SB251, if modified, could ease restrictions against recreational horse carriage driving

To the Editor:

In the Live Free or Die state, some folks are being denied recreational opportunities on New Hampshire state lands.

Current state law bars anyone wishing to drive a carriage, be it for recreational or therapeutic purposes or due to age or physical disability, from the simple and quiet enjoyment of driving a horse or pony through the state parks, forests and rail trails.

Lawmakers have an immediate opportunity to correct these restrictions, with their upcoming consideration of SB 251. The bill would give logical treatment to horseback riders; however, the wording of SB 251 needs to be changed to specify “equine users,” so that it doesn’t continue to omit equine carriage drivers.

How has this restriction happened?

The aforementioned citizens, although fewer in number than many other types of trail users, are not included as recognized users of NH’s trail system. RSA216-F:2 enumerates that “The trails within the system shall be held, developed and administered under this chapter primarily as recreational trails for hiking, nature walks, bird watching, horseback RIDING, bicycling, ski touring, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mushing, and off highway recreational vehicles.” Therefore, equine-drawn vehicles are disallowed.

Carriage drivers believe that this omission of our recreational activity was an inadvertent oversight. We believe the laws were intended to accommodate ALL horse (equine) use and it simply didn’t occur to the lawmakers to specifically include horse carriages.

Equine carriage drivers are scattered across New Hampshire. The Granite State Carriage Association was founded in 1978 for the purpose of promoting equine-driven activities, especially recreational driving. We are joined with horseback riders as having the same interests and concerns regarding equine use for recreation.

Back in the days when there were many dirt roads and woods trails usable by carriages, the issue of state lands use was not a huge concern. As dirt roads have been paved, the population density and motorized traffic has increased, making carriage driving on public roads a safety hazard to all. The general public’s knowledge and awareness of horses has also changed with time – we now live in a hurried world where many of us have grown out of touch with our roots. The attitude of many people today – on roads and trails – is “get out of my way you slow-moving vehicle!” Carriage folks sorely need safer places to drive, and the many miles of roads and trails within New Hampshire’s public trail system meet that need.

As other types of “recreational vehicle” use has increased, literally thousands of miles of long, level, wider trails have been made available by the state for motorized OHRV use and trail bikes. During this process, many trails have been gated, which prevents carriage drivers from accessing them.

As equine owners and users, we support SB 251, however, as carriage drivers, we hope to prevail upon the Legislature’s – and New Hampshire citizens’– belief in fairness and equitable treatment, and to effect a minor change in the language of SB 251 to name “equine users” instead of “horseback riders”, and thereby enact SB 251 for all equine users.

Please contact your state senators immediately regarding SB 251, especially Sen. Andy Sanborn, sponsor, Sen. David Boutin, supporter, and all senators who serve on the Executive Departments and Administration Committee where SB 251 goes for initial review. No matter whether you own or use horses yourself or simply delight in the beauty of a horse, if you believe in fairness of the laws or visualize a more serene and peaceful time, free of motorized and machine disturbances.

CONNIE MOSES

President Granite State Carriage
Association