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Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds

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Chapter 7--Planning Recreation Sites--Continued

Manure Disposal

Horses and mules produce lots of manure. The manure can attract insects and it's probably smelly. The appropriate manure disposal system for a recreation site depends on the site's proximity to solid waste disposal facilities, the costs of disposal, and applicable health regulations. In some areas of the country, especially in remote areas, manure cleanup may not be customary. Some land managers suggest scattering manure in vegetation around the recreation site. Many places prohibit this practice because it encourages the growth and spread of weeds.

In recreation sites where it is not feasible to arrange for manure disposal, land managers often institute a pack it in, pack it out policy--requiring riders to pick up the manure and take it home with them, a practice that can be difficult to enforce. To encourage compliance, site hosts, entry station personnel, or a self-service dispenser could supply plastic garbage bags.

Hauling manure may be the best option for sites near a community that will dispose of solid waste or when the managing agency has its own garbage truck. A temporary manure storage bin is used by some agencies (figure 7-28). The bin has walls on three sides, and the fourth side has an opening that is wide enough for maintenance equipment. A concrete bottom makes it easy to remove manure. Proper drainage is critical to prevent rainwater or snowmelt from pooling in the bin or flowing out of the manure disposal bin into nearby waterways.

Photo of a manure disposal unit.
Figure 7-28--When manure disposal units are convenient, riders
are more likely to clean up after their stock. Proper drainage is

Some agencies provide dumpsters with lids to minimize flies and odors. A concrete dumpster pad provides a sturdy surface for garbage trucks. See figures 7-6, 7-7, and 7-8 for suggested placement of manure bins. For user satisfaction, place manure disposal units at least 75 feet (22.9 meters) from camp units, picnic units, and horse trailers, and no farther than 300 feet (91.4 meters) away.

The easier it is for riders to dispose of manure, the more likely they will do so. To make cleanup easy, provide tools--wheelbarrows, manure rakes, and shovels (figure 7-29). If the site is prone to vandalism, have the site host store the tools. If this is not feasible, encourage recreationists to carry rakes and shovels in their horse trailers. Determine whether manure and other waste may be mixed. If manure must be disposed of in different containers than other waste, install signs that explain the rules. Figure 7-30 shows a simple sign for manure disposal. See Chapter 13--Reducing Environmental and Health Concerns for more information.

Photo of two wheelbarrows, rakes, and a garbage bin for manure.
Figure 7-29--Riders are more likely to clean up after their stock
when tools and containers are provided.

Photo of a sign that reads, Horse Manure.
Figure 7-30--Signs encourage riders to dispose of manure

Mounting Blocks and Ramps

Other convenient--and greatly appreciated-- equestrian amenities include mounting blocks, mounting ramps, and in some areas, stock loading ramps for trucks or trailers with elevated beds. These amenities serve a broad range of riders.

Installing mounting blocks or ramps in areas where riders normally dismount and mount can increase usage of trails, trailheads, or campgrounds. Many riders have difficulty getting on and off a horse or mule. Young children, small or older riders, and people who are not athletic may find it a long reach to get a foot in a stirrup without assistance. Many riders in this situation search out large rocks, stumps, or mounds to give themselves a boost. Such objects can be unstable or slippery. Provide a mounting block or ramp instead.

Mounting Blocks

Riders of all abilities and ages can use mounting blocks. A mounting block resembles a short staircase that ends in midair (figure 7-31). The rider climbs the stairs to reach the saddled animal standing at the elevated end. Mounting blocks may be made of wood, steel, concrete, plastic, fiberglass, or a combination of these materials (table 7-6). Structures that are more permanent, for example those made of concrete or steel, are most suitable at trailheads or campgrounds that have easy access for construction equipment. Permanent structures also discourage theft. Structures made from wood, fiberglass, or plastic are easier to transport, install, and place along trails.

Photo of a mounting block with handrails.
Figure 7-31--Riders may have trouble using this mounting block,
because the handrails limit the maneuvering space. Options
include removable or foldable handrails and rails that don't extend
all the way to the end of the platform.

Table 7-6-Characteristics of construction materials for equestrian mounting blocks.
Material Relative cost Vandalism potential Construction difficulty
Plastic or fiberglass Low High Low
Wood Low Moderate Moderate
Steel Moderate Moderate High
Concrete Moderate to high Low High

To meet accessibility requirements, the treads on mounting blocks must be at least 11 inches (about 279 millimeters) deep and 36 inches (about 914 millimeters) wide (figure 7-32). Risers should be uniform and measure between 4 and 7 inches (about 102 and 178 millimeters) high. Mounting blocks with an overall height of 16 to 28 inches (about 406 to 711 millimeters) are common. The need for handrails is under debate. While handrails keep users from falling off platforms, the animal, rider, assistants, or equipment can be caught or squeezed against the handrails.

