Is horse-riding allowed in forests?
Any use of forests beyond entering and spending some time for recreational purposes, such as horse-riding, but also camping in the dark, tenting or riding a vehicle, is subject to permission.
Any use beyond entering and spending some time for recreational purposes, such as horseback riding, but also camping in the dark, tenting or riding vehicles (including bicycles), is only permitted with the consent of the forest owner and, as regards forest roads, only with the consent of the forest road maintainer (who is usually the forest owner).
This means that the forest owner or forest road maintainer must explicitly allow horse-riding. If no such permission exists, horse-riding in the forest, which includes forest roads, is prohibited.
Forest Marking Ordinance
The Ordinance on Marking in Forests (“Forstliche Kennzeichnungsverordnung“) provides that, if the permissibility of (general) use for horse-riding is to be indicated, the consent is deemed to have been granted if a sign is affixed in the following manner:
The sign has to be rectangular in shape with a minimum width of 35 cm and a minimum height of 45 cm. It has to be white in colour and must show a yellow stripe about one-sixth the height of the sign at its top and bottom. In the white space, the nature and extent of the authorised use (in this case concerning horse-riding) has to be indicated in black lettering; the lettering may also be supplemented by symbols.
In the case of forest roads and other paths, the signs must, where possible, be placed perpendicular to their route, in a clearly visible position at a height above the ground of not less than 0.6 metres and not more than 2.2 metres. It must be ensured that they are not covered by grass, branches or undergrowth and that they are able to withstand wind or other weather influences as far as possible.
However, the landowner or the person maintaining the forest road is free to give permission to use the forest or forest roads for horse-riding (especially if this is only permitted to specific persons, not to the general public) without such marking or to make other signage.
Marked bridle paths and bridle path maps
Anyone who wants to use the forest for horse-riding needs the consent of the forest owner or the person responsible for maintaining the forest road. This consent can be expressed by appropriate signs, e.g. according to the Ordinance on Marking in Forests.
It should be noted that bridle path maps (not produced by the forest owner or forest road maintainer) do not represent the consent of this person to the use for riding, that such maps may be outdated or poorly researched and therefore cannot create confidence that such consent exists.
Bans on horse-riding
Horse-riding can also be prohibited under other legal regulations (other than the Forest Act 1975, unless permitted by the owner of the forest or the forest road maintainer), such as nature conservation law. These can be queried in the legal information system of the Austrian Federal Government (RIS).
Horse-riding in a forest without the consent of the forest owner or the forest road maintainer is inadmissible and, apart from possible civil law consequences, can be punished by a fine of up to € 150 according to the Forest Act.
Dangers of accidents and liability risks in case of unauthorised horse-riding in forests
Unauthorised horse-riding on forest roads or other forest areas means self-endangerment and involves liability risks, for example in the event of accidents involving forest managers (timber transport) or pedestrians.
More information on the internet
• Forest Act 1975, Federal Law Gazette No 440, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 65/2016 "RIS"
• Ordinance on Marking in Forests (“Forstliche Kennzeichnungsverordnung“), Federal Law Gazette No 179/1976, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette II No 67/1997 "RIS"
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management
Directorate III 2 - Forest Legislation, Legal Policy and Vocational Qualification
Director Mag. Katharina Kaiser
Phone: +43 1 711 00 - 606681