Horse/Bike Desensitization Pilot Program


With all the equestrians and mountain bikers now sharing many of the multi use trails, we thought it was well over due to get a program going so all are able to share the trails safely and even ride together. In order to accomplish this, there must be protocal and trail etiquette set for both equestrians and mountain bikers.

On Sunday, October 11th, we decided to give the program a try with the help of a few of the local equestrians at The Davis Ranch in Chatsworth. I brought 2 other GGR girlz and myself with our mountain bikes to give this a go. We wanted to keep the 1st time very small and more of a pilot program since this was the 1st time I had put this plan into action. We started out in the riding ring which was enclosed, then took it outside of the ring.


Our equestrians for the day were Dana on Auggie and Jan on Ozzie. We started by lining our bikes up against the fence and Dana and Jan walked their horses dismounted back and forth around the bikes and let Auggie and Ozzie smell the bikes and really get a good look at them. Then all of us cyclists got ON the bikes and they did the same thing. Now it was time for the horses to be mounted.

We started riding very slow along side the horses. Then behind the horses, towards the horses, constantly passing them on both sides. Then we picked up speed on the bikes and the horses went from a walk to a trot to a fast trot. The key here was constantly communicating with the equestrians. We asked if it was OK to pass. We said “bikers coming”, we said “passing on the left”, all these things were very loud. We also made sure we told them to have a great ride and a good day!




This was going very well and the horses had no problems with the bikes. Now came the real test. Blind corners! We all left the riding ring for this exercise. Both Auggie and Ozzie were to trot up on a trailer in their parking lot while the cyclists hid behind the trailer and came out across the horses path without being initially seen.

Jan and Ozzie went 1st with Lynn being the cyclist. Sure enough, Ozzie did not like this and shied away quickly and suddenly. We asked Jan what she wants the cyclist to do in this instance. She wants us to just stop and stand still while she gets her horse under control. The slowly approach her horse and talk to them both. Again, the communication.

We did the same scenario again. This time Ozzie wasn’t as scared. By the 3rd time, we didn’t even think twice about it. When we had Auggie do it, no problems at all. Auggie raised his ears and was alert, and that was about it.

The cool thing about The Davis Ranch is that they have hallways/corridors that simulate a single track and double track on their farm. So off we went for some more situations to create!

We started off riding behind the horses with them trotting. We constantly talked to them. Then we practiced the blind corners. Part of the barn did not allow us to see the horses, so this was perfect practice for blind corners. When we as cyclists approached the blind corner and could not see around it, we yelled “BIKERS COMING”. The equestrians immediately stopped before they were even close to the corner because they heard us announcing ourselves. Therefor preventing a run in.

We did this both ways a few times around the corners. Every time constantly communicating when the corner came up. The equestrians were able to react in plenty of time because they heard our voices. Also, they wanted to make it VERY clear to us that it is NOT always safe to pass. If the trail is too narrow, please do NOT pass. Be patient and wait until there is a safe place to pass for both cyclists and equestrians, but let the equestrian decide. They know their animals and what is safe for them.

We initially wanted to call this the Carrot Ride program. But Dana brought up some very good points and had an awesome idea as well! Cyclists who don’t have any experience with horses, will most likely not know to keep their hands flat when feeding a horse a carrot so they don’t loose their fingers. So she thought cyclists feeding carrots to horses on the trails for this reason could open up a whole nother can of worms. We all agreed. Also, its not easy for horses to eat carrots when they have bits in their mouths. Horse cookies are much easier. So, what Dana suggest was that we carry a few horse cookies in a ziplock bag with our business card and just hand it to the rider. Oh and Jan thought it would be a nice touch if we included a mint for the horseback rider as well! I love it! Outstanding input from our horseback riders!

I will have some of these cute little horsey bags available at the CORBA booth at this Sunday’s Rocktober event.

The biggest outtake we took from this pilot program was how critical communication is. Just talk to the equestrians, smile and speak up and slow down when you hit a corner and/or you see horses coming by. Horses have the right of way…not us.

We will have a larger program at the Davis Ranch November 22nd at 8am. We will take 6 mountain bikers and 6 equestrians and their horses and run the same program. The Davis Ranch is in Chatsworth, CA. If you want to participate in this, please email me at: or

I’m so thrilled that after posting our fun pictures of the morning program, we have a program in the works for January for the Altadena area as well.

If you want information on this new CORBA program for a future hosting in your area, please contact me to discuss: email me.

Please remember to smile, slow down, and use your voice and bike bells to alert others you are coming.

Wendy Engelberg
Director, GGR: Girlz Gone Riding
Proud CORBA board member

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