Always Ride With Your Phone

By Terry Golson

We had a tragedy at the barn. A rider came off and had to be air-lifted to a Boston hospital. She was in the indoor arena, which is up a driveway from the stables. Fortunately, two were riding that day. But both riders had left their phones in the tack room. It was a rare winter day with good weather so the doors of the barn were open; the barn manager could hear the yell for help. She came running. But she didn’t have her cell phone on her either. She had to gather the two horses and jog back to the barn. 911 was called. Medical help arrived very quickly. They needed information on the unconscious woman. They couldn’t find her wallet in her car. The release form on file in the barn didn’t have the needed emergency contact information.

Lessons learned the hard way.

Always carry your cell phone. In the winter it’s easy. You have pockets. In the summer, don’t worry about how you look. Fanny packs are back in style! I’d rather do without reins than ride without my fanny pack. Mine is large enough for a pocket for my phone, and another for treats.


Make full use of the safety features on your phone! Did you know that anyone can get to the keypad and see this?

Anyone can call 911 from your phone. On Apple phones there’s also an SOS function. Hold the buttons that are on the two sides of the phone down at the same time, and you get to an SOS screen. The phone will make the right choice about what emergency service to call.

Also, you should take a moment to fill in the medical ID! A first responder can touch that and it goes to a page with details like your blood type and medications you are on, as well as phone numbers for your health providers and emergency contacts. If you have an Apple phone, here’s what you need to know. If you have an Android phone, read this.

At the barn, make sure that release forms with rider emergency information are in a file in the tack room in an obvious place where anyone can find it. Ask everyone who steps foot on your property to fill this out. Keep the forms up to date. I’m a traveling instructor. I get this information before I work with a client, but I keep those files at home. From now on, I’ll be compiling it onto a master sheet that I’ll be bringing with me.

Put essential information in an obvious place on your horse trailer.

Horses, even the sanest horses (like Tonka) can hurt you. Hurt themselves. Get into complicated and dangerous scenarios. You never know when a cellphone could prevent a difficult situation from turning into a tragedy.

If you have other ways of having emergency contact information on hand for equestrians, please let me know in the comments. I ask that you don’t leave accident stories, I will delete them. Thank you.

UPDATE: My readers are the best! Your comments led to more thought on this topic, and I’ve written a follow-up post about what information an equestrian should have in case of an emergency, and other best practices. That post is here.

62 thoughts on “Always Ride With Your Phone

  • Louise Hornor

    Great tips here, Terry! It’s tempting to have our leisure/outdoor time (riding, hiking, kayaking, etc.) be a “phone free experience” as we relax and enjoy the non-online world. But you point out how important the safety features of the phone can be, when saving mere minutes can be life saving!

    I looked for that “Medical ID” button on my Android phone, and couldn’t find it. Perhaps that’s an Apple-only feature?

  • Jaimie

    On my android phone there is an ICE contact. (In case of emergency)
    When filled out it sits at the top of my contacts list so when a responder opens my contacts all the info is listed. Medications, allergies, blood type, husband and sisters phone and also that we have pets at home in the event my husband and I are both incapacitated.

  • Cyndi Shurts

    Great advice, Terry! I always try to ride with my cell phone but even working in the barn, it would be a good idea. Thanks!

  • Julia

    I’ve got a very comfortable fanny pack made by Mountain Hardware. For people who think they hate fanny packs, the new hi-tech fabrics make a huge difference. My sister wears a FlipBelt for running that would also work for riding. I have a Cashel Ankle Safe but find it a bit more cumbersome because it’s on your ankle, and I can feel it. Good advice. I’m going to check my medical ID on my phone right now.

  • Lisa Deupree

    I hope the rider is ok. And thanks for the reminder. It’s a good idea for ALL. Dog walkers, bike riders or even hikers. An accident can occur at any time.

