Nebraska has 2% public land in the state, however, finding trails that are horse-friendly can be a challenge for trail riders.
The Nebraska Horse Trails Committee is a non-profit organization that organizes events for riders and works with the Nebraska Game and Parks to clear and maintain the 87 horse trails across Nebraska. Board Member Tammy Vasa of Weston said the committee has raised over $100,000 in the past 20 years.
“We use this money to install corrals in parks, extend trails, put in new ones, clear debris, advocate for keeping trails, and educate riders to be more respectful on the trails so we can continue using them,” Vasa said.
Vasa said she and a group of trail advocates will often go on trails in the eastern side of Nebraska to do maintenance when complaints arise.
“It’s really important that we are keeping people informed about properly picking up after themselves and that they aren’t riding when it’s muddy,” Vasa said. “If we don’t do our part to keep the trails maintained, it may ruin our opportunity to keep the trails alive.”
The efforts of the committee have not gone unnoticed by trail riders. Danielle Elkins of Lincoln is an experienced trail rider and “horse show mom” to three children.
“We love going camping and using the trails at Branched Oak,” Elkins said. “Trying to put up our own corrals and setting up accommodations for our horses and kids takes away a lot of the fun of our trips. The corrals make it so much safer and easier to bring the horses camping, thanks to the association.”
For riders, the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee isn’t just about protecting and maintaining trails, Vasa said. It has become more of a friendly community and space for meeting new people.
“We used to communicate through Yahoo groups, and I met a lot of people there who shared my passion,” Vasa said. “I’m still meeting so many new people to ride with through our Facebook page, and it’s really what has kept me sane while working from home.”
The Nebraska Trail Riders canceled many of its trail riding events and meetups in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, the group planned to kick off the season with its first weekly adults-only ride on April 7.
Trail riders interested in becoming more involved in the community and the Nebraska Trail Riders Committee can learn more through its Facebook group Horsetrailriders of Nebraska or visit nehorsetrails.com.