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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 9, 2002
    Northern NJ

    Default What's you plan for summoning help in an emergency?

    I am not as "serious" a trail rider as many people on the BB, but I like to ride out as often as possible. I go to state parks, trail systems, etc and only for a few hours at a time... hardly the backwoods, but still isolated enough that I sometimes go for a while without running into another trail user. I hardly ever ride alone, but I still worry about emergencies... from stupid mishaps (I fall off, my horse takes off, and I'm stranded on foot) to injuries and worse. I don't usually know the area well enough to accurately describe where I am to a stranger, and cell phone service is often poor. If something happens I can't get back on my horse and ride out, I'll be in trouble.

    Anyone else worry about these things? I've been trail riding since I was a kid, and I work in emergency services... I'm not a scaredy-cat by any means, but I do wonder if maybe I should be taking some sort of precautions (I always carry my cell phone, but that only helps if you have service... and know where you are ). A friend sent me this SPOT locator ad, but I'm actually thinking of getting one... It works off of GPS and satellites and will call 911 or a friend/family if activated. Anyone try this? What do you think of it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2007
    Illinois, USA


    I have one of those cell phone holders that straps to your leg, so that if I fall off, I still have my cell phone with me.

    As for my horse, I put a dog tag on all my saddles, with my name and phone number. So goodness forbid we get seperated, whoever finds her has my contact info right there.
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 7, 2005


    #1 Most important: Tell someone where you're going and roughly when to expect you back. That way if you fall off and can't get home and have no cell phone reception, at least someone will know to start looking for you.

    #2 Cell phone on self (not on saddle)

    #3 Identification on your person AND on your horse. I use the dog tags from Boomerang Tags that lets me engrave on both sides. One is my horses name and MY phone number, the other side is my barn address (not my home) and my BO's phone number. Nearly indestructible plastic and very easy to spot on my saddle and bridle.

    I keep the local Ranger Station phone number in my cell phone just in case I lose my horse. I also keep my vet and my BO's number in my cell phone. You might know these numbers *by heart*, but in an emergency it might be a different story.
    If you cannot set a good example, at least serve as a terrible warning....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 14, 2007


    In addition to the ideas already given, I carry two luggage tags -- one snapped on to the saddle, and one snapped to my belt loop. The tags carry a slip of paper on which I've written all kinds of information -- my name, emergency contacts for me, for the horse, my doctor, my vet, allergies, etc. I have a dog tag snapped on to the horse's bridle with basic ID, but the luggage tags provide a way to provide more extensive information. I also carry a GPS that gives my exact location at any given time.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep. 25, 2005
    The Land of the Frozen


    Dog tags on saddle and bridle with my cell and home numbers.

    Cell phone on my leg.

    I make sure at least 1 person knows what trail I'll be on, and what time I'm expected home.

    I have a GPS but half the time that thing doesn't work either.

    I ride with a friend whenever possible.

    I think it's very important to train your horse to stay with you when you fall off. You can use flying dismount training for this. I've been dumped off my arab a few times.....but she never runs off. She sticks right there, even if I lose the reins. So if I were to have a broken leg or something, hopefully I'd be able to get back on and ride out. Of course if the injuries are more severe, then you could be in real trouble.

    I always carry ON MY PERSON - a fanny pack of some sort that has a protein bar and pain killers. I figure I could take a few tylenol and hobble out if needed.

    But seriously - when you trail ride, you have to just accept the fact that there is only so much you can do to protect yourself, and as for the rest, it's between you and the gods.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 9, 2002
    Northern NJ


    Thanks I do carry my cell phone on my person... but I know I don't get service everywhere. There's an entire town in my county (with 2 big state parks that I don't usually ride in... too rocky) where NO ONE gets cell service. There are many more areas with spotty service... It's annoying.

    Telephone numbers for ranger stations is a good idea... I never thought of that. I have numbers for all my vets and the local police, because I use my cell as my primary phone.

