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With riders and drivers using vast swathes of woodland in Wales, Forestry Commission (FC) staff last week decided it was time to saddle-up to better understand the needs of equestrians.

Forestry Commission Wales staff wanted to find out how to safely integrate horses and riders with other woodland users such as mountain bikers and walkers.

“We’re the largest land manager in Wales, but none of our staff have much hands-on experience with horses,” said FC Wales visitor management advisor Dave Liddy organised the event on Thursday, 11 November.

“This was an opportunity to experience riding for themselves and to bring home some of the issues in a big way.”

The “equestrian training and awareness event” took place at Rheidol Riding Centre in Capel Bangor near Aberystwyth, in conjunction with the British Horse Society (BHS).

Riding centre owner Iola Evans showed FC Wales staff how horses can be sensitive to wild animals, and how they can react to various obstacles that riders come across in woodlands.

About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands — much of which is open to horse riders, with 450km of bridleways and 50km of dedicated carriage driving routes.

Staff also learnt how to deal with enquiries from riders and carriage drivers over issues such as rights of way — and about the various equestrian organisations and user groups.

Felicity Wills of the BHS helped organise the day.

She said: “How better to understand these issues than by having a go yourself?