It’s easy to slip into the routine of not riding at this time of year. It’s cold, wet, the days are short — yuck! And to top it off, we’re in lockdown.
We’re huge advocates of hacking — that’s why we have thousands of brilliant riders signed up to our challenge to #Hack1000Miles — and there are many reasons why it’s good for you to keep hacking in winter.
We understand that it’s hard to get out when motivation is low though, and so we asked some of our #Hack1000Miles challengers how they make it happen…
1. It will help you feel happier
Suzy Ayshford knows all too well how important it is to get out into the fresh air, even when it’s wet and cold.
“I suffer from depression and anxiety, but when I’m on a horse I can forget about what’s going on in the world,” says Suzy, who hacks her mare Baggins on Dartmoor.
“It’s time to concentrate on my horse and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. I really think riding is one of the best therapies.
“I’ve got a compressed disc on one side of my back and a herniated disc on the other, which causes constant sciatica. Riding helps ease the pain and by using muscles that I wouldn’t necessarily use otherwise it keeps me agile.”
2. It keeps your horse happy, too
Primary school teacher Cerys Plenty says her Thoroughbred mare Ruby becomes harder to manage when out of work.
“Ruby can be difficult on the ground if she isn’t worked; she really depends on brain stimulation,” says Cerys.
“When it’s cold outside, I always know I can come home to a cup of tea and the fire after riding.”
3. Adapt your routine
Rhona Clark finds she is more motivated to ride after changing her routine to suit her better.
She used to leave her horsey jobs to do after work in the evening, when it was dark, and slipped into the habit of doing the bare minimum.
“It meant I wouldn’t ride all week and then I’d feel guilty. Now I ride in the morning instead and I love the feeling that I’ve achieved something before I even start work,” says Rhona.
“I’m also more awake and alert. I have to be disciplined at nighttime. I know if I stay up late then I won’t get up to ride and I’ll feel bad all day.”
4. Have a plan — and stick to it
Cerys brings some of her classroom techniques onto the yard, with a chalkboard in the tack room outlining her hacking and schooling plans.
“When I have a plan, I’m more likely to stick to it,” she says.
“The board holds me accountable and I treat riding like an appointment. I have some flexibility and can move a session if I really need to, but in general board guilt motivates me to ride.”
5. Give yourself a day off
Cerys stresses the importance of have a day off.
“Knowing my routine at the start of the week helps me stick with it, but if I have a day when I really don’t want to ride, that is okay. Making myself feel bad only demotivates me.
“That said, there are times when I might need to push myself. Visualising how I’ll feel after riding seems to work.”
6. Take your horse out in-hand
When you’re really strapped for time or lacking motivation to saddle up, there is an alternative way to get a few miles in: going out in-hand instead (in full high-viz as normal, of course).
“Sometimes it’s the thought of getting all the gear on in order to go for a hack that’s off putting,” says Rhona.
“Strip it right back. Just take your horse for a walk up the lane so that you feel like you’ve achieved something.”
7. Set a personal goal
Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself.
Rhona enters an online competition each month and uses hacking to help her three horses maintain a certain level of fitness.
“I enter at the beginning of the month and once I’ve spent the money I’m committed,” explains Rhona.
Goals can take any guise and be as big or small as you like.
For example, if you’re aiming to complete your 1,000 miles in a year, that’s 19 miles each week.
If this feels too much, work out the figure that is attainable and aim for that. You could also give yourself a winter mileage target to hit before spring.
8. Remember to have fun
At the end of the day, remember the golden rule of hacking: have fun.
“We put so much time, money and effort into having horses. You’ve got to find the balance and enjoy yourself,” concludes Cerys.