Tips for a safe and stress-free hack
We all understand the benefits of hacking our horses but disappearing countryside and roads becoming ever busier means that venturing outside of the arena can be a daunting prospect that requires some planning.
“Many riders can find riding out to be challenging; we all know that there can be hazards involved – from dogs to cars… even the odd puddle can disrupt a pleasant hack,” says Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at The British Society, whose website is a brilliant resource. Among many things, it features tips for hacking safely, Highway Code rules relating to equestrians and maps illustrating the location of bridlepaths and horse-friendly byways.
There are some straightforward steps riders can take to minimise stress and maximise safety. “Wearing high-vis is a simple way to make sure you stand out to other road users, helping them spot you as early as possible,” says Rachael Turner, keen hacker and news writer for magazine Your Horse, which runs a #Hack1000Mile challenge.
Hi-vis clothing for you or your horse will make you more visible to motorists
“If you’re able, don’t hack alone and try to tell someone where you are going and roughly how long you expect to be before you leave the yard,” she adds. “I’d encourage anyone who hacks to download the free location app what3words. At Your Horse we’ve covered several stories of injured riders being rescued thanks to this life-saving tool that provides your exact location.”
Those with spooky or very excitable horses might, understandably, feel safer sticking to an arena. However, the more hacking one can do with such horses, the more mundane the experience comes. Horses take their cues from us and will pick up on the nerves of an anxious rider.
Everything from singing (which ensures we don’t hold our breath) to doing exercises such as shoulder-in can be a brilliant distraction. Really fizzy horses might also benefit from going in the school before hacking, reducing the schooling time and increasing the length of the hack gradually.
Equine vet Lucinda Ticehurst is no stranger to excitable horses, as she is passionate about retraining and rehabilitating Thoroughbreds. “I like to start with short hacks with a reliable calm companion on a route that is not too stimulating,” she reveals. “So, we’ll pick somewhere very quiet with no obvious hazards. It is best to stick to walk to start and I choose the time of day I hack carefully, such as avoiding rush-hour or school pick-up time in my village!”
Few equestrians will be unfamiliar with dealing with inpatient or inconsiderate drivers. However, courtesy works both ways. Always thanks drivers for slowing down, even if this is simply an acknowledgment in the form of a nod of the head.
The BHS has been at the forefront of road safety campaigns
Hacking safety tips from Alan Hiscox, director of Safety at the BHS
- Wearing bright clothing gives drivers valuable time to see you and slow down. The BHS recommends as a minimum, a high-vis jacket or tabard for the rider and leg bands on the horse.
- If you are going out, make sure you plan your route and tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. Carry a phone with you for use in emergencies.
- If you’re looking to improve your confidence on the roads, then we would recommend taking the BHS Ride Safe award. We designed the award to ensure riders are equipped with the skills they need to ride safely in all environments, allowing them to confidently negotiate potential obstacles and hazards. The award also provides practical tips and guidance on how to ride safely whilst also teaching the rules of the road and the Highway Code.
For more information, visit www.bhs.org.uk
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