Audrey’s Shanghai Trails Ride, Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe

Audrey’s Shanghai Trails Ride, Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe

I’m separating the events of this ride into 3 posts to describe Friday Pre-Ride Catastrophe, Saturday 55-mile Ride and Sunday 30-mile Ride. Each day I learned a lot and hope to pass this on to other Green Beans.

This ride hammered home the importance of camp safety and what to do in an emergency situation. Quick thinking and acting by Kenny Weber, Bobbie Jo Lieberman (my ride crew and the horse owners) and myself, saved our horses and us from likely major injuries. At this ride weekend there were three horse fatalities, one occurred onsite and two were from horses that succumbed to injuries after being transported to the Wharton Equine Facility for treatment. No humans were physically injured.

The damaged car a horse ran into, with Leggs in the background

In short, several horses (>10) all from the same barn were corralled together in a single, large pen with electric fence. Friday evening the horses escaped the pen and were loose, galloping in an open field. Our campsite and our two horse pens were on the edge of this field. Though it was dark, I noticed the loose horses and we soon realized it was dangerous and escalating. I was about to go out and help catch some loose horses, which might have been ok if it was just one. But Kenny realized this was more serious and dangerous than one loose horse. Kenny prompted me to take Jazz (TWH mare) in hand, while he took Leggs (MFT mare) in hand and we got them out of the horse pens while Bobbie stayed in the LQ. One minute after we removed them from the pens, a horse ran into the car next to our pens (see picture), in the process spooking an adjacent horse that was tied to a trailer, who then pulled back hard from the trailer and was now loose; this horse was found later in the field with a broken neck. The horse that ran into the car was very badly injured and now was standing in one of our pens. Kenny got a hold of it until others came to take it to the vets. Bobbie was able to clear out the back of the trailer so we could load our horses. This all happened in 5 minutes! I learned that the safest (and by that I mean safer) places for your horses are in-hand (it helps if they respect/trust you and have been trained with good ground manners) and inside your trailer, meaning good trailer loading skills are a must! How you set-up your ride camp in relationship to those around you can be critical and building in safety blocks is important. 

Our rig setup with the 3-side Protection Rule for my tent
Building in protections for your rig set-up: We had some natural protections, which arguably may have helped us escape injury during this situation. Protection #1: the 3-side rule. I sleep in a tent and strategically placed it between the fence, the truck and my car such that it was protected on 3 sides (see picture). I have heard horror stories of loose horses trampling tents and now try to have it protected on 3 sides at every ride. Protection #2: we parked along a fence line, slightly away from most of the other rigs. The fence acted as a natural barrier for that side of the rig, however being adjacent to the open field in this case did not help us. Protection #3: Have the back of your trailer clear of ‘stuff’ so you can load your horses quickly. We did have a few items in the back, but Bobbie was able to clear it quickly so we could load the horses. If you sleep in the back of your trailer, just have a minimum amount of items and have it be easy to move if needed. Protection #4: Be able-bodied enough to handle excited/panicky horses or have friends who are able-bodied. Kenny and I were able to handle our excited horses. Bobbie (who has poor night vision and had a hip replaced two years ago) is not as able-bodied but between the three of us, we got it done.

The ride went on as planned and all of the horses were accounted for by Saturday afternoon. The ride manager, vets and volunteers did an excellent job treating and transporting horses. Despite a crazy start I had great rides on Saturday and Sunday, which I’ll post about next. This post is only meant to give my account of the incident and if you’d like to learn more about best horse containment practices there is currently discussion going on now on the AERC facebook group.

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