There is nothing more lovely than hacking out on your horse, for some it is ‘What they do’ and for others it’s a welcome break from the training schedule and a time when hair can be let down (metaphorically).
If you are new to riding and thinking of buying a horse it is a good idea to check that the horse is quiet when hacking out. Most all-rounders should, by rote, be exemplary hacks. Find out how good the horse is in traffic and whether it has particular dislikes i.e. does it turn and run when the smelly dustbin lorry is doing its rounds or if you live in an area where there are frequent bike races … or tanks are driven… is it likely to worry? Or do you ride a horse that has these problems already? If so making your horse safe to ride out has to be a priority and finding a trainer who can help with these issues if very important.
Safety out hacking
Some of us are lucky to live in the wilder areas of the UK and have almost unlimited hacking across some stunning, often deserted, heath and moorland in our National Parks but most horse’men hack their horses wherever they are, be it urban roads or countryside tracks,and the same precautions should be taken wherever you hack and whatever your ability.
Traffic is a horse’man’s nightmare. As a rider we have to hope that the motorist will first see us in good time and second react sensibly to the presence of a horse. It is a shame that this awareness is not part of driver training but s it stands preemptive strategies can help mitigate the dangers of traffic (and also bumptious horses) to the rider.
The basics: meaning The Minimum consideration before venturing out on top of a horse
- Ride with someone else if possible
- Tell someone where you plan to go and how long you are likely to be
- Take your phone with you
- Inspect you tack before setting out
- Dress sensibly – Wear your PPE including High Viz
- If you intend to be out for a “long ride” take some water with you
- A map if you do not know the country you are riding
Here are some very sage words from the Ordenance Survey guys:
Consider your mount
Make sure you plan your ride according to yours and your horse’s fitness and ability.
If you have a recently-backed youngster, it’s probably not a wise idea to go out exploring on your own for hours. In this case it may be best to ride in company along a well-planned route. Likewise, if your horse is unfit, it’s not worth risking a trip or fall by taking him out on a canter-filled ride instead of an appropriate fittening round-the-block walk.
All the gear….
Ok, so hi-viz isn’t the most attractive riding attire – particularly when emblazoned with ‘Please pass wide and slow’ – but it really is essential if you’re going to be doing some roadwork. For added visibility, consider purchasing other reflective gear for your horse, such as leg bands or tailguards. Anything that helps you stand out is worthwhile and could help motorists spot you much earlier.
It goes without saying that you should be wearing a riding hat of PAS 015 standard. Some riders don’t think they need one when schooling in an arena on a safe horse, but the fact is, no animal is completely bombproof and accidents can happen. Getting hat hair is better than getting knocked unconscious or worse…
If you’re riding a young or spooky horse, it’s also worth considering wearing a body protector. This type of protection is mandatory for most cross country competitions – including British Eventing-affiliated events.
Aside from safety wear, make sure your tack is in good condition – yes, this does mean getting out the saddle soap once in a while! Watch out for any frayed stitching or cracked leatherwork. Keeping your tack soaped and oiled will help it last for years to come, so don’t underestimate the power of good cleaning.
Sparkly tack is all well and good, but it needs to fit well. Ensure your horse receives regular visits from the saddler – particularly if he’s a growing youngster or has gained/lost weight recently. Any changes in shape will affect your saddle’s fit and a poorly fitting saddle could cause pain – resulting in potentially dangerous bad behaviour. You should supplement visits from your saddler with back checks from an equine physiotherapist or sports massage professional to ensure that your horse is completely pain free and fit for purpose.
Plan your route
It’s easy to make a spur of the moment decision to go for a ride without really planning where you’re going, or telling anyone for that matter. Those of you that remember your Pony Club days will know that you should always carry a hoof pick, baler twine, some change for a payphone and remember to tell people where you’re going. Things have moved on a bit since – you’ll be carrying your mobile phone for a start – but the old adage of informing someone of your route and how long you’ll be out still stands.
For the explorers among you, it’s also wise to plan your route on a map beforehand and, better still, carry one with you on your ride – just in case you happen to get lost. If you don’t want to carry round a paper map, try OS MapFinder – although bear in mind that you might want to dismount before consulting either version!
Other useful apps include Horse Rider SOS which uses GPS to track your position and alerts a designated contact if you have an accident which renders you motionless. This is particularly useful if you enjoy hacking alone in more remote locations.
Be safe on the roads
We’re not all lucky enough to be able to ride straight from the yard out into the countryside – riding along a quiet lane or busy road is essential for some riders to access bridleways, so thank you OS Guys for your in put here. Safe Hacking
North South East or West…or somewhere in the middle? Here are links to just some of the livery yards with fantastic hacking on their doorstep.