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Happy Trails

Janice Tollini has worked in the health care industry as a clinical psychologist for 15 years. She is now a Talent Management Consultant, and is completing additional graduate training in industrial/organizational psychology. In 2017, she will become certified as an executive coach through the World Coaching Institute.Check out Janiceís website at

This is a true story, and it merits telling because we have a community where people are riding horses and mountain bikes, hiking and walking their dogs, all on the same trails.My friend, letís call her ìGrace,î was walking the trail with her dog, who shall be named ìRover.î Rover was on-leash, as Grace tends to follow the rules and doesnít want to incite conflict. Unfortunately, Rover was attacked by two off-leash dogs, and conflict was unavoidable. Simply grabbing the canine duo to end the scuffle and a quick apology would have allowed the situation to end peacefully. However, Grace was forced to intervene to defend Rover, which seemingly irritated the other dog owner; and a verbal altercation ensued. Poor Grace, all she wanted was to enjoy a walk with her dog.I am not writing this to lecture anyone about the importance of keeping your dog on-leash. To do so would make me a hypocrite as my own beloved dog is often off-leash. My purpose is to remind us all to be respectful and courteous to those with whom we share the trails.The reason my dog is so often off-leash is because she never approaches other dogs or people. She stays by my side. Right by my side. (There is also a very low probability that anyone would be intimidated by a chocolate lab wearing a pink polka-dotted collar.) Until recently, I had a German Shepherd that was on-leash at all times because she could be rather intimidating. While she had never attacked another dog, she was big, and I did not want to make other dog owners uncomfortable. The common sense factor comes into play; if you have aggressive dogs or even potentially aggressive dogs, control them!As someone who uses the trails for multiple purposes, I have come to understand and appreciate the order of things. A recurring source of conflict on the trails is the dreaded horse-bike controversy. On trails where they are allowed, horses always have the right of way. This is true for both hikers and bikers, because horses are the least predictable and the most likely to cause an injury if things go awry. Also, bikes tend to move faster than horses, and horses tend to react more fearfully than bikes. After a recent trail ride, a polite man on a bike asked me how he should behave when he comes across horses on the trail. I explained that horses are prey animals and react to anything coming up from behind them. They are also frightened by anything they cannot see well. Hiding behind a tree, even with the best of intentions to not frighten a horse, frightens a horse.Bikers are also expected to yield to hikers, although it seems more than reasonable for a hiker to hop off the trail and allow the bike to roll on through, especially if they are navigating a rough patch or going uphill. More often than not, even though I have the right of way on a horse, I will move off the trail to allow a bike or a runner to come through. Basically, the faster moving party has the right of way. If you are walking your dog, it is your responsibility to keep the dog away from both bikes and horses ó and other dogs.Horses are going to leave their manure behind, while dog owners are expected to pick up after their animal. Nothing is more annoying than noticing someone took the time to scoop up their dogís feces in a little plastic bag, tie it in a knot, and precede to leave it on the trail. Common sense dictates that if you roll it off the side of the trail so that an unsuspecting hiker doesnít step in it, it will decompose, but not when it is in a plastic bag.Be it on bike, on horse, or on foot; courtesy and respect can go a long way to prevent conflict on the trails. Simple courtesies like calling ìheads upî when you approach someone from behind and allowing the faster moving party to keep moving are greatly appreciated by all. Common sense and courtesy, the formula for happy trails!

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