10 animals to see when hacking your horse

Seeing nature while on your horse is one of the joys of hacking. Follow these tips from freelance nature writer Kate Blincoe and see what you can spot next time you're out. 

Meadows and Farmland

Hares

Hares are great to see in spring time (Pic: Jo Garrett (Flickr - License)

Hares are great to see in spring time (Pic: Jo Garrett (Flickr - License)

Look out for hares, the pagan symbol of love, growth and fertility, in open grassland. Although they're best described as large rabbits, they can look more like small dogs when you see them running. 

The highlight is boxing hares in March and April.

Goldfinches

Riding by hedgerows, you're likely to see many 'LBJs' flitting along next to you - that's Little Brown Jobs - small and hard to distinguish birds. 

Look a bit closer and you may notice the flash of yellow and red that indicates the stunning goldfinch. 

Barn owls

Ride before dusk to see barn owls (Pic: Flickr)

Ride before dusk to see barn owls (Pic: Flickr)

Ride just before dusk for the best chance of seeing the ghost-like barn owls silently gliding over rough grassland and farmland looking for prey. 

Skylarks

The skylark is the voice of the British summertime and has been immortalized in poetry and painting.

Ride near open grassland and watch out for a small, unexciting brown bird rising up straight like a helicopter, all the while trilling a melodious tune. 

Their song is most often heard from February onwards.

Woodland 

Deer

We have six species of deer in the UK. The ones you're most likely to see are the small Muntjac (you may even hear it barking in a dog-like way), the white-bottomed roe deer, the white-flecked fallow deer and the majestic red deer.

Woodland, heartland or open meadow land are the best places to spot them - fawns are born in May and June. 

Foxes 

Stick to woodland to spot foxes (Pic: Flickr)

Stick to woodland to spot foxes (Pic: Flickr)

Woodland edges are great for seeing foxes, especially cubs, who can often be seen frolicking and playing 

Riverbanks

Kingfishers

The kingfisher's bright colours makes them easy to distinguish from other birds (Pic: Flickr)

The kingfisher's bright colours makes them easy to distinguish from other birds (Pic: Flickr)

To spot kingfishers, look out for a flash of iridescent turquoise, keeping perfectly still on a branch overhanging still or slow moving water. 

Great crested grebes

This water bird with elegant plumage has an elaborate courtship 'dance' in March and April. When the chicks hatch a few weeks later, the mother carries them on her back like a boat.

Beaches and coastland

Common and grey seals

Seals pop their heads out occasionally to see what's going on! (Pic: Flickr)

Seals pop their heads out occasionally to see what's going on! (Pic: Flickr)

Grey seals come to the end of their pupping season in February, but a few babies may remain on beaches on the East coast - make sure you don't ride too close. Look out for seal heads popping out of the water to have a look around.

Sanderlings

This cute little sea bird can be spotted at the shoreline of sandy beaches.

They scurry along looking very busy. They spend the winter here, migrating back to the Arctic in March.