Riders usually mount from the left side of the animal, passing their right leg over the horse's back. Handrails on the right-hand side of the stair may interfere with the rider's leg movement. This makes a compelling case for leaving handrails off mounting blocks, or for installing handrails that stop before the top step. To meet the ADA/ABAAG requirements, when handrails are used they must have extensions--also called returns--at the top and bottom. In this case, returns extending into the animal's space are not appropriate.

Drawings of the dimensions of an equestrian mounting block. In the drawings the text reads, 12 in (typical) 18 in, 6 in (typical), 36 in, Elevation View, 36 in, Riser, and Tread.
Figure 7-32--An equestrian mounting block
that meets guidelines.

Locate mounting blocks 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 meters) from trail treads and fence gates (figure 7-34). Farther may be better in heavily used areas. Position mounting blocks at least 3 feet (0.9 meter) away from fences--completely avoiding fences with barbed wire. Situate the mounting block parallel to the trail tread or fence line, with the steps facing the fence. This arrangement provides the most space for maneuvering horses and mules. The space on both sides of the animal must be free of obstacles.

Drawings of placements for mounting blocks.
Figure 7-34--Suggested placement for equestrian mounting blocks. The trail gate shown is not accessible to people with disabilities if the bar across the opening is higher than 2 inches from the ground.

Drawing of a fence with a mounting mounting block, drawing of a mounting block at gate view, and drawing of mounting block along trail. In the drawing the text reads, Fence line, Gate post, 8 to 10 ft, 3 ft, Mounting block, Fence line, Gate, Mounting block, Fence line, Gate, 8 ft min., 6 ft min., Min. clear area, Plan view, and Trail tread.

See figures 7-6, 7-7, and 7-8 for some suggested locations for mounting blocks in recreation sites.

Mounting and Loading Ramps

Some riders require more assistance than afforded by a mounting block. They appreciate mounting ramps--gradual inclines leading to an elevated platform. Mounting ramps elevate the rider to the height of a saddled animal or waiting carriage. Some riders using mounting ramps also require the help of assistants (figure 7-35).

Photo of a mounting ramp designed for disabled riders who can recieve help from assistants.
Figure 7-35--This mounting ramp has offside steps and a horse
chute in the middle. Assistants can stand on both sides and in front
of the horse and rider. Caution: at this site, handrails and railings
were not included to leave space for assistants. Safety must be
the overriding factor when deciding how to place railings on
mounting ramps.

A variety of types, sizes, and inclines are suitable for mounting ramps, depending on the space available, natural grade, and potential use. Wood and grasscovered slopes are often used for ramps in low development areas with sloped terrain (figure 7-36). Mounting ramps in flat terrain that has moderate to high development often are constructed with manmade materials, such as concrete or steel. No matter what the setting or level of site development, the approach to the ramp must have a firm and stable surface to meet accessibility requirements.

Photo of a mounting ramp where the horse stands in a chute next to the ramp.
Figure 7-36--Access to this mounting ramp is from an accessible
path behind and to the left of the grassy surface. The horse stands
in the chute at the right. When the ramp is not in use, removable
rails block the open end.

When access routes are steeper than 5 percent, the routes must meet accessibility guidelines for ramps. Ramps that rise more than 6 inches (152 millimeters) above the ground require handrails and an edge protector--a curb or other barrier that extends at least 4 inches (102 millimeters) above the ramp edge. Ramps with a rise of more than 6 inches must have handrails with extensions. Accessible ramps must be at least 36 inches (914.4 millimeters) wide between the handrails, with space at the bottom and the elevated end for a 60-inch (1,524-millimeter) turning radius. At any change of ramp direction, there must be a level landing with a 60-inch turning radius. Figure 7-37 shows a sturdy mounting ramp. Although this mounting ramp gives access for all users, to meet accessibility guidelines for ramps, handrails with extensions and curbs would be required. Building codes and safety standards require intermediate rails.

Photo of an accessible mounting ramp with a handicapped user preparing to mount a horse.
Figure 7-37--Although this mounting ramp allows access for all
users, to meet accessibility guidelines it needs curbs, handrails
with extensions, and closely spaced rails. Ramps must meet
accessibility requirements if they are part of a travel route that
is required to be accessible by Section 206 of the ADA/ABA
Accessibility Guidelines.

Ramps with a dropoff that is more than 30 inches (762 millimeters) must have a guardrail that is 42 inches (1,067 millimeters) high with intermediate rails or fence material that won't allow passage of a 4-inch (101-millimeter) sphere through the openings in the railing. Guardrails are required for a simple and obvious reason--to keep people from falling off the platform. Make the rails removable on the side facing the animal. Figure 7-38 shows an accessible mounting ramp with a platform where an assistant could stand. Figures 7-39 and 7-40 show a simple mounting ramp on sloped terrain in the Hoosier National Forest.