  • Laura A

    When you use a cell phone to call 911, you need to know where you are calling from! I help run gymkhanas for a local club, and the first time we had an emergency, we knew the name of the arena we were in, but didn’t know the address. It has since been posted in the booth, but like your friends, lesson learned after the fact. Also, my daughter and I were on the trail one day and came across someone who had come off their horse and their friend called 911. My daughter and I rode to the road to find the paramedics and it took over an hour for help to find us. Thank goodness her injuries weren’t life threatening.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      That’s why knowing how to push the two buttons for the SOS call is helpful – the phone has your coordinates. I do worry about paramedics being able to find horse and rider out on the trails. I wonder if we shouldn’t all be carrying emergency whistles, too.

      • Meaghan

        Hi Terry – as a 911 operator it’s important to note that not always will a phone transmit an exact location, it depends on the towers, phone carrier and relative service…and should never be the sole way of finding someone. I loved the idea of the address being posted for all to locate. Even landmarks, house colors, intersections, nearby businesses can helpnarrow down a location. So the more you can share or remember, even if not a traditional address can be just as important. Thanks for sharing such an important reminder, time in an emergency situation is crucial!

          • Jaileen

            I live in an island in the Pacific Northwest, we have a Trails committee and they have lovingly detailed maps for everyone to use. I wonder if that’s available in your area for all parties involved ..? Love this post, glad my friend shared it.

            • Terry Golson Post author

              Jaileen, I’m glad to know that you found this post helpful. Subscribe to this blog. I’ll be writing more on this topic 🙂 Some of the places that we ride through here in the northeast are mapped, but honestly, I have a hard time following them and none that I know of have coordinates that a first responder would be able to use. “Woodchuck Trail” that goes on for a mile isn’t going to be of much help 🙂

    • Karen

      A helpful tip for all persons is to check and see if your county has a 911 registration. When 911 is called from your phone within the county, the 911 dispatcher can access information. This includes emergency contact information, physician info, hospital preference. Additionally, you can enter your home address and information about members of the household (including pets) which would be helpful in the event of a fire or any other disaster where responders will want to be sure everyone is accounted for.

  • Elizabeth Moon

    From a former paramedic: info attached to the patient (Med-Alert bracelet or necklace) or patient’s clothes is easiest to find and to keep with the patient in complicated situations (multiple patients, extrication from terrain or vehicle.) Not everyone has a fully functional smartphone, but even a dumbphone will let you or someone else call 911. Not everyone has a single (or any) health care provider. But you should have, on your body or in your clothes, the following ID: name, address, emergency contacts (2, because one might be unavailable), drug allergies, known serious conditions (heart, lung, diabetes, cancer, pregnancy (don’t forget to add this to the list if you become pregnant), drugs you’re taking, healthcare provider and insurance if any.

    For stable owners/managers/instructors: find and take a first responder course so that you can evaluate serious injuries, including brain injuries, and communicate with EMS. You need to know how to control bleeding, recognize potential breaks and head injuries, stabilize the spinal cord, and do CPR. In addition to keeping individual health info in the office, post the directions to your facility from the nearest large (paved roads clearly marked in both directions) intersection between you and the EMS/firestation that will respond to your call. After an accident, people are usually excited and unfocused, meaning they’ll make mistakes; asked for directions, many people will describe the way from where they are to where the station is…which means those driving the other direction will turn the wrong way at intersections. Make sure your directions work by driving the route EMS would drive. Post the directions on a bright-colored piece of paper in every building on the place, so people can call from every location and not be trying to remember if it it’s left or right from country road 123 to county road 456. Make sure your signage at the road in is clear and distinctive…in horse country, barns and paddocks and horses are everywhere, with cute little artsy signs that are hard to read if you don’t already know. If possible, send someone to the road entrance (afoot!) to wave down the ambulance. Delay caused by mistaken directions or an entrance not well marked can be literally fatal. (And no, the mapping software and GPS are NOT always accurate. If they are in your area, you’re lucky.)

