Year round, hacking out alone in the early morning and evening hours is a wonderful way to start the day or unwind after a stressful day at work. Often with these early or later rides it is hard to find someone else at the stable, so hacking on your own may be the only option.
In addition, some people enjoy the ability to just interact with their horse without the necessity to keep up a conversation or constantly consult with someone else about which trail to follow or whether to go a bit further or turn around for home.
When hacking alone, there are some additional safety precautions that every rider should follow. Generally, only go out on your own if you are a confident, experienced rider and have a horse you know and trust. On your own with a new horse, a green horse, or as an inexperienced rider is extremely unsafe as there are more risks of accidents and problems. It would be better to practice in the arena or paddock and schedule a time to go hacking with another rider that is mutually agreeable.
To help increase safety when hacking out on your own, consider the following tips and ideas to make your ride enjoyable. The more of these strategies you incorporate into your routine, even as an experienced rider, the more protected you will be no matter where you may be riding.
Have a Routine
If you hack alone frequently, or if this is a rare occurrence, it is still a very smart idea to let friends, family or a reliable someone at the stable know where you will be going and what time you expect to return.
If you use the same trails, you can even provide a rough diagram of your route. This can be very helpful should you be late returning or if the horse spooks or balks and you end up being thrown. It is impossible to track the horse’s route backwards to find your location if there isn’t a map or if you haven’t informed someone of where you will be riding.
Choose the Right Trail
In most areas you will have a variety of trails or routes to choose. Select one that is a good match for your riding ability and for the comfort of your horse when riding alone.
For example, if your horse dislikes the sound of vehicles and is known to shy or bolt if a car or truck passes, avoid a route that takes you along a well-traveled roadway. Additionally, if you aren’t comfortable with crossing streams or going over bridges, both which can be issues for horses as well as riders, choose a route when you are on your own that avoids these issues.
Carry a Cell Phone
Carrying a cell phone that is on vibrate or silent is a great safety precaution. Avoid having the ringer on to avoid spooking the horse with an incoming call, but having the phone with you will allow you to call should you experience any type of challenge or problem.
If you ride on your own frequently, consider choosing a riding helmet with an embedded Bluetooth system. This allows you to communicate easily without having to try to hold the phone and control the horse at the same time.
Wear a Safety Vest
A reflective safety vest is a perfect, lightweight addition to your hacking gear. These vests have reflective tape and may be yellow, orange or neon green or blue. They are usually made of mesh, so they are comfortable to wear all year round.
The other option is to wear a bright colored jacket. Ideally, go for the neon colours of orange, green, yellow or blue to really stand out. Avoid riding in the early morning dawn and the late evening dusk as this is the time drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians out walking on the trails are going to be less likely to easily spot a horse and rider.
It goes without saying that it is important to always wear a properly fitted helmet when riding. Taking off your helmet is never a good idea, even with a very quiet horse that is well-seasoned to hacking.