Trail riding comfort and safety begins before the horses are even loaded onto the trailer at the start of your journey to the trailhead. Along with the usual items such as spare tires, jumper cables, water, flashlights, and tool kits, you should also pack a comprehensive first aid kit designed to deal with any mishaps that may arise during the course of your adventure. Although most trail rides occur without incident, proper preparation makes the difference between a miserable day and a mild inconvenience on the trail. Here’s what you’ll need to circumvent possible problems.
For the Trailer:
Always carry at least 20 gallons of water per horse in the event that your vehicle breaks down in an area that doesn’t offer easy access to drinkable water. A bucket and sponge provides the necessary equipment for washing out scrapes or small wounds that occur during the trip. Other items to be included are extra horse blankets, halters, lead ropes, a manure fork, trash bags, and fresh hay and straw. You should also have the telephone number of your veterinarian programmed into your cell phone as well as written down in waterproof ink on paper kept in your vehicle’s glove box or other safe place. Your trailer should also be equipped with a small equine first aid kit that includes antiseptic wash, antiseptic swabs designed for use in situations where water is scarce or unavailable, bandages, fly spray to keep pests off wounds, and pre-packed wound dressings. These items may also come in handy when you’re on the trail.
On the Trail:
A foot pick is probably the best basic tool you can pack for a trail ride. Loose stones and other objects that become embedded in the bottoms of hooves can result in significant pain and even injury if they are not properly removed in a timely fashion. A sharp pair of wire cutters allows riders to quickly cut horses loose in the event they somehow become entangled in stray wire, Tweezers are indispensable for the removal of the various types of stickers encountered on many trail rides, and you can use a pair of pliers to remove a nail from a horse’s hooves if necessary.
A tub or tube of zinc oxide can be used to soothe sunburn on areas such as the nose and mouth regions that aren’t protected from UV rays by a layer of hair. It’s also instrumental in protecting and healing minor nicks and cuts that don’t really require full-on antiseptic dressings. A small package of Epson salts will come in handy if your horse somehow develops an infection during the course of the trail ride, and you can purchase small packs of eye wash specifically for horses to use if your horse happens to get dust, a bug, or any other object in its eye that causes irritation. Bring along at least one clean pair of leg wraps in case you run into a narrow portion of the trail to protect your horse’s legs from stickers, sharp twigs, poison oak or ivy, and other vegetative hazards.
Having a booklet on hand detailing basic equine first aid procedures takes the guesswork out of dealing with common emergency situations, so be sure to carry one in an easily accessible location. Always keep your first aid kit on your person during a trail ride, such as in a small day back or pouch, so that you have access to if you somehow become separated from your horse.
Always have a loud whistle with you on trail rides. Chances are good that you’ll be going out of cell phone range on at least some portion of the ride, and a whistle can help alert others if you become injured or otherwise need assistance.
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