In Part One of this series, I discussed several suggestions about how to stay safe while riding. A Facebook group, Aging Horsewomen, provided most of that material. That group boasts nearly 50,000 members from all over the world. Recently, I posted a question asking the ladies how much they thought about their safety when riding? If they did think about their safety, what did they do to try and stay safe?
My initial post generated over 200 responses in less than two hours. Because helmets and vests have apparently been a serious topic of dissension in the past, admins of the group have decreed no talking about helmets. I had interpreted the rule to be “no preaching about helmets” so in my initial question, I asked respondents to merely state “I wear a helmet” or “I don’t wear a helmet.” I specifically requested no preaching.
The thread was hot, and folks were posting some amazing thoughts about how to stay safe. I wrote last week’s blog incorporating much of the material. When I went to bed that night, people were still responding. However, when I awoke the next morning, the admin had deleted the thread. Apparently, the admin had seen posts that seemed to her to be preaching. While I did not interpret any of the posts that I had read as out of line, clearly that was not my call to make. I don’t know what was posted after I went to bed. For a period of time, I was “muted” and unable to post on the group at all. When I was reinstated, I was allowed to repost my question; however, I was specifically instructed to advise responders not to mention helmets.
I did repost my initial question. This time, however, I received nine responses. I am not certain why so few people chose to respond the second time. What I am certain of is the fact that helmets and vests are apparently a gnarly subject! I view the wearing or not wearing of safety equipment as a totally personal choice. You get to decide what risks you take and if/when/how you mitigate those risks. I began wearing my helmet when I started taking my daughter riding and I made her wear a helmet. Now, I feel naked without it; additionally, I am about to order an air vest.
Although I no longer can access the incredible comments from the first thread, I remember most of it. One oft-repeated suggestion was always have your cell phone with you. Many folks made a point of stating that your phone should be on YOU, not on your saddle! On the other hand, your phone should not be a source of distraction… you should stay focused on the horse and your ride. Texting and driving is a bad idea no matter what your source of transportation might be. Sadly, I don’t always practice what I preach… Spend the time and money to learn basic first aid, both horse and human. Carry first aid products with you.
Understand horse language and pay attention to what your horse is telling you. I find this to be very true when it comes to dogs as well. If I read a story about a family dog that “out of the blue” attacked a child or family member, I wonder… did anyone really understand the signals the dog was likely sending before a crisis occurred? Not always, but most of the time there are warning signs in my opinion. Understand your horse and how he thinks and reacts, so you are better able to handle the unexpected.
Although I mentioned this last week, it bears repeating… if you are riding alone, tell someone when you leave and check-in when you return.
Recently, I took Finn out for our first solo ride. I chose a morning when I had workmen working on my house. I told them the route I planned to take, and instructed them to come find me if Finn returned without me! Our ride that day was a summary of all the suggestions I have made. Finn was contrary and obstinate from the first moment I mounted him. He earned 15 minutes in the round pen. The workmen needed me, so we dealt with that. I mounted again, and he was still uncooperative. Back in the round pen… Finally, he was willing to do as I asked in the drylot. Then and only then did we take off down the road. He had two mini-tantrums, but all in all he handled himself well. I had my phone on my belt, my medical tag on the other side of my belt, and you can bet I paid attention on the ride! STAY SAFE!