First Aid, Navigation Skills for the Trail

First-aid tips and navigation skills can save you or another rider in an emergency on the trail. By Christine Barakat for EQUUS magazine.
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When it comes to learning first-aid, there is no substitute for a recent education from the Red Cross. Take a few barn buddies to your local office and sign up for a first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation class. Even if you don't trail ride, what you learn can save a life around the barn or your own home. Until you do that, however, a few basic tenets can help save a life during a trail emergency:

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  • Use direct pressure to stop bleeding. If a rider is cut, use a bandanna, shirt or other piece of cloth to apply direct pressure to the wound. Do not attempt to make a tourniquet.
  • Avoid moving a seriously injured rider. If a fallen rider is unconscious or otherwise unable to move on his own, don't try to move him yourself. You could aggravate serious injuries. Call for help immediately.
  • Heed the signs of shock. Symptoms of shock--including a clammy sweat, weak pulse, light-headedness or nausea--can occur immediately after an accident or as long as an hour later depending on the injury. If a rider seems to be in shock, have him lie down, elevate his feet and cover him with anything you can find--clothing, saddle blankets, dry pine needles or dead grass--to help him retain his body heat.

Map and Compass Skills
Getting lost while driving your car is annoying. Getting lost on horseback in the wilderness can be deadly. If you enjoy venturing to new places or riding long distances into remote areas, learning to read a compass and map is an essential survival skill.

"You're in real trouble if you need rescuers but can't tell them where you are," says Dan Aadland. "If you're going into unfamiliar territory, you need to know the general direction you are headed and how to read a map."

Aadland suggests taking a class on wilderness navigation, which many local community colleges offer. "It's not like reading a street map," he says. "Hills aren't named and marked, and if you can't read the elevations correctly you may chart a route that takes you over a cliff."

Portable global positioning satellite (GPS) receivers are a boon to navigation, says Aadland. About the size of a television remote control, a GPS receiver contacts at least two but preferably three or more satellites in a global network to tell you exactly where you are located--usually in terms of latitude and longitude--to within 80 feet.

"A GPS unit can pinpoint your location with amazing accuracy," says Aadland. "That way you can read a map correctly or tell rescuers exactly where to find you."

Battery-operated GPS units are available at most sporting goods stores for under $100. But don't rely on GPS alone, says Aadland; they may not work in thick wooded areas or deep canyons where they cannot communicate with their satellites.

This article originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of EQUUS magazine.

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