We are all aware of the benefits of hacking both for our horses’ well-being and our own. Top class competition horses are regularly hacked out to allow them unwind time and to many of us, our weekend hack is our reward for the strains of our working week. Hacking alone, in particular, conjures up images of freedom, escaping the humdrum of life and unifies everything that is so unique about horses. However…everything comes at a price.
In our modern world, we have grown used to the speed with which the world moves. Everything is quicker. Your phone, your job, your internet, your car…and every other car that travels on the roads. The press is full of horrific tales of car and horse collisions on narrow lanes. If you were to read them all you would never set one foot in your stirrup. So what do we do?
Firstly – be sensible. All riding is risky, you are taking a considered risk every time you ride. For example, do you ride your just backed 4 year old on a windy cold evening by yourself? No, wait till someone is there and it’s not blowing a gale. Do you hack your unschooled, spooky horse down a lane by yourself? No, make sure your horse will move away from your leg, a few simple steps of leg yield will be enough to move your horse across to the hedge should a car be approaching. Also a well-schooled horse is more likely to stay tuned in to you rather than the approaching car. If possible try and find someone to ride out with, place the quiet horse between the spooky one and the cars. Failing this, ask someone to walk with you.
Secondly – stay alert. Listen to the approaching traffic, don’t ride along on a long rein with your feet out of the stirrups. Don’t use your mobile phone.
Thirdly – be courteous. If someone slows down for you make the effort to thank them. If you annoy that car driver they will be less inclined to slow down for the next horse that they see.
I cannot reiterate the last point enough. I still regularly while driving meet riders in the middle of road, on a long rein, who don’t thank me while I wait for them to pull into a gateway. You must thank drivers, if you can’t, don’t hack out, you are putting other people at risk!