Spring has officially sprung! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and your itching to crawl out of the arena for an afternoon to go on a nice hack. Well before you do so, here’s some tips to keep in mind to ensure you and your horse stay safe while out hacking:
Go with a Friend
If you haven’t ridden out in a while, or your horse is a bit spooky or overly excitable take a friend with you. Some horses are excitable by nature, and others can get a bit jumpy the first ride out of the season – if your horse is a bit nervous (or overly excited), it’s helpful to ride with a friend who has a steady and calm horse who won’t react to yours if he starts spooking.
If you can’t get a friend to ride out with you, see if someone wants to walk alongside you for the first time out. Having an extra pair of hands, even on the ground, can help if your horse starts spooks.
If you can’t go with a friend …
Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you are planning to be gone. If no one is around, post a note in a visible area where someone is likely to find it, but do your best to tell someone in person, that way they can keep an eye out and summon help if required.
Always be visible.
Whether you are riding in the back field, in the woods, or out on the road wear, always wear bright coloured and/or reflective (high-viz) clothing to ensure you are easy to spot — regardless of the conditions.
Know (and plan) your route.
As they say, it pays to be prepared, and this holds true even when going for a short hack on your horse. Plan where you are going in advance, and be familiar with the terrain. Avoid trying a new route when you are hacking out along the first time out.
Let’s face it, things happen – so it always pays to be prepared. Make sure you carry a cell phone with you in case of emergency, and check the conditions and weather before you leave. Make sure you have adequate daylight, and that no nasty weather is going to blow in while your away from the barn (if it looks like it’s going to rain … maybe skip the hack this time and wait for a sunnier day).
Plus, do a quick check of your equipment and horse before leaving to make sure everything is safe, secure, and will hold up when you are away from the barn.
With a few simple steps and precautions its easy to make sure you and your horse have a great time on your hack. Whether its the first time out on the trail for the season, or your hundredth time, taking a few minutes to ensure your travels will be safe can make the difference if an accident does occur.
Stay safe, have fun, and happy riding!