Trail Safety

Trail Safety Recreational pleasure riding is among the most statistically dangerous sports activities and accounts for more accidents than many violent or apparently dangerous activities such as football, skydiving and white water rafting. Safety equipment, including ATSM/SEI approved helmets, required on FETA trails, can help protect you in the event of an accident.

Safety on the trail is the responsibility of each rider. Weather and other natural forces make for constant changes in trail conditions. Wildlife from deer to ground bees can create a hazard for the trail rider. Trails may be used by multiple users, or may be undergoing maintenance, logging or in recreational use by hikers, dog walkers, bikers and motor vehicles. Pay attention and make sure you are riding a horse properly trained for the activity.

Trail Riding is Inherently Dangerous. You are Responsible for Your Own Safety.

The success of our Association depends on the harmonious, considerate relationship between riders and landowners. Landowners have graciously agreed to allow the use of their trails with no recompense. Riders need to cherish that privilege, and use trails safely and responsibly.

In order to help you enjoy your equestrian experience as safely as possible, we are including some helpful materials we hope you will find useful. Please take some time to review this information. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As we are sure you know that landowners and FETA are protected under various state and federal laws from liability for riding accidents. Because of the nature of trail riding it is impossible to post the Equine Activity Warning signs which are applicable to some situations over the entire FETA trail system. In an effort to do more than the statutes require, we are sending you the required warning in person. Consider yourself warned!

Helmets are required when riding FETA trails. Helmets have been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of injury and death from traumatic head injuries. Our largest landowner, FENCE, requires helmets to be worn when using trails on their property. Many of our other landowners also want riders to wear helmets on their property. Various medical associations and equestrian groups strongly recommend helmets and require them for competition. Insurance companies require them for some landowners. In short, it is now the "industry standard" to require safety helmets.


  • Traumatic head injuries account for 60% of deaths and almost 20% of all injuries in equestrian accidents. Broken bones usually heal; broken brains usually don't.

  • Helmets are estimated to reduce traumatic brain injuries by 88%.

  • The highest proportion of injury events resulting in multiple injuries occurred as a result of riding animals-a higher proportion than bicycling, in-line skating or sports-related falls.

  • Helmets are required for most sports, including football, hockey and bicycling, none of which involve your head starting about 8 feet off the ground on top of a prey animal traveling at a gallop!

  • Death is not the only serious outcome of unprotected head injuries. Survivors face brain injuries such as epilepsy, intellectual and memory impairment and personality changes. Hospital costs for acute head injury can exceed $25,000 per day with lifetime expenses in the millions of dollars. Insurance does not cover many expenses.

  • In North Carolina, none of the 85 fatally injured riders from 1978 to 1999 were wearing protective headgear.

  • In "Horse Related Deaths in North Carolina 1978-1999 Medical Examiner Reports", Dr. Doris Hammett reports that "deaths in ages 45-64 years have increased from 12% to 29%. This marked increase in deaths may be because these persons are traditionalists who feel that their experience has prevented an accident and that they do not need to make any changes in their riding habits or respond to recommendations for safety. The ages of 65 and older have doubled their percentage of death." According to Dr. Hammett, "Headgear prevents or reduces the severity of head injury. Until we convince riders to use ASTM/SEI protective headgear at all times when mounted, we cannot hope to change these figures." (Emphasis added) Caution Horses, Vol. 5, No. 4)

  • Not all safety helmets are the same, be sure to wear and ATSM approved helmet.

For more information visit the sites listed under the Safety heading on the Equine Links Page.