What makes up the perfect hack? If you asked my gelding Skippy it would probably be “a dry day, in-hand, on the way to my field” — so, just turning him out. But he gets this jaunt every day, and he does also love to leave the yard in pursuit of adventure. So I asked our Hack 1000 Miles riders for their thoughts on the ingredients for a perfect hack, and the top few requirements were unanimous.

Location, location, location

For many, the basis of a good hack is where you’re going. Whether it’s a tried-and-true bridlepath you could ride backwards with your eyes closed, or venturing off into unexplored countryside, the route is key. As we don’t have any bridleways nearby, Skippy and I spend most of our time doing roadwork, especially in the winter, so I’ll admit that just looking at a grassy track rather than tarmac feels like a treat. But I’d love to ride somewhere with some truly breathtaking scenery, as other challengers have.

“A good route with various views makes the perfect hack,” says Roisin Kelly. “There’s nothing better than reaching the top of a hill to be greeted with a stunning view.”

Jo Sanderson also enjoys exploring with her horse Roger.

“We love following a new bridlepath sign; we go for miles,” she says. “Roger and I love nothing more than having no time limit for a hack so we can follow our noses and see where we end up.”

Beautiful weather

No one likes a soggy bottom — whether it’s a Victoria sponge or from a two-mile jaunt around the block.

Least of all Skippy, who firmly believes that he should not be expected to exercise in the rain. The last time I made this undeniably unfair request, we made it only a handful of steps outside the yard before he planted his feet, pinned his ears back, and tried to reason that it was much better weather for rolling in the field than for riding.

On principle, I negotiated us to the end of the road before turning around, where we all but sprinted home in record time. The following day, we tried again. Under a blue sky and warm breeze, Skippy came out with his regular enthusiasm and zest — marching forward, ears pricked, and head high to peer nosily into the windows of any cars that drove past.

If anybody asks, I tell them I’m only a fair-weather rider to appease my fair-weather horse.


Hard to gain and easy to lose, feeling confident in the saddle allows you to truly relish every second with your horse.

“Confidence is a super important ingredient, as it allows us to go anywhere we want to go with joy and without worry,” says Martina Diehl, who leads Shetland pony Peanut while riding her mare Gin on hacks. “We get to work on our connection and being in harmony with each other.”

It’s not just important for you to feel confident; your horse should feel so too. Skippy is young, and seeing the world is slowly helping him to find his feet and rely less on other horses to be brave.

Linzi Smith has recently started introducing her own young horse to hacking and wants to give him as many positive experiences as possible to prepare him for his ridden career.

“I’m currently starting out on my newly-backed youngster, so confidence- giving hacks are our main thing at the minute,” she says.

Good company

Heading out with a friend to share a ride, have a chat and enjoy nature can be a balm on a stressful day. Having another horse out with you gives your horse company, too. I like catching up with my friends, and Skippy appreciates having a tail to hide behind if there is a scary lawnmower lurking over the hedge.

For Kathryn Bulmer, having a laugh and a smile with a friend is her favourite part of hacking out.

“We normally stop at a picnic table on the moors for a cup of tea and some biscuits,” she says.

That said, you don’t need to ride as a group to enjoy company on a hack; your horse can be the perfect listening ear for a chat.

“I just love riding my mare quietly on my own,” agrees Helen Kendall. “We communicate with each other all the time while exploring our route.”

A well-behaved mount

If the monsters hiding in plastic bags or behind wheelie bins suddenly vanished, horse owners across the world would rejoice. While the odd spook here or there comes part and parcel of riding many horses, I for one would not miss Skippy’s enthusiastic bronc in response to an empty packet of crisps — although thankfully his more exuberant flits are few and far between.

“A well-behaved horse tops everything,” says Judy Clark. “It means I can ride any route, in any weather, with or without friends, and always be confident, knowing we trust one another and look after one another. Misty is that horse for me.”

The verdict

When everything comes together, you may have the best ride of your life. But don’t stop yourself from heading out if there’s a drizzle or it’s a bit cold or chalk it up as a bad ride because your horse had a spook. I’ve come home from many rides wearing a grin, despite the antics we’ve gotten up to. Sometimes the best rides happen when you least expect it. All I know is this: the perfect hack is one you and your horse have enjoyed, even if it’s not quite perfect on paper.

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