The W&OD Trail is a shared-use linear park. Trail users are often unaware of the unique safety concerns of horseback riders on the W&OD. Although horses remain on the bridle path that parallels the paved trail most of the time, they do have to cross the paved trail or merge with bike traffic at times. Here are some facts that will help you understand why bicyclists, inline skaters and others should stop when horses are in a shared trail area.
Did you know that…
…horses can see behind themselves because their eyes are set on the sides of their heads?
…what a horse has already seen with one eye may startle it when seen by the other, because the two hemispheres of the equine brain communicate with one another less quickly than those of the human?
…horses have a highly developed flight instinct to escape predators?
…the brain of a horse is only the size of a grapefruit? This accounts for the fact the animal cannot assess the level of seriousness of a threat. When frightened, a tame horse either flees or relies on humans to tell him it’s OK
…horses can panic when approached quickly either from the front or the back?
…any surprise, no matter how small, can cause a horse to panic?
Some helpful tips to prevent accidents involving horses:
•Do not ring a bell or blow a whistle at or around a horse.
•Call ahead to the rider “Heads up!”
•Ask when it will be safe to pass, and wait until the rider says it’s OK to pass.
•Stop before approaching horses in areas where the bridle path and paved trail intersect or merge. In fact, whether approaching from the back or the front, you should stay off bridges (and their ramps) until horses have cleared them.
•Mountain bikers on the bridle path should stop before approaching horses either from the front or back, and ask the rider when it will be safe to pass.