Self-Defense for Trail Riders

Imagine you're riding alone, enjoying the quiet company of your horse. Then, just as you turn the bend, there's a suspicious person blocking your path. What would you do? Run him over, kick him or hit him with a crop? Would you be surprised that, according to Scot Hansen, a retired mounted police officer, all three answers are wrong!

Story originally posted by: Susan Dudasik

While attending Horse Affairs 2004 in Boise, Idaho, I had an opportunity to watch Hansen’s demonstration, Self-Defense for Trail Riders. It was the best, most informative one I’ve ever seen. Hansen began by asking the audience what they would do in the same situation. Most replied with the above answers. So, with the aid of his assistant, Sandy Siegrist, Hansen demonstrated how easy it was for him to defeat all three methods. “Most people assume their horse would run over an attacker,” exclaimed Hansen, “but haven’t you spent years teaching your horse not to step on or push people? So why would he step on an attacker?”

The next suggested method was kicking. As Siegrist, riding a large paint stallion, kicked at Hansen, he simply grabbed her leg and pushed upward almost flipping her out of the saddle. As for hitting an assailant with a crop, reins or rope, it only took Hansen a split second to grab Siegrist’s arm as she tipped forward to swing down at him, making it easier for him to unseat her as her momentum carried her downward into his arms.

So, what should you do if you suspect there might be a problem with an approaching person? Wake your horse up, get his attention, trot a few steps or simply walk faster. This tells the person you’ve seen him and you’re in control. Never let a stranger close enough to touch you or your horse. This is extremely important. How often has a stranger asked to pet your horse and you’ve allowed them to approach? It’s your biggest mistake. While talking with the audience, Hansen kept walking around Siegrist and her horse. Then, before anyone realized what was happening, Hansen jerked Siegrist completely out of the saddle.

“It happens that fast!” he remarked. Don’t be polite, keep strangers away. Hansen advises the best way to do that is by LOUDLY stating, “Stop! Stay away.” At the same time give the universal sign to stop by sticking out your arm and raising your hand, palm up. “Most reasonable people will heed your warning,” said Hansen, “but a predator might keep coming, asking why can’t he pet your horse.” This is a diversion tactic that allows him time to get closer to you since you’ll be focused on replying to his question.

To prevent this, Hansen advises coming up with anything to keep him at bay, such as “My horse kicks, he bites, he doesn’t like men, .etc,” Anything will work. You just need the person to hesitate for a split second so you can get away. Make sure you make this statement loudly. Even if you think you’re on the trail alone, there might be someone around the bend and this will alert him of your situation. Also, it’s a good idea to practice beforehand so your horse is used to a loud voice and suddenly raised arm. You wouldn’t want him to spook and take off as you’re flapping around with one hand in the air.

Hansen also demonstrated how to keep your horse between yourself and an attacker when you’re on the ground. This is an excellent technique but it takes practice since you need to be able to back your horse in hand and move him sideways without upsetting him so much he runs over the top of you.

Hansen, who’s based near Seattle, Washington, offers a variety of clinics and seminars to teach riders how to recognize possible human predators and how to avoid and defeat an attack. He instructs them on how to prepare their horses for the unexpected, how to use the horse to their advantage and how to handle various obstacles as well as a variety of groundwork, riding and sensory training skills based on natural horsemanship practices.

To learn more about protecting yourself while riding, visit Hansen’s website at or check out his Self-Defense for Trail Riders video.