Riding horses in natural areas is part of the cultural heritage of Australia and a source of pleasure and enjoyment for many people. Horse riding is accepted as a suitable means of appreciating and enjoying natural areas so long it does not detract from the overall values of such areas.
The use of natural areas for active recreation, however, always carries some risk of overuse and disturbance. Horse-riding activities are only allowed on Parks and Wildlife-managed lands in locations where the impacts are considered manageable and is permitted only with consent. This can be given by way of a management plan or sign or in specific incidences by authorised park staff. In general, riding in parks is permitted only on designated roads and trails. In a small number of parks, riding is also permitted off-trail in broad clear areas such as beaches and sub-alpine plains. Riding is never permitted in declared wilderness areas. Depending on how much horse traffic a park receives, horse-riding areas may or may not be signposted but it is the responsibility of riders to make sure they are riding in the correct locations.
While riding in parks, riders need to remain vigilant at all times for sensitive environments, such as bogs, moss beds, threatened species habitat or Aboriginal and historic artefacts and sites, and avoid riding in these areas. Information provided by the local park office can help identify these areas.
Park staff monitor horse-riding trails and other recreational areas for signs of impacts. If these impacts start to reach unacceptable levels and there are no other practical management solutions, those areas may be temporarily or permanently closed or relocated. Where practical, park staff will consult with relevant user groups in the process of making such decisions.
You can also find more detailed information on horse trails, including those managed by Parks and Wildlife, at the TrailsWA website.
The terrain in some parks can challenge even the most experienced riders. In large or remote parks, riders may find themselves far from emergency assistance. Riders in parks are requested to follow simple safety rules:
- Carry a first-aid kit for both horse and rider on all long trips, along with other emergency gear such as rope and torches.
- Check all equipment is in good working order before setting out.
- Ensure horses are accustomed to the things they may encounter in parks, such as wildlife or cyclists, and are under adequate control at all times.
- Keep all emergency gear in backpacks, not saddlebags, so it isn’t lost if you become separated from your horse.
- If planning a long trip, leave your itinerary with someone at home.
- Check predicted weather conditions before beginning the ride.
- Have a lead rope handy so that the horse can be lead if the terrain gets too difficult.
- Riders under the age of 18 must wear helmets when riding in parks. It is strongly recommended that all other riders also wear helmets.
If someone is seriously injured and help cannot be contacted, one or (preferably) two riders should go for help while the rest of the group remains with the injured person and their horse. If a horse escapes in a park, park staff must be notified as soon as possible.
For more information on how to prepare for and safely enjoy your activity see our Safety advice.