Want to simply throw a saddle on your horse and hit the trail — but still be prepared for problems you might encounter? Check out the following list of items you can pack into your pommel bag, affix to your saddle, and leave there for good.
- Combination tool – Combination or multitools, as they are called, are great for unexpected tasks, such as cutting wire, pulling splinters, or repairing a broken leather strap. Invest in a high-quality tool, such as a Leatherman, Buck, or Sog. Get one that includes a wire cutter; an awl ( for poking holes in leather); a blunt file (which can double as a hoof pick); and pinch-nose pliers (for pulling splinters or grasping a rock wedged in your horse’s foot.) There priced around $60 and can be found at hardware, department, and sporting-goods stores as well as catalogs.
- Leather laces – These are great for tying peeled-off clothing to your saddle; lacing up a leather repair; crafting makeshift bridle parts; and a zillion other unexpected needs. Get the longest size you can find. A single piece of leather is stronger – and more convenient to use – than short strands that you have to tie together. You can find leather laces at grocery, variety, hardware, and tack stores for about $2.
- Rupper-dipped, cotton-knit gloves – Use these as a backup in case you lose or ruin your regular pair. They’ll protect your hands when handling wire, bramble, rough wood, etc. They’re also helpful when you need to handle a muddy hoof. And you can use them for warmth, in case the temperature drops suddenly, and your regular riding gloves are at home. They’re only about $5 at grocery, variety, hardware, and feed stores.
- Ziploc-freezer bag (1-gallon) – This makes a great makeshift water “bucket” for you and your horse, a wash basin for minor injuries, and a pack-out container for solid waste. Also, it can be opened and slipped over a leg as part of a wound dressing. Be sure to get the freezer-grade – not the storage-grade – type. It’s made from tougher plastic, and has a tighter seal for less chance of leakage. Grocery stores carry them for around $3 for a box of 10.
- Lightweight, disposable rain poncho – Great for protection in an unexpected downpour. It’s also useful as a drop cloth for an impromptu picnic and to cover your saddle if it rains while you’re on the ground. Get a cheap, disposable one. It’ll take up less space, and you won’t be tempted to “borrow” it for routine use, then forget to return it to your pommel bag. It costs less than $5 at variety and farm-supply stores.
- Easyboot temporary horse shoe – This will be handy in the case of a thrown shoe, hoof chip, or injury. Make sure the boot fits your horse’s hooves so it’ll go on and stay on. Also make sure you can apply and/or remove the boot without special aids, so you can use the shoe no matter where you are. Practice on your horse’s fore and hind hooves before you leave the barn.
- Two individually wrapped sanitary napkinsThese will become necessary in case you or a riding buddy are caught unprepared for a menstrual cycle. They also make a great bandage should you or your horse become injured. Throw in a couple of tampons, too. In addition to the obvious benefit, they can double as earplugs for your horse when dampened slightly for softness. (By muffling loud noises, they’ll help your horse stay calm). Store them in a Ziploc freezer bag. They cost about $4 for a package of 12, at grocery and variety stores.
- Pain medication – Bring the over-the-counter variety for an unexpected headache, muscle ache, menstrual pain, or injury. Never take aspirin is your injury includes significant bleeding or bruising, as it can delay clotting, resulting in increased bleeding. Instead, take ibuprofen (Nuprin) or naproxin (Alleve), which are also anti-inflammatories. Buy at grocery and variety stores for around $2.
- Baby wipes – These are great for an impromptu “sponge bath” or to clean a wound, and for nature calls. Choose a small pack of about six wipes. Store them in a Ziploc freezer bag to protect against drying and leakage, and to use as a pack-out trash bag. Replace opened packs when you get home – they can become moldy or dried out after opening, especially in warm weather. About $1 at grocery and variety stores
- Two rolls of 4-inch elastic bandage (Vetrap, CoFlex, etc.) – Use these as a bandage if you or your horse become injured on the trail. They’re better than cloth (Ace) bandages, because they’re less stretchy, thus provide better support. They also stick to themselves, so no pins or clips are required. Find them at tack and feed stores for about $2.50/roll.
- Two individually wrapped protein bars – These make delicious treats on the trail and give you an energy boost if your return home is delayed. Stash them in a Ziploc freezer bag to keep bugs away, to contain crumbs, and to serve as a pack-out trash bag. Stay away from chocolate, which will turn into a gooey mess. They cost about $1.50 at grocery, variety, and health-food stores.
- Two 8-ounce plastic bottles of drinking water – These will quench your thirst, particularly if your return home is delayed. They can double as an eyewash, or you can use it to irrigate a wound. About $1 each at grocery and variety stores.
- Small canister of capsaicin (pepper) spray – Use this for self-defense against any threatening individual (four- or two-legged) that you might encounter on the trail. Extend your arm fully and avoid spraying into the wind, so the mist doesn’t waft back into your or your horse’s face. Replace used canisters, and any unused ones that are over a year old. They cost less than $10 at hardware, variety, sporting-goods, and feed stores.
Karen Hayes is an Idaho-based equine practitioner.This article first appeared in the September 1999 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.