Check out the Recreational Rider Program Booklet at the link above
Hunting-Season Safety Guide
By Dan Aadland
Fall trail riding can involve crisp weather and beautiful foliage, but safety must come first. Follow these hunting season guidelines to stay safe on the trail this fall.
In the fall, author Dan Aadland wears a bright-colored vest to be visible to hunters, His horse, Partner, wears a brightly colored cantle pack. Add color to your horse's tack and gear so he'll be visible even when you're separated from him.
In the fall, when Rocky Mountain aspens turn brilliant yellow, there's no place I'd rather be than in a snug hunting camp among stately spruce by a clear stream, my horses and mules picketed nearby, aromatic pine smoke curling from the pipe of the tent stove.
Contemplation of such a scene keeps me going during bitter winter and summer doldrums. Hunters in other parts of the country are similarly drawn, whether to crisp corn fields laden with pheasants, red maple groves holding deer, or deep southern woods, now finally free of summer's oppressive heat and humidity.
These same fall conditions draw those of us who ride for pure pleasure. There's nothing quite like a trail ride through autumn trees, the smell of fresh air and brilliant foliage, the enthusiasm of your good horse when there's a trace of bite in the breeze. Riding during this time of year is too fine to be avoided simply because it coincides with hunting season.
Ready to saddle up and enjoy this spectacular season? Follow these five guidelines to help keep you and your horse safe.
1. Wear Bright Colors
Insurance companies, expert at analyzing risk, rate hunting as an extremely safe activity. The accident ratio with regard to the number of participants is very low compared with other outdoor activities, including horseback riding.
Still, potential for accidents exists. Visibility is your first consideration. To stand out, wear bright colors. A blaze-orange hunting vest (available at sporting-goods stores) works well. Choose one with lots of handy pockets. Some hunting vests are reversible, so you can wear a softer color other times of the year. Insulated models are also available, should you wish to add warmth.
But festooning your own body with bright colors doesn't protect your horse if you tie him and slip away to take a photograph. Invest in brightly colored saddlebags and/or cantle bags. Also consider placing a blaze-orange nylon halter under his bridle.
If you must tie your horse and leave him, choose an open place, such as the middle of a clearing, for greater visibility.
2. Choose Your Route
Find trails in areas where hunters will be less concentrated. Contact your state fish and game department, and ask for maps of hunting areas, dates of hunting seasons, what's hunted, and whether the season is open to anyone licensed, or is restricted by drawings or special permits. Such information will help you decide which state or federal land remains attractive for trail riding while the season is in progress.
In heavily populated states where hunting is popular and available habitat is scarce, hunting seasons are likely to be short and intense. Consider skipping opening day, especially if it falls on a weekend.
In Montana, where hunting seasons of one sort or another are in progress from early September until after Thanksgiving, most trail riders wouldn't consider putting their riding on hold that entire time. But in a populated eastern state where deer season lasts only a few days, postponing your ride until the end of the season may appeal to you.
The terrain and the species being hunted are factors, as well. Bird seasons mean that only shotguns with bird shot are in use, far less dangerous at long range than rifle fire.
And in the wide-open western terrain favored by antelope and mule deer, riders and hunters can usually see each other at long distances, a safety plus.
3. Train Your Horse
A hunting outfitter tells me that clients unfamiliar with horses often ask, "Can I shoot off this horse?"
His answer: "Yeah - once." If the hunter misses the point, the outfitter quickly explains. "After you shoot, you're likely to be on the ground, flat on your back."
Very few horses can stand up to the report of a high-powered rifle shot over their heads. Indeed, the muzzle blast of such rifles can damage a horse's ears, even if he's rock-steady. No good hunter ever discharges a high-powered rifle from the back of a horse, for safety and humane considerations.
But when you trail ride during hunting season, you'll likely hear rifle reports. While it's asking a bit much of your horse to expect complete coolness near gunfire, you can teach him some tolerance for gun shots.
At home, fire a simple cap pistol, then reward your horse with a treat or a nice rub on the withers. Then progress to a starting pistol (used for starting races, available at sporting-goods stores), which is considerably louder.
Safety warning: Fire a starting pistol only into the air *** Please see note below***, not toward a horse or a human; fragments of the wad holding the powder can be dangerous. And the sting of a fragment accompanying the loud report would be a major setback in your horse's training.
A bullwhip is another good training tool, if you can handle one. Its crack can be varied in intensity. Once your horse will tolerate a full-volume crack from a rider on his back, gunfire won't be intimidating. But don't use a bullwhip unless you're fully competent. It's easy to inadvertently strike your horse or yourself!
