NATIONAL park rangers climbed into the saddle to learn about issues facing horse riders in the Yorkshire dales.

Fourteen rangers joined members of the British Horse Society at the Yorkshire Dales trekking centre, Malham, last Friday to hear comments from the horse's mouth.

The national park authority is to carry out a survey of its 600km of bridleway, which it is responsible for maintaining. The study will highlight where improvements can be made and allow the organisation to plan future maintenance with the rider in mind.

Alan Hulme, a regional manager with the authority, said: "It was a fun afternoon with a serious side to it. Currently some of the bridleways in the national park clearly do not add to the enjoyment of riding in the area.

"The afternoon gave our rangers the opportunity to find out first hand about some of the problems horse riders face, such as troublesome gate openings, soft boggy ground and the narrowness of some of the bridleways themselves.

"We have learned from the session and we will apply the experience to our ongoing efforts to improve the bridleway network for all legitimate users - walkers and cyclists included."

Sue Rigby, from the BHS, said: "To date, meetings with the authority have been held around a table in a meeting room. The afternoon was a little different, giving the rangers a new perspective and the chance to experience the bridleways on four legs instead of two.

"It was a great opportunity to spend some time, on horseback, with those directly charged with the maintenance and enhancement of the bridleway network.

"We hope that we can build a greater understanding of some of the issues we face as horse riders and that the rangers reflect on their time in the saddle when planning their work on the area's bridleways.