So many riders are nervous about hacking their horses out. There is an element of unpredictability which makes many riders worry about what might happen.
There are so many possibilities and surprises that can occur out on a hack that it is no wonder many riders find the prospect quite daunting. There are many reasons why horse riders can find hacking a scary prospect:
- Road Routes – too many moving vehicles, inconsiderate drivers, shiny slippy concrete
- Off-road routes or hacking alone – what if an accident occurs in the middle of nowhere? The worry of no-one being around to help if needed.
- Hacking in company – what if the other horse is too excited? Will I be able to control my horse? What if I can’t calm my horse down?
- Unexpected objects or people- plastic bags, birds flying from bushes, bicycles, pushchairs, dogs off leads. What if my horse spooks? Can I handle it?
- What if my horse bolts with me? Do I have the ability to stay on? What if I fall off?
I am sure there are many more scenarios that you can add to this list from your own unique experiences. The possibilities when out hacking are endless. Here are some ways you may find useful to overcome anxiety and worry whilst out hacking.
Communication between horse and rider is important and prevents most mishaps. Work on your communication with your horse & control in the arena first before taking them into unfamiliar surroundings and open spaces. Develop your position so that you are balanced and secure, and make sure that your horse will stay focussed on you, regardless of what is going on around him.
- In-Hand Work
Lead your horse in-hand or long-rein your horse out and about instead of getting in the saddle straight away. This will help you both build confidence and trust and as well as getting familiar with the surroundings out hacking (always put your horse in a bridle and wear a hat and gloves yourself along with a hi-viz).
- Use Your Arena for Practice
Your arena can be a great tool for some hacking practice in a safe and familiar environment beforehand. Simulate some of the challenges you might face out hacking, while you’re riding in the arena or field at home. This can be a great confidence booster for both horse and rider.
- Short Sessions
Less is more. Keep your hacking sessions short, to begin with, to ease you both into the hacking environment. Start with small 5 minute hacks, and gradually increase over time. Baby steps are usually the best way to build confidence.
- Experienced Company
Going out with another horse that has plenty of experience of hacking can work wonders for building up confidence and easing some of the nervousness you may have. An experienced horse is much more likely to stay calm in a variety of situations and be a calming influence on your horse.
- Choosing Company
You must choose the right type of company when you and your horse go out hacking. Ride with someone who understands and is sympathetic to your needs. You ideally want someone that knows you are trying to build positive experiences and is happy to go steady.
Nine times out of 10 if you think you are going to have a rubbish hack you will do. Your mindset can have a huge impact on the outcome of the hack. Try to visualise a positive, enjoyable experience. You will be surprised at how well this works!
- Breathing Techniques
When we feel nervous or anxious we often forget to breathe. This doesn’t help you and it certainly doesn’t help your horse. Use breathing techniques to help you stay calm and relaxed while out hacking.
- Plan Your Route
Planning can have a huge impact on how you feel about the hack as a whole. Planning your route ahead of time gives you a real visual and sense of familiarity. It will help you feel organised, focussed and have a sense of being on top of things.
- Stay Safe
Staying safe is an important aspect of riding particularly for hacking where you may be faced with situations out of the norm.
- Pick the safest times of day to ride.
- Wear hi-viz.
- Tell someone where you are going.
- Take your phone for emergencies.
- Make sure your horse’s shoes are in good condition
- Don’t go out in adverse weather conditions.
- Do What YOU Want To Do!
Remember, that no-one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do! Everyone’s experience and comfort levels vary. Don’t get pushed into something you don’t want to do because of peer pressure. You can always choose to turn around, go back, dismount and walk. It’s all up to you!