For equestrians in Prince Edward Island there is excitement over the news that horseback riding on the Confederation Trail has been renewed for a second season. The province’s Minister of Transportation, James Aylward, made the announcement to the PEI legislature. This will no doubt please the many riders who rode the three designated segments of the trail in 2021 and look forward to doing so again.
However, despite joy throughout the equestrian community, not everyone on the island was a fan. Cyclists and walkers who were accustomed to being the sole users were concerned about safety if they came upon a horse and it spooked and well, you get the idea. According to an August 2021 article on the CBC, Ed McKenna, who runs Confederation Trail Biking Adventures and therefore is concerned about his business, was dead set against horses on the trail (although to our mind, we think that historically horses were probably using the trails long before bikes!).
“The Horse Owners Association is well within their rights to ride their horses, but we would just like them to ride on their own trail and respect the cyclists and hikers on the Confederation Trail,” McKenna told CBC. “I know horse people are very, very comfortable with their horses, and they should be, but cyclists are not. To put them both in vicinity with each other is just a recipe for trouble.”
A local horsewoman, Janice MacSwain, countered by telling the news outlet, “I think it’s safer to have the horse on the trail than the side of the road. People who have horses and want to ride … are just looking for a safe place to do it.”
Other trail users were worried about manure littering the paths (as opposed to hikers’ discarded water bottles, etc.), but one rider said that she was willing to scoop and toss into the woods to make the hikers and bikers happy.
To address the safety concerns, the 2022 version of the pilot program will include an educational component. “Our intent is to have a much more enhanced education program earlier on this year, so people will understand if you are approaching a horse or coming up behind a horse, how to best do that in a safe manner,” Aylward told reporters.
We at Horse-Canada will definitely be rooting for the Confederation Trail to be open to horses and riders permanently.