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Horseback Riders vs Mountain Bikers: Can we all just get along?

Nov 11, 2019

Corba (Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Associate) and ETI (Equestrian Trails International) have some conflicting ideas about public trail use.  Both non-profits have ambitious ideals about expanding available trails for their respective sports. Unless they resolve differences and make compromises, their methods could backfire and defeat their purposes.

Santa Monica Mountains, Equestrian Trails, Mountain Bikers, Corba, ETI, hikers and bikers and riders, Agoura, Parks and Recreation, Riding trails, horse property, equestrian real estate, Calabasas

Corba (Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Associate) and ETI (Equestrian Trails International) have some conflicting ideas about public trail use.  Both non-profits have ambitious ideals about expanding available trails for their respective sports. Unless they resolve differences and make compromises, their methods could backfire and defeat their purposes.  If there is enough attention drawn to the occasional freak accident, caused by ignorant or reckless bikers and/or horseback riders, the National and State Parks could revoke privileges afforded both aficionados.

A letter circulated by the recently elected president of ETI has some local chapters of ETI, known as “Corrals” seeing the red.  The red is the blood of the victims who have had tragic encounters with bicycles while riding the trails on their horses.  The new president, Bob Foster, is pursuing ways in which bikes and horses can co-exist.  To many local ETI members, it’s best to simply ban bikes from single track trails.

To read the letters from ETI pres Bob Foster** and the response from CORBA**** see below.

From their websites:

Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association was founded in 1987 to serve the mountain bicycling community of Los Angeles and surrounding areas including southern Ventura County.  CORBA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to gaining and maintaining public trail access for mountain cyclists and the public at-large.  CORBA encourages and promotes the safe and environmentally responsible use of unpaved roads and trails for bicycling and to educate the public about all aspects of off-road cycling and trails.

ETI is Dedicated to the Acquisition and Preservation of Trails, Good Horsemanship, and Equine Legislation

Check back with this blog to read how each organization proposes to resolve their differences!  Input, comments and suggestions are public and welcome.


Letter #1 from Bob Foster ETI

President’s Message by Bob Foster

I want to thank the membership for your confidence in voting me in as your new
President of Equestrian Trails, Inc.

I am honored and willingly accept this responsibility and vow to continue in the
tradition of ETI: “Dedicated to the Acquisition and Preservation of Trails, Good
Horsemanship, and Equine Legislation”.

I have served as this organization’s 2nd Vice President for the past two years. With
this service, I have insight on what is working well with our organization and what is
not working quite as well.

I look forward to working with our National Board as well as our re-elected 1 st Vice President Keelie Buck and newly elected 2nd
Vice President Sarah Williams. Both Keelie and Sarah bring motivation and refreshing ideas on how to keep ETI going strong.

Our first priority is our membership. We must continue to attract new members to this great organization with safe, worthwhile,
fun and educational activities and events. We also need to recognize the needs of our current membership and maintain
retention because our folks want to be part of this equestrian family.

Our next priority is trails and legislature. More homes less trails. Developers are thinking of the green stuff, and it’s not grassy
hills they want. In some cases, it’s the land with existing trails they want. We must continue to protect our horse-owner rights
through legislature and doing our part to educate the public on who we are as a horse-owner culture.

We are living in a time when more and more folks are taking to the trails to enjoy nature. There are more hikers, equestrians
and mountain bikers gathering now in the same spaces that years ago were considered “open range” because you rarely walked
upon anyone using those trails. Today, and especially if you’re riding close to any urban area, you have equestrians, mountain
bikers and hikers all using the same trails, sometimes all at the same time.

I believe through education and training, we equestrians can learn to co-exist safely with the hikers and the bikers. I will be
traveling outside of Los Angeles County to see how this problem is resolved. I know in Santa Barbara County, for example, they
use a bell system to warn riders/hikers/equestrians of approaching traffic. I also know that SoCal Cycling, an interscholastic
cycling league, has introduced Cross Country Mountain Bike Racing to high schools
throughout California. Cross Country Mountain bike Racing (not to be confused with
extreme or downhill mountain bike racing) is one of the fastest growing sports in high
schools all over California. Teams in this sport receive training on trial etiquette, especially
when riding upon a horse and rider. I am hoping that members of ETI can do some cross
training with this organization so that we can learn and grow from each other.

