Long Rider Safety in the 21st Century
Long Riders around the world have reported to the Guild that they are facing increasing problems in regards to dangerous drivers and heavy traffic. In January, 2017 Meredith Cherry saddled her horse, Apollo, and set off on a 10,000 mile journey that will last three years and take the team to 48 American states.
Prior to her departure, Meredith devoted much time and effort working to locate equipment that would improve the margin of safety for her and Apollo. The result of Meredith’s research is equipment that makes the Long Rider and Road Horse highly visible to drivers. The following photos, which appear courtesy of Meredith, show the equipment that is keeping her and Apollo safe during their three-year journey
What Apollo Is Wearing
Sometimes, folks look at my gear and say "Wow, that's a lot of stuff." Other times, it's "Wow, that's hardly anything!" And if someone sees my pile of bags and equipment without seeing the way they all attach, it's usually "How do you get it all on there and yourself too?"
Actually, it’s not complicated and not very much stuff considering the miles we're traveling and how many different situations we have to be prepared for. The combined bag weight is about 50 pounds, plus around 25 for my saddle and other tack. With me added to the total, the max weight for Apollo to carry is 200 pounds. This is not much for a horse his size, which is a good thing! It will allow him to travel easier, with less stress and strain on his back and legs, reducing the risk of injury and fatigue.
Apollo’s bridle and halter.
Apollo’s equipment – Left side.
Apollo’s equipment right side
Two “footman’s loops,” screwed into the back of the saddle’s cantle, allow Meredith to secure the bags tightly and keep them from slipping off balance.
To increase her visibility, Meredith uses a small light to alert motorists to her presence. Designed for bicycle helmets, the light has a Velcro strap which easily secures it to the top of the cantle bag. (Click to enlarge)
This light is great for increasing visibility on cloudy/rainy/foggy/etc days with poor visibility. It weighs almost nothing and has the kind of battery that lasts almost forever too.
Here's how it all fits together: notice I do fit in the saddle too! It takes almost an hour to groom, saddle and attach everything... plus the time it takes to repack my bags in the morning. And longer when he's been rolling in mud (which is any chance he gets, and that's often with all the rain we've been having!).
Highly reflective tape alerts drivers to Apollo’s presence. The safety vest worn by Meredith carries the words “Pass Wide and Slow.” This idea was created by English Long Rider Callum Back who used it during his ride across Australia.
Bells are often used by long riders and trail riders for many reasons.
The bells scare off deer and other critters that might spook the horse, so that the way is clear long before the horse and rider are in sight.
The bells also provide a comforting sound to horse and rider as they pass through new and potentially uncomfortable or frightening places.
Finally, at night the bells alert the human to their horse's movements (and when the noise stops, the human knows there's trouble afoot).
Shine Like The Sun
The reflective bands are for road safety (with many thanks to EquestriSafe!). While it would seem that a 1,100 pound horse should be highly visible on his own, traffic accidents involving horses are not uncommon. And by this, I mean accidents where the driver is entirely at fault - not the accidents where the horses spook and run into traffic.
Apollo’s bells and reflective leg straps.
What Meredith is Wearing
Although I am not nearly as fashionable as Apollo, my riding outfit also sometimes attracts notice for being rather unique to "normal" riding attire. Most of what I wear is selected for comfort and compactness (for when I am not wearing those items of clothing). It is a combination of English, Western, and endurance - as each riding discipline has useful and applicable design elements for the long ride.
The photos below show my outfit with all layers on, as it was a cold wet day when they were taken. On warm sunny days I can wear just the base layer of Stickyseat pants and a tee-shirt, and add layers for warmth as needed. The rain jacket and rain pants fit over the layers but under the half-chaps and vest.
The most unique and unusual part of my riding outfit is my vest. It's a surveyor vest, with a multitude of pockets. The bright colors make me highly visible on the road, and the sign on the back helps drivers get around me safely (since most people don't understand horses or how to drive around them without scaring them or putting horse and rider at unnecessary risk). The pockets are filled with things I need the quickest access to: phone, knife, gloves, snacks, business cards, wallet, baling twine (so many uses, and always needed quickly!), flashlight, vet certificate, and GPS.
A note about my spurs. Spurs have a bad reputation in some circles, as they can be misused and some spurs are designed rather viciously. My spurs are the "sidewinder" type. They are gentle and humane (nearly impossible to hurt him with!), as well as ergonomic for myself to use (most spurs require you twist your leg to use them, these reduce that strain). Basically, they provide a more firm command for a reluctant horse, as a safety tool - \for example, if he balks at walking over something when we are crossing a busy road, I don't have time to slowly encourage him across. Luckily, Apollo is rarely reluctant, and I have so far only touched his side lightly with my spurs once. Most of the time, I just tell him with words what I want him to do!
Meredith’s equipment – front diagram.
Meredith’s equipment – back diagram.
Meredith and Apollo are carrying the Long Riders’ Guild flag during their historic journey. The flag was previously carried by Bernice Ende, who made the first “ocean to ocean” ride in both directions.