Protecting Trails for All – Saratoga Back Country Horsemen Formed

At times it can be challenging to find places to trail ride your horse. The neighboring farms may have changed hands and permission to ride may no longer exist. Or, a new housing development has gone in and cut off your route to a favorite trail or scenic overlook. As our neighbors become less familiar with horses, and liability concerns cause others to close off their land, our ability to ride on both public, and with permission, private lands, is threatened. Consequently, access to public lands becomes ever more critical to trail riders in the greater Saratoga and Capital Region.

Over forty years ago, four horsemen in Montana saw that their access to land on which they rode for many years was being threatened. Much of it was public land managed by government agencies. The gentlemen decided the best way to protect their access was by making themselves useful to the managing agency. Their assumption was if they helped the agency staffers, it would be easier to maintain horse access for all. They decided to organize and named themselves the Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA).

To help the agency personnel and maintain horse access to the nearby public lands, they volunteered in the following ways and continue to do so today:

  • Cleared trails of deadfall and debris
  • Maintained trail heads, assisted with trail maintenance and design
  • Assisted with bridge building and replacement
  • Provided improvements in horse camps
  • Helped prevent trail erosion
  • Used pack animals to bring in supplies for the agency staffers where mechanized and motorized vehicles were prohibited or not practical for designated wilderness areas

On Wednesday September 15, 2014, Cornell Cooperative Extension-Equine hosted an informational meeting about Back Country Horsemen of America. Jim McGarvey, BCHA’s volunteer chairman was on hand to share information on the organization, their mission and history. At the end of his presentation, the group decided they wanted to move forward with exploring the possibility of a NY affiliate based in the Saratoga region. A working group was formed and a Saratoga BCH Affiliate was accepted formally by BCHA at its national, annual meeting in April 2015. Current SBCH officers include Deb Balliet, President; Bill Lasher, Treasurer; and Annie Townsend, Secretary. The group is currently seeking an individual to fill the role of Vice President.

Saratoga BCH has been actively working with the planners at Saratoga County and leadership of Moreau Lake State Park to design and clear new horse trails in the Saratoga County forest adjacent and interconnected to the Park. There have been four work days and two trail rides this summer. There are also plans to work on additional Saratoga County horse trails going forward.

Everyone is welcome at the Saratoga BCH general meetings. Plans for fall meetings and activities are currently underway and will be announced to our e-mail mailing list and through CCE-Equine. Generally, meetings are held on the third Wednesday of every month at the CCE office at 50 West High St. or at the 4-H Training Center on Middle Line Road in Ballston Spa, NY.

Anyone interested in learning more or being on the mailing list, contact Deb Balliet at (859)230-0980 or at

Last updated September 10, 2019