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Riding lessons: DRED improves horse rules

The state Department of Resources and Economic Development has given everyone a lesson in how, and how not, to pass controversial regulations. Every state department head should be paying attention.

In September, the department proposed a long list of rule revisions for state lands. Horseback riders noticed that the updated rules would be extremely inconvenient for them. For instance, riders would be expected to dismount and clean up any time their horse made a mess. Many riders are women who need a stool to mount. The rule would strand them on trails wherever their horses happened to go.

Equestrian groups protested loudly. Instead of digging in, DRED officials did what they should have done. They listened.

DRED leadership realized that the department should have involved equestrian groups in the rule-making process from the beginning. Seeing the error, the department rectified it. Horse owners were invited to give their feedback. They were brought in and allowed to help reshape the rules.

The new proposal improves equestrian access to state lands while respecting hikers, bikers, walkers and others.

Under current rules, horseback riders do not have to pick up after their horses on state trails. Under the new rules, owners have to pick up if their horses go in areas where people congregate - such as trail heads or campgrounds or parking lots - but not on the trails. Riders also have more access to state lands.

Kudos to DRED for putting pubilc service before department pride. We hope other rule-makers at the state and local levels learn from their example.

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