Now that we are heading into fall and the days are getting shorter, it’s very likely to get caught out on trail in the dark. Riding out on the street or on trail in the dark, however, is incredibly dangerous- I constantly see people ride their horses on our dark, unlit street, expecting that drivers will see them in time to avoid them. Unfortunately, wearing dark clothes and riding a dark horse on a dark street is incredibly dangerous. The other day I was driving down our one-lane road and almost hit a woman on a horse- there are no street lights and there was no moon. She was riding a dark horse and was wearing dark clothes. I was, thankfully, driving very slowly, and I was able to get out of the way, and there was no harm done. I just honestly did not see her until I was literally only about 10 feet in front of her- it was pitch-black and she had no reflectors or any other safety equipment on her horse. This could have been a terrible accident.
I always teach people that there are two main cardinal rules when working with horses:
- Keep yourself safe.
- Keep your horse safe.
Riding a horse at night with no safety equipment is not safe. It is not keeping you or your horse safe- you are putting your life and the life of your horse in someone else’s hands expecting them to take care of you. It is nothing less than completely irresponsible. Sometimes I see people holding a flashlight or a cell phone up while riding- but that means you have one hand occupied and unable to grab a rein in case the horse spooks- in addition, cell phone lights and even flashlights are bright for a few feet in front of you, but if a driver is going more than 10-15 miles an hour, they could be too close to swerve before they see the light. Expecting people to see you in the dark by holding up a cell phone is not the answer. I don’t know how else to say this- if you do not take the responsibility to ensure that cars and people can see you at night, it is not a matter of IF you get hurt, but WHEN.
Thankfully, there are several types of reflectors made for horses to help keep you and your horse safe.
One option is from Teddy’s Twisted Products, and these are what I use on my horse- not only are they reflectors, but they have small LED lights that flash when the horse steps. I like these the best because they not only reflect when a car’s lights shine on them, but they light up in their own right, so people can see you and your horse in the dark without any light.
That being said, I have several other types of reflectors that don’t light up- there are so many options for these, including leg wraps, tail wraps, reflectors that attach to your bridle, halter and saddle, and vests that you can wear. I even have a helmet cover that I like to wear when I am driving that has reflectors on it.
I put reflectors on my horses when I take them out on trail both day and night- you never know when something might happen and you end up walking your horse back during the evening. I put reflectors on both the horse I’m riding as well as any horse I’m ponying along with me. It’s always safer to plan ahead.
It’s not as important as to what type of safety equipment you use- what is important is that you DO ride with safety equipment. At the end of the day, YOU are responsible for you and your horse’s safety.