By Karen Carlson
I am ever aware that trail riding is one of the most dangerous things we can do with our horse. There are no fences, barriers, or safety devices in place. I see very few riders wear a helmet, vest, or other safety equipment. Most often our rides are far from any emergency services and we often do not have cell phone reception.
We never know what we may encounter while riding our horses on trail either. In an arena you can see what’s around and what may spook your horse. On trail we can’t know what may be around the corner, up the hill, or lurking in the brush.
In an arena your horse has a barrier and really can’t go very far if she does become fearful and bolt, and there are typically folks around to assist you if something should go awry. The dangers on trail are numerous and some may be very much unexpected.
While riding trail over the years, Cricket and I have come across wild turkeys. OK, that may not sound scary, but when they fly into a tree overhead it’s a different story. Plodding along very relaxed on a particular ride, the huge birds suddenly took off in front of us, landed in the tree over our heads, and my 15 hand horse was about 10 hands high in a split second. Cricket is not afraid of turkeys, of course, but it took her a second to process what had just happened. We were both fine.
Deer, ah deer. Docile, beautiful, and not afraid of horses, typically. I see them often while riding. They lift their heads from grazing as we quietly pass. Cricket barely gives them a look, however one bounding from the brush so close behind that you feel the air move can shake even the steadiest of steeds.
Snakes, coyote, even people, bicycles, strollers, and many other everyday things can scare our horses from time to time, typically no big deal. One thing I never, ever considered until recently however is probably also the farthest thing from your mind, and any other equestrian’s thoughts for that matter. Traps! Yes, traps. The snap shut, clam/claw type that is triggered when stepped on. They are out there and pose a serious danger to your horse. As if we needed another reason to be aware and stay on trail.
A friend sent an email out a few days ago that she received from a pal in Riverside County. The email told of riders finding a coyote with traps on both legs and the animal having to be destroyed because its legs were badly broken.
It is important that you be very careful and stay on trail, as there could be traps set and you’d never see them. Those up north were right at the edge of the trail. No one knew why the traps were there, or if there were more around. It could have been poachers, no one knows.
It is illegal to put traps out, but laws only work on the lawful. If your horse steps in one you could lose your horse, as the leg will be very badly damaged.
In Ramona we have trouble with feral pigs out in the backcountry and occasionally a mountain lion report will surface, and I can imagine there may be traps set in those instances. Coyote can become an issue in the canyons and passes close to homes, so traps may be set in those areas as well. How are we to know for certain? Do the agencies use snap traps? Again, how would we know, unless we ask, but that would not account for poachers or the rogue person who may try to trap an animal that they consider a nuisance. I suppose it depends on the type of animal they want or need to trap. I don’t imagine they would use a snap trap that would severely injure or kill an animal, but again, I can’t say for certain, and I am not willing to risk Cricket.
We have no idea who may set traps or why. Are they trying to catch coyotes or a bobcat or a pig? We do not know. Please look for these traps and report any you find to the sheriff’s department immediately. The possibility of traps is another great reason to keep your horse on the trail at all times. Remain ever aware while riding and remain on trail always.
Karen Carlson is a Ramona resident.