HOrses | High Sierra Topix  

HOrses

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby AldeFarte » Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:25 pm

I agree Dave. I have had more humorous encounters with cows than otherwise. There is good and bad. I am ambivalent about packers. I have had issues with some of their clients,but that's a good reason to see what's in the next valley.



User avatar
AldeFarte
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:46 pm
Location: Eklutna, Ak.
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:34 pm

Correction- in my previous post when I said "Carson Nat'l Forest", I should have said "Carson District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe Nat'l. Forest."
User avatar
mokelumnekid
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:45 pm
Location: Seattle
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby toejam » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:32 pm

I've been places where I was glad there was some horse traffic because otherwise the trails would have disappeared. There's room in my heart for horse packers. But I'm starting to wonder why we need to allow herds of cattle and sheep in wilderness areas any more. Seems to me there are plenty of places for grazing, but not that much wilderness.
User avatar
toejam
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 75
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:47 am
Location: Pismo!
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby markskor » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:44 am

Regarding horses and mules, I have mixed feelings.
Horses, personally, I never have used them…Maybe in the future. When I am no longer able to do what we all do on foot, I can readily see myself riding up the first, steep, uphill, backcountry miles, maybe for bringing in extra supplies, and/or if carrying provisions for a longer stay, much like my good buddy OldRanger last summer, in order to be somewhere important – on time. (He is older.) On the trail though, I pay them little mind, always moving off-trail and letting them pass safely, usually with a quick hello and a smile…Like I said, no big deal.

My concern is with parasites, especially Giardia and the like. I recall from somewhere UCLA past that roughly 10% of the horse/mule population are natural hosts to Giardia, (much like ~20% of humans)…with no ill effects ever shown…just passing through. Being as Giardia does not overwinter (one month below freezing destroys even the cysts), and has to be re-introduced each season, who is doing the re-introduction?

Beavers carry it but I see few beavers in the Sierra. Deer carry everything but I seldom see deer scat in the water…maybe? Most humans…well, let’s not go there. I do see multiple horse biscuits often at many water crossings, even more in or near the water at backcountry camps where horses and mules are used.
Are horses and mules primarily to blame for our having to carry filters?
Mountainman who swims with trout
User avatar
markskor
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
 
Posts: 2047
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:41 pm
Location: Mammoth Lakes
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby dave54 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:33 pm

Just to lob another grenade into this discussion :lol: ---

It is fairly well documented that grazing in the Sierras helps reduce urban sprawl in the foothills. The ranching families need the cheap grazing land, for without it, they could not afford to keep the private land that forms the core of the ranching operation. They would be forced by economics to sell their private land (read: to developers). As Jack Thomas, former Chief of the Forest Service said "The worst managed ranch is still better wildlife habitat than the best planned subdivision." So think of public grand grazing as a subsidy to keep the private ranchlands surrounding and inside the National Forests undeveloped. Doubly important now that the state has ended the Williamson Act payments to counties.

And public land grazing on BLM land in the Great Basin is net beneficial to wildlife. All those stock ponds and spring developments the ranchers are required to maintain are also used by other critters.
=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~
Log off and get outdoors!
~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=
User avatar
dave54
Founding Member
 
Posts: 774
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 10:24 pm
Location: where the Sierras, Cascades, and Great Basin meet.
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Horses

Postby ndwoods » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:39 pm

Hm....well...I could care less about horses in the backcountry! I figure there are backpackers that are slobs and horsepackers that are slobs. It would just be nice to get them ALL on the same page....

And just to throw a little tidbit out there...I am a backpacker that just happens to be horse crazy and own 2 lovely mares that I spend every moment riding I can. I do not however have an interest in horse packing...too much work and too much worry that my girls might take off in the night. I am happy to trail ride the hills of home...and hoof it on my own two feet in the Sierra!:)

Dee
User avatar
ndwoods
Founding Member
 
Posts: 236
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby balzaccom » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:32 pm

The best horse and rider combination we've seen in Yosemite was a couple of years ago, when we were hiking down the steep trail from Mono Meadows to Illilouette Creek and beyond. Struggling up the other direction was a party of three people and a horse. The two men were carrying backpacks, and one of them was leading horse who also had a pack...but the woman was actually hanging on to the horse's tail with both hands and letting the horse pull her up the hill!

We started laughing, but they explained that the woman was actually not capable of walking all that way, and had been riding the horse, until it came up lame. This was the solution to getting all of them back out again.

I still chuckle about it...and admire that patient horse!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1288
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby Cloudy » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:17 pm

I have no problem with sharing the mountains with horse packers. I don't particularly care for the cr@p (because of the flies) but it's biodegradeable and it's sometimes a bit disconcerting to get water out of a stream only to find that several switchbacks further up, a horse has cr@pped in the same stream but I'm OK with that also ;) I've hired a packer a number of times to carry my hugely heavy backpack (in my younger, less wise "heavy" days) up the Copper Creek trail in Kings Canyon along with yours truly. It sure makes things a lot easier for those that can afford it and someday I may be forced to ride when I can no longer walk.

Once I was fortunate that a pack train was going over Granite Pass and I could just tag along so that they wouldn't have to lead my horses back - note: packers normally take you as far as you can ride in 1/2 day since they also have to return the same day . I was able to make it over the Pass in one day and camp at Shorty's Meadow with the packer (and his whisky bottle...). Made pretty good time on that trip but my rear was sure sore for awhile from the horses jumping down from granite step to granite step... Just for the record, I am not a horse lover nor am I a rider. In fact, the only times that I have ever ridden have been with horse packers dropping me off somewhere for the start of a long hike in the Sierra and it's always been an adventure.

