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Planning and Designing Outdoor Recreation Facilities for Horses

Recreation Tech Tip logo   United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Technology & Development Program
May 2008 2300 0823-2332-MTDC

Sunni Bradshaw, Project Assistant

Cover Photo - Planning and Designing Outdoor Recreation Facilities for HorsesFigure 1-This guidebook covers a wide range of topics about planning and designing recreation facilities in urban, rural, and some wildland areas.

Where does a land manager, architect, or horse advocate go to find information about planning and designing outdoor recreation facilities for horses and their riders? A new guidebook from the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) gathers helpful information in one comprehensive volume. The "Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds" (figure 1) was written for planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, land managers, equestrian advocates, and private developers who want to create successful outdoor recreation facilities for horses and their riders. The emphasis is on highly developed recreation facilities and programs, such as those in urban, rural, and some wildland areas.

Collage of Drawings, tables, and photographs
Figure 2-Drawings, tables, and photographs give dimensions and specific information that apply to outdoor recreation facilities for horses and their riders.

The Recreational Trails Program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Department of Transportation, funded the guidebook. The authors-Jan Hancock, Kim Jones Vander Hoek, Sunni Bradshaw, James D. Coffman, and Jeffrey Engelmann-worked several years to produce it. The guidebook provides practical advice for creating or improving recreation facilities and programs that meet the needs of horses and their riders. Hundreds of drawings, tables, photographs, and examples supplement the text (figure 2). Case studies examine large and small projects from around the country. Useful resources, references, and Web site addresses are given in sidebars and compiled in appendixes.

Chapters include:

  • Understanding Horses and Mules
  • Planning Trail Systems
  • Designing Horse Trails
  • Designing Trail Elements
  • Designing Trail Crossings and Structures
  • Choosing Horse-Friendly Surface Materials
  • Planning Recreation Sites
  • Designing Roads and Parking Areas
  • Designing Camp and Picnic Units
  • Securing Horses and Mules
  • Designing for Riders With Disabilities
  • Providing Signs and Public Information
  • Reducing Environmental and Health Concerns
  • Considering Liability Issues
  • Working With Funders and Volunteers
  • Learning From Others

The information presented applies to many areas of the country and a variety of agencies and jurisdictions. The guidebook includes examples of recreational facilities managed by the Forest Service and other Federal agencies, counties, cities, as well as examples from England and Canada.


The "Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds" is available in print and electronic versions. The electronic versions of the guidebook are available at:

Files on both Web sites feature

  • Full color photos
  • One-click access to hundreds of Web references
  • Easy online access to the guidebook contents

The sites also have PDF (Acrobat) files that are fully formatted for printing and reading. A printed black-and-white copy of the "Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds" can be ordered from the FHWA's Recreational Trails Program Web site at

Fill out the order form and fax it to the distributor listed on the form. If you do not have Internet access, send a fax request to 301-577-1421 or mail a request to:

FHWA R&T Report Center
9701 Philadelphia Ct., Unit Q
Lanham, MD 20706

Forest Service and BLM employees may order a printed copy from MTDC.

For additional information about recreational horse trails and facilities, contact Sunni Bradshaw at MTDC:
Phone: 406-829-6765
Fax: 406-329-3719

Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees can search a more complete collection of MTDC's documents, CDs, DVDs, and videos on their internal computer networks at:

Electronic copies of MTDC's documents are available on the Internet at:

Produced by:
USDA Forest Service
Missoula Technology and Development Center
5785 Hwy. 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808
Phone: 406-329-3978
Fax: 406-329-3719

About the Author

Sunni Bradshaw is a visual information specialist and project assistant at MTDC. She is a graduate of the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and has a bachelor's degree in recreation program management from the University of Montana. Before joining MTDC, Sunni was a technical writer, photographer, and award-wining journalist. Her work - including articles, photography, layout, and design - has appeared in many local, regional, and national publications.

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Updated: 1/31/2017
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