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Horse riders campaign to use walkways

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 08:35 13/07/2012

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Horse riders are mounting a campaign to keep their steeds on recreational walkways.

A national petition is seeking horse riding and horse-driven carriages be recognised by the Government as an alternative mode of transport, and be included in the planning of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Horse riding was increasingly being pushed out of recreational trails, particularly in the North Island where walkers and cyclists were favoured over horses, said New Zealand Riding Club president Christine Christian, from Christchurch.

"Imagine what would happen if you rode through Hagley Park. In the good old days they used to go through the park and I am not sure what happened with the bylaws, but this has [long since ceased]."

Horse riders believed it was an injustice that some of these trails where horses were excluded, had actually been built to cater for horse riding and horse-driven vehicles.

She said they wanted to ensure horses would continue to be given free access to trails.

Horse riding appears to be given more leeway around Christchurch, with horse riding trails at Bottle Lake Forest Park and parts of Waikuku and McLeans Island.

Sections of the Otago Rail Trail were open only to walkers and cyclists with horse riding allowed on other parts.

Christian said horse riders generally accepted the riding balance for the rail trail, but wanted some assurance other trails would remain open and bylaws would not tighten against horse transport. In the North Island horse riding is forbidden on the Motu Trails Cycleway opened this year, the Ohakune Coach Road in 2010 and the Waikato River Trails in 2009, some of which were old carriage trails.

Christian said horse riding was a permitted activity at Yellowstone National Park in the United States and Hyde Park in London.

She said public safety from a horse bolting had never been a problem during two years of riding through Bottle Lake Forest Park trails, despite mountain bikers racing around tracks at speed, and good signs could alert other users to shared trails.

Horse riders are also working to ensure they continue to be allowed shared access on open roads in the petition, which is also on a Facebook page.

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