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Old 01-21-2011, 09:20 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Default Horses in the Park

I'm curious to learn what others think about the use of horses in the Park. To me they are a major environmental problem (of course they are aggravating from an aesthetic standpoint as well). My current column in the Tuck Reader, "Problems in Paradise: Of Horses, Bureaucratic Hopscoth, and Horse Hockey," pretty well summarizes what I think. One point I did fail to make was that dogs are verboten while horses aren't. I happen to agree with the banning of dogs, but they wouldn't do anything approaching the damage horses do in terms of befouling campsites (there are over 20 backcountry sites allowing horses), damaging trails, eating vegetation, and leaving malodorous meadow muffins here, there, and everywhere.

For some reason Park officials not only have turned a blind eye to this; they actually encourage horse use through maintenance of concessions.

Jim Casada
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Old 01-21-2011, 10:16 AM
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Younger Tom Younger Tom is offline
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I'd be happy to see them go as well. They just make such a mess of things. I'm with you on dogs in the park as well, but I'd really like to see more of the "old road" trails opened to bikes. Noland would be a prime example. I think the way bikes are allowed up to the turnaround on Deep Creek (Jenkins place?) but not on the trail beyond is appropriate.
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Old 01-21-2011, 10:54 AM
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Rog 1 Rog 1 is offline
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I am with you Jim...cannot understand how they can justify such continued use of the trails by horses...I have camped in Elkmont with my dogs and have been lectured to by park personnel about what my responsibilies are regarding their "business" without any evidence they had done anything inappropriate...then I go fishing and have to side step the "road apples" for miles and look at the damage that is being done....does not compute.
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:13 AM
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NDuncan NDuncan is offline
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I agree with the current sentiment about horses, and the current regs with dogs, even though I take my dogs camping to the frontcountry campsites and even use the Gatlinburg trail (one of two where they are allowed) as well as the some of the roads to walk them in the summer. But I always clean up after them. As much as I would like to take at least one of them into the backcountry with me, I understand why they are not allowed, and I know for a fact that many many more people are much much less responsible when it comes to handling their their dogs (take for instance the guy whose dog managed to take down a deer in elkmont either last year or the year before) Many, if not most people, if they had free reign to take their dogs wherever they want wouldn't clean up after them, (****, we have a hard enough time with the people who won't clean up after themselves or their children) who don't train them properly, and wouldn't take the proper precautions to restrain their dogs to prevent them from either harassing other visitors or wildlife. I know if I could take a dog in the backcountry, it would be easier to convince my wife to go, but that's another story, and there's always the national forests for dog camping, so...

Another note on the horses, I know earlier this year I came across horse crap more than once on the defeat ridge trail, as far as the metal foot bridge, I guess people can't follow the correct trail always.

How do they prevent horses from bringing in seeds of invasive plants? They say to use processed feed instead of hay to prevent this in the regs, BUT in the SAME regs they say to discard of unwanted or old hay in the designated areas. Kind of sending mixed messages here.... What about the hay the horses ate before they got to the park?
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:15 AM
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rivergal rivergal is offline
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No horses in GSMNP. In my lifetime I have seen Lady Slipper populations dwindle due to poaching, witnessed daffodil picking in the park every Spring,
and been forced off narrow trails by horses without even a howdy!
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:27 AM
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I would much rather see horses than cars. I have no problem with horses in the park. I know what trails they use. I know what campsites they use. If I don't want to deal with them, I'm free to use other trails and campsites. Nobody is forcing me to share the woods with them. However, I don't own horses, they personally hate me, and if the park was to ban them, I wouldn't fight for their return.
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:27 AM
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I don't mean to put a bull's-eye on your back Jim, but I'd like to see you publish this in your column in the Smoky Mountain Times (Bryson City weekly). I'll bet it doesn't receive a 100% positive feeback. Also maybe you could get it published in the Opinion section of the Smoky Mountain News. What I'm saying is I'm afraid it won't get the attention it deserves "preachin' to the choir" on this message board.

I was once told by a horseman on a trail that when I meet horses, I should step aside and lay my flyrod down because the horse sees the rod as a whip. I would like to have told him that was his problem, not mine. But since the horse was already spooked and out weighed me by 800 pounds, I smiled and did as he told me to.
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:41 AM
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Ill be contrary on this one too. As in most things in life, I hate to see access or rights taken away. There is a group of people that enjoy the hobby of riding horses in the park, as we enjoy fishing, and we would hate it if that right or access was removed ( really, we are the only people allowed to "harrass" the wildlife). Personally I havent seen a horse site yet that was any more trashed than a tent site. Most of the trails I hike are horse trails, since they tend to be wider and less gradient. I havent seen much erosion, but it may be because Im on the easier trails. There are the occassional muddy spots caused by them, but we are in the woods you know. Mud happens.
Yes there is horse crap on the ground, but I honestly dont think its that big a deal. Maybe they could require that the horses have one of those bags hanging on the rear to catch it.
So yes, they may be inconvenient to us, a nuisance, or just annoying, but its someone elses way of enjoying the park, they already have the right, I dont think it is worth the fight to take it away from them. Lets expend our energy instead on getting he rangers involved in the backcountry, dealing with poachers, people that trash campsites, etc.
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:54 AM
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Grannyknot Grannyknot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzmcmanus View Post
I would much rather see horses than cars. I have no problem with horses in the park. I know what trails they use. I know what campsites they use. If I don't want to deal with them, I'm free to use other trails and campsites. Nobody is forcing me to share the woods with them. However, I don't own horses, they personally hate me, and if the park was to ban them, I wouldn't fight for their return.
My sentiments are exactly the same as yours Buzz, except I would have probably run my mouth a little more about my feelings on cars in the park. Well said.

For what its worth, horse advocates are going to tell us that without them, trails wouldn't be maintained near as much, AT shelters wouldn't be updated, and there dang sure wouldn't be a Pole Road bridge on Deep Creek. (It may actually have washed away late last year...not sure).
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Old 01-21-2011, 11:58 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Old Tom--Maybe I can get it placed in the Smoky Mountain Times somewhere down the road, but right now I'm just hoping my weekly column there will survive. It's a month to month thing, and that only after a meeting with the publisher where I tried to point out the gap the column filled and what I'm pretty sure is its fairly widespread readership. I convinced the bean counters short term to continue my column (and Susan Coe's). Smoky Mountain News is a sort of competing publication to the Tuck Reader, so I don't know about that.
Obviously it is a very contentious topic, and as I expected, even here not everyone agrees. JayB and Buzz weigh in on the side of horses. I would point out that when it comes to using campsites where they aren't allowed, you are pretty much out of luck on some watersheds such as Hazel Creek and Noland Creek (only one non-horse camp on each). I also differ, strongly, on how much damage they do. Also, the point made by NDuncan about invasive plants (in their feed) is an excellent one which hadn't occurred to me.
Whatever your view, there is one thing which is undeniable, there is Park hypocrisy aplenty here.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

P. S. Younger Tom, you can use bikes on Deep Creek up to the old turnaround and, I'm pretty sure, on Indian Creek as well. I believe there are a couple of other trails where bikes are allowed.
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