We can all be guilty of slipping into behaviours that feel like they will make life easier, such as riding one-handed, on a loose rein, spending time chatting to a friend, or even using a phone when we are in the saddle on a hack.

Horsemanship expert Jason Webb discusses the bad habits he most often sees in riders when hacking, and what you can do to address them.

“As with horses, I tend to see two bad habits among riders: either they don’t pay enough attention to their horse, or they pay too much attention,” says Jason. “Riders who don’t pay attention can miss signals from their horse that he’s worried about something, so it can seem like a behaviour comes out of the blue.

“The other problem is being too in tune with your horse, so looking at what he’s doing, micromanaging him and worrying about what he might do next without taking in your surroundings.”

Jason explains that both styles can result in a horse displaying undesirable behaviours, such as spooking, planting, refusing to stop, or jogging.

“You need to have an awareness of your horse, but also of yourself, so that you can understand both your strengths and weaknesses,” he says.

Becoming the rider your horse wants

If you find your mind wandering during a ride, or you become caught up in conversation with a friend, try to bring yourself back to regularly checking in with your horse. Make sure that you maintain a consistent contact so that you’re ready if he indicates to you that he’s unsure of something.

If you find yourself worrying, look up, pick something ahead to focus on, like a tree or a lamppost, and concentrate on riding to it. Don’t forget about your horse, but remember to take in your surroundings too.

“It does require work to change these habits because you don’t always realise that you’re doing them,” acknowledges Jason. “A good place to start is by asking a friend or instructor to highlight anything they notice.”

Find out what’s inside the latest issue of Your Horse

Get the latest issue