COVID-19 Limits Public Land Access for Horseback Riding

Public lands are managed by several local, state, and federal agencies, meaning rules and closures might vary, even within the same area. Find out if and where you can ride.
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COVID-19 Limits Public Land Access for Horseback Riding
Before you set out on public land, check with the land manager about what is open, including parking, turnarounds, and trails. While trails might open back up, trailhead parking for vehicles may still be closed. | Photo: iStock
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, governments everywhere are urging citizens to stay home, except for exercising and essential activities. “Essential activities”—and exercise—for many horse owners include trail riding. However, in many parts of the country equestrians who trail ride on public lands have been impacted by trail and public land closures.

Public lands are managed by several local, state, and federal agencies, meaning rules and closures might vary, even within the same area.

“In Washington state, Governor Inslee issued the ‘Stay Home – Stay Healthy’ proclamation (in response to COVID-19), which ordered all citizens to stay home,” explained Joan Burlingame, of Ravensdale, Washington, an avid equestrian and backcountry rider. “It included authorization for essential activities within certain boundaries,” which allowed for activities such as exercising, including horseback riding.

“People in Washington state began flocking to state lands, basically taking the governor’s order as (an opportunity for) a mini vacation,” said Burlingame. “Trailheads, parking lots, and the trails near the parking lots were so crowded there was no way that people could maintain 6 feet distancing from each other

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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