Pictured: Riders enjoying the Ventura River Preserve. Photo courtesy of Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.
by Kimberly Rivers
Horses get the right of way
For safety reasons, if you come across a horse and rider on any trail they always have right of way. Hikers and bike riders all yield to horses.
Anytime you see a horse and rider on trail, say hello. Whether you’re in front or behind, it’s a good idea to let them know you’re there. A horse is familiar with people talking, but a person walking quietly in the woods looks spooky. If you’re hiking with walking sticks, keep the sticks still while the horses are around. If you have a baby stroller or a baby backpack, just be still and wait for the rider’s instructions.
Bike riders should slow and prepare to stop. If the trail is wide enough and the rider waves you by, it’s ok to ride past slowly. But if the horse looks at all concerned, or the rider indicates a stop signal, it’s best to stop and let them approach and pass you. Keep talking!
On a narrow trail a person on foot or on a bike should take to the outer and downhill side of any trial: If the horse spooks for any reason, it is less likely to spook off trail and down an incline.
If you’re hiking with a dog anywhere in Ventura County it must be leashed. Even horses that are accustomed to dogs may not be used to a dog lunging at it’s legs, which many dogs not familiar with horses will do. Alert the rider that your dog may lunge and do your best to move away from the horse, giving a big buffer.
When in doubt, stop, say hello and wait.
For more details on trail etiquette, visit www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd553395.pdf.
Public riding trails
Ventura County has some great options for horse owners to get out onto the wide-open trail. Here are a few of our favorites and some options for the non-horse owner who wants to get into the saddle.
Santa Rosa Valley Park/Hill Canyon Trailhead/Wildwood, Santa Rosa Rd., Camarillo
This park and trail system has plenty of trail parking with easy in and out. There are round pens and an arena at the parking lot. The trails vary from wide to single track, flat to hill climbs and at the right time of year there are multiple water crossings. Hill Canyon Trail joins up with Wildwood, a trail that winds between houses for a short distance, eventually coming out on a ridgeline with fantastic views and then drops back down toward the canyon. The areas close to the parking lot can get busy on weekends.
Happy Camp, Moorpark
The park has two entrances, with the best trailer parking located off Highway 23. Several loops with wide trails on the flat and through the hills.
Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Old Baldwin Trailhead, Ojai
The Ventura River Preserve has several trail loops that are open to horses with the best trailer parking at the Old Baldwin Trailhead lot just off Highway 150. The trails meander through canyons, meadows, oak stands and creeks. On weekends expect plenty of hikers and bikers.
Ojai Valley Trail, Ventura-Ojai
The Ojai Valley trail reaches from the beach to the mountains and while many are familiar with the bike portion of the trail, the entire length of trail includes a dirt, decomposed granite trail for horses separated from the paved trail by a post-and-rail wood fence. Foster Park is an easily accessible lot for trailers.
Sespe Wilderness, Piedra Blanca Trailhead
For the adventurer who is fine trailering a bit farther afield, this trail up the Sespe River is a great option with easy in and out trailer parking. It’s about 16 miles to the hot springs.
Rides and Rentals
Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company
Enjoy the beautiful views of the valley from the back of a horse and explore the Ventura River Preserve. The weather right now is perfect for a ride at any time of day. Details online at:www.ojaivalleytrailridingcompany.com or call 805-890-9340. Oso Ranch, 1290 Meyer Road, Ojai.
Western Trail Rides
In operation for 22 years and located at the corner of Lomita Avenue and Rice Road in Meiners Oaks. Trail rides available Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to sunset. Call 805-640-8635 or visit www.westerntrailrides.org.
Sespe Wilderness Outfitters
For those wanting to get out deeper into the Sespe Wilderness, this Ojai pack outfit can arrange for a mule train to get you and a few friends farther out on trail. Call 805-947-6553, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/SespeWildernessOutfitters.