State Horse Owners Fighting Proposed Trail-Riding Limits

A proposal to limit horseback riding on state-owned trails is not sitting well with Connecticut's thriving horse-riding community.

The state Department of Environmental Protection wants to limit horseback riding only to posted areas on state-owned trails, a change that horse owners say caught them by surprise and would treat them differently than hikers and bikers.

"We don't feel we should be singled out as a group," said Amy Stegall, a Stafford horse owner and president of the Connecticut Horse Council.

More than 16,000 people in Connecticut own a combined total of about 50,000 to 60,000 horses, she said.

Dennis Schain, a DEP spokesman, said the department is working with horse owners to reach a compromise on the issue and that the wording might have been too harsh.

"Unfortunately, the wording of the proposed regulation ... was not as carefully crafted as it should have been," Schain said. "It simply does not do justice to our ongoing commitment to enhance the use of our trails."

Concerns were raised about horseback riding on some trails when a lost rider and her horse fell through a bridge on an unmarked state trail about 15 years ago, said horse council member Diane Ciano of Plymouth.

The rider was not seriously injured, but the horse had to be euthanized, Ciano said.

Horse owners said that incident was unusual, and that most horse owners are very responsible about safety and respectful of DEP's state rules.

"We're hoping we can work with them," said Ciano, who often rides in the 4,000-acre Mattatuck State Forest. "DEP isn't thinking clearly to say horses should be restricted on certain trails."

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The Associated Press

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