Rider Preferences and Economic Values for Equestrian Trails

Uses studied:
Place: Statewide


This study found that equestrian trail users strongly prefer to visit trails specific to horses and are willing to pay a user fee to access them, but this preference is less pronounced for more experienced riders. Riders are also willing to pay more to ride on longer trails and on trails with scenic views.


The results from this study would be of interest to equestrian trails advocates as it identifies the most important trail characteristics for equestrian users and may be helpful in justifying equestrian-only trails. The survey methods target relatively avid equestrian trail users, so these values should be interpreted accordingly.


This study was a statewide survey in Kentucky.

Trail Type

The survey asked respondents to evaluate hypothetical equestrian trails, varying in length, scenery, whether other users would use the trail, and access fees.


The purpose of the study was to identify and prioritize the most attractive characteristics for horseback riding trails, with the goal of building appealing trails for recreational horseback riders that are also compatible with other user groups. The study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • The average respondent owned six horses and took 23 day trips per year.
  • Respondents most strongly preferred to ride horse-riding-only trails (95% choosing horse-only trails), and were willing to pay $17 per day to use those trails. More experienced riders were less likely to prefer this type of trail than less experienced riders.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly preferred longer trails (92% choosing a longer versus a shorter trail), and were willing to pay an additional $2 per mile per trip in entrance fees.
  • Three-quarters of respondents preferred trails with views, and were willing to pay $23 to use a trail with scenic views.
  • The authors found no discernable preference for trails with open land or bathroom/shower facilities.


The authors partnered with the Kentucky Horse Council, who sent an online survey to their membership list. They received 236 usable responses, but their sampling method does not allow one to calculate a response rate. Respondents were asked questions about their horseback riding habits and demographics, and the authors compared these responses to other survey results from national equestrian organizations to verify that it was representative.

Respondents were presented with hypothetical trails characterized by the following set of attributes: length, the presence of scenic views, the presence of open land, the presence of bathroom or shower facilities, whether the trail is restricted to horse use only, the distance from home, and the entrance fee. Based on these characteristics, they were asked to identify the trail they were most likely to visit. This approach is called a “choice experiment.”

The authors used a statistical model to identify the most important factors when horseback riders are deciding which trail to ride.


Hu, W., P. Qing, J. Penn, M. Pelton, and A. Pagoulatos. 2014. “Rider preferences and economic values for equestrian trails.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management ahead-of-print (2014): 1-19.