It’s that time of year when hacking becomes a much more regular occurrence in our diary. Sometimes in the winter I only manage to hack once a week, sometimes not at all, if the weather is against us! I enjoy hacking now (I say ‘now’ because I never really used to but that’s a whole other story!), for me it doesn’t involve as much hard work as schooling does and I can ‘switch off’ for an hour or so… or at least that’s the plan! But I think we all know that hacking doesn’t always offer the relaxing ‘switch off’ time we are after, in fact it can be quite the opposite.
If you’re feeling a bit stuck or finding hacking more stressful than stress free, here are some things to try on your next hack. I’m by no means a professional but through learning along the way, these things definitely help me.
1. Plan your riding route in advance of your ride. Give yourself time to consider the traffic and the busyness of your ride at the time you plan to go. For me, I know the park can get really busy with dog walkers at the weekend, or the race horses might be riding down to the gallops at certain times, or at 5.30pm the lane can be busier with traffic etc. So if I can I try to go at a quieter time or pick a route to avoid any potential ‘exciting situations’!!
2. Wear your Hi-Vis. If you have to ride on the roads, wearing your Hi-Vis should help to avoid any stress with cars and drivers potentially not seeing you until the last minute! 9 out of 10 drivers I come across are great; passing wide, slow and patiently, but there can be the odd few who just seem to think we are a nuisance. I always think if I am doing everything I should be, then they have no cause to moan and also poor drivers don’t have the stress of suddenly seeing a horse rider at the last minute because they’ve been shaded by the trees (I have been a driver in this situation and it’s not nice). So pop your hi-vis on, fashionable or not…!
3. Relax… Whenever Hammy gets excited, light on his feet and joggy, this often also includes head in the air like a giraffe and ears moving around all over the place like antennas, I just relax. I don’t grip on for dear life, I just sit deep and heavy and he soon settles. He much prefers to be allowed to stride out than be held back and I’m sure your horses might be the same too. It might take a bit of practise to ‘let go’ when your nervous but it really works.
4. Plan to ride with a friend. If your horse is better in company or if you’re better in company, make arrangements to ride with a friend. Preferably one with a sensible horse, to keep things chilled and they can take the lead if you have any problems (nothing like relying on someone else to get you through a tricky situation sometimes haha!).