    I'm not as worried about losing the horse as I am about getting too badly hurt to walk out (assuming I know how to get out... it's harder on foot and things look different, IMO). I just figure if I should come off and say, break my ankle, with or without the horse I'm in trouble. I have a cute, safe, but dopey TB... he's not like my old horse who would do whatever he could to help me get back up on his back (I came off him MANY time on the trails as a teenager... horse was a saint). This one is likely to meet me back at the trailer!

    How do you train them to stay with you?? I don't do flying dismounts, and I wouldn't want to . I can barely get on from the ground (seriously, I keep a 3 step mounting block in my trailer). My horse isn't a full-time trail horse, he's supposed to be an eventer, and he also does some h/j stuff... he's safe and fun to ride out, but that's about it. I haven't come off him on the trail so far... in the ring he tends to stay put, the one time I fell outside the ring (grass parking area at a horse show) he slipped and we BOTH fell, and he took off. I WAS hurt, but we were in a populated area, so someone caught him and came to help me.

    Any comments on the SPOT thing? ( Any drawbacks, besides the price? $100/year doesn't sound too bad to me, and I'm sure it would be easy to find a belt holder for it. I don't know how to use a regular GPS, except for driving directions.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul. 21, 2005


    I've never heard of that device. It sounds like a great idea, though. Think of how many places we all ride where there is no cell phone service. It would certainly make getting help so much easier and quicker, even if we are not alone. I'm certainly going to check into it more. $99/yr is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
    Horse'in around in Upstate NY

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 20, 2000
    According to legend, lurking in a dark alley.

    Default In a fanny pack ~

    In addition to what was mentioned, I have the GPS feature
    activated on my cell phone.

    A police whistle is a good idea.

    If you are really far away from civilization where you ride, a flare gun might not be a bad idea.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 28, 2000
    Woodville, Virginia



    I just ordered the "Spot" today! I'll post again here once I've gotten it, activated it, and had a chance to play with it. We trail ride frequently in Shenandoah National Park, which is in the mountains and pretty heavily wooded in most areas, so I'll be curious to see how well the "Track Progress" feature works.

    I also ordered a Road ID ( for both myself (in pink!) and my husband (in blue). Many thanks to jacksmom for that idea! An ID for the horse is a good idea, too, though.

    And as Auventura Two said, let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.

    I had an incident last summer where I *almost* needed assistance on the trail. Fortunately it didn't come to that, but because I had planned ahead, I was prepared to deal with the situation. I decided to go for a ride alone in SNP one afternoon along several trails that I hadn't ridden before, and before I left the barn, I left my mother a note in her house stating where I was going, the route I intended to ride, the phone number of a friend that lives in the area (where I park sometimes), and stated that if I wasn't back by a certain time, to send out the posse.

    When I arrived (unannounced--she had given me blanket permission to park there) with my rig at the end of my friend's driveway, I wrote HER a note, stating the route I intended to ride, my mother's and husband's phone numbers, and that if I wasn't back before dark, to please start looking for me.

    Particularly when I ride alone, I try to remember to carry a few key items: a small bottle of water, a high-protein snack, a knife, my cell phone, a halter & leadrope, and a few other odds and ends. I made sure I had those items before setting out.

    The trail I had planned to ride was as follows: the Mt. Marshall Trail to the Bluff Trail, then down the Harris Hollow Trail to Harris Hollow Road, then back to Mt. Marshall Road (where my rig was parked). I had been up the Mt. Marshall Trail before, but hadn't ridden the other two trails.

