It may be tempting ride out to see how your favorite trails were affected by this summer's forest fires, but don't do it! Severe hazards lurk in newly-burned forests -- hazards that could harm you or cause your horse to break a leg. Don't ride through a burned area until after the land manager has done the necessary restoration work. Even then, extreme caution is required. Here are a few of the potential hazards you will encounterin a burned area:
Burned-Out Root Systems
After a fire sweeps through an area, it may continue to smolder in the roots of trees, eventually burning out the roots that run underground. Everything looks fine from above the ground – until your horse steps in a burned-out tunnel and breaks a leg. Burned-out roots sometimes run under trails, but they’re an even bigger risk if you ride off-trail to get around a fallen log.
After a fire, the burned trees can break off in the wind and fall on you. Don’t ride through stands of burned trees on a windy day.
Logs Across the Trail
Fallen snags can become significant trail obstacles.
Washouts and Landslides
The land may become destabilized after a fire, allowing melting snow to cause washouts and landslides. The trail footing may become unstable and treacherous.
Signs and Bridges Destroyed
Trees aren’t the only thing that may be burned in a forest fire. You may find that the signs and bridges you once relied upon are now gone.
So don't ride through a burned area this year. And if you decide to ride through a burned area next summer, use caution and don’t take foolish chances.