4 solutions for hacking problems…
Problem: ‘I’m too scared to go out on my own’
Solution: Then don’t for the time being! Ride out with a sensible companion to start with and then move on to going out with a friend or partner who’s on a bike or walking beside you. Bit by bit you can practise moving away from the person on the ground until you feel ready to hack alone.
Problem: ‘I worry that I might fall off and no-one will know where I am’
Solution: Always tell someone at the yard where you are going and what time you will be back. Carry a mobile phone with you, and if you have a smartphone, consider investing in the HorseRiderSOS app, which notifies the person/s of your choice and tells them where you are in the event that you should fall and become unconscious.
Problem: ‘I hate riding on the roads and get nervous that other road users might not see me’
Solution: Wear plenty of high-vis gear. This means you’ll be more visible to other road users. Use clear hand signals to slow drivers down and stick to wide, less busy roads where there is plenty of room for drivers to pass you. If the roads are dangerously busy where you live it might be better to avoid them altogether and organise transport to take you to off-road hacking. Safety should always be a rider’s first priority.
Problem: ‘I’m okay riding in the school, but get really nervous out hacking’.
Solution: Do all the preparation work suggested before, but above all, take every precaution you need to help you feel safer. Wear a hard hat, a body protector and/or air vest and high-vis gear. Fit a neck strap to your horse, make sure you ride him in a strong enough bit so you can control him, take your mobile and download the HorseRiderSOS app. You could also lunge your horse to take the edge off him before you go out, but beware of getting him very fit – you want to be as fit or fitter than your horse to tackle hacking with confidence, not vice versa. Simply do everything you can to help you feel safer – we all feel better when we have the right tools for the job.
4 sticky situations sorted…
Situation: A car is speeding along towards you which is making both you and your horse nervous
Action: Stay calm, signal ‘slow down’ and get out of danger. Clearly put your hand up to signal for the driver to stop or slow down and repeat your request until the driver responds. If they don’t, get close to the side of the road and ride your horse confidently forward, or if there’s the opportunity to do so, nip into a gateway or driveway until the driver has passed. Do not shout abuse at the driver because this will only make them more likely to do the same next time.
Situation: A dog comes bounding towards you and your horse, and it’s barking and looking aggressive
Action: Stand your ground and stay confident. Your instinct might tell you to turn and get out of the way, but actually this often encourages a dog to chase a horse. Indicate to the owner to regain control of their dog and stand your ground. In fact, often riding confidently towards the dog is enough to make them back off. After all, you’re a lot bigger than them.
Situation: Your horse is very excitable and is throwing in a few bucks
Action: Tire him out! Find a steep hill or at least a slope and take him for a good long trot until he’s got it out of his system. Remember that the more you try to suppress his behaviour by holding him on a tighter rein, the more inclined he will be to buck.
Situation: You can’t get your horse past a spooky object
Action: Get off now, train him later. There’s no shame in getting off to lead him past, but remember this is only a short-term solution. When you get home, it’s time to train him to be obedient in the manège – get some help with lessons if necessary – and introduce a few more spooky objects around the yard and school before you venture out again.