It seems that each year, there are fewer and fewer places where one can safely ride a horse. All around the world, roads are getting busier and horse-riders are increasingly being excluded or banned from areas they have peacefully and respectfully ridden through for years.
Often, established horse-riding trails and areas are threatened by biased or unsubstantiated claims about the risk horses pose to the local environment. However, most horse-riders are also keen nature lovers and largely practise environmentally sustainable trail-riding. While the issues of wild horses running freely across National Parks is hotly debated and another matter entirely, horse-riding trails are easily controlled, managed and monitored, giving little reason to restrict or ban riders.
Gull Rock National Park, Albany: Horses to be banned?
One such example is the Gull Rock National Park in Albany, Western Australia, which is home to the rare ‘Queen of Sheba’ orchid. Horse riders have been accessing and enjoying designated trails within the park for years, yet one avid orchid aficionado is now claiming that they are destroying the orchid’s fragile ecosystem.
As many scientists will attest, long-term changes in an ecosystem often come about due to a myriad of complex causes. However, it would seem that many love to ‘point the finger’ at an easily eliminated target: horse-riders.
Often, this begins in the form of emotional hysteria from one or two individuals claiming to be advocating for something we indeed all value: biodiversity, sustainability, and care and respect for our environment.
Yet, these unsubstantiated claims can occasionally be enough to sway our government representatives into making a knee-jerk reaction. This might mean banning horse riders from a trail or area altogether. Once made, it is difficult for these changes in policy to be undone. Therefore, it is more important than ever for members of the horse-riding and trekking community to let our local members of parliament know what we value most: access to our trails.
What can I do when my trail is under threat?
If horse access to a trail or area you know of is being banned or reviewed, consider contacting your local MP. Contacting politicians can often bring about change or at least create some awareness, as after all, it is the community that decides who gets elected.
To contact your local Senator or Member, first find their home page using the search tool at https://www.aph.gov.au/senators_and_members/guidelines_for_contacting_senators_and_members, Below is a sample template if you are unsure how to go about writing your email or letter: feel free to use and modify to suit your needs.
Sample letter to Local Member: Horses in Gull Rock National Park
[Name and Title of Parliamentarian]
Dear [insert recipient name],
My name is [insert name here] and I am writing to you in regard to the horse trails in Gull Rock National Park. I am [include some background information on where you live, your interest in the park, how you might use it, or for how long, etc]
I am writing to ask you to allow horse-riders to continue accessing the designated trails within the Gull Rock National Park. Unsubstantiated claims have recently been put forward, stating that the rare orchid ‘The Queen of Sheba’ is at risk due to equestrian use within the park. I believe that these claims are false and lack evidence. [State your reasons why you think horses do not pose a threat to the orchid.]
A large number of people from both within and without the horse community are quite concerned about these claims and the effect they may have on an area that has traditionally been respected and enjoyed by all. Horse riders have been safely and responsibly using the designated trails within Gull Rock National Park for some years, which in fact traverse less than 20 percent of the park. It is well-documented that bushwalking, horse-riding, and other pursuits that involve getting out in nature and connecting with the environment is vastly important for the mental health and wellbeing of the community.
Your attention to this issue would be greatly valued by members of the Albany community and surrounds.
Thank you for your support and attention to this matter.
[insert contact details (optional]