'A new lease of life': #Hack1000Miles gives one student reason to continue post-injury

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Things don’t always go to plan – especially with horses! This was certainly the case for Geography student Emma Hayes, who has successfully completed #Hack1000Miles.

She crossed the finish line, despite injury stopping her plans to compete in endurance.

“My older horse, Duke, is now a happy hacker, but we used to compete in endurance before he became blind in his left eye.

“My main competition horse is Yassa, an Arabian gelding, and I’ve owned him for a year,” says Emma.

In March 2018, Yassa suffered an injury to his collateral ligament. This put him out of action for several months.

“It left me feeling miserable. I couldn’t ride him, let alone compete, which was hard as we had such big plans for the year.

“We were going to go to Scotland for the annual Home Internationals, as well as competing in the Irish Long Distance Riding Association Nationals.”

Rediscovering their bond

Discovering #Hack1000Miles gave her a new reason to stay motivated.

“It really encouraged me to get out in the countryside as I originally did when I first got Duke four years ago.

“We used to hack for hours, exploring the mountains and loughs before we had transport, so it was good to rediscover that.

“Despite being retired from competition, I learned Duke still loves his long hacks just as much as he did when in endurance training.” 

Emma took Duke on several pleasure rides, too.

“We won the Top Pleasure Ride trophy for all of Northern Ireland in November, which was a great achievement for us,” smiles Emma. 

Lots of hard work

Yassa was on box rest for 12 weeks, followed by restricted turnout. Four months post-injury, she began long-reining him.

“This was followed by basic arena work under saddle in August. After four weeks, we set off on our first hack. 

“After three months of controlled fitness training, Yassa passed his final lameness tests in November. He was totally sound and deemed fit to resume his work as an endurance horse. The process wasn’t easy, as Yassa can be fiery, but it was worth it.”

Emma is a full-time student. She lives at home and commutes to university in Belfast, which makes finding time to ride easier.

“I’m lucky that my timetable means I have a lot of afternoons and days off, so I was able to fit everything in.

“This year, I’m aiming to take Yassa through the endurance grades with the hope of qualifying to represent Ireland at the Red Dragon Endurance Ride in Wales and compete in the Irish Long Distance Riding Association National Championships. 

“We also restarted #Hack1000Miles on the January 1st — I love it!” 

Could you Hack 1,000 Miles? Find out more about our fun, free, achievable challenge here.