I want to begin this by saying that you are never JUST a happy hacker. People that hack are amongst the bravest riders there are. Hacking can throw anything at you at any time and you have to be able to deal with that. You never know what is around the corner. Even the most confident riders amongst us can come up against unknown hazards which can have an effect upon us hacking with confidence.
One Christmas morning we were hacking out and we met ‘Father Christmas’ in a lie down bicycle (a recumbent) on a blind bend! He stopped as quick as we did and then proceeded to stand up and flip his screen up to wish us Merry Christmas!!! Maisey’s eyes nearly popped out of her head! We did all survive to eat our turkey but it certainly woke us up!
Take it in your stride
Some horses are amazing to hack and take it all in their stride but a lot of horses are not as confident and need the rider to take the lead and give them confidence. This is where we struggle, as sometimes we are not that confident ourselves. We want our horses to be brave but we need to give them a hand sometimes and be their leader.
Tips for Hacking with Confidence
I’ve put together a few tips to help you feel more confident when hacking out.
• Can you hack with someone? Often horses are calmer with a companion as long as that horse is a good influence. Even just someone walking with you can give you and your horse confidence.
• Make sure you are safe as possible – wear a hat, high viz, gloves and a body protector, carry a stick, use a neck strap, take a phone, let someone know where you are going and don’t go out in a gale. Use your common sense.
• Make sure you and your horse communicate well. Practice this in the school. What do you do if he spooks? Remember which techniques you used and take them hacking with you. Did you shoulder in past something or keep him in an outline? Ride past scary objects at home and see how he reacts. Get someone to drive a tractor etc past you if you are worried about this and get him used to it.
• Visualise your hack the way you want it to go. Start from getting to the yard, tacking up, setting off, riding all the way round, getting home safely. Do this in the morning in bed and again before you ride. You cannot visualise enough!
• If your horse isn’t brilliant in traffic then pick a time of day when it’s quieter and not the school run.
• Be in the moment and tell yourself ‘I am alright in this moment’ repeat this over and over.
• Breathe! Take some deep breaths. Before riding try 4,7,8. Breath in for the count of four, hold for seven, breath out for the count of eight. Do this at least four times. It is a proven method to help with stress.
• Make sure you are breathing by singing a song or talk to yourself or tell your horse what’s being going on in your life.
Try these tips and hopefully you can overvome your fears and enjoy hacking with confidence. Remember, we ride because we ENJOY it and we want to have FUN!!! If it’s not fun then you need to really ask yourself why and then work out how you can resolve this.
Jeni Ball is an accredited riding coach, with over 35 years experience in the equestrian world. From running her own riding school and teaching college to being head girl at the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, whilst also competing at British Eventing and British Dressage. She is also a Master NLP trainer and Advanced Hypnotherapist.
Jeni helps equestrians to master their confidence and enjoy their riding through a supportive Facebook group that helps horse owners to conquer their fears in all aspects of riding, whether it be hacking or competing and through her audio and online courses, in one of which she rewires your brain for you with weekly live sessions.