Interview with Scot Hansen on Self Defense for Trail Riders

Scot Hansen is a horse and people trainer who believes that spending time with horses should be fun and safe. His wide range of experiences has shown him that there is no limit to the skills and behaviors you can teach your horse, including how to use the horse to protect you from an attacker while riding, and on the ground.

What prompted you to make the video, "Self Defense for Trail Riders"?

Several women asked me about what they should do when they encountered someone on the trail. They told me that they'd been confronted by people on the trails and wanted to know how best to handle the situation.

Do human predators usually work alone?

Generally, yes. Look at the history of some highly publicized cases (Ted Bundy, Green River Killer, etc.) But the concept of multiple attackers often comes up as a question, and is one of the things we discuss in our clinics.

How can one recognize a human predator?

In short, human predators often attempt to act overly inconspicuous, avoiding eye contact, and may try to engage you in conversation as a means of putting you at ease in order to get close enough to attack.

Do you think horses naturally recognize a human predator?

Yes, they do. But riders often misinterpret the signals the horse is giving to be something else. For example, the horse begins to get antsy while on the trail, then the rider sees a hiker approaching, and the rider doesn't realize that the horse is agitated by the predator behavior, not just the fact that a person is on the trail.

What experiences in your mounted police work helped you know what to do in defending oneself on horseback?

Mounted police officers' duties include patrolling on horseback performing the day-to-day functions of patrol, making arrests, breaking up fights, and most important - using their horses for crowd control (political demonstrations, riots, strikes, celebrations for sporting events, etc.). It's incumbent on officers to be able to make an arrest from horseback and to keep from being pulled from their saddle while engaged in their duties. All officers undergo specific training with their mounts to achieve this level of skill. During my mounted career, I conducted many such training sessions for officers as well as training mounts for use by the department.

Does your horse and human self-defense training program involve learning defense skills on the ground as well?

During the program, there isn't enough time to cover techniques that riders could use to defend against an attack if an assailant was able to get them off and away from the horse. However, I do instruct participants in my classes how to use their horses while on the ground to defend against an attacker. Classes in hand-to-hand self defense techniques, though not specific to the horse world, are generally readily available through local training programs or police departments.

Do these principles of self defense apply to non-human predators as well?

Yes, to a degree. Some of the techniques would be advantageous to defend against any type of predator. However, some predators, such as a cougar, might think that you were fleeing and encourage further attack rather than allow you to escape. For example, being bold and brave, confident and vocal is generally a good thing regardless of the predator.

What role do weapons play (or not play) in self-defense on horseback?

While weapons can play an integral role, people need to understand that there are as many drawbacks as there are advantages to carrying a weapon on the trail. During a clinic, I discuss both advantages and disadvantages so that people can make informed decisions.

When defending oneself while on horseback, how important is one's own strength?

While strength is a benefit, the most important things are mindset and technique. A quick reaction and proper execution of a maneuver will generally overcome raw strength.


Thank you, Scot, for answering our many questions. And we really enjoyed the video!

About Scot Hansen:

Scot is a natural horseman and retired mounted police officer who trained officers and horses, purchased remounts, and worked the streets. He has ridden horses in and around obstacles and situations that the average person never encounters. Scot offers classes in natural horsemanship, including classes designed to help riders defend themselves while horseback riding on the trails, and produced the "Self Defense for Trail Riders" video. For more information, visit Scot can be reached at