Walkway bans worry horse riders

By Sam Hurley

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Central Hawke's Bay horse riders are concerned about losing walkways traditionally used to exercise their horses, after riders nationwide are being refused access to recreational trails.

Waipawa rider Alison Stoelwinder said being bucked off the tracks and forced to ride on the roads was becoming too dangerous for her, the horses and motorists.

"People are getting less and less observant on the road and it's not necessarily a car that will spook the horse: It could be anything on the road.

"For a motorist it's dangerous as well: If you get half a tonne of horse through your window you won't come off to well."

Mrs Stoelwinder moved to the area 10 years ago, after living in the UK with "such good riding" areas, but had already had a run-in with a truck while riding on the road.

"I was met by a big old stock truck. I asked the driver to slow down but he didn't and it spooked one of my young horses, which ran off down a bank and into a fence," she said. "New Zealand is known for its big open spaces but you can't ride over anything.

If we can't use it any more we will have to protest in some way because there is simply no where else for us to ride."

Drury rider Jan Mossman has started a nationwide petition calling for horses to be allowed on walkways and cycle tracks. She believed about two-thirds of New Zealand's cycle and walking trails could accommodate horses but said only a few allowed them.

"Even the historic coach roads - built for the horse - have been taken over by walkers and cyclists," she said. "It has been stolen off us without us paying attention."

The petition has gathered 10,000 signatures and aims for 52,000. It calls for horses to be recognised as an alternative mode of travel and for the Government to recognise the equestrian industry in planning recreational trails.

Rotary River Pathways committee chairman Roy Fraser said tracks around Hawke's Bay, including the Waipukurau-to-Waipawa track project, were open for all users. However, horse riding might cause problems if not done with care.

"If horses were to start galloping along the limestone sections of the tracks rather than walking, then I could see some problems coming out of that," Mr Fraser said.

"The objective is to tidy up the riverbank and open it up for all people to use - cyclists, motorbikes, walkers and horses."

Another Waipawa rider, Laurian Hauchton, who had signed the petition, said the thought of not having the track available was "disheartening".

"We wouldn't have anywhere else to go and the road is less than ideal - a lot of us bought properties in the area because it is such a great place to ride."

Ms Mossman said New Zealand had only about 80,000 sport-horse owners, so the petition needed support from the public. "We spend a lot of money on horses, associated services, vehicles, rates and tax - and it's time we had a say."additional reporting APNZ

- Hawkes Bay Today

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