At Sioux River, we really advocate for hacking out and trail riding with others, but inevitably every rider will at some point ride alone. Riding alone can be a wonderful, peaceful experience that serves to deepen the connection you have with your horse. But whether you're on the trail or in the arena, here are some tips for flying solo safely:
- Wear Your Helmet. My mantra (borrowed from Pony Club) is "every ride, every time." My students know that I don't just talk-the-talk when it comes to helmet wearing. Maybe you're old-school or you fancy yourself a cowboy and a helmet seriously cramps your style. As long as you're an adult, the choice is yours. But when you're riding by yourself it is extra crucial that you have your melon-protector on. Please just do it.
- Let Someone Know Your Ride Time. It's always a good idea to let someone know when you're mounting up and when you expect to be done–just in case something did happen to you. Don't forget to shoot them a quick text message once you're safely off your horse so they don't worry (or send out the emergency personnel to check on you! Hi, Mr. EMT, I'm actually fine...)
- Bring Your Phone and Program Emergency Information Into it. Before you mount up, take the time to enter some emergency contacts into your phone. If you label these as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone, first responders will be able to contact these people if you are injured and unable to communicate. Have 911 on quick-dial as well, so they are just one button away at all times. My favorite summer breeches have a pocket that fits my cellphone perfectly, so I always wear these when I go trail-riding. I've seen some people stash their phones in their saddle-bags or under the pommel of the saddle, but if you fall off and your horse runs away, you're left with no phone. Better to have it on your person.
Know When to Forego a Ride. You may have been excited for a relaxing trail ride when you arrived at the barn, but your horse is on edge and the wind is picking up. Today maybe isn't the best day to experiment with hacking out alone for the first time. Most horses do not like going solo, since they are herd animals and most comfortable with at least one other horse around. Know your horse, their experience with solo riding, and your own comfort level with anxious or naughty behavior before heading out alone.
Thankfully, David is usually around the farm for most of the day every day, and he does a fantastic job of keeping an eye on anyone who it out there riding. Even so, please take responsibility for your own well-being and safety. Thanks and have fun!