Monday, May 15, 2006

Carrot Fest 2006 was a success!

18 mountain bikers and about 25 equestrians participated in Carrot Fest on Saturday. It was a casual event and it was a great opportunity to learn about the other user group in a social setting.

We were high up on the Horse Camp marine terrace with great views of the ocean and the back country. The sunshine was breaking up the morning fog and there was no wind.

After a registering and refreshments, Rebeckah from SCCHA and Sebastien from MBOSC discussed the basics of horse-bike interaction on the trails. That discussion gave way to an open forum of experiences with the other user group.

Some new things that I have learned about horses and equestrians:
  • Horses can't see directly in front or behind them.
  • A horse is a prey animal who will run if threatened.
  • Carrots are like candy to horses (which is why they love them so much). It's not part of their regular diet and too much carrots will make them sick.
  • Equestrians can feel the tension when horses get nervous from bikers. This tension can make the equestrians feel threatened and may cause them to shout at these bikers - which may create an atmosphere of hostility.
As a mountain biker, these are the things I can do on the trail when encountering equestrians and horses:
  • Talk and indicate that you are a "human" when approaching horses. Expecially from behind. Bikes are quiet and horses have sensitive hearing. They may think that cyclists are predators.
  • Communicate with the equestrian about passing the horse. Some horses are comfortable with bikes and will allow you to ride by. Others may wish that the horse or the bike should come to a complete stop when passing.
  • Ride slow when passing a horse and give them plenty of room.
I also appreciated that equestrians are not fully in control of their horses. While horses are obedient and have been trained, it still has a mind of it's own and still subjected to physiological constraints like hunger and fear. An equestrians control of where they want to go must be negotiated with the horse. For example, when an equestrian wants to stop, they must communicate this desire to their horse then the horse will stop. There may be a bit of a lag between the desire to stop by the equestrian and when the horse will actually stop. This is different from bikers because there is no other animal brain to negotiate with when controlling the bike. I acknowledge that not all bikers are in control of their bikes and some bikers have primitive brains.

This was a great way to build understanding between equestrians and mountain bikers. Many of the equestrians I talked with have had positive encounters with mountain bikers on the trail. We are blessed in Santa Cruz county to have such a great relationship with the other user group. Both user groups have a lot of common ground and goals and we can work together to accomplish these goals.

We thank all participants for coming to Carrot Fest for showing the initiative to learn about the other user group. I especially like to thank Sebastien Praley from MBOSC and Rebeckah Crill from SCCHA for representing the co-operation between mountain bikers and equestrians in putting this event together. I also like to thank Supervising Ranger Joe Conners from California State Parks for helping with getting the location prepared for the event.

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