Most horse enthusiasts are glad to see summer’s heat and bugs change to fall's cooler temperatures and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, this time of year is also prime hunting season! While rare, accidents can occur, and have occurred, where horses have been shot in their pastures or even while being ridden in the woods. A few simple things can help prevent a tragedy, and keep you and your mount safe during hunting season.
On The Farm:
Take steps to help identify your horse as a domesticated animal, rather than as a potential target:
1. Avoid turning animals out during periods of poor visibility; during foggy weather or low light conditions such as at dawn or dusk.
2. If you can, keep your horses and other livestock in pens or pastures close to your home, rather than far afield. Keeping them near you also helps you keep an eye on them in case one or more accidentally gets loose. the worst thing that could happen during hunting season is that they could get through the fence line and gravitate to an unmarked field or even the woods.
3. Place signs along your fence line stating that it is "Private Property" or "No Hunting."
4. Painting the tops of fence posts fluorescent orange can also help to alert hunters that it is a pasture in use.
5. To help make livestock more easily identifiable as domestic animals, bright colored cloth or ribbon can be braided into manes and tails. If your horse wears a halter, make sure that it is a bright color. There are even orange pasture safe "vests" made of "slinky" material that fit around your horse like a (blanket) shoulder guard. These can certainly help to keep your horse from being mistaken for a deer. If you are handy, they aren't hard to sew!
On the Trail:
Please be careful when enjoying the trail at this time of year. Consider these tips and ride safe!
1. Wear orange while riding, lots of it. Wearing hunter orange can save your life. It’s also the law in many states across the country. Orange is the color of choice because it is very visible and looks like nothing else in nature. Wearing florescent orange really does help prevent hunters from mistaking a person or their horse for a game animal. Studies have shown that wearing orange has decreased hunting accidents tremendously. Wear as much of it as you can and also dress your horse in it as well. Bright colored vet wrap on your horse's legs and wrapped around your horse’s bridle or tail are an easily removable (and cheap) option for staying safe.
2. Never ride alone. During hunting season there are many individuals (AKA "strangers") from out of the area, out in the woods with guns. Always think of your safety first and be safe rather than sorry. Accidents can and do happen, and horses can be easily spooked by sudden gunfire out in the woods. Trail rides are safer and better with company!
3. Talk, sing and make some noise, bring a group of friends with you and laugh it up. Hunting season is not the time to keep silent. Keep up a constant banter or sing songs. Even consider putting cow bells or sleigh bells on your mount! Bells & noise help keep bears and other predators away also!
4. Stick to the main trails and open fields and avoid the thick wooded areas where it is harder to identify you and your horse. Be extra careful when coming around "corners" where the view of the trail ahead is blocked by foliage.
5. Avoid trail riding during peak hunting times, such as at dawn and dusk, and low visibility times, when it is foggy.
6. Always have a cell phone with you and keep it on you. Consider purchasing an "ankle safe," trail riders use these ankle packs to carry ID, cellphone and a small flashlight. A phone in your saddle bags does you no good if you are separated from your horse!
Have fun enjoying the seasons, and remember; always err on the side of caution to keep you and your best friend safe on the trails this fall!
About the Author
Hello, my name is Marja, I am the owner of Darkhorse Saddlery. We've been in business since 2008 at our current location. We are here because of you, our customers. This is your local tack shop, we appreciate you and your feedback! Use the "Contact Us" form to drop us a line, request a product or tell us what's on your mind.