    I was having a lovely ride, just Zorro and me and the trees, the trail, the mountains...about halfway through the Bluff Trail, I encountered a kind of scary spot. The trail went along...well...a bluff (go figure) where there was a lovely view (i.e., not many trees in between you and the drop off!). On the left was the drop off, on the right was the bluff continuing up--sort of a "wall", not vertical, but not rideable. The path was about 6 feet wide or so. I came to a spot that was like a big stone drop jump; maybe 2 1/2 or 3 feet down...enough height to be a bit intimidating with the drop off on the left, particularly since on the left side of the stone drop jump, there was sort of a slanty rock jumble going down the steep hillside. I actually got off and led Zorro down it, keeping him on the uphill side. If someone is going to go off the edge, I'd rather it be ME than HIM (some people might argue with that, but whatever...). I am afraid enough of heights that my first thought after getting past that spot was, "I do NOT want to do that again." Keep in mind that I don't consider myself a brave rider per se, but I do ride out quite a bit and don't consider myself a HUGE coward, especially when I'm on Zorro, whom I trust quite a bit.

    So I breathe a sigh of relief...too soon. A little while later, I came to a spot where it appeared that there had been a couple of man-made stone channels cut across the path to divert water. They were maybe a foot wide, a couple of feet (?) deep, and partially obscured by brush. In other words, they were perfect "leg breakers" that were hidden in the brush. I just let Zorro look at them, and he stepped over them fine, but they did give me pause for thought.

    So I continue down the Harris Hollow Trail, relaxing after two slightly rattling incidents, and I'm once again enjoying the scenery; until I encounter a tree down across the trail. Too high to jump, too low to go under. No sweat...I look for a place to go around. I look uphill to my right. Too rough, too steep, too rocky, too thick. I looked downhill to my left; same thing. So I backtrack to look for a place further back to go around. Same thing.

    Keep in mind that I've done my share of bushwhacking while foxhunting, particularly when whipping in and hunting hounds. So I consider "paths" to be a luxury. However, I've also learned the HARD way to eyeball things really well before diving headfirst (sometimes literally) into deadfall, rocks, vines, swamps, old wire fences, etc.). I am unable to find a route around the tree. I do NOT want to backtrack over the legbreakers AND the stone drop jump (which would now be a big uphill bank jump) on the side of the cliff.

    I whip out my cell coverage. So I decided to try to backtrack a bit towards Skyline Drive and find a higher, clearer spot in an effort to get some signal. My plan was to try calling jacksmom's handy and ever-so-handsome husband (they live just a couple of miles from where I was) and ask him to rescue me with his magic chainsaw! Can't get enough signal to get the call to go through. So I tried texting my husband to get him to call them...still not enough signal.

    So I was starting to get a little bit panicky, not sure what to do. I *could* have crossed the leg-breakers and gone up to Skyline Drive to try to get someone to bring my rig up there or get a saw from a park ranger, but there was no guarantee that I wouldn't enounter come other obstacle before getting there. I decided that if worse came to worse, Zorro and I would go sit by the tree, sip on our water, and eat peanuts until my mother or my friend sent help. My biggest fear was that the bears would start moving around as it got closer to dusk, and that they'd spook Zorro while we were waiting.

    So I got back to my nemesis, the fallen tree, and stared at it for 5 or 10 minutes. I decided to make one last-ditch effort to get through this on my own. After eyeballing the tree, I thought that if I stripped Zorro's saddle, removed his bridle, and put his halter on, I MIGHT be able to coax him to squish UNDER the tree. I could then tie him up on the other side, retrieve my tack, and be on my way again.

    The tree was forked where it fell across the path, so there was a "step over" and a "go under" in the same spot to consider. There was also considerable brush on the other side that obscured the footing. I untacked Zorro, put his halter on, and crawled under the tree so that I was on one side of the tree and Zorro was on the other (thank goodness for 12' leads). Zorro was very suspicious of the footing, so I cleared away the brush. He ooched closer so that his head was under the tree. The way the tree was forked, the highest part of the "go under" was also the highest part of the "step over". If the horse moved towards the lower part of the "step over", he was also at the lower part of the "go under". So I had to place Zorro judiciously in terms of where I asked him to step through this tree.

    At first, Zorro was NOT INTERESTED in joining me on the other side. He looked at my like, "WHAT? I can't fit through THERE!" I happened to have brought a rope halter with me, which puts a bit more poll pressure on a horse than a flat nylon one--after a bit of "encouragement" via poll pressure, Zorro decided that perhaps he COULD fit through the tree after all. He very carefully, cautiously, and calmly stepped through the tree with LITERALLY MAYBE a half-inch or at the most, 1 inch to spare above his withers (his head was dropped almost to the ground). After making it through to the other side, he immediately began eating the leaves off of said tree!

