My 13yo daughter is a good rider. She always wears a helmet, and she is careful and follows safety rules. She respects her horse, and has a suitable mount. And she carries her cell phone, and never goes more than 1/4" mile down the dirt road from our house. NO through traffic.
So why do I have such a hard time letting go of the reins? Why can't I just let her enjoy her quiet ride alone? She has only been gone half an hour, barely time to meander down past the fields. Still, I find myself reaching for the phone to check on her, even though her grandmother is on the porch next door and can see her from there should anything happen. LOL
We rode all over the place when I was that age, my younger sister and I. On crazy horses, in traffic, to the store for icecream, after dark, no helmets, you name it.
She was just starting to venture further from home last year and we lost her old horse. She is now riding an OTTB mare that is as near to bombproof as you can find. Really takes care of her rider. Just a little fast sometimes. But very sane.
Its not really fair to her, I know. So how do I get comfortable letting her explore the trails on her own?
Make a game of it. Set up check points for her to call you. You tell her the elapsed time. Points off for too fast or too slow. (you ride & time the course before hand at a safe & sane speed)
You get regular check in's and she thinks its cool.
Cool til she's 14, at least!
How about starting with the 20 minute call, but next day you have to wait til 23 minutes, then 27 minutes, then 30 minutes - hey, she's already back! Practice letting her go longer and longer without calling, and busy yourself with something challenging that occupies your body (like dishes, lawn mowing, chopping wood, etc.)
Think about it - phone calls do not prevent accidents - in fact, your call means she has to take her hands off the reins and stop paying 100% attention to her riding and surroundings.
As an adult rider my safety strategy is: a) always let someone know which trail I am taking and approximate duration b) say hello to the various farmers and neighbors along the way, so I leave evidence of where I was at what time.
With the very short rides she is doing, she should be fine with the same strategy. The most important thing is to know what route she is taking, in case you need to go out looking. All else is in God's hands, really (and I'm not religious!).