You see a trail as you are riding and want to ride on it. There is a ‘No Trespassing’ sign next to it. You have not asked permission from the landowner to use the trail yet. Do you go on the trail or not? No. Never without permission. If you ride somewhere without permission all the horse owners in the area will get the blame for the damage. There are always signs a horse leaves behind when being ridden. Whether it is hoof prints, broken branches, or manure.
Here are a few tips to know about the law that will allow you to convince the owner to ride on their property. The Recreational Use of Land and Water Act, Act 586 of 1965, limits the legal liability for landowners who open their land for public recreational use at no charge. HB 544 and SB 72 will amend the state’s recreational use of land liability law in order to expand its protections for landowners and ensure that legal fees are covered for property owners who are found not liable for injuries to recreational users. The bill will expand the language of the law to include various property improvements and cover all recreational activities undertaken for exercise, education and pleasure.
The landowner is not responsible for keeping the land safe or putting up signs to warn of dangers, so please ride smart and carefully until you know the layout of the land you are on. Even if the side of the hill you are on is good for a gallop the other side of the hill may be nothing but loose rocks. So ride responsibly. If you can, carry a mobile phone with you as a safety precaution. However, if you are charged a fee to use the land, the landowner is responsible to keep the land safe. This includes warning signs and fixing any issues with the trails, etc.
ALWAYS ASK FIRST! I cannot stress this enough. When asking for permission it is a good idea to hand them a copy of the statute so they are well-informed. A well-informed landowner is more likely to give you a ‘Yes’ than an uninformed person. In this day and age people are worried about being sued so if you get a ‘No,’ please respect their decision.
Horses can do a great deal of damage to the land so please stay off crops. Crops are the livelihood that pays the bills so please respect the people whose property you are on.
Horse manure on a trail that is used for walking can be an inconvenience, so please, if there is room to get your horse to the side you should do that. Respect others that use the trail.
If you have to open gates while you are riding please CLOSE the gates. Not closing the gates could be disastrous for the farmer. If there are herds of cows or other animals and the animals find the open gate first the farmer will have to round them up. Time is money and roundups can take a long time.
Whether you get a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ from the landowner say, ‘Thank You’ and be respectful. If you are courteous and respectful to the landowners you are seeking permission from, you pave the way for a great relationship for equestrians and landowners.