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Trail Ride Survival Guide

Even if you haven’t had a big wreck with your horse, you’ve imagined what can happen out on the trail. You’ve felt your stomach tie in knots as you headed up a steep hill, passed through deep water, came upon wildlife or bikers or worse, seen a friend slip or fall with their horse. Those moments of fear aren’t bad and shouldn’t be dismissed says Julie Goodnight natural horsemanship trainer and host of Horse Master with Julie Goodnight. “Fear is a natural response,” she says. “It can keep you alive. With horses, it’s always important to think ‘what is the worst-case scenario?’ If you know what can happen, you can make plans to avoid it.” 

Prepping for a trail ride is no different and there are some things we can do before our ride to be better prepared if something challenging happens.   A simple check list before you head out is a great way to be more prepared for an unexpected event.   

Before You Head Out on a Trail Ride:

  1. Leave word with someone where you are going and when you will return
  2. Slather on the sun screen and insect repellent (make sure your horse is comfortable too)
  3. Put your cell phone, pocket knife, a protein bar, and card with your name, emergency contacts and any medical information that first responders may need on your person (not on your horse, which you may become separated from)
  4. Buckle-up with an ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet
  5. Attach some form of ID on your horse with your contact information (a luggage tag or dog tag works great)
  6. Look over your tack and horse one last time before mounting up

Now if you’ve read through this list and think “that makes sense BUT…..I have a safe, well-trained horse and don’t need to add a helmet to my trail gear”, Goodnight lends this wisdom, “You’re in an uncontrolled environment with unmanaged footing. Even the best-trained horse isn’t guaranteed not to slip or fall. Where I trail ride, there’s more of a chance that your head would hit a rock if you do fall off on the trail. It just isn’t worth the risk.” Adding a helmet to your trail gear is an effective way to prevent a severe head injury or death and Troxel has a lot of really great helmet options available to trail riders. 

A recent study by the journal Neurological Focus found that horseback riding is the leading cause of sport-related traumatic brain injuries, ahead of football, rugby, and skiing…let that sink in.  Additionally, an estimated 70,000 people are treated in emergency rooms because of horse related injuries every year.

Our brain is one body part that is not easily fixed if damaged! ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmets provide a highly effective means of absorbing much of the impact with the ground or objects such as a rock or a horse’s hoof.  Helmets are certified for their ability to absorb energy, cover your skull and stay properly in place during a fall. Cowboys in the past were paid to spend their days in the saddle and evolved much of their gear to protect themselves and their longevity by wearing gloves, bandanas, chaps, and using tapaderos.  We can do the same by adding helmets to our trail riding gear.    

Troxel has worked tirelessly over the past decade to create several western style helmets with visors that offer sun protection, large vents to increase air circulation and various materials and graphics on helmets to make them more appealing to trail riders.  Troxel also has many different types of fit and comfort systems all packaged in a lightweight and comfortable helmet for long hours in the saddle.  You can find a Troxel retailer or browse trail riding helmet styles at www.troxelhelmets.com  

Ultimately wearing a helmet is a personal choice but it can be the most important piece of your trail riding gear.  Also, remember when you’re back from your ride—call your friend, spouse or kids to check in and let them know you made it back safe and sound.

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