JK-Title-01

A recreational road user who is both vulnerable and marginalised, their access to the countryside under constant scrutiny. Trail Riders? Or Horse Riders?

Wiltshire TRF have a longstanding tradition of working alongside their equine counterparts across the county. This summer James Higgs was instrumental in pulling together a group of Trail Riders to help marshall at a British Horse Society event. Here he explains what happened and why it's not so unusual to see hooves and wheels working in harmony.

TRF:

Hi James. It looks like it's been a busy spring so far for Wiltshire TRF. What have you been up to?

James:

We’ve had a busy few weeks with our horse event roster, which started the weekend after our annual ‘Wessex Wanderer’ guided trail ride around Wiltshire and its surrounding counties.

 Our first event was the @British Horse Society pleasure ride held on the Fonthill Estate, our second the Three Rivers endurance ride promoted by @Endurance GB and just last weekend our third – the prestigious @Nunney International Horse Trials, where we rode alongside Olympians @William Fox-Pitt and @Zara Tindall.

TRF:

You recently posted on @Wiltshire TRF Facebook Page a story about the work that the club did to help @British Horse Society Wiltshire. What exactly where you guys up to?

James:

We were contacted by the Wiltshire branch of the BHS last year to help them run the inaugural Fonthill event, which – for various reasons – had not managed to progress beyond the planning stage. We provided maps of the woodland route which we were able to accurately mark (and later demark) with the assistance of GPS.

The event was a great success, with our skilled volunteers able to attend to errands such as repairing horse boxes, recovering trailers, signing site access/egress and chauffeuring stewards around the course with the aid of a disabled member’s quad.

This year’s event built on the success of the previous year and has enabled the local BHS group to make substantial donations to @Equine Grass Sickness Fund, the @Wiltshire Air Ambulance and their own rights of way access fund.

JK-16
JK-02
JK-05

TRF:

How did the day unfold? It looked as though there were a lot of horses and riders involved?

James:

There were over sixty horse riders this year, which was slightly down on last year due to other equine events being arranged for the same day. We marked the course the day before and rode it again on the morning of the event to ensure that it was safe for riders of all abilities.

Marker ribbons don’t tend to go missing on private land though occasionally have to be replaced on public rights of way or through urban areas, where people removing the ribbons presumably think them to be litter.

We were once accosted during a separate horse event by a rather emotional resident, who had spotted us replacing ribbons which had been mysteriously removed from the lane outside his house during the night. The resident colourfully informed us that he did not want horse riders in ‘his’ village (though chose not to remonstrate with the motorcyclists who were assisting them!), so it’s not just us motorcyclists who are sometimes ‘unwelcome sir’.

TRF:

Some people are surprised to see motorcyclists and horse riders working together in the countryside. Do you think this is fair?


James:

Of course not – we’re separate user groups who enjoy exploring the country in our different, yet similar ways. The man in the street might think us incompatible, but only because he has not witnessed the courteous and cordial manner in which we greet each other whilst sharing the trails.

Sadly our hobbies also share a common risk that puts us at the mercy of an increasingly intolerant bloc of motorists.


TRF:

Finally, if there are other TRF members and groups that are looking to get involved in this kind of initiative in other parts of the country what advice would you give them?

James:

Take the time to understand the needs and wishes of horse riders and ask yourself what you can do to help meet them. Helping desensitise horses to motorcycles or offering your services to event organisers helps distance us from the ridiculous perceptions some people have about our hobby.

The organisers of equine events can choose from any number of user groups or organisations for help, but have consistently chosen motorcyclists (specifically the TRF) to help with their events. It’s compelling proof of our joint heritage and co-existence.

TRF:

Thanks James!

JK-FB-01

Keep in touch with Wiltshire TRF on Facebook and find out how you can get involved in helping out at equine events across the region.