With our roads and lanes becoming as busy as the streets of Monaco, it’s no wonder us horse riders hanker after long, leisurely off road riding through woods and fields. However, this type of hacking is slowly disappearing under fallen trees, overgrown hedges, brambles and tracks of mud that even a tractor couldn’t even navigate through… Some are in such a bad state they are putting horse riders lives at risk. It can be simply a piece of stirrup catching on a broken gate equals a potentially nasty accident.
Part of the problem that as soon as some bridleways become impassable, then horse riders simply stop using them and they slowly disappear. I for one have been through a few of my local bridleways and come across a hazard or a broken gate and on occasion have reported these problems to my local council. However, it would seem councils have little influence or desire in ensuring that these ancient pathways are maintained to a safe and usable standard. Most councils state that it is down to the landowner to maintain these pathways and the majority of responsible landowners do keep them clear for horse riders. There are some it seems neglect these bridleways sabotaging horse rider’s right of way deliberately as landowners simply do not want horses trampling over their ground. With the council’s resources stretched in our current economic climate, manpower to clear bridleways is at a minimum.
Alternatively, there are independent groups that have been set up to help maintain bridleways and to keep them open. The British Horse Society has dedicated information to help horse riders contact their local Access Officer in your area to help with this particular problem of bridleways in disrepair. They are in constant need of voluntary help to keep our horse riders out in the countryside using these ancient pathways. Just think what a couple of hours of your time helping cutting back some low lying trees, wild hedges or fixing a gate will give horse riders many more months and years of pleasure riding!
Do you know where all the bridleways are in your area? Some are obvious to riders and are signposted clearly, some are well and truly hidden. We are lucky that in the UK there are many bridleways that are fantastic to ride on and are maintained well throughout the different seasons. What better way to navigate the beautiful countryside we have on horseback through these riding routes and bridleways. It is easy now to find the best horse riding routes on the internet or just by getting your trusty OS map out to see where the bridleways are in your area. We have to use these bridleways or in the next few decades, they will simply disappear under a sea of brambles and mud.
So if your hacking has become a bit of a stale using the same routes, why not take a closer look at what pathways are around. Do a bit of detective work to see if there are some routes that simply need a bit of a clear up so you can ride your horse safely and away from our busy roads.
I hope you have a brilliant summer ahead, safely hacking on our beautiful bridleways and byways. Remember these routes have been around for many, many decades even a couple of centuries or more. Keep them open and enjoy them with your horse!
by Samantha Hobden
Header image credit:© Copyright Peter Holmes
Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.