In partnership with Equisafety

Your horse is all tacked up and ready to go out, but then your phone rings. Your riding buddy has had to cancel. Your mind is filled with a sense of dread as you psyche yourself up for yet another fraught, anxious, solo hack filled with napping and spooking. Soon you decide it would be best to ditch the whole notion and stay home and school instead.

Sound familiar?

Lots of horses act completely differently when riding out with their equine buddies compared to going solo – they’ll be a perfect angel in company, but turn into a snorting dragon when they’re alone.

At Your Horse we believe that hacking is one of the great joys of owning a horse, and that you should be able to look forward to riding out. So, if this isn’t what you’re experiencing at the moment, try our top tips for a happy solo hacking experience.

Step by step

When trying anything new, the important thing is to take it slowly. If your horse is nervous when they’re on their own, is young or a bit green, or if they simply want to be back in their field, it’s essential to make hacking a fun experience.

Start small – just ride up the driveway, turn around and come back. Little by little, extend the distance – and before you know it, you’ll be out for hours!

If your horse stops or spooks at something, let them have a minute, then ask them to walk on. Be soothing and gentle, encouraging them forwards. Think relaxed and try to avoid tensing up – your horse will feel this and stress even more.

You may find that your horse picks certain spots where they’ll nap. Here the most important thing to do is not give in and turn for home. Instead, encourage them forwards – you’re in charge and they don’t get to dictate how long you stay out for.

Also, don’t be afraid to explore new routes. In fact, that’s one of the best things you can do with a spooky or nappy horse. This way they get to see new things, have new experiences and grow in confidence.

Remember that every horse and rider is different, so there are lots of things you can try. If your horse gets quite fizzy when out on their own, lunge them before you set off. If your own confidence has been knocked by previous solo hacking incidents, go out with another rider, but ask them to hang back, or ‘leapfrog’ with your horse so that they get used to going on ahead and being further away from their companion. Having someone on foot will also help, or you could start by taking your horse out in hand. You’ll be able to communicate with them from the ground, helping them to be less afraid of scary objects.

Playing leapfrog

This is a great technique to improve your horse’s confidence while hacking solo.

How to ride it:

  1. When riding out with a companion let your horse walk out in front and then calmly bring them to a halt while the other horse walks past.
  2. Wait for them to get a few metres ahead and then ask the other rider to halt as you calmly walk past them.
  3. Try the same in trot, but instead of halting, walk.
  4. ‘Leapfrog’ with each other throughout your hack so that your horse gets used to the idea of going ahead, then going behind, and being some distance away from the other horse.
  5. Gradually, you can increase the distances and change the pace.

This content is brought to you in partnership with Equisafety, high viz clothing for horses and riders.

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