Clinic teaches horsemen to lighten their impact

out horsesTreading lightly on the land isn’t always easy if you’re sitting on top of 1,000 pounds and four stout hooves, but backcountry horsemen in the Smokies have been learning new practices for minimizing their impact to the environment while trail riding and camping with horses.

A Leave No Trace clinic designed for backcountry horse packing was held recently in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Haywood County. It was sponsored by Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Backcountry Horsemen of Big Creek.

“Leave No Trace is about preserving our privilege to use stock on public lands by learning to minimize our impacts as much as possible,” said Bob Hoverson, a professional horse packer for more than 40 years who taught the clinic. “All backcountry users should ask themselves, ‘Am I always doing everything I can to protect the land and respect other users?’”

It was the first time the Leave No Trace Packing Clinic has been taught east of the Mississippi. Leave No Trace is an ethical benchmark in outdoor recreation nationwide that lays out guidelines for protecting wilderness while still enjoying it.

The Backcountry Packing Clinic also teaches students how to pack mules and horses in the safest, most efficient manner possible. The course ends with an overnight pack trip, during which students have the opportunity to demonstrate newly acquired packing skills.

Some of the backcountry horsemen also took a Leave No Trace educator course that certifies them to teach the principles to other horsemen.

For more informational about horse-oriented Leave No Trace presentations, call Christine Hoyer at 828.497.1949 or Melissa Cobern at 865.436.1264.

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