In industrialized countries, bridle paths are now primarily used for recreation. However, they are still important transportation routes in other areas. For example, they are the main method of traveling to mountain villages in Lesotho. However, In England and Wales a bridle path now refers to a route which can be legally used by horse riders in addition to walkers, and since 1968, by cyclists.
A "ride" is another term used for a bridleway: "a path or track, esp. one through a wood, usually made for riding on horseback" (Oxford English Dictionary).
In the US, the term bridle path is used colloquially for trails or paths used primarily for people making day treks on horses, and usually used only on the east coast, whereas out west the equivalent term is trail. The term "bridleway" is rarely used in the U.S. Most of the time horses are presumed allowed to use trails in America unless specifically banned, although rules differ among locations.
In some countries long distance multi-use trails have been created, including the Bicentennial National Trail in Australia, one of the longest marked multi-use trails in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres. Rail trails can often be used by equestrians.
In England and Wales a bridleway is "a way over which the public has a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, with or without a right to drive animals along the way." Although Section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968 permits the riding of bicycles on public bridleways, the act says that it "shall not create any obligation to facilitate the use of the bridleway by cyclists". Thus the right to cycle exists even though it may be difficult to exercise on occasion, especially in winter. Cyclists using a bridleway are obliged to give way to other users on foot or horseback.