    As a rider who has had three concussions, all from horse-related accidents, I have a bit more I’d like to say about the importance of recognizing head injuries in the context of riding, and why (again) instructors and stable owners/managers really would benefit from some basic EMS training. I’ll put that in another comment. For here: ABCs count: airway, breathing, circulation. If the airway’s not open, the person CAN’T breathe. If they’re not breathing and the airway’s open, that’s the most critical thing: no oxygen to the brain means death or (if they get the oxygen too late) serious disability. If there’s internal or external bleeding more than scratches and slow drips, they’re going to run out of blood to carry the oxygen…recognize signs of shock, stop the visible bleeding.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to write this comment! So many good suggestions. It reminds me that I should know exactly where I am when I trailer out to go for a ride, so that I can tell emergency personnel if need be. I have been meaning to take a first aid course. I did one 20 years ago when I had a baby and realized I knew nothing. It was a class geared for new parents. Is there a specific class that I should take that would help me as an equestrian?

    • Patty I commented below as well. It is approved by USEA, and USPC, as substitution for the medical arm band. Easy access for medical personnel to your entire medical history. Your blood type, and two emergency contacts are on the face of the bracelet.

      • Jennifer

        I love mine from They slide onto my watch band and I wear it every day. I don’t even remember I’m wearing it, but it has my basic info on it (following Pony Club guidelines) and links to my medical profile just like RideSafe. My second one slides onto the band of my cross country watch to simplify how much I’m wearing on course. They have different types of IDs that can work for any situation or preference.

  • Beth

    Medical armbands or wrist bands with emergency information are required at all pony club functions for this reason.

  • Tista

    I really hope the rider makes a quick and full recovery! I have two tips to add. For those who don’t like fanny packs, an armband phone case can be worn either on your arm or on your boot. Other tip: find some way to keep emergency contact info on your saddle so others can identify your horse if they become separated from you. Even just a dogtag with a name and number attached to the saddle or bridle would do.

  • John Schaller

    If it’s possible for someone to unlock their phone while riding, they may want to consider doing so and keeping an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact entry on the phone. Emergency personnel will normally check for these on phones they can just swipe to open. But, many passers-by (if riding alone, in particular) may not think to check the phone, so having a laminated ICE sheet in a pocket or slim wallet sounds excessive but can be helpful. For me, because I normally ride alone, I have both an arm cellphone holder and a Cashel ankle or knee holster (using the arm holder seems to work better for me for arena work). I used to keep the cellphone by the tack room, but if injured getting to the tack room etc, could be hard. Depending on the barn situation, it may also be a good idea to be sure to let someone know before heading to the barn if it’s likely one may be there alone, and give some idea of how long you’ll be there.

  • Laura Allemand

    SmartPak makes an app, called Ride with Me.

    Info from the App Store: If you fall and can’t call for help yourself, Ride With Me is designed to alert your emergency contacts. When you start your ride with Ride With Me, the app monitors your movement to know that you’re in control, using the natural rhythms of you and the horse. If Ride With Me detects no movement over a period of time, a warning will sound. If you’re okay, one button silences the alarm.

    If you don’t respond to the warning, then Ride With Me will send a text message to a select group of emergency contacts of your choice. The message includes your GPS coordinates and lets them know that Ride With Me hasn’t detected any movement.

  • Dani Trynoski

    No matter the discipline or group, if riding off-site from your normal stomping grounds then please wear an armband with the important info. It’s a great Pony Club rule where parents might not be present, but if you’re away from home then you should make the info easy to find.
    For barn managers or trainers, please keep the facility address posted largely and clearly by phones or arena doors. This ensures that all callers in the riding area (parents, riders, owners, etc.) can relay the address to emergency responders.
    On your waiver or emergency contact form, include a notice that no riding on property is allowed while that info section is empty.

  • Christine

    Have you seen or heard of the app SmartPak developed called Ride With Me? Free and monitors your movement while you ride. If you’re still for a predetermined duration, it sends a message to your emergency contacts. I wear my phone in a belt clip and I use the app every time I ride and I’m alone at home. Even if I’m out riding and Chris is in the house, that way he doesn’t have to keep an eye on me in the fields. I’m not sure how well it would do with a leisurely trail ride, but it works well for active rides.

