5 top tips for hacking

Hacking should be a deeply relaxing, pleasurably activity to do with your horse. Enjoying the beautiful countryside in the company of your four-legged friend can be the perfect way to start or end your day, or indeed spend your whole weekend doing! It conjures up feelings of freedom and unity with your horse. It removes us from the trials of everyday life – the bills, your boss, your housework!

However, as with everything, hacking comes with a price. Other than the very fortunate amongst us, we will all invariably have to venture onto the roads in order to access the delights of off-road hacking. The problem with the roads is to do with speed. Everything has become faster, our phones, our computers, our cars…Barely a day goes by without some horror story in the press of accidents involving horses on the road. If we read them all we would never put a foot in the stirrup!

So what should we do? Never hack? Resign ourselves to the arena? The problem with this is, hacking is brilliant for both our own and our horses’ mental states, even top class competition yards regularly hack their horses to allow them a chance to unwind. You may not want to simply trot in a circle for 30 minutes after a whole day sat in the office. However if you take sensible precautions hacking can still be relaxing and rewarding.

Top five tips for hacking:

1: Be sensible. Riding is risky, but you can reduce the risk by making sensible decisions. Should you hack your 4 year old alone on a windy evening? – no, wait till the conditions are right and you have an older horse to go hacking with.

2: Make sure your horse will follow basic commands. Ensure your horse will stand when asked, will move easily forwards and will take a few steps sideways. If you are unsure how to teach your horse to move sideways ask your instructor. A few lateral steps can move you quickly from the middle of the road to the side.

3: Teach your horse to stand while you mount and dismount. If your horse is nappy, or scared, it can be safer to simply dismount and lead your horse past the obstacle. This is not allowing the horse to win, it is teaching the horse that you are to be trusted. Please make sure you can find somewhere safe to remount once you have passed the obstacle.

4: Stay alert. Do not use your mobile phone while riding. Do not ride on the buckle. Listen to the traffic, you can often hear how fast a car is coming long before you can see it. Wear hi-viz gear to ensure you are highly visible to other road users.

5: Be courteous. If someone slows down for you make the effort to thank them. A smile and a nod of the head is all it takes. If you don’t that car driver will remember that the next time they meet a horse and could be less likely to slow down. We all use the roads, we cannot expect courtesy from others if we do not behave accordingly.

 

Stay safe and make the most of the British Summer!

 

Sue’s standpoint – guide to owning your first horse

By Sue Palmer

I recently visited a lady who had fulfilled her childhood dream and bought her own horse.  It is not an uncommon situation for a first-horse owner to keep their horse at home, with no clear advice on what needs to be done for the health and well-being of that horse, so I thought I’d start a list, and I’m hoping you can help by adding more in the comments.  I’ve listed things under ‘Must have’ and ‘Nice to have’, and I welcome your thoughts!  I’ve grown up with horses, so owning a horse to me is second nature.  However, I remember bringing my baby boy home from the hospital, and knowing full well that I didn’t know where to start, I was well and truly in ‘conscious incompetence’!  I’m guessing that it’s similar for the first-time owner bringing their precious new horse home, and so I’m looking for kind hearted advice given with the best of intentions 🙂  You can find the websites of recognised organisations in each of the relevant fields here: https://www.thehorsephysio.co.uk/BPT/Links/

 

Must have

Take an experienced friend or an instructor with you to view the horse

Appropriate stabling and turnout

Have your horse registered with a local vet

Worming program, such as with Intelligent Worming

Saddle fit check (even if it’s been done recently)

Dental check (or plan in place)

Appropriate farriery (follow your farrier’s advice, rather than your next door neighbours)

Company of some kind for your horse

Third party insurance, such as that offered by membership of the British Horse Society

Appropriate and safe protective clothing for yourself

 

Nice to have

Have the horse vetted before purchase

Regular lessons, both on the ground and ridden

Access to hacking as well as an arena

Maintenance physical therapy

Attend British Horse Society horse owners courses to develop your knowledge

Learn about horse behaviour with an organisation such as the Intelligent Horsemanship Association

Read, listen, watch as much as you can about horse health and behaviour

 

What other pieces of advice would you like to pass on? Add them to the comments below!