As this New Year begins, I expect many good things to happen and welcome any
comments or ideas that will help ETI go forward.
Again, thanks for your support. I look forward to serving each and every one of you.

Letter #2 from Bob Foster, ETI

In this message I want to thank all who understand and agree with me that, as an organization, we need to provide trail safety training. I also want to derail ill feelings among any who misread my recommendation for and offer to conduct such training. An offer of safety training is not an endorsement of mountain biking on horse/hiking trails.


My focus is on the actual problems we face today.  Not all trails are hiker/equestrian trails and so marked. We all know of single track trails classified as “Multi-Use” that accommodate hikers, riders, mountain bikers and special vehicles (for the disabled). Horsemen on such trails need safety tools.


Equestrian Trails Inc. always has and continues to focus on the well being of the equestrian community. To that end, it serves no useful purpose to demonize any organization not equestrian even one that, without constraints, threatens equestrians.  Multi-use trails encourage multiple varieties of users. In self-defense we had better learn to get along.


I do not as Bob Foster or as the president of ETI, advocate changing multi-use trails into horse only, or support adding users to hiker/horse only trails. There simply are trails that will not safely support both equestrians and bicyclists and this must be legally and officially recognized.


Have I reached out to the bicycling community?  Of course I have.  If we are to make positive changes in our unavoidable contacts with cyclists, they need to be included in training for their safety, as well as ours, and we need to become proactive in preventing disaster by inuring our horses to the sight, smell and sound of other trail users.


As the President of ETI, there are goals I hope for the organization to achieve, as follows:

Creation of a trails video that addresses trail etiquette and actions to take around cyclists.
Development of GPS driven trail maps that provide user information and trail type, on line.
On line recording of forms that identify trail hazards for riders, for corrals to repair or for notifications to government entities responsible for repairs.
I hope to encourage and motivate corral trail work days on a continuing basis. Dates to be announced in the national magazine.


ETI is an active participant in the general equestrian community. We are prepared to deal with equine issues and to raise the safety bar for members and the community, at large. ETI is also known to bring along horse loving youth, so they become the next generation of responsible and sensible horse people.

Let me again assure all that I have never nor will I turn my back on ETI or the equestrian community. In fact, I hope to announce the first ETI multi user training program for June of this year.

ETI President

Bob Foster

**** Letter from CORBA
By Mark Langton

It was recently brought to our attention that newly elected president of Equestrian Trails, Inc.
(ETI) Robert Foster, a retired law enforcement officer, donates his time as an emergency medical
technician at So Cal High School Mountain Bike Racing League races. Mr. Foster is a staunch
supporter of the league, and in his president’s message in ETI’s most recent newsletter he stated
that it’s a new era in our public open space trail systems, and mountain bikers are part of the trail
user community so we all should try to figure out ways to get along.

Now I’ve been doing this advocacy thing for over 25 years, and I’ve experienced a lot of
encouraging progress in the areas of shared use, especially when it comes to opening more trails
to bicycle use. To hear the president of an organization that has historically had some of its
members rally against mountain bikes say that we need to get along is truly groundbreaking. But
things like this come fewer and more far between than I’d like, and during these 25 years I have
often asked myself “why am I doing this?” The answer is always “because it’s the right thing to
do.” This might sound insane (insanity once being defined by Albert Einstein as “doing the same
thing over and over again and expecting different results), and in many ways this might be true.

But then something like Robert Foster’s reasonable position comes along and I think to myself,
maybe we have been doing the right thing after all.

Over the years we have heard many reasons people feel mountain bikes don’t mix on shared use
trails, but only one is valid; people riding their bikes too fast at the wrong time and place (around
other trail users) is just not a pleasant experience for the people being passed at an inappropriate
speed. As I’ve said many times before, we all have within our power the ability to solve this
issue: slow down. In other words, use caution when around others. Let me put it another way;
your actions represent the entire mountain bike community. The smile you create through a
pleasant trail encounter goes a long way.

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