I believe that horse packing is one of the few things still available to horses that allow them to be something more than just a pet and gives one somewhat of an idea as to what the horse meant to a world before mechanization. They are relics from the "Before Time" that I honestly don't mind seeing put to good use :-) Cows and sheep are a different story...

Alan
User avatar
Cloudy
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2006 11:08 am
Location: Central California
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby ndwoods » Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:47 pm

Yes, you make a very valid point about giving horses jobs. My girls absolutely love to be at work. They like to be rewarded too of course with treats etc, but the happiest horses I know are horses that have a job and work regularly! Mine get ridden every day just for the record, and always greet me at the gate vying with each other for attention and calling to me "pick me, pick me!"
User avatar
ndwoods
Founding Member
 
Posts: 236
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby gdurkee » Mon Dec 28, 2009 6:13 pm

We all have some level of impact when going into the backcountry but the main problem with horseys is that their impact is disproportionate to the number of people they bring in. On average, a single visitor uses 2 or 3 stock animals on a trip. The impact depends on a number of factors but the main ones are the skill and interest in minimum impact of the wrangler; whether they graze; and what elevation they're used in.

Major impacts are:

1) Giardia and other pathogens in manure. A study in Yosemite has found that about 6% of horses and mules carry giardia and about 3% carry camplobactor. That may not seem like a huge number of actual animal carriers, but that's literally thousands of cysts shed per pile of manure. Then you can figure out how much of that has a high potential of getting into a water source (say within 200 feet of a stream or lake when it rains). This same study also measured the amount of manure deposited per mile per animal as well as estimated the number of cysts per pile of manure (let's hear it for graduate students!)

2) Horse piss carries a huge load of nitrates. Horses and mules almost unfailingly piss into a stream when they stop to drink and, if memory serves, can be as much as 20 gallons per piss per animal. Probably no pathogens involved here, but it's a major source of nitrates for algal blooms in streams and lakes. (I'll also add a neat bit of trivia: in an 1895 Sierra Club Bulletin, campers were advised to take lemons with them on Sierra trips to hide the taste of sheep piss due to the thousands of sheep in alpine areas).

Lakes and streams near camps that are used by stock have higher levels of e-coli than lakes and streams used by only backpackers which are higher than those used by no one.

3) By actual measurement, campsites that are regularly used by stock users are larger in area of denuded vegetation as well as having more mechanical impacts in the site itself (ax marks on trees; areas pawed out where stock have been tied; manure not raked out of camp; flies & etc.). Camps used mostly by hikers don't have as large an impact zone and far fewer of those other impacts.

4) When horses are allowed to graze on local vegetation, the impacts can be huge, depending on regulations & enforcement and the skill and interest of the packer. Many meadows look like pastures by late August. The grasses are cropped down low, there are no flowers or even dried flowers of either grasses or herbs. This is a direct impact on the aesthetics of a wilderness area. All visitors should be able to look at a meadow in any stage of its natural order -- from first shoots of green grass, to flowering, to dried flowers waist high:

...a place of knee high grasses, ripe and open panicles drifting on the moving air, luminous-bronze in the backlight. It was a very different emotional experience of a mountain meadow, and entirely consistent with what one might rightly expect of national park backcountry.
-- Randy Morgenson


Horses will also "roll" after being released to graze. This is where they just drop down on the meadow and roll around like a dog. This can create a huge pit devoid of vegetation in a fragile alpine meadow. Once established, it will take decades to recover.

Where regulation is poor or not enforced, there are long-term ecological changes such as reduction of species diversity as well as other changes in diversity.

5) Horses are also responsible for introducing non-native vegetation. This is becoming an increasing problem in many areas as these grasses crowd out native grasses and seriously disturbing a meadow's ecology.


To a certain extent, it's less a question of should horses be allowed, but how to calculate everyone's ecological impact (aka footprint) on an area and what an acceptable impact (carrying capacity) is per person -- not per animal as it's currently calculated. The wilderness area is not there for the animals to visit, but for the people, however they might get there. I would come up with some number for impact of a person on foot and the impact of a person on a stock-supported trip. I think it would be possible to derive a carrying capacity for different eco-zones/elevations from that number.

The interest for determining such a constant in government agencies is close to zero.

George
User avatar
gdurkee
Founding Member
 
Posts: 658
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 8:20 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: HOrses

Postby rlown » Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:51 pm

Good stuff, George. I'm thinking that since Yose stocks all their HSC's via mule train, it's a foregone conclusion that horses/mules are here to stay. um, my guys don't piss 20 gallons at a time.. maybe 1 gallon max/per pee.

I followed a pack string to Vogelsang once. not fun, but it is their supply line and that's why the trail is built the way it is. Obviously, off the beaten path, those with horses can be more aware (not implying they aren't)
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5325
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Horses

Postby gdurkee » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:07 pm

um, my guys don't piss 20 gallons at a time.. maybe 1 gallon max/per pee.


Ooops. You're quite right. Don't know how that number got into my head. Maybe it was per day, but that's not even right. I looked at per day, and some estimates give 10 to 15 gallons. Still, that's a lot of nitrates, which was the only point. Also, watching horses at crossings, I'd say it's more than a gallon, but WAY below 20... .

thanks for the save!

g.
User avatar
gdurkee
Founding Member
 
Posts: 658
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 8:20 pm
Experience: N/A

Previous

Return to The Campfire



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests