Originally Posted Spring 2008
Area of Life
Horses have played a large role in the development of western states, especially Montana. From cattle drives of the old days to recreational riding of modern times, horses have had many uses for the residents of the Big Sky state. Horseback riding provides a person with the ability to travel farther distances than hiking on foot too. Throughout the times, there have been laws that were created to protect horse and rider from modern day obstacles, such as cars and highways. Also, there have been a few laws created to protect national parks in Montana from potential threats posed by riding horse there.
In order to get started on your horse riding adventure, you must, of course, have a horse. Then the next step may vary depending on where you are going to ride. If you are planning on riding away from home, you have to load your horse into a horse trailer and then saddle up at your destination. If you are riding close to home, you have to saddle up your horse with proper fitting tack and mount up. After you have proceeded to tack and mount up, certain laws then pertain to your riding.
I wanted to do this assignment on the subject of riding horse because it is something that I have done all my life and am interested in. I have come to the realization that Montana really does not have many laws pertaining to recreational horseback riding. Obviously if you examine rodeos or owning a horse related service business, there are many laws, but they don’t pertain to recreational riding. Therefore, I will not go into these areas.
In Montana, if you are riding horse in a rural area, like Circle where I’m from, you are free to ride wherever you want if you act “in a safe and responsible manner” (Montana Equine Law)1. You may even ride in town. It is just common courtesy, though, to stay off the sidewalks and clean up any major mess that may be offensive to anyone (Jensen)2. When you get into larger cities, riding horse in town isn’t necessarily illegal, but you are required to clean up any and all messes created by your equine companion. Parades, etc, would be an exception to this. You may not leave your horse unattended or tied up on any street or sidewalk in bigger cities, like Billings. Riding horse down alongside any road is permissible with responsible riding.
When you want to ride in a national park, like Glacier or Yellowstone, there are a few more laws you are asked to follow. To prevent any chance of noxious weeds being distributed in the parks, riders are asked to feed their horses certified weed free hay several days prior to the excursion. Also, shoes are permitted on your horses, but you are asked to either use shoe pads or pick their hooves before you begin your ride. This prevents any weed seeds that may have been in their shoes from being distributed in the parks. Just like when hiking or biking, you are required to stay on paths designed for being traveled by horses. This keeps any protected land from being damaged, and it keeps the wild life from being disturbed.
Burden of Load
The burden created by the juridic load associated with riding horse is minimal, but it does leave some problems. With gas prices skyrocketing, according to the laws of cities like Billings, I would not be able to ride my horse to work or anywhere else I see fit. Constantly having to clean up natural fertilizer offered by our equine friends, it would be hard to ride to work also. In addition to that, there are a lot of extra measures that have to be taken before I can go on a horse riding trip to any national park. Granted these are to protect the land and animals, but it is costly to a horse owner. Recreational horseback riding in the state of Montana does not have many restricting laws, but those laws that are in place can prove troublesome at times.
To escape any burdensome laws pertaining to horseback riding, you could choose some other mode of transportation. Walking, running, biking (motor or peddle) would allow you to go to many, if not more, places as riding horse. Also, because it is really hard to find anything pertaining to laws on horseback riding in this state, you could simply use the excuse of you didn’t know and go anywhere you wanted to. You may be stopped by a cop or game warden (depending on where you are), but they may not even know about such horse riding laws. Another radical idea would be to ban cars from cities. This would make it safe to ride in Billings. With that same idea in mind, roads could be made smaller and horse paths put in. Then we would have walking, biking, and horse riding paths in our city along with smaller driving routes. This in turn would not only help out escaping the laws, but it if cars were banned from cities than one would see a dramic decrease in pollution and global warming. Escaping the laws of horseback riding could also be done through getting a large quantity of people with horses; ride them to the state capital, and proceed protesting against the laws through protest rallies in front of the state capital building.
Because Montana has had horses in all aspects of its history, and it is still very rural as a state, there are not many laws needed to govern those who want to ride horse. There are many ranchers and farmers who still rely on horses everyday to get their work done. These ranchers and farmers are probably the people who have shut down any restrictive laws that have been brought up over the past. I do believe, however, that as more people are moving to Big Sky country, we will start to see more laws put in place that will restrict the use and riding of horses so close to city limits, thus one might see more complaints and protest in the near future against the juridic load of recreational horseback riding in Montana.