Mounting ramps can serve dual purposes--to help riders mount and to unload animals from stock trucks (figure 7-41). Figure 7-42 shows a combination ramp that serves people with disabilities and stock.

A startled animal can bolt or hurt a rider who is not in position to fully control the situation. Loading ramps should be in areas that are quiet, away from areas with high activity, such as arenas or popular round pens (see figures 7-6, 7-7, and 7-8). Provide enough space around the mounting ramp for several people to stand and move while assisting the rider.

Drawing of an accessible mounting ramp platform. In the drawing the text reads, 6 in, 5 ft, 30 ft, 3 ft, 5 ft, 1 ft, Level landing, 5% slope, Transfer area, Expansion joint placed every 5 ft (typical), 5 by 5 ft entry point, and Platform for assistant.
Figure 7-38--An accessible mounting ramp with a platform where an assistant could stand.

Photo of a ramp with a stable surface, wood railing, and a chain as a safety device where the person would mount the horse.
Figure 7-39--This ramp has a firm and stable surface on the
mounting side, allowing access by people who use wheelchairs.
The chain serves as a safety device that can be unhooked before
mounting the horse or mule.

Photo of where the horse would stand next to the ramp. The ramp has wood rails and a firm dirt surface.
Figure 7-40--The horse stands between the ramp and the trees
on the left, facing the viewer.

Photo of a stock truck with horses in it backed up to a hillside.
Figure 7-41--Stock trucks usually have a drop-down panel or
slide-out deck for unloading. If a stock ramp is not available, the
truck can be backed up to a slope and the drop-down panel can
bridge the gap between the tailgate and the ground.

Drawings of a combination ramp.
Figure 7-42--A combination ramp with wheelchair and stock-loading access.

Drawings of a combintation ramp.
Figure 7-42--(continued)

Multiple drawings of a combination ramp for wheelchair access and for stock-loading access. In the drawings the text reads, 12 ft, 3 ft, 6 by 6 in pressure-treated post (typical), 4 in dia. removable rail (typical), 2 by 6 in tie rail at 42 in high, 3/4 in steel rod +/- 8 in below grade, bridge washers at ends, Horse path, Wheelchair path, Plan View, 1:12 max. slope to existing grade, 6 ft, 2 ft, 8 ft, 42 in, 36 in, Note: To meet accessibility requirements there must be a 42 in guardrail with intermediate rails that do not allow a 4 in sphere to pass through or there must be fencing that will not allow a 4 in sphere to through., Notes: 1. All posts have beveled tops. 2. Removable rails sit loose in pockets. 3. All nuts and washers facing users are countersunk. 4. A firm and stable surface is required for wheelchairs. 5. All wood is pressure-treated., 12 in handrail extenstion, 4 in wheel stop, Note: To meet accessibility requirements there must be a 1 ¼ to 2 in dia. handrail with extension., 4 by 4 in curb, 4 by 4 in timber, Slope to existing grade, 4 in dia. removable pole rail, 4 by 4 in timber, 2 by 6 in post, 42 in, 36 in, Elevation View, and Slope 1:12.

Figure 7-43 shows a mounting ramp at Hidden Horse Campground in the Klamath National Forest. Designers evaluated accessibility requirements and safety. The design considers the needs of riders with a range of disabilities, as well as stock of many sizes. The important features of the ramp are:

  • A wheelchair-accessible platform that is tall enough to allow mounting without the use of stirrups.
  • Firm and stable surfaces on the platform and path--in this case, hard rubber mats.
  • A multipurpose platform for assistants that
    • Keeps the animal straight and in position.
    • Can be used by assistants.
    • Serves as a mounting block for more able riders.
  • Steps on two sides of the assistant's platform and the wheelchair-accessible platform allow assistants to walk alongside as the animal departs.
  • Access to the chute from both sides so the animal can be mounted from either direction.
  • Beveled edges to avoid injuries to animal and rider or snagged stirrups.
  • No railings, gates, walls, or fences near the chute to spook the animal or injure people.

Some designers would make a case for having handrails on the steps and platform, on the side away from the horse chute. This would prevent an assistant from accidentally falling off.

Photo of a path that leads up to a wheelchair accessible platform where a chute seperates the wheelchair platform from a platform for assistants.
Figure 7-43--The horse stands in the chute between the wheelchair accessible
platform and the platform for assistants. Users approach from
the path on the left. Assistants can stand on either platform. Caution:
At this site, handrails and railings were not included to leave space for
assistants. Safety must be the overriding factor when deciding how to
place railings on mounting ramps.

Photo of a trail leading up to a fence.

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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