Taking a relaxed trail ride with your horse can be a wonderful experience. But hacking out calmly is not something that every horse takes for granted. This has to do with the fact that a horse is a flight animal: when it sees or hears any potential danger, it will flee. During a hack out, many scary or unexpected situations can occur. For example, birds flying out of the bushes or other road users that want to pass you. In this article, we provide some training and safety tips that may help you and your horse enjoy a relaxing hack out.
- Start with obstacle training – With obstacle training, you can teach your horse to cope with exciting situations you may encounter during a hack in a safe way. For safety, it is advisable to practice everything in hand before you get on.
- Simulate traffic situations – Does your horse find traffic a bit scary? You can also practice this safely in your own yard. Think of dogs walkers, cyclists, scooters, cars and tractors. See if someone with such a vehicle could help you with this.
- Do not hack out alone (the first time) – Especially the first few times it is wise to take someone along, on foot or on a bike. Should something happen, you will have someone with you who can help you or call for help. Going out with an experienced horse and rider can also be hugely beneficial. This can help your horse cope with any exciting situations. The first few times, choose a quiet area to ride in, such as a forest. If that goes well, you can also look for more difficult situations such as traffic.
- Look out for your own safety – It is always wise to wear a hard hat while riding. In addition to protecting your head should you fall off your horse, it also protects against (low-hanging) branches. It is also wise, especially in autumn, winter and in evenings, to wear a high-visibility jacket, so you are clearly visible in traffic.
- Ensure your horse’s safety – Your horse’s tack should be appropriate and intact. You can prevent accidents by regularly checking and maintaining your tack. It is very annoying if a girth or girth strap snaps during a nice gallop on the tracks. You can also make your horse more visible by using high-visibility wraps and sheets.
- Bring a mobile phone – Especially when you are out and about on your own, it is important to be able to reach someone in case of emergency. In addition, navigation could help you if you get lost. Make sure you keep your mobile phone in your pocket and do not put in a saddle bag. Should you fall off, you would not want your horse running off with your phone.
- Attach a name tag with telephone number – If you fall and your horse runs off, bystanders will know who the horse belongs to and will be able reach you if they catch your horse. Put an emergency contact on it as well, of someone else they can call should something happen to you.
- Bring a hoof pick – for example in a saddle bag. If your horse has a stone in his foot (or shoe) on the road, you can easily remove it. A pocket knife could also be handy to take with you.