I’m about to admit something I’m pretty sure will make all you moms out there cringe (including my own). I ride my horse. In the desert. Alone.

I know, I know. “Do not trail ride alone” is one of the cardinal rules of horses. However, when you have horses at home, it’s not always easy to schedule a ride with other people.

Fortunately, I have a great group of horsey friends I enjoy riding with, and we get out quite a bit during the spring and summer months. We hit the trails and solve the world’s political problems with long philosophical talks on horseback. We also discuss our marriages, jobs, homes, finances, and for a few, kids. But, that also means we have marriages, jobs, homes, finances, and kids, and those responsibilities often take precedence over riding, which can make group scheduling pretty tough.

My desert view from Jack's back on a solo afternoon ride.

Photo: Michelle N. Anderson

As one solution, I convinced a friend to board her mare at my house to create a built-in riding partner. That helped, but again those grownup responsibilities, as well as the unpredictable central Oregon weather, often get in the way of our plans. On a lonely, sun-filled afternoon after I’ve shut down my computer, the 40,000 acres of public lands behind my neighborhood are just too tempting. So I ride by myself. I’m guessing I’m not the only at-home horse keeper who rides solo.

I’m pretty risk adverse, so when I do ride by myself, I take the following precautions to keep myself safe:

  1. I ride the better of my “alone time” horses, Jack (who actually does better by himself than in a group).
  2. I text my husband and tell him what time I’m leaving, where I’m going, and what time I’ll get home. When I return, I text him again. He knows if I call between those times he needs to pick up. If he doesn’t hear from me it’s search party time.
  3. I keep my cell phone unlocked and on my persons, not on my horse. That way, if Jack ever leaves me behind, he won’t take my cell phone with him.
  4. I stick to familiar nonmotorized Forest Service roads that are mostly in the sightline of our subdivision. (We have a helicopter pilot training school that follows these roads, and I joke that one of the students would get a great training mission if they found me hurt and horseless in the desert.)
  5. I never deviate from my planned and reported path. That means, no matter how fun a deer track might seem, I stick to the main trails.
  6. I always wear a helmet, no exceptions.

It’s not the perfect solution, and I’d honestly rather ride in a group. However, I kind of like my quiet time with Jack in the desert. He’s on his best behavior when no other horses are around, and his smooth long trot and steady breath loping down the trail remind of how much I like the horse. The quiet also lets me clear my head and, at this time of year, notice the blooming desert flowers and busy raptors, rodents, and birds.

Would you ride alone, and if not who do you ride with? And, for those who willingly ride alone, how do you keep yourself safe?