We have received a small amount of seed money from the National Forests Foundation to begin developing a program to demonstrate how equestrians can be “part of the solution vs. part of the problem” in regard to recreation-related ecological impacts on the national forests. This effort will build upon Ocala National Forest’s location in Marion County, the “Horse Capital of the World” and the generally cooperative relationships between horse people, resource managers, and environmentalists here. Our plan is to work with experienced people with insights from a variety of perspectives to design training strategies, educational materials, and procedural guidelines that can be used to improve cooperation between equestrians and resource managers everywhere. This will be about teaching resource managers and environmentalists about horses, as well as about developing better ways to teach equestrians about natural resources.
We envision this project eventually leading to a superb network of hundreds of miles of well-marked and well-maintained horse trails (some horse-only, most of the rest shared non-motorized) weaving through the Ocala National Forest and linking the forest to other riding areas. Riders will have access to several outstanding equestrian trailheads and campgrounds; interpretive trails, programs, and brochures designed for learning from horseback and featuring information about ecological issues that relate to horse access; a website with a reference library, fact sheets, design/management/use guidelines, conflict resolution strategies, etc.; a program for educating other users and land managers about horses and equestrians; a mounted patrol unit trained in natural resource management; etc. All of this will be aimed making the Ocala a training ground where riders can enjoy a wonderland of trails while learning/demonstrating how equestrians can be valuable and cherished resource management partners throughout the national forest system into the future.
This program, spearheaded by Linda Conway Duever, SOBS Vice-President and a lifetime horseowner and trail rider, is in the very early planning stage. Equestrians interested in becoming involved should contact her at [LCD’s SOBS’s e-mail address].
[To be added: Lots more, including maps/info re existing horse trails, links to equestrian groups and SETC.]