it in.

Cashel offers the Step Up Stirrup. A stirrup with a strap long enough to attach to the saddle horn and pull around the back of the cantle to step with in the right foot, your left into your saddle stirrup. See it at www.cashelcompany.com.

Tough-1 has a stirrup mounting aid that attaches to the saddle. www.facebook.com/tough1equine/

All include bag to hold the items while riding.

Catch-it Bag, or horse pop bag attaches to the back of the saddle with the bag sitting under the tail to catch the manure before it hits the road. The bag is made of 18 oz. vinyl which is supposed to be easy to clean. Best for shorter rides. It also takes some training to get the horse accustomed to wearing the bag. I found it at workinghorsetack.com.

All of the above come with storage bags are available online. Be sure to ask your local horse supplier, too, if they have any. I’d love to hear from other riders the methods they use to leave no trace behind them on trail rides.

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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