Late this summer, Alta horseman Michael Mulligan submitted an opinion piece to the Teton Valley News about preserving the horse culture of the West. His letter included a call to action: “It is time for us to organize and look out for the interests of horses, horse activities, and horse owners, while also working together to help maintain the trails we cherish and share our great passion with others.”
Mulligan said he received an enthusiastic response from his letter; he heard from almost 30 people in person or via email about the idea, and they passed the word on to their friends. He now has a list of 42 equine enthusiasts from around the valley and has launched the Teton Valley Horse and Rider Organization.
The new group’s purpose, according to Mulligan, is to introduce riders to each other to enjoy a shared interest, organize and host clinics, support local horse rescue nonprofit HAPI Trails, work with the US Forest Service and other Teton Valley organizations to help clear and maintain trails, and advocate for the interests of the equine community.
“Many of the equine folks see the need for some organization to promote our interests,” he explained. “Also, people just want to meet other people to do rides and go camping and host clinics and competitions and have some fun.”
He added that while he and his neighbors have done some informal trail work this year by clearing brush and downed trees from trails, he thinks the horse people of the valley should step up and do more formal trail maintenance.
“I think we are the only interest group in the valley that has no formal participation in trail maintenance,” Mulligan said. “And with no voice at the table, horses and horse owners will be increasingly marginalized."
Several of the people who expressed interest in the group also voiced their desire to start a local chapter of Back Country Horsemen of America, calling the venture long overdue.
BCHA is a national organization that seeks to protect equestrian access to public lands. While Jackson hosts a chapter, there are no official branches in southeast Idaho, which Mulligan said is surprising given the popularity of riding in the area.
Steve Didier is the recruitment coordinator for Back Country Horsemen of Idaho and will be hosting a membership interest meeting on Oct. 30 at 6:00 p.m. at 2060 North Stateline Road in Alta. Didier will be driving over 10 hours from northern Idaho to Teton Valley and Mulligan said he hopes to have a good showing at the meeting. For more information on the group, email email@example.com.