ICE for Equestrians

By Terry Golson

ICE. In Case of Emergency.

You’re an equestrian. At some point there will be an emergency. A recent tragedy at the barn where I board my horse glaringly showed holes in my knowledge and preparation. Every single rider, trainer and worker at this stable is experienced, and yet when first responders had to be called there was delay and a lack of essential contact information to send with the patient when she was airlifted out. I posted about that in a blog and was grateful for the information that my readers shared. I heard privately from 911 operators, EMTs, and others on the front-line in emergency situations. I’ve learned much, and continue to do so. That original blog was focused on how to use your phone during a riding emergency. This blog will be more encompassing.


It doesn’t matter if you only ride in an indoor arena or if you ride solo miles from the barn. You must have ID on you, which should include your name, an emergency contact for you (preferably someone who is local and available), and any pertinent medical information that a first responder might require (allergies, blood type, pre-existing conditions.) Your cell phone has a place to input this information, which is accessible to anyone finding the phone. But, what if your cell phone is broken or the battery died? It’s prudent to also wear an ID bracelet. There are a number of companies that sell bracelets that not only etch basic information on the tag, but also keep your more complete file in a database that the first responders can access via a website. These bracelets are becoming mandatory for some horse sports. Here are two companies that provide them: RideSafe; SportsTagID. By the way, these bracelets are nothing like the older medical ID tags. I’m ordering a stylish leather one.

If you trail ride, it’s prudent to also have identifying information on your horse. I suggest clipping a luggage tag to a D-ring. Hopefully, there will never be a time when someone comes across your loose horse, but if they do, they’ll immediately have your horse’s name, home barn with phone number, and your name and phone number.

Everyone riding and working (heck, stepping foot on the property) should sign a waiver that includes emergency contact information. Have that in a file that is accessible and clearly marked. Or post right by the phone. If you are a traveling instructor like me, bring that information about your students with you. It does you no good back home in a drawer.

Those riding alone should consider using an app that tracks where you are, notices when you’ve stopped moving, will call emergency contacts, and notify them of your coordinates. Several of my readers recommend the Ride With Me app from SmartPak.


If you are riding with a friend who is injured, or if you come across someone on the trail, there are first aid protocols to follow. I am not a first responder, and I’m not a first aid expert, so I will leave that information for others to dispense. However, since there are horses involved, I will give advice about that. You don’t want to have a loose horse causing more damage. If you can call for help and have a person lead away the horse, do it. If not, assess the situation. Can you care for the injured person while the horse is loose? Then do so. If not, remove the horse to a safe distance and restrain. Also, keep  yourself safe! If the horse is injured and dangerous, be prudent about whether and how you handle them until help arrives.

There are things that you can do to help the helpers. Before an emergency happens:

  • Check into your area’s 911 access and protocols.
  • Post the farm’s name and address at all entrances to the barn and at the landline phone (if there is one.)
  • The farm should be clearly identified at the street entrance. (If all there is a cute small sign, add large street numbers.)
  • Especially if you have a difficult to find farm, have easy to read directions posted next to the phone, but it doesn’t hurt to have that on-hand for all facilities. During an emergency, the caller can get flustered and misdirect the first responders.
  • Have emergency information clearly posted inside of your horse trailer.
  • Take a first aid course. The American Red Cross makes it easy to find a class near you. Go to this website page.

When you call for help:

  • Designate one individual to be the point person to call and interact with the first responders.
  • Move parked cars, etc. out of the way so that emergency vehicles can easily enter and exit the farm.
  • Safely contain all horses so that responders don’t have to deal with them. Restrain all dogs.
  • Collect the injured person’s belongings – purse, jacket, non-riding clothes, etc. and put into a bag to send with them to the hospital.
  • If you are riding off-property, know where you are. Note where you parked the trailer. Get in the habit of keeping track of how long you’ve been riding. Any information that you can give emergency personnel will get them there faster.

Thank you for reading this. Please share. Please comment. I have written this from my home in New England. Do let me know the differences in other countries. As I asked in the last blog, no tragic stories – please post only practical advice. Thank you!

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