Do you let people pet your horse at home? On the trail? Why or why not? Karen's post got me thinking..
I have fairly firm boundaries around letting people pet Confetti at the barn. I think it's incredibly rude to go wandering through the barn petting all the horses. You never know who bites, who's cranky, who's sick, so on and so forth. If I see people doing that, I'm usually disinclined to have them pet Fetti - or I'll make it explicitly clear that I'm very generously allowing them to pet her and they should ask first. "She's friendly if you want to pet her shoulder" is a common phrase. I know she's not mouthy, she's good with kids, and she enjoys the attention.
We're fairly memorable. I have a blonde horse with braids that goes in hot pink. I don't want to come across as self-centered or anything, but we stand out and I frequently get recognized. Or my horse does, anyway!
On the trail, it depends. If we're on a serious conditioning ride and heading out, I probably won't stop. I'll wave at kids. It's not that I'm being rude, but I pass people at least once every minute or two for the first two miles unless I'm riding in the evenings. I try to stop and walk if it's awfully dusty, but if it's a wide trail and they keep moving, we'll probably keep moving too.
Sometimes we see kids that are clearly awestruck and just dying to pet the pony, but too shy or polite to ask. Those, I will often pause the timer and stop for. It makes their day. Again, she's good with kids, and I'm initiating the offer on my terms. Kids running up to me? Nope, not happening.
To some extent, I see us as being trail ambassadors: we're out on trail a lot, and we're very memorable. I want people to like sharing the trail with us. I'm happy to let runners keep jogging by us, or cyclists keep going (where it's safe to do so), or let the kids pet the pony when the kids and pony are all on board with that idea. The more positive experiences people have, the more equestrian trails we will keep, or at least, that's my hope.