Horseback riders hot to trot on Confederation Trail

A group of horseback riders on P.E.I. wants the right to ride their horses on the Confederation Trail.

About two dozen people held a meeting on Saturday in Charlottetown to discuss forming a non-profit trail-riders association to meet with the provincial government about changing the law.

They started an online petition Saturday that had almost 1,200 signatures in 24 hours.

Horses are allowed on P.E.I. roads, but anyone riding on the Confederation Trail can face fines up to $1,000. One woman at the meeting Saturday said she received a $400 fine from a conservation officer for riding on the trail near Kinkora.

Another woman, Donna Lee Cole, said riding on the Confederation Trail would be much safer than riding on roads, where horses are more likely to be spooked by vehicles. She said she stopped riding her horse on Island roads after she was nearly hit by a dump truck near Kensington.

"It left an indelible mark on me, and so I will not take her on the road again," she said. 

Submitted by Donna Lee Cole

Cole said that makes it difficult to get from point A to point B.

"Because it's such an agricultural province, most times you have to ride on somebody's property and in doing so you need to have the permission to do that or you should have their permission to do that. It's the polite thing to do and so you really are limited in where you can go."

Sylvia Hall Andrews, who lives in B.C. and has a cottage in East Bideford, P.E.I., said she has ridden her horses on multi-use public trails in other provinces, but notes P.E.I. is the only province that does not have at least some portion of the Trans Canada Trail accessible to equestrian use. 

Submitted by Donna Lee Cole

She said in her experience, the former rail beds make excellent trails for horseback riding because they have great visibility and are "quite resilient" to hoof traffic. She added cyclists, joggers and pedestrians manage to share those trails with horseback riders without problems.

"As long as people talk to each other and understand that their trails require a little bit of co-operation from all parties then I think things tend to go very well."

Submitted by Sylvia Hall Andrews

Gordie Kirkpatrick, who owns Maple Ridge Equestrian in Ebenezer, said he sees no good reason why horses should not be allowed on the Confederation Trail in P.E.I.

Manure droppings? The rider can clean it up or push it to the side.

The ground is too soft? It was built for trains, so it should be able to handle horses.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," he said. "If they're doing it in other provinces there's obviously ways that they've come up with to to look after those issues."

Shane Ross/CBC

Kirkpatrick said the Confederation Trail would offer a nice way for horseback riders see and experience different parts of the Island.

"The idea of being able to explore the other areas of the Island on horseback, much like people do when they're walking or running or biking, I guess, that would be the same impetus for wanting to be able to ride on the trails."

Cole said the next step is to form a trail-riders association. They plan to speak with similar associations in other provinces to develop bylaws and trail etiquette information so they will be prepared when they present their case to the legislature in the spring.

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