Be Proactive with Your Safety on the Trail !
By: Dr. Rick Norton*
EquiMedic USA, Inc.
Every time you start down a trail you should consider that you are going into no-man’s-land. Whether you are out for the day, a few hours, a week or more, you do not know what lies ahead. And to be safe, you had better be prepared for the worst.
All trail riders, no matter what the scenario or circumstances have pretty much just left one of three safe havens: the barn, the trailer, or camp. You don’t know what you are going to run into around the next bend in the trail.
The enemy might be the weather, the terrain, other horses and trail riders, wild animals, nature, or just plain dumb bad luck. Help will surely not be right at hand, unless it rides with you. The old saying: “Don't Ever Leave Home Without It” should be all trail rider’s motto.
The “It” should be a well organized and planned first aid kits; one with emergency products for both the horse and rider. The unexpected emergency could be you, a family member, a trail riding partner, or it could be a person or horse you find along the trail, in need of help.
Think of it as a gamble – the more miles, hours and trails you ride, the higher the chance that lady luck will turn on you and leave you in need of help. It could be a simple thing like a bee sting, or sunburn; or it could be a puncture wound, on you or your horse.
Pulled muscles, sore tendons, scrapes, cuts, and abrasions – any thing can happen while out riding with Mother Nature. The only way to handle any of these situations is if you have planned for it ahead of time.
Consider having simple things with you, such as a flashlight, cell phone, compass or Global Positioning System (GPS) or map, and a hoof pick. These simple items can go a long way towards protecting your and your investment in your equine partner. Other necessities should include bandaging, tourniquets, and antibiotic ointments for injuries, and a blood abatement product (bloodstop).
Often when preparing first aid supplies for a trail ride people have a tendency to either pack supplies for just themselves or just their horse. Remember you are just as apt to be hurt as your horse is, so don't forget first aid needs of both horse and rider.
When facing an emergency away from your trailer, camp, or barn you may have to use a little ingenuity or creativeness along with your first aid kit supplies. For instance, when facing a major bleeding situation, and the dressings, bloodstop and tourniquet in your kits are not enough to handle the situation, ad lib ! Use other items that are at hand such as your saddle pad or a jacket or shirt for wound dressing, compression bandaging or a buffer zone to further keep dirt and debris away from an open wound.
Another key to being prepared for a trail ride is knowing ahead of time what you are likely to encounter on the trail. This includes knowing what the ground conditions entail, what the weather will be like, the kind of wildlife you are likely to see, and even how many other people are out on those trails. If you are likely to be riding on hard and rocky ground conditions you should have your horse shod for example.
You should also know ahead of time if you will have to make water crossings and know how your horse will handle it. Be aware of the type of wildlife in the area and how your horses will react.
For instance there are a few State and National Parks throughout the country that have bison in them, and many horses, even horses very used to cattle can have adverse reactions to bison. Animals which horses have not encountered before can often be very startling for them so be prepared for your horse's reactions.
Also take into consideration when planning your needs for a tail ride what the duration of a ride will be. A ride of only a few hours will be very different from a ride where you plan to be gone overnight or even possibly for days.
The longer you plan to be gone from “home” with your horse, the more you should have packed for safety needs. Again the longer you are out riding the higher your odds are of having something happen. Also having simple things packed like water-proof matches, a safety strobe light that can be seen from a distance, and even some emergency blankets can go a long way towards helping you in case of emergency.
No one can say with any certainty what will or will not and what can and cannot happen out on the trial. Over the years you hear a lot of stories about things that do go wrong, and as the saying goes, "if it can go wrong, it will". The best thing anyone can do is be prepared.
Before you go out on a trail ride sit down with your trail riding companions and/or family and spend some time just going over together what could happen. Together you can make a list of what things you should do in response to various situations as well as what things you should have for those various situations. By being prepared your response to an emergency will be swifter and any resulting injuries will be minimized.
You know your horse and your companions so you are the one who can best say how they might react to different scenarios. In many years around horses I have found that the people who are prepared ahead of time, both mentally and physically, are the ones who have fewer things go wrong. They are prepared and are more proactive about stopping accidents before they can even happen.
EquiMedic USA, Inc. makes a very handy Horn Bag Trail Riding Kit which has four large storage compartments, an interior divider, an exterior flashlight pocket and an exterior Velcro strap to hang your hoof pick. This kit comes complete with a water suspended bubble compass, that won’t be thrown off by the metal in your saddle horn; and features 35 different products and 130 total items for horse and rider.
EquiMedic's trail riding kit is rated to service from one to three horses and riders, and has sixteen specific human products in it. This horn bag first aid kits also comes with attached D-rings for securing the kit on to a saddle that doesn't feature a saddle horn.
Future trail riding kits from EquiMedic USA, Inc., will include a Medium Trail Riding Kit which will be a cantle bag, and rated to service from four to ten horses and riders; and a very specifically designed Large Trail Riding saddle bag kit with many well designed storage features, which will be rated for from 11 to 18 horses and riders. The Medium and Large Trail Riding Kits will be attachable to each other to service even larger groups of trail riders, when attached to each other, and combined.
Check out the total of twelve complete horse and rider first aid kits available from EquiMedic USA, Inc., by checking in to their web site: www.equimedic.com; or calling their toll free number: 866.211.1269; or look for them in the catalogs or web sites of your favorite tack and equine supplies retailer.
*Dr. Rick Norton has a life time of equine experience and operates his own equine exclusive veterinary practice near Lincoln, NE. Dr. Norton has been a competitive trail rider, as well as an official judge for competitive trail rides (NATRC) around the Midwest. He heads up the technical team at EquiMedic USA, Inc., the world leader in the design and development of horse and rider first aid kits: www.equimedic.com