This research investigates horse trail impacts to gain an improved understanding of the relationship between various levels of horse use, horse trail management alternatives, and subsequent horse trail degradation. A survey of existing horse trails on the Hoosier National Forest was used to collect data on use-related, environmental and management factors to model horse trail impacts. Results are analyzed to identify which factors are most easily manipulated by managers to effectively avoid and minimize horse trail impacts. A specific focus includes evaluating the relative effect of trail use level, surfacing, grade, and water control on indices of erosion and trafficability such as trail cross sectional area, estimated erosion, muddiness, and incision. Overall, the Hoosier National Forest horse trails could be significantly improved by relocating or closing inherited trails that directly ascend slope or are excessively steep, reducing the distance between water control structures, and by applying gravel to harden trail surfaces and reduce soil erosion. A set of Best Management Practices for trails are included as a product of this work, with recommendations based on this research.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
Research for the development of best management practices for minimizing horse trail impacts on the Hoosier National Forest
U.S. Forest Service, Final Research Report
College of Natural Resources, Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech