Preserving Riding Space

I am hoping you can tell me where I can go for some information on setting up horse trails. We own more than 1,200 acres in Northern California. it’s up in the hills and has some beautiful views, along with wildlife that includes spotted owls. We’ve been asked if we allow people to ride on our property. That got us thinking about providing trails for riding, but we’re not sure how we may do this. Can you point us in the right direction’

Performance Editor John Strassburger responds:

The simple answer to your question is to go to the Equine Land Conservation Resource website ( or call the ELCR office in Lexington, Ky., for more help (859-455-8383).

The ELCR was founded more than a decade ago to help horse people with land and conservation questions like yours solve them. I’m a member of the Executive Committee, and, like you, I live in Northern California.

There are several issues you have to consider, and ELCR can help:

First, if you decide to build trails, you want to carefully consider their placement and their maintenance, because the ease of maintenance is usually in direct proportion to where you?ve placed the trails and how well you?ve built them. Think about the views, the steepness, the drainage, materials and the time and effort it will require to build and then maintain them.

you’ll also find the USFS Equestrian Design Guidebook for Horse Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds extremely useful, and you can order that from the ELCR office. We also suggest Troy Scott Parker?s book Natural Surface Trails by Design as a valuable resource. It too can be purchased from ELCR.

Second, a good understanding of California equine use and recreational use statutes would be helpful. You can find the statute for all states at

Finally, you should consult your lawyer regarding liability issues and how to mitigate them. We hope you will allow other riders access, as enabling access to rideable property is one of our goals. But equine liability laws vary by state (California is one of three states that doesn’t have an equine-use liability law), and it’s a personal decision.

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