Monday, November 15, 2010

Riding out alone

In my last post I asked for some ideas about how to safely ride alone. One of my biggest fears is finding myself out in the middle of nowhere, dumped and hurt and unable to move with my horse galloping all over kingdom come getting into who knows what and most likely finding some obscure way to injure or maim himself.

Who would know to come looking for me? No one. I'd freeze to death out there in the fields and coyotes would eat me because no one would even know where to start looking. That would suck.

I have ridden alone for as long as I can remember and really enjoy the relaxation of solitary riding, but there was always someone home, or someone at the barn, to start to worry if I didn't come back after a few hours...or if my horse came home without me.

We all know riding is a dangerous sport. When you take a powerful, 1,000 pound prey animal with a brain of it's own and an instinct to run from threats, anything can happen. Horse people with years of experience and knowledge have been maimed, killed or seriously injured by their horses. Not necessarily because the horse was dangerous or they were doing something stupid, but because sometimes, bad things happens.

I'm not as worried about taking Chief or Calypso out alone, but Gabe does worry me. He's still a big, powerful, sometimes nutty, green Thoroughbred baby. He can be unpredictable at times, and yes, there have been moments when his unpredictability has put me on edge more than a little bit.

Now, there is no one at home to know I'm gone, no one to glance at a clock and wonder why I'm not back, six hours after I left. No one to look out to the arena to make sure the horse is still between me and the ground.

I got quite a few good ideas in the comments, then a few more from my mom, who spent several months traveling the country, just her, her horse and dog. She traveled and rode alone every day and learned a few things along the way. By the way, I wanna be just like my mom when I grow up! I admire the guts it takes to just load the horse up and go, no time limit, no firm destination, just travel and enjoy.

1. Let someone know you're going riding and approximately when to expect to hear from you. Then make sure you call them or text them when you get back safely. No point in making someone worry unnecessarily. And you'll feel better knowing SOMEONE knows you're out and about. I know I do.

2. If you're going on a trail ride, leave a map at the barn or on your kitchen table marking the approximate location of where you plan to go and the trails you plan to take, just in case someone needs to go looking for you. That way they'll know where to start instead of standing around wondering which direction you felt inspired to take that day.

3. Carry a cell phone on your person. It's not doing you any good at all attached to your saddle, which is on your horse who is halfway back to the barn by now.

4. Always wear your helmet!

5. Kacy at All Horse Stuff recommended some kind of identification on your horse (name, phone number, address, barn location, etc.) so your wayward/runaway beast can make it home. Another suggested a simple dog tag on the bridle with the horse's name, your name and phone number engraved. I never thought of making sure my horse was ID'd, but it's a darn good idea and one I will do.

6. If you carry an all-purpose tool on your trail rides, carry it on your person, just like your cell phone. Because sometimes, in some situations, you just can't get to the saddle and need the tool RIGHT NOW!

7. Wear fairly brightly colored clothing. You will be much easier to find if you can be seen lying on the ground, in a ditch or in tall weeds/grass.

8. Always be prepared for anything. One of the riding habits I've been trying to instill in my daughter is to always be aware of what's going on around you. She's apt to just go along for the ride and not really pay attention to what's going on in the surroundings. She'll drop the reins and pay attention to everything BUT her horse as she's turning this way and that in the saddle to talk to me or get a better look at something we just passed.

I have been able to avert or prevent many a spook by noticing or spotting something well before my horse does and being ready just in case. If I know it's there, and I know there is a possibility he MIGHT take exception to it, I'm less likely to end up in the dirt. Now, I'm not saying stare at it and get tense and give him a reason to spook, just be aware of it so you can be prepared for it.

Happy, safe trails!


  1. That is really great. I also like the idea of ID'ing the horse. I'd never have thought of it.

  2. Very good idea - I've been meaning to get those tags for my bridle (and saddle too in case the bridle comes off) - easy to get at the pet store - thanks for the reminder!

  3. Horse ID is one of those clever ideas I picked up from endurance. If you're going camping or even trailering out to ride, you can braid a dog tag on a ribbon into a lock of the horse's mane, in case he exits stage left without ANY gear on. It's a lot of trouble for riding from home, but useful if you're away.

  4. Bridle, saddle AND horse...I suppose you can never be too careful when it comes to getting that beast back home safely!

    I wish ID chipping a horse was as common as chipping your dog or cat...but I imagine there aren't very many people who carry those scanners around to make it worth while. :D

  5. I ride by myself quite a bit. Most of the time when I do, it is 8 or 10 miles around the nearby sections along the gravel roads. My family knows my usual route, but I will change it occasionally. Laughing... I am not sure my family would know I'd gone missing unless my horse appeared on the deck by the kitchen!

    A friend who rides by himself leaves a leadrope on the horse and tucks that leadrope in the waistband of his jeans. Note, he doesn't tie it, just tucks it. Figures it will give him just a quick opportunity to grab it if he does have an unexpected dismount but won't hold him up should he miss & the horse bolts. I have never tried it, but made sense to me. He's an ol' cowboy though. I'm sure his theory could be picked apart, but I wouldn't be the one to do it! :)

  6. Hey, just reading some of my old posts on my blog and came across one of your comments. Wondered what you'd been up to! I didn't follow you here from your other blog back when because I'm just not that into horses (much to my mom's dismay!).
    Anyway, just thought I'd say "hi" and glad you're still writing!

    On the topic of this post... had a friend a couple years back go riding on his horse and they took a tumble into an irrigation ditch. He injured his foot so severely he couldn't get back on the horse, but they managed to get back home eventually. When his foot didn't heal after it should have they discovered he had leukemia. He has since recovered and I think I'm missing a few pieces of the original story, but it was providential that he did get hurt or they would probably have found the leukemia too late. So, yay for horse riding in all it's forms! ;) That was supposed to be an uplifting story although I'm not sure it sounds that way!