Pack an Emergency Trail Bag

Be prepared for trail-riding mishaps with a small emergency bag of handy supplies.
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Be prepared for trail-riding mishaps with a small emergency bag of handy supplies.

When you take your horse out on trails, chances are you expect to have a fun, safe, relaxing time. And most of the time, that expectation is fulfilled. Yet as soon as you leave the relative safety of an arena and its controlled environment, you're in potential-mishap territory (true, whether you're half a mile or half a day's ride from home). That's why it can really pay to be prepared, with "just in case" items stashed in a small grab-and-go emergency bag and carried on your saddle for every trail ride.

All these emergency items, plus others of your choosing, will fit inside a saddle-horn bag that takes up about as much room as a loaf of bread. Make it a habit to take your packed bag on every ride--someday, you

All these emergency items, plus others of your choosing, will fit inside a saddle-horn bag that takes up about as much room as a loaf of bread. Make it a habit to take your packed bag on every ride--someday, you

Here, to get you started, I'll share typical contents of the soft-sided emergency bag (it's red for a reason!) that's as much a part of my standard trail-riding gear as my horse's bridle and saddle. While not as extensive as the emergency gear that might be toted by a search-and-rescue deputy, this stash of items will get you and your horse (or that of a friend) through most minor trail traumas. You can add other items as you like, and as your climate and terrain might call for.

Bag Contents

  • Duct tape. Multiple uses, from protecting a hoof that's lost its shoe to emergency tack repairs.
  • Elastic and cling-type wraps. Joint support, bandaging.
  • Reflective "space blanket." Preserves body heat, makes a ground cover.
  • LED flashlight. Multiple uses (especially if you get caught out after dark).
  • Filled water bottle. Many uses, from hydration or cooling to flushing a wound.
  • Stethoscope. For monitoring vital signs, gut sounds.
  • Coach's whistle. Makes piercing blasts to call for help.
  • Latex gloves. Hand coverage for wound treatment.
  • Banamine paste. Help for colic symptoms.
  • Personal first-aid pouch. Holds gauze pads, stick-on bandages, aspirin, bee-sting pen, safety pins, etc.
  • Contact-lens solution. Flushes eye or wound debris.
  • Bandage scissors. Trims bandaging materials.
  • Multi-tool. Multiple uses.
  • Hand sanitizer. Helps prevent infection when treating wounds.
  • First-aid cream. Antibiotic and antiseptic properties.

Extra Tips

  • For his comfort, balance weight carried on one side of your horse with an equally weighted load on the other side.
  • Use the multiple pockets of a fishing or hunting vest as an alternative way to carry emergency items.
  • For taking pulse/respiration rates, wear a watch that counts seconds (for rate per minute, monitor vital sign for 15 seconds, multiply by four).

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Horse & Rider.