Spring is fast approaching, and as the weather turns warm and sunny, the itch to trail ride will hit many of us.
As horses and riders hit the trails this spring, trail safety should be in the forefront of everyone’s minds.
General Trail Safety - Gear
Of course you want to make sure that you have everything you need before you start out on your ride. This includes key safety items that could be easily overlooked.
Being prepared can make all the difference should an emergency or accident arise.
The #1 piece of safety equipment you should always wear when trail riding (or riding in any situation) is a Helmet.
Every year, there are thousands of horse-related head injuries which could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet should be a no-brainer. Don’t become a statistic!
Riding vests have come a long way from the bulky vests they once were. There are now self-inflating vests which can prevent torso, neck and back injury. They’re not just for hunter/jumpers. Additionally, wearing a riding vest could alleviate some sources of anxiety for those who tend to be a little bit more nervous on the trail.
Weather on a short ½ hour trail or an all-day ride, be sure to have water or some sort of hydration with you. Dehydration can come on quickly, especially in the heat, and you don’t want to be out in the woods or out of the way trail and not be properly hydrated.
There many options for saddle bags or drink holders that can be easily attached to your saddle.
Even if you’re headed out to a remote area where there is little to no signal, you should always take your phone with you.
Don’t rely on your riding partner to carry the phone. What if something happens and you get separated or that person gets injured?
Always carry your phone on your person. Never put it in a saddle bag or store it somewhere on the horse. What if your horse runs off without you?
Be sure to have emergency contact and identification information on both your and your horse. This way if you get separated from your horse, you and your horse can be identified and you ensure a greater chance that your horse will be returned back to you once found.
Bracelets make an excellent source of identification for yourself and can be ordered with all of your personal identification information, including emergency contact names and numbers.
Especially if you’re venturing off the farm and into an unfamiliar area, having a current trail map will ensure you stay on the trail and arrive back to the trailer safely.
Many riders are turning to personal GPS units to keep them safely on the trail and from getting lost.
They may also have safety features which could help searchers find you should something happen – especially in areas where you have little to no cell signal.
Again, you will want to keep this on your person, and not attach it to the horse or store in the saddle bag…if at all possible.
Personal Tracking Device
You may want to invest in a GPS tracking device that can be attached to the saddle in case you and your hose get separated. These trackers can be used to find your lost horse.
Some other items you may want to consider:
Small First Aid Kit
Benedryl in case of bee stings or other bug bites
Small Sample Size bottle of fly spray for missed spots
Sponge on a string – great for cooling off at stream crossings in hot weather
General Trail Safety – Your Riding Partner
Photo Source (http://www.rockinghorseranch.com/horse-adventures-2/)
Making sure you choose the right riding partner is critical to fun and safety.
If you know you are the type of rider who likes to go out on the trail and take it easy and have a nice, slow ride, you don’t want to ride out with someone who likes to gallop off at every chance they get.
If you know your horse likes to move out on the trail, you will want to ride with compatible horses so you don’t spend your entire ride fighting your horse to stay slow. This will result in both your and your horse becoming so flustered that it will be all you can do to get back home safely and with your emotions and backside in tacked.
You want to make sure that your riding partner is prepared and able to stop and assist should a situation arise where you have issues with your gear, your horse, or an obstacle your horse may struggle with on the trail.
Get to know your partner before you head out and make sure to discuss any concerns you may have and how you will deal with them before you go.
Not all horses and riders are suited for large group rides, so be sure to know your horse and your riding style before signing up for a group.
General Trail Safety – Personal Safety – Self Defense
In addition to being prepared with the proper gear, you will want to be properly prepared to defend yourself if a personal safety situation ever arises. Especially if you’re out riding on your own, you will want to be aware and prepared should someone approach you and your horse on the trail. Not everyone on the trail has good intentions.
Weather riding alone or in a group, you need to be ready to react should a seemingly friendly encounter with a stranger turn bad.
The best self defense for dangerous encounters is preparedness. Knowing what to do when faced with a situation where you feel in danger will help you to make quick decisions and help you to get yourself out of the situation safely.
If you can find a Trail Safety clinic or class in your area, I highly recommend attending. Self Defense Classes are a good choice as well.
If these options are not available to you, there are many videos online that show you what actions you can take should you find yourself in a situation where you feel threatened.
The video below gives some good examples of what how to handle your horse in given scenarios.
If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please feel free to comment below.