If you’re a new horse owner or your child is lucky enough to have become the proud owner of their first pony, you (or they) might never have been out hacking before without the supervision of a trek leader or riding instructor. Part of the fun and privilege of owning your own horse is being able to ride whenever you want to, without having to arrange it with a third party or book a supervised outing at a time to suit somebody else.
However, when going riding on your own (and even with other people) you should always be mindful of your safety and take some precautions to make sure that if something went wrong, you would be able to either fix it yourself, or summon help. If you are going hacking independently, here is our advice on some of the basic steps you should take to make sure that you stay safe and are able to deal with any emergencies that may arise, plus a few pieces of basic kit that you should carry with you along the way. Just in case!
Every responsible rider knows that a suitable riding hat, gloves, boots and clothing are essential wear any time that you will be working with your horse. But don’t forget that when you’re out in the elements, the weather can change suddenly, and you might find yourself unprepared for a sudden downpour or if the weather turns cold. Being soaked to the skin and miserable is not only unpleasant, but can affect your ability to ride effectively if your attention is in two places at once. So if you’re going out without a coat, make sure you carry with you a light waterproof Mac, and an extra jumper or top if at all possible as well.
Before any ride, you should check that your tack and equipment is safe and fit for purpose and not wearing in any critical areas. That said, you cannot plan for every eventuality, and so taking a few essential small items that can be packed away and carried with you are a good idea too.
Unless you ride with saddle bags or panniers, which most riders only planning an hour’s hack do not, it can be difficult to work out where to keep everything you might need to take. A small rucksack may seem like a good idea, but remember that this could cause a problem if you were to fall and land on your back. Lots of pockets or a waist bag may be a better idea. Also, pack carefully. Think about where anything sharp, such as your keys or a hoof pick will be, and ensure that if you fall, you will be unlikely to land directly on them.
Finally, if you do choose to use a saddle bag or panniers, this can be a great way to store the extra kit you might want to take, particularly if you are taking some extra jumpers and maybe a packed lunch. But think about what you are packing and where- if you take a fall and your horse wanders off or bolts, you won’t be able to call for help or set off a flare if your phone and emergency kit are all receding into the distance on the back of your horse!
It is a good idea to have a small disc made up (such as are used for dog and cat collars) to attach to the saddle, denoting your phone number and that of the yard or another emergency contact. This is so that should someone else find your horse on the road or on the moor, they will know who to contact about it and will be able to raise the alarm that you are still out there.
When you’re planning your hack, call or text someone you trust to let them know where you’re going, and roughly when you plan to be back. Also, agree with them to check in upon your return, and that if you don’t do this within a set amount of time, they will raise the alarm. You may also want to leave a note at the stables to the same effect- just in case.
Finally, don’t forget to let your designated person know when you are back, and also ensure that you get in touch with them if you are going to be later than planned.
Hacking can be fun for riders of all ages, whatever the weather, as long as you take a few simple precautions to keep yourself safe along the way. Happy hacking!