I put together a list of trail riding safety tips after an unfortunate incident last year. I hope these tips help you avoid the situation we found ourselves in!
A friend and I were out on a trail ride in a lesser-known area of our trail network when her horse tripped and accidentally dumped her onto the ground.
Once I managed to stop my horse and grab hers, I headed back to her. She was still on the ground and in obvious pain. She decided to walk it off a bit (like any good equestrian, right?), so we both took our horses and walked. As we moved further away from home, she realized that she was hurt worse than she had originally thought and made the decision to turn around and head home. If only she could get back onto her horse!
She managed to get back on thanks to a well-placed log, but it was a painful hour back to the barn. I insisted on accompanying her back to the barn and making sure she was in good hands before heading home.
She spent that evening in the hospital for x-rays and such and it took weeks for her to feel like herself again.
This incident led me to think about the key things to do to improve your safety while on the trails in case the unexpected happens.
1. Pack water and a snack
You never know how long you will actually be out on the trail. Packing water and a snack is the minimum to get by in most situations.
There are lightweight saddles bags out there that work for both English and Western Saddles.
Here are the saddlebags available here at Equestrian Next Door.
2. Bring your phone
It is a great thing to have when you need to call for backup. Even better when it’s charged. Make sure to program the local emergency numbers too. Sometimes it isn’t as simple as 911!
3. Tell someone
Tell them how long you think you’ll be out, the route you think you’ll take and any other details. Make sure this person is responsible enough to try to contact you if they haven’t heard from you and know what to do should that happen. Have a plan!
4. Dress appropriately
There are few things worse than freezing on your horse because you didn’t check the weather forecast. Check the local weather and bring what you need. The general rule of thumb that it is easier to remove layers than add some (especially if you forgot said layers back home) still holds true on horseback.
If you are trailering out to a trail ride, make sure to pack extra clothes for everything, including socks. You never know what may happen while you are out there.
Special note on winter riding: Be aware of frostbite and dress warmly. I love the heat packs for your feet and hands. Though I find the ones for your feet only last about 3 hours instead of the advertised 5. Also, this may sound obvious, but check the wind chill!
5. Use an app
There are more and more apps tailored to equestrians. Most of these also offer safety tracking. Here’s a pretty complete list of equestrian tracking apps. Personally, I use Equilab because it connects to my smartwatch.
6. Buddy up
Last but not least, buddy up when you can. It is more fun and at least you have someone else who can contact emergency services or administer first aid if needed.
Take away message
I hope you never need all these safety tips, but as they say, better safe than sorry! I certainly encountered a few situations last summer that made me wish I had taken the time to prepare and make it part of my riding routine.
Have you ever been in a sticky situation? What happened and what did you do? I would love to hear about your adventures in the comments below or join my Facebook group for Canadian Trail Riders to share your stories!