Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Horses are amazing animals with a way of getting themselves into trouble. It’s part of what makes them so special and why we love them so much! But it is frustrating and downright scary when you are unexpectedly dismounted and separated from your horse, especially if you find yourself alone on the trail. Here is a guide on what to do when you lose your horse while trail riding.
1) Stay calm even if your horse is running away from you!
This is very important for two reasons: first, panic won’t help the situation because it makes it harder to think logically; second, because horses pick up on our emotions so they will mirror our own behaviour, which will only worsen as the scenario plays out. Thankfully, Horses also have an incredible sense of direction and homecoming instinct which means that if you stay calm, there’s a good chance he’ll find his way back home before you do. If you think your horse will come when you call, do so while keeping in mind that yelling might very well drive it away.
2) Take stock of your situation and yourself.
Adrenaline does amazing things to your body. You may not feel it initially, but you may have been hurt badly if you fell off your horse. Take a moment to evaluate how you feel and check if anything is broken – including your cell phone! At the start of any tense or emergency situation, you need to S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan).
3) Figure out which way your horse went on the trail
Obviously, if your horse is munching grass a few feet away, approach calmly as you would in the field. On the other hand, if your horse is headed towards a busy road, call 911 and explain to the dispatcher the danger of a 1200lbs animal heading towards a busy street. If you are on private property, contact the landowner, if possible. Also, call your barn ahead of time, so that they can keep their eyes peeled for a horse coming home without its rider! If that fails, it’s time to call the cavalry (help) to catch your mount calmly. If you are tempted to run after your horse, DON’T. Remember, horses are prey animals, and running at them will make them run away.
Once you find your horse, read its body language to see if it is safe to approach. Some horses get upset when they lose their rider, and it takes time to calm down. Other times, they are fine and come to you. Whatever you do, do so cautiously.
If you don’t find your horse in the few hours of being separated, do not give up. Some horses have been found a long time after they took off. Make sure to have good pictures and a description of your horse (similar to what you would put down on a Coggins test as markings). Know their height, weight, special markings, brands, or scars. Contact your local trail club, private landowners, and local authorities. Local social media will also be helpful.
It can be scary and frustrating to have your horse take off without you, especially if you find yourself alone on the trail. We hope this guide on what to do when you lose your horse while trail riding is helpful. There are some things that you can do in this situation to help make sure it doesn’t happen again! Check out these ICE clips below to put your horse’s emergency contact information on them and keep it visible. Remember that every animal is different, so don’t expect a cookie-cutter solution. Stay safe and keep riding!