By the Rancho Santa Fe Trails & Recreation Committee
The Rancho Santa Fe Association maintains 50 miles of the finest trail system within San Diego County, strictly limited for use by RSF Association members and their guests. Over the years, the Trails Committee has developed the “Trail Rules and Etiquette.” These rules are meant to enhance safety among all the users on the trails and minimize disturbances to homeowners, many of whom have provided easements for the trail system to cross their property or simply own property adjacent to the trails.
Thankfully, most Association members and their guests are respectful and very considerate to other trail users. There is nothing more enjoyable than riding or walking around the golf course on a weekend morning, greeting neighbors and friends, and taking in the scenery. There are, however, some safety guidelines that are worth highlighting from time to time.
The “Trail Rules” are easy to learn and simple to follow and are for everyone’s safety: Horses have the priority and the right of way while on the trail. Dogs are not allowed to accompany horseback riders, whether leashed or unleashed. Pedestrians must have their pets on leash at all times; this is not merely a rule of etiquette, it is the law in San Diego County. Walkers or runners in a group cannot number more than four.
The biggest safety issue involves dogs and horses. The Committee members have noticed that the majority of dog owners politely ask their leashed dog to either step aside or even to sit when a horse is approaching, typically to the side of the trail in clear view. This is the best and safest course of action, and equestrians greatly appreciate the courtesy. Horses are prey animals, and dogs are predators — it is the horse’s instinct to protect his legs and his belly. Keep in mind that the reach of a horse’s kick can be quite long, so even if your pet is leashed, be sure not to let the dog wander too near the horse’s hooves. A dog underfoot can be badly injured.
Also, there are a few folks who continue to walk their dogs off leash, which clearly presents the greatest threat to equestrians as well as the safety of the canine. The stories of loose dogs approaching too close to horses, either innocently or aggressively, are numerous and unfortunately the endings are not always happy – occasionally a rider is thrown, a horse panics and bolts, or a dog is kicked. We’ve noticed dogs quite far ahead of their owners on winding trails, which is a hazard to all. Most horse owners are also dog owners and understand the desire to let the dog run loose, but the risks are not worth it.
For runners and fast walkers, if you are approaching a horse from behind, speak to the rider(s) and let them know you are there so you can pass safely. If you are approaching from the front, don’t run toward the horse; stop or walk in clear view and allow the horse and rider to safely pass. Horseback riders should always approach other riders and pedestrians at a walk. Trail users should walk their horses around blind curves until the rider can safely see ahead.
And, of course, bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails, with the exception of fire, emergency, safety, maintenance and trail construction vehicles.
The committee would like to request that everyone respect the safety of others while on trail and adhere to the rules. You may pick up a copy of the “Trail Rules and Etiquette” in the Association office, or a “Trails Guide” which includes the rules and a map of the trails that is available to Association members for $2.
Thank you for helping ensure a safe experience for all!