    After taking a few minutes to quell my welling tears and hug the buckskin pony quite hard around the neck, I tied him to my nemesis, crawled under and retrieved my tack, and went on my merry way.

    We encountered on more annoyance along the way--a hairpin turn in the curve going downhill, covered by a flat, slick rock that slanted downhill and had water running over it. I LITERALLY said out loud to Zorro, "OK, I have had about ENOUGH of THIS trail!" Fortunately, he had borium on all heels, but still...I got off and led him over that spot so that he wouldn't have to worry about balancing MY weight as well as his.

    While this may sound like a disaster of a ride, I actually learned that being prepared DOES pay off--in terms of knowing that someone else knows where you are and can send help if necessary, knowing that you are prepared to NOT be back as quickly as you originally thought (i.e., having food and water with you), and having a couple pieces of emergency equipment (the halter) just in case.

    Neither the Road ID nor the Spot would have been necessary in this instance; although I supposed that if I had had the Spot, I COULD have activated the "Send Help (But Not 911)" button to notify my chosen point of contact that I needed assistance, but that it wasn't an emergency.

    The moral to this VERY long story is that in addition to high-tech devices, the simplest of actions and preparations can go a long way towards ensuring your safe and hassle-free return. Never hurts to have high-tech and low-tech equipment, and to have friends in both high and low places! (The park rangers up on Skyline Drive, and my friends down in "The Holler"!)

    I'll let you know how I like the Spot. It should arrive here in Virginia on either Wednesday or Thursday, and I should have time to play with it this weekend.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 9, 2002
    Northern NJ


    Jennifer... Whew! You're a braver woman than I! I would have turned around well before you did. Your horse sounds like such a good boy! Can't wait to hear how you like the SPOT... I think REI has the best price ($150), not sure if it's too late...

    I'm going to put the SPOT on my "to-buy" list (as the non-essential item item budget allows, lol). I'm also going to order a few ID tags for myself and my horses (and maybe a RoadID for me!)... the ones from are cheap and really nice! I need to get a dedicated set of trail tack this year... that's the reason I haven't put tags on anything so far... it doesn't look quite right on my dressage saddle and schooling bridle

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 5, 2002
    way out west


    I came off my horse last fall on a new trail, near the top of a mountain, where there was no cell service. I was riding with one friend. Fortunately I wasn't hurt badly enough to keep me from remounting and making it down the mountain. I did end up in the ER for several staples behind my ear.

    In retrospect my friend and I decided that we would have been smart to have one other person with us when trying out a new trail in rugged terrain. If I'd been badly hurt, one could have stayed with me while the other made it down to the truck and trailer, and gone for help. I had nightmares for a few nights thinking about what could have happened, and how I would have handled being left on the mountain overnight while my friend went for help. I had a good first aid kit, was dressed appropriately, had matches, food, water...but the thought of being left alone was pretty sobering. And what if I had been seriously hurt, not just unable to ride out, but really hurt? What's the best plan in that scenario???

    I don't want to think about it, but realistically we all probably ought to have a plan. Does anyone use a satellite phone?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar. 14, 2007


    outside of the 'techno' devises... if I'm riding alone, I let home know where I'm going, when, and call once there, before riding out, and then, once back as well, before hauling out again. ---Nothing fancy, but I do know what you mean in re: even state park riding and cell phone signals if you're alone.
    When I leave the farm, I leave a note on the board (if I haven't notified the BO already) also mentioning where I'm headed and when I hope to be back.
    Anything can fail, I far as signal, batteries, your own abilities if injured.......but someone always knowing where you are, and how long you plan to be there, can certainly be a starting point.
    "Indecision may or may not be my problem"
    --Jimmy Buffett

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