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The goal of equestrian trail planning is to enable accessible, safe, and pleasurable trail riding opportunities with few environmental impacts.

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Design Guide covers all aspects of trail recreation for horse riders

Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds

book cover with photo of a leaf



The emphasisis is on highly developed facilities and programs such as those in urban, rural, and some wildland areas.


Tech Rep. 0723–2816–MTDC. Missoula, MT. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center. Produced in cooperation with the Recreational Trails Program of the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation.

This book compiles a vast body of information from trails across America as well as Canada and Great Britain. For equestrian trail advocates, this book is essential in covering all the many specialized aspects of stock use and riding horses on trails. For other trail managers and planners, the book provides a compendium of the whole range of trail types and facilities.

As a reference work, the book provides a wealth of ideas and considerations for trail design, regardless of the actual trail activities involved. For the wider trails community, this book should have the benefit of showing many ways to accommodate equestrian use in typical trail situations.

An essential companion publication is Recreational Horse Trails in Rural and Wildland Areas by Dr. Gene Wood. Its strength is in creating sustainable trails that are sensitive to the environment and habitats through which they pass.

Photos and drawings of all of the design elements provide good details, as well as a sense of the great variety of solutions to common trail needs. The authors also cover many specialized situations such as railroad crossings.


The Guidebook was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program and
produced by the U. S. Forest Service Technology & Development Program. The team of writers and graphic designers included Jan Hancock, who is a member of the American Trails Advisory Board.

photo of woman riding on dirt trail


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Understanding Horses and Mules
Chapter 2 - Planning Trail Systems
Chapter 3 - Designing Horse Trails
Chapter 4 - Designing Trail Elements
Chapter 5 - Designing Trail Crossings and Structures
Chapter 6 - Choosing Horse-Friendly Surface Materials
Chapter 7 - Planning Recreation Sites
Chapter 8 - Designing Roads and Parking Areas
Chapter 9 - Designing Camp and Picnic Units
Chapter 10 - Securing Horses and Mules
Chapter 11 - Designing for Riders With Disabilities
Chapter 12 - Providing Signs and Public Information
Chapter 13 - Reducing Environmental and Health Concerns
Chapter 14 - Considering Liability Issues
Chapter 15 - Working With Funders and Volunteers
Chapter 16 - Learning From Others - case studies and examples


Digital copy:

This book is completely available online in full color at the Federal Highway Administration's publications page

There are no copyrights! You can cut and paste any photographs, drawings, tables, or text from the online version of this book to use when creating specifications, RFQs, RFPs, or doing bid proposals, etc.

Print copy:

FREE printed black and white copy of this 312-page book is available from FHWA (FREE shipping in the US):

The book is publication  # 0723-2816-MTDC. (Listed alphabetically under the book title - Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.  Limit is one copy per address per each online order. Multiple copies available upon request.)

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