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Stranger Safety on the Trail

By Angela Mannick

Spring 2012

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner! You and your horse have either been cooped up all winter indoors or unable to ride at all due to the six foot snow drift that never seems to want to melt! But now the birds are chirping, the grass is turning green and flowers are blooming everywhere! You and your horse are itching to get out and stretch your legs!

There is nothing like going to the barn on a warm, sunny spring day and saddling up for a trail ride just to celebrate the fact that spring is here again! This year while you are out on the trails and you're soaking up the sun and aroma of fresh spring flowers, make sure you have also prepared yourself for all the necessary trail safety. We're not just talking about watching for poisonous snakes and unsure footing. Believe it or not, women and youth on horse back can be easy targets for mugging and kidnapping. Even on your big ol' horse!

Here are a few safety measures to consider especially if you are riding alone on a trail.

Always let a parent, friend, trainer or neighbor know where you are going, how long you plan to be out, and who is going with you or if you will be by yourself.

When strangers approach, listen to the hair on the back of your neck! Turn and leave. You are faster on your horse than on the ground.

YOUR HORSE WILL NOT RUN THEM OVER! We spend a lot of time training our horses to respect our personal space. Never assume your horse will take charge and knock over a stranger to save the day. It is most likely that your horse will actually hesitate and stop for people on the trail.

Turning and running is always a better plan than charging your horse past a threatening person. Trying to charge past someone actually makes you an easier target for them to grab the bridal as you try to go by and gain control over you.

If someone approaches you and grabs your leg, don't make your leg stiff to fight them off or try to kick them away; doing so actually makes you lose your balance. Once you lose your balance, you are an easy target to pull from the saddle. Your best defense is to stay centered in the saddle, keep your leg relaxed at your horse's side and turn your horse away from the stranger using your horse's hind quarters to knock the stranger away. Continue to pivot quickly until the stranger is knocked away and then get out of there fast!

If you are at your trailer or on foot and someone approaches you, use your horse's hind end as a shield. Keep your horse's hind end pointed at the stranger and always keep your horse between you and the stranger. If they are approaching you in a threatening manner, start backing your horse into the person. No one likes that end of a horse especially if they are unfamiliar with horses. Your horse will sense the stress level in your body and voice. Sooner or later if you continue to back your horse into them in a high stressed way, your horse will kick at them feeling threatened. Whatever you do, don't stop using your horse as a shield until the person retreats and leaves. Even if they back away, don't try to mount your horse. This will only offer a window of opportunity for you to let your guard down.

It's always a good idea to keep a cell phone in a saddlebag or pocket on silent while riding. Help can be just a phone call away!

Take into consideration these tips on your next outing on horseback. Share them with your friends. They just might save the day!

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