  • Bex Tasker

    About a year ago I transferred all registrations for my clinics into online forms on my website. I did it for convenience sake and to reduce admin for myself, but actually the biggest benefit has been having all the completed forms (with emergency contacts) easily available to me on my phone via the website app. It puts me at ease to know it’s all there and I don’t need to remember bits of paper etc.

  • Stephanie Posey

    Great article, thank you! I have done a couple of things that might be helpful to others. Of course with the advancement of cell phones features they might seem obsolete however, phones get damaged and batteries die.

    I bought a fishing vest for around $20. Light weight with lots if pockets. In there I keep my epi pens. Before leaving on a ride I confide to someone when I might need it and how to use it if I’m unable. I also print out medical and emergency information, including medications, from my computer, fold it and seal it with my food vacuum sealer. That way it’s sweat and water proof. The same person I confide in knows that it’s in my vest pocket too. I hope this might help someone should the need arise – hopefully not.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Speaking of vests, I have a high-vis orange, reflective vest which has “pass wide and slow” printed on it. Essential for riding in the woods during hunting season, and anytime of year on the road.

  • Diva

    Can i suggest an ankle safe (Cashel used to make one) over a fanny pack — I’ve known a couple of riders who fell with a fanny pack, and otherwise innocuous falls became serious as the fanny pack caused organ damage….

  • Michelle McMillen

    Thanks for tutorials. I just added the info to my Medical ID. I wouldn’t THINK of riding without my cell phone attached to me (having it attached to your HORSE is just stupid). I would like to add an app to my phone (I looked into Life360) that would let my family track me should I come off when riding on my own and be unable to use my phone, but my husband thinks that tracking apps are too “Big Brother”ish.

  • Deb Odom

    I have an ICE sticker on my helmet, a dog tag with emergency contact info on my saddle, and try to remember to wear my ROAD ID bracelet. I really like the Horse Holster for my phone. It’s comfortable.

    Emergency contact info in the trailer is an idea I will add. Thank you.

    I also have an app on my cell that has emergency contact info that shows on my home screen.

  • Jean

    Once I came off a horse I was training and crushed my phone when I landed on it. Luckily my injuries were not life threatening (a dislocated shoulder) but it is also a good idea to have a separate – non electronic – ICE list on your person.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Good point! I will be rewriting this post to include suggestions like yours. I’ll also be talking to first responders to get their input. Keep an eye on this blog for more 🙂

  • Claire Kenyon

    Thank you for all the great suggestions. I have a horse holster as well as a fanny pack. ID on the saddle great idea. Will implement that suggestion right away.

  • Laura

    My barn has a no phone policy while riding but me being a bit of a rebellious teenager at the time snuck it my pocket to ride. Turns out I would end up needing it during a training ride on a pony and he decided to be naughty and rear up. He ended up flipping backwards ontop of me. I was the only one in the indoor and no one would have been able to hear me call out for help. Since I had my cellphone I was able to reach into my pocket and call my trainer. Had I not had my phone who knows how long I would have laid there! I get trainers dont want you to have your phones so you dont spend your time texting or distracted, but if you’re riding alone or out in a field you should definitely have a way of calling for help.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I’m glad you’re okay! I can see why a farm would say “no phones.” There’s actually a real problem at horse shows with people riding and texting and not paying attention to others. But the policy should be amended to be “no phone use except for emergency.” By the way, I don’t believe in the word “naughty” 🙂 There’s always a valid reason for a horse to behave the way that they do. At least valid from the horse’s perspective. A rearing horse is one that’s avoiding something. Figure out what that is, and you’ll have a cooperative horse 🙂

  • Lea Pasco

    I I was just recently given a rubber square that attaches on all corners so the cell phone which is attached to a keychain type device with a clip that attaches to a lanyard. So if you aren’t doing any large jumps you could put the phone around your neck, if not could attach it to belt Loop on a pair of jeans.
    Mine says gear beast on it and even has a slot for card or ID, on the back of where the phone is on the opposite side from the phone and is rubber slot for 1 card.

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