Trail riding is probably the most relaxing, fun thing you can do with your horse, provided he or she is quiet. But when hunting season begins, you’re wise to avoid the trails during early morning and early evening hours. Even limiting trail riding to the afternoon can be risky, if you’re riding in an area where hunting is allowed. Horses turned out in a pasture surrounded by wooded areas are at a higher risk, as well.
It’s not that most hunters aren’t careful. Most truly are. But accidents happen, as they’re walking around with loaded guns. Some, too, can become “trigger happy,” meaning they didn’t really mean to shoot, momentarily thinking your horse is a deer or whatever other game the hunter is tracking. A horse walking quietly through a wooded area sounds very much like a deer.
What To Do
Take precautions. Make noise! Sing along the trail, loudly. If you sing badly, all the better, as the hunters will get out of your range even more quickly. No, the hunters won’t like it, as you’ll scare away the deer, too, but it’s not worth the risk. And this is a different situation than those who purposely go into the woods just to scare game away from hunters. The hunters need to know you are there, too.
If your horse accepts it, you can put bells on him, even little jingle bells. Action Tack has a great choice for only $7.95. (Traditional driving-horse sleigh bells are quite costly.)
You might also consider Rhythm Beads, which are basically horse necklaces that jingle as the horse moves. they’re said to be calming to the horse, too, but we still advise you to practice with them. Jingle the bells around your horse. If he’s quiet, put them on his halter and walk him around. Then, saddle up at home and wear them in the arena. If he’s fully accepting, go out on the trail.
Listen to Rhythm Beads here:
It’s also wise to wear brightly colored clothing, like a red, hot pink or orange sweater with a matching helmet color. Many companies make blaze orange gear for horses and riders, and you can find gear for yourself at any store that carries hunting supplies. For horses, we like the gear from Protectavest, which includes options for horse, rider and dog.
Check out the products from Don’t Shoot Me, too. Very vivid.
Also, you can get reflective wear for night riding, flashing lights (like you see on some cyclists using during dusk/dawn hours).
Whatever you choose, be sure you acclimate your horse to wearing it prior to setting out on a ride. You’d be surprised how many horses we’ve seen get downright silly the first time they’ve worn leg wraps or a sheet or quarter sheet.
For most daytime rides, blaze orange beats reflective products.
Think about your options, too. Brightly colored boots aren’t going to be as readily noticed. You want the color on the horse’s body, which is why we like the quarter sheet idea.
For turnout, we’d advise both a bright halter and a brightly colored turnout sheet, even if he normally doesn’t wear one.