We are mid way through May and the sun is shining, as I sit in my garden relaxing with a cup of well known, Yorkshire brand tea, the first thing that springs to mind is…what perfect hacking weather!
Some beautiful sunshine and a cool breeze to keep the fly’s (and perspiration) at bay. This got me thinking about all, of the wonderful places I have had the pleasure of hacking and others not yet explored on the beautiful island that I live.
It’s a Monday, my day out of the shop and I feel this could make the perfect subject for a blog, so with map in hand, flask of tea and my trusty, Patterdale terrier for company, I get in the car and go for a drive of discovering bridleways, some new to me and some already ridden but always worth a visit, along with my inspection hat, looking out for anything impassable that might need reporting to the local Bridleways group and Rights of Way.
All have their own speciality, whether it be a long steady canter, you are after, a cooling paddle through a ford, an amble through leafy lanes providing perfect pony snacks along the way, some woodland shade or a good blast up a hill, I think the Isle of Wight can tick everyone’s box for hacking requirements. Not to mention fabulous beach rides, but that’s for another blog, for another day!
To make the most out of hacking, particularly if you plan to go some distance, its all in the planning. If there are parts you have never visited before then pre hack checks are a must. There is nothing worse than going for a hack to find, after some distance that your path is impassable, whether it be blocked access, which should be reported in any case, a fallen tree (un-jumpable) or something I encountered not so long ago, a track riddled with badger sets, not only were the holes a cause for concern but any amount of weight and the ground would surely be at risk from collapse!
Even if it is a route you regularly ride, the countryside is a great one for constant change. A new rabbit family may have moved in along your favourite canter stretch or, which I am sure provides endless entertainment for our farmers, is when they leave large implements, strategically placed around the countryside, making way for perfect (who the bloody hell left that there!) spooking opportunities.
Gateways can also be a cause for making, what should be a nice hack into a Le Trec obstacle course! Everyone has their own way of ‘doing’ gates, in my opinion practice makes perfect and the more you can make going through gates a good experience for your horse the better. How many of us when at home, lead fully tacked up horses through gates, when riding them through would be a perfect training opportunity?
Hacking attire, its simple really, long boots or chaps, for, if you have never caught your shin on a gate latch whilst your horse decides to rush through, you will have never felt the need to projectile vomit whilst mounted (if still applicable after having gone through the gate)! Sturdy breeches and long sleeves, whatever the weather, for any overgrown trails you may encounter and of course Hi Viz, not just for riding on the roads but if the worst were to happen and an air ambulance is out looking for you they sport a better chance of finding you from above! A mobile phone is a must not only for the obvious, but for taking those ‘between the ears’ shots that personally, I never tire of when they appear on my newsfeed. Finally a drink, unless you have planned your hack so well there are pubs enroute!
Last, but not least, enjoy this glorious weather with your horses, while it lasts, and if like, for some, hacking fills you with the utmost of dread, don’t feel like you have to do it, stay within your comfort zone, whatever that may be, but most of all have fun with your horses!
All I know is that when I dreamt of riding as a child, all I had aspirations of doing was going clear round Badminton and to be able to hack for hours across beautiful countryside. The hacking, I feel I have firmly in the bag...I’m still working on the Badminton part…..