I can’t say that I’m the most confident rider hacking in the world but after many mishaps I can now hack on my own around where I live – this is how I did it.
When I owned my first horse I used to love hacking. I would be down the bridle path with her once a week if not twice a week. She was a youngster and we did have a nasty experience out of the road for the first time. I was hacking with a friend – the village where the stables where was quite a busy one. We were waiting at a roundabout when a motorbike came up behind with it’s engine running, the horse spooked and we galloped off, up the verge, across the roundabout – eventually we came to a stop the other side. We were ok but as you can imagine things could have been much worse. About a year or so later the same horse dumped while hacking down a country lane into a huge pile of nettles – it was summer, I had stings EVERYWHERE! That under my belt and a couple of nutty horses later I developed a complete phobia about hacking. I could do it on anyone elses horse but not my own! I used to physically shake and make myself sick whilst actually on the horse trying to hack – as you can imagine it was pretty confusing for the poor animal.
When I purchased by current horse he was very green but had a great temperament. His previous owner had done NOTHING but hack on him. He also loves it. The problem I found with him was that whilst I would have to use my leg to get him moving in the school if you put him on a road he would stride out like a 17 hand hunter – not a 14.2 pony! Mentally I just could not cope with it. For a couple of years my instructor hacked him out – she didn’t have the same issues as me and she liked the fact he was forward. They went past secondary schools when the bus run was in full swing, met cement mixers, went all over the shop!!! Often she would walk alongside me and occasionally me alongside her to reinforce in my mind that I would be safe.
I work full time so used to be at the livery yard at strange times. Hacking with a friend wasn’t really an option so I had to do it on my own or not at all.
I’ve recently moved to my own place. When I did so it gave me the excuse I needed to grab the bull by the horns and get hacking. I have no plans to move so if I’m to do it, it has to be now. After a couple of times with my instructor or husband walking alongside me for moral support and distract me by chatting, I now take my boy around the country lanes were I live. I have to say we have a strong equestrian community in our area and touch wood all the farmers and car drivers have been great at slowing down or pulling over. Most of the time it’s great, he loves going out and about and strides out, he almost looks like he’s smiling. I’d be lying if I said it was never without incident. The other week after a long wet winter we went out for the first time in months. The horse got far too excited and when some other horses galloped at us from the surrounding fields his tail went up vertically, he started trotting beautifully on the spot (why can’t he do this in the school), snorting and generally losing all perspective on life. After I’d led him past the oh so exciting horses and he’d calmed down a bit, I got back on.
It’s taken me ages to build up the trust again, get to know my horse and how he reacts to things and deal with him accordingly.
Why Do It
1. I’m told it’s good exercise for the horse, strengthening his muscles and joints.
2. It varies his routine
3. It varies my routine – it can get very boring going round and round in the school the entire time
4. He loves it
5. On a nice summers evening there isn’t a better thing to be doing
1. Always wear hi viz
2. If nervous get someone to go with you for a bit until you feel comfortable going it alone
Useful Hacking Products
High Visibility Vest (Please Pass Slow & Wide) – A must for hacking on roads
Child’s High Visibility Vest (Please Pass Slow & Wide)
Books on Hacking – Amazon.co.uk
Good Quality Fly Spray – Avoids irritation by flies when hacking