The Equine Expert

Trail Riding Safety Essentials
By Bridget Brandon

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When you are going for a full day of trail riding in some of the wonderful parks and trails we have across our country, it’s a good idea to go prepared.  Just a little bit of preparation can go a long way and may even save your life, or at least keep a small problem from becoming a huge problem.  

No matter how well trained and trustworthy your horse maybe, they are living breathing animals and have a natural flight/fight reaction.  Their first instinct is to run if afraid, if they are trapped, they may fight or go into a panic mode.  Horses can hear up to two miles away and can almost see 360 degrees around them.  So even if you do not see or hear something, chances are that your horse is on the look-out and will.  And, if your horse is not, his buddy might be and can cause a chain reaction due to that herd instinct and flight/fight reaction every horse is born with.  There can be hidden holes, downed fences and barb wire, snakes, loose ground and a host of things that can get you and your horse hurt.  So, enjoy yourself, but go prepared for the unexpected.  

Here are a few basic tips that could make a big difference on the trail:

  1. Bring plenty of water.
  2. A helmet may not be required, but is recommended.
  3. It is recommended that you always ride with a partner.
  4. Bring snacks for yourself, and your horse, to keep energy up.
  5. Double check your saddle and equipment before mounting your horse to make sure everything is tight and tucked in.
  6. Check your girth 10 to 15 minutes into the trail ride and then periodically throughout your ride.
  7. Check the weather before you go and prepare accordingly.
  8. Keep your cell phone in your pocket or a holster, rather than a saddlebag, just in case you are ever separated from your horse.
  9. Make sure your phone has a GPS and Compass app on it.
  10. Take a pocket knife.
  11. A small flashlight.
  12. Bring gloves and a rain parka or extra protection from the weather.
  13. Always be aware of your surroundings and on the lookout for potential threats, such as a water crossing, low tree branches, wildlife, holes, crevices, rock, hikers’ other riders and bicycles.
  14. Carry a small first aid kit with waterproof matches.

Keep in mind that if you and your horse get separated, all your emergency equipment in your saddlebag will be with your horse and not you. Keep the most important items on your person such as your cell phone, waterproof matches, and a knife. Wear a fanny pack, Cashel ankle safe or riding pants with extra pockets to carry critical items. I also suggest placing your contact and an emergency contact information in your saddlebag so if your horse does run off, the authorities will know who is missing.

Bridget Brandon is President of The Equine Expert LLC, which is a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm. Expert equestrians join together to offer legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases and legal matters. We have consultants offering a wide variety of expertise in most all disciplines in the horse industry to cover liability, business, standards in the industry, valuations, training, showing, sales and most all equine areas needing support in legal and business matters. For more information on their services, email or call 817-454-4537 to schedule an appointment with a consultant.


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