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Incorporating Streams Into Your Horse Trail System

Incorporating streams into a horse trail on your property offers riders an increased challenge and lets you make the most of the property’s natural features.
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Adding a stream crossing with a pipe or culvert can help minimize erosion and damage from riders and horses.

Incorporating streams into a horse trail on your property offers riders an increased challenge and lets you make the most of the property’s natural features. 

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When trail riding, horses hooves quickly churn up soft ground. Therefore, when planning a trail, it’s important to think about how to minimize disturbance and erosion. 

Designate crossing areas to minimize the interaction of the water and the trail. For example, mark one, single-file crossing area where you can put gravel in the stream or creek bed and on both sides of the stream to help avoid erosion. 

You also can install a small dirt mound called a waterbar that guides water across trails and allows it to run downhill at a set location. Waterbars help limit erosion from occurring across a larger area. 

Another option is to create crossings in areas that are naturally drier or where there is less chance of erosion. Installing a culvert might help divert extra water away from trails.

Trim back dense bushes or tree branches to allow sunlight in to help keep damper areas dry longer. 

Building a bridge is another option for allowing riders to cross streams on your property without the impact on the stream bed. As a bonus, a bridge offers another training opportunity for horse and rider.

Ideally, trails should be designed to follow the contours of the land so that water flows off the surface without eroding the soil. Running water or pools of standing water can undermine the trail and even wash it away completely. 

Take steps to prevent mud, rather than trying to fix it later. Prevention is usually the most cost-effective and easiest way of dealing with wet areas and horse traffic.

Skilled trail designers can offer suggestions for drainage ditches, French gravel drains, grade changes and other strategies to help alleviate some issues. Without an understanding of how these systems work, it’s possible to inadvertently worsen a situation rather than improve it. Working with someone skilled in this area can save time and money in the long run. 

In severe cases, it might be necessary to reroute a trail to bypass a particularly swampy section. This protects the land and keeps users safe. 

Check Out These Books

Trail Riding Arizona
Rails-Trails Washington Oregon
Training on the Trail: Practical Solutions for Trail Riding
Rail-Trails Pennsylvania: The definitive guide to the state's top multiuse trails
Rail-Trail Hall of Fame: A Selection of America's Premier Rail-Trails
Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State
Tahoe Rim Trail: The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, and Equestrians
Training on the Trail: Practical Solutions for Trail Riding

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