It's best to assume that no matter the training, gunshots carry the possibility of a spook from your horse. Use the one-rein stop to handle the unexpected.
Dan Aadland raises mountain bred Tennessee Walking Horses and gaited mules on his ranch in Montana. His most recent books are In Trace of TR; The Best of All Seasons; The Complete Trail Horse; and 101 Trail Riding Tips. Information about Dan’s horses, books, and clinics is available at http://my.montana.net/draa.
*******From Patricia McKinney, our Recreational Rider Chairperson:********
I do have one comment, the article recommends shooting a starter pistol INTO THE AIR to accustom your horse to the noise. Gun safety is important no matter what you are shooting, and a gun should NEVER be shot into the air. What goes up must come down, and even though a small wad comes out of a starter pistol, it can hurt you, the horse, or a bystander. Always fire into the ground when shooting a practice pistol for the safety of your horse and others. A great way to accustom horses to gunfire is to ride in a group with someone walking ahead of you firing a starter pistol. then you can get closer and closer. The pistol can be handed off to riders one by one who fire into the ground. This will give your horse confidence, as in a group they relax and learn that the gunfire is not something to be afraid of.
February 27, 2014. A message from the author, Dan Aadland:
Comment: I just noticed your use of my article on riding your horse during hunting season. The editor's comment is incorrect: starter pistols are traditionally fired into the air at the beginning of races, and the wad pretty much disintegrates because starter pistols have a cone-shaped piece of metal in the barrel just for that purpose. Blanks fired in a real, cartridge type pistol can be dangerous if fired AT someone at close range, however. I also used starter pistols for drama productions and am quite familiar with them..
About the PFHA Recreational Rider Awards Programs
Recreational riders currently represent more than 80% of the PFHA membership. The PFHA offers a variety of awards programs which recognize members who enjoy recreational riding. Whether spending time in the saddle competitively trail riding or enjoying non-show activities such as leisure trail rides and parades, there is a PFHA award program to recognize the wide variety of recreational rider activities.
The PFHA Recreational Rider Awards programs are based on riding registered Paso Fino horses and participation is open to all PFHA members. Complete details and forms for each award program can be accessed at the official PFHA website, www. PFHA.org.
Pasos for Pleasure Program
Rewards participating PFHA members for time spent riding registered Paso Fino Horses.
- Earn cumulative hour patches and gift awards.
- Non-pointed riding activities such as everyday trail rides, arena work, saddle training, parade and drill team venues, etc. qualify.
- One time registration fee of $25. to join the program.
- Participants keep a log of time spent in the saddle then they submit their logs upon reaching specified cumulative hours for respective patches and gift awards.
Ticket to Ride Program
Prizes awarded to yearly drawing of "tickets" submitted by PFHA members participating in the Ticket to Ride program.
- Qualifying activities include trail competitions, parades, drill teams, benefit events as well as other non-show events.
- Five documented qualifying activities make up one complete Ticket to Ride.
- Participants send in completed tickets by September 1st to be entered in a drawing held at the PFHA Grand National show.
- Participants do not have to be present to win.
Annual award presented to a participant's horse with the most sanctioned points.
~ Current PFHA members who participate in competitive trail rides on registered Paso Fino horses are eligible to apply for points for their horses for each successful completed ride.
~Rides must be organized by an organization such as the "North American Trail Ride Conference ( NATRC) and must be sanctioned by PFHA.
~ "PFHA Competitive Trail Horse of the Year” award presented at the Grand National show.
~Horse's points accrued in the program are applied toward Society of Merit Awards Competitive trail: Annual award presented to a participant's horse with the most sanctioned points.
Annual awards presented to a participant's horse with the most sanctioned points.
~Current PFHA members who participate in endurance trail rides on registered Paso Fino horses are eligible to apply for points for their horses for each successfully completed ride.
~Riders must be organized by organizations such as the “American Endurance Ride Conference ( AERC) and must be sanctioned by the PFHA.
~Horse's points accrued in the program apply towards Society of Merit Awards.
Pleasure Long Distance Trail:
Annual award presented to a participant's horse with the most sanctioned points.
~Organized rides of 10 or more miles with a trail manager or boss, and either be sanctioned or pre-approved by PFHA no less than 10 business days prior to the date of the ride.
~Qualifying rides include benefit rides such as those sponsored by hospice organizations, hunter or cavalry paces, and sanctioned PFHA regional rides.
~ Horse's points accrued in the program are applied toward Society of Merit.
For more information on these programs, here is the link to the PFHA Recreational Rider's Booklet: