Ok…be prepared for a very boring entry. Ready? Here we go:
I’ve fallen off Her Royal Highness more times than I can count. Most of those times I have landed on my feet. There have been two times I can recall my head lightly bumping the ground resulting in getting a new helmet and one time where I bruised my butt pretty badly. Thankfully though with all the tumbles I have taken I’ve been able to get back on and continue riding. This is really important since the majority of my “emergency dismounts” have occurred out on the trail far from the trailer. It would have been bad indeed if something more serious had occurred.
Since we are on the topic though, I’d like to take a bit to discuss riding safety beyond the typical “wear a helmet” conversation. (Seriously, though. Wear your helmet.)
I ride alone most of the time. Not because I am that antisocial, but because I like to ride at the butt crack of dawn or late at night and normal people seem to want to ride at a more cozy time such as 10 am or 2 pm. Go figure. My background is in trail riding including endurance and hunter paces, both of which occur at speed over varied terrain, and that meant that I needed to condition along the same lines.
When out on the trail alone, especially on days I wanted to get 20+ miles in, there were some key things that I always made sure I did to make it as safe as possible:
- Wear my helmet
- Make sure all my tack fit Gem appropriately and was in good functioning condition
- Have my cell phone on and charged
- Have a “grounds person” aka Dusty around or if he isn’t able to be present then create a plan and stick to it. If I can’t stick to it, then update him via text
The first three are self explanatory, but the last I feel is very important and very often ignored. Just like a lot of cross country places required a grounds person for you to jump, when I went out alone on the trail I always tried to make it at a time Dusty and Wyatt could come and either hike or play in a creek/mud pit while I rode. This way, even if I was 10 miles from the trailer, if I got hurt (and remained conscious) I could have texted or called him and he would have been with me in a few minutes. While I never needed to take advantage of that, it made me feel much more comfortable knowing he was at the trail head.
One time I was riding a new system and got horribly lost. Gem and I were 15 miles into the ride and turning around was possible, but would have put us at 30 miles without food or water and that idea made me a bit sick. Thankfully Dusty was there hiking with Wyatt and the dogs and when I hit a service road, I called him and he looked at the large trail map (the paper version I had with me was awful) at the trail head and was able to talk me to an access road which he drove down to meet me.
I know this isn’t always possible to have someone waiting for you to finish. In that case, I always pre planned my ride. I then told Dusty which trails I planned to take in which direction (red going clockwise to green then back to red going counter clockwise etc…), the length I was planning on, and the time frame I hoped to finish in. I then texted him once mounted so he would know I was off and going.
I’ve read so many complaints about how this isn’t practical because the trails are sometimes blocked or you change you mind or your horse isn’t up for it so you go a different route. All lame excuses for sure. I mean, we all have cell phones, right? It takes 15 seconds to send a text saying “not feeling it, changed from green to yellow” or “trail blocked have to re route to blue”. Sure your person may not be sitting on pins and needles to read it, but if you fail to return in a reasonable amount of time, at least they have a clue where to look for you.
I’m new to the entire arena based riding, but I’ve still kept a lot of my paranoia with me. I don’t ride at home when nobody else is around. I take Dusty with me when I ride at the barn outside of a lesson. I no longer feel the need to text him my every move, but I do make sure he knows what my plans are even when I’m going to a lesson or out with a friend. I feel safer knowing that if something were to happen at least he would know where I was and when to start worrying.