Gentle Use

Gentle Use is a set of backcountry guidelines for the equestrian, adapted from the Leave No Trace program. Gentle use is highly encouraged by the Backcountry Horsemen of California to preserve and maintain the beauty and pristine condition of America's backcountry wilderness.

Gentle Use Principles:

  1. Be a Gentle User: Courtesy and common sense in the backcountry can go a long way. Know your Gentle Use concepts and use them!
  2. Gentle Planning Ahead: Do your homework on regulations pertaining to camping, campfires, grazing, feed, bears, permits, trails and terrain. Plan ahead to bring the appropriate equipment, meals, safety gear, etc. Prepare your animals for the terrain and feed conditions before you head out on the trail.
  3. Gentle on the Trail: Stay on the trail to avoid trail erosion and repairs.
  4. Gentle with Wildlife: Respect the wildlife by maintaining a safe distance. Keep your equines and canines under control, so not to damage the habitat.
  5. Gentle on the Eyes and Ears: Noise and sound can pollute. Keep other users in mind when planning which gear and entertainment to bring on your next trip.
  6. Gentle on Forage: Don't overgraze. Know the grazing and weed free hay rules for the area you're visiting. Pack feed in if needed.
  7. Gentle with Your Animals: Be sure to condition stock before your pack trip. Rest your equines often to prevent over exhaustion. Gear should fit your animals correctly.
  8. Gentle Stock Management: Keep your stock in a manner that doesn't damage the area you are staying. Use a highline if available.


Check out the BCHC's Gentle Use pamphlet. Print and stow in your saddle bags for a handy guide on the trail! The BCHC has many helpful brochures and pamplets available online for free.

Leave No Trace is a national and international program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski or climb. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.