Some Tauranga horse riders are calling for increased accessibility on cycle tracks around the region, saying they are fed up with being restricted to paddocks and arenas.
Local rider Lou Reid was recently told by Tauranga City Council that “under no circumstance” can she ride on the Korepurereua Valley Cycle Track, located near her home.
“As a horse rider, we need somewhere to ride that doesn’t involve running around in circles in our back yard,” she says.
“The reason we go out there is to put some joy into our day and de-stress, it’s no different from someone going for a walk, run or bike.”
Due to the risk horses pose to the public and themselves, it is not recommended that they are ridden on cycleways, says the council’s animal services team leader Brent Lincoln.
Horse owners require permission from the council to ride or walk horses along the road, which include berms and footpaths.
Brent says horses are potentially danger and can bolt if they are spooked.
“Horses can be unpredictable and could be easily startled by cyclists, pedestrians or dogs which could result in people being seriously hurt.”
But Lou says a majority of riders won't take horses to public spaces if they know they are going to act-out.
"Most horse riders, when we go out, we are walking, sticking to the left and are very mindful of people on their bikes, walkers and runners.
"We are not about to take a horse out that is about to have a big s**t-fit about a cyclist speeding around a blind corner.”
Bike Tauranga chairman Kevin Kerr echoes the council's safety concerns, saying most of the region’s bike tracks aren’t wide enough for riders and cyclists.
“As a cycling fraternity, we would be looking at it purely from a safety point of view. If you had a rider coming towards a cyclist, you wouldn’t be able to pass each other.”
Cyclists are usually travelling at a reasonable speed, and horses tend to get startled by these movements.”
A shared path for cyclists, riders and walkers would need to be specifically designed to accommodate all users, says Kevin.
“It would also need to be addressed before the track had been put it.”
There “absolutely” needs to be more open spaces for riders in Tauranga, says another local rider Sophie Hardy.
“It used to be that we could ride over several local farms, but a lot of those farms have now closed their gates to us,” she says.
“We need safe places like cycle paths and footpaths to ride – local options close to where people keep their horses.”
Sophie says there’s a common belief that horses are “big, potentially dangerous animals”, but she reiterates this often isn’t the case.
“Owners are sensible as they don't want themselves or their horses injured either so they don't take young or spooky horses to places where there are likely to be crowds of people.
“Let's be honest a bike going at 40km/h is just as dangerous."
Horses are allowed to be ridden on the majority of Tauranga beaches, excluding Mt Maunganui Main Beach, Pilot Bay and beaches at Mauao and Moturiki Island.
"The only rule is that horse manure must be removed and disposed of in a hygienic manner," says Brent.