Hamptons Trail Etiquette: Biking, Hiking and Riding

The Hamptons are known for their many hiking, biking and horse trails. Although there is a vast amount of open space for “trailblazers,” there are important considerations to be observed while on the trails. Knowledge of simple trail protocol can make all the difference, as well as protect users and the land over which they travel.

Barbara Bornstein serves as Vice President of HOT, Horses on Trails. She is very passionate about trail preservation and courtesy to others. In addition to being the VP of HOT, Bornstein is a realtor with Sotheby’s and serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of the Long Island Greenbelt.

Knowledge is power, and Bornstein shares the importance of educating others with what she practices. “Whether on open trails or wooded trails it’s really important for hikers and bikers to realize just how quickly things can go bad when there are horses involved. Our rights are protected on the roads and it’s important for drivers to know they must yield to horses. Accidents happen when people aren’t properly educated about the specifics of trails as well as the proper way to yield to horses,” said Bornstein.

Years ago, Bornstein was thrown from her horse when a biker suddenly approached with no warning. Luckily there were no serious injuries, but the unfortunate incident was almost life-threatening. Bornstein has always practiced safety when riding and her experience inspired her to help better educate the public.

“It’s all about awareness. When drivers, hikers and bikers see a horse they usually don’t understand the psychology of what the horse is feeling or thinking,” Bornstein told me. “These beautiful animals are disturbed by a quick movement or sudden sound and naturally become alarmed and sometimes defensive. If we simply slow down and pull over or step aside and wait for the go-ahead from the person riding the horse, accidents can be prevented. Horses get top billing because of safety reasons, not etiquette.”

When the sound of someone is in the distance, it is crucial to call out a friendly hello so that the other person will know to wait for a signal to pass. Sometimes the person or persons on a horse will stop or sometimes they may just pass by based on how they think the horse will handle the situation. It is obviously best to pass at the wider part of the trail when possible.

When meeting a horse while biking, offer a loud hello. A bicycle is quiet and many times is not heard by either rider or horse. When coming toward the horse, it’s important to pull over and dismount. The rider will let you know the best way to continue. The horseback rider’s job is to be friendly and use common sense. Horseback riders need to remember to always stay on the trail, slow to a walk when passing, wear a helmet and carry a cellphone.

While trailing there are a few things to abide by:
1. Stay on the trail.
2. Carry out more than you carry in. While on your travels, be mindful of any garbage and debris. A little help goes a long way. If everyone participates, our trials will always remain pristine.
3. Leave no trace, don’t damage or cause any changes to the trail.
4. Report illegal activities such as ATV’s and dumping.
5. Greet other users.
6. Pass to the right.

A few final thoughts from the Nassau Suffolk Horsemen’s Association: “Remember, be prepared for the unexpected. Slow down at curves and intersections or any time the sightline is interrupted. Glass, cans and other debris on the trail can puncture bike tires and seriously injure a horse. Please remember to pick it up and carry it out with you.”

And remember…“Happy trails to you until we meet again” — Dale Evans and Roy Rogers.

Information provided with permission of Nassau Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, www.nshaonline.com, and Horses on Trails, the equestrian division of Southampton Trails Preservation Society,

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