The warmer weather and longer evenings have inspired us equestrians to get out hacking and enjoying the countryside! However in order to enjoy hacking our horses and ponies to the full, it is essential that we are up to speed with our riding and road safety knowledge, and where we can ride off the road, to enjoy the UK’s bridleways.
Our horses are flight animals and this means that they will be inclined to run away from something they are afraid of. This can be risky when out on the road and there are cars, vans, cyclists and walkers to take into consideration. It’s your job to convince your horse that there is nothing to be afraid of to the best of your ability, and also to be as informed as possible as to the rules of the road and where you can ride off road instead.
The first and most important point we would like to make is to always take a mobile phone with you when hacking out. Tell a friend or family member at the yard where you are going if you are hacking out so if you don’t return home when expected they can raise the alarm.
It is important to wear reflective/hi-vis clothing alongside a well fitted riding hat. Some riders also feel more confident wearing a body protector and/or air jacket.
Be aware of the highway code and all that it entails in respect to riding on the road. Many riders take confidence from taking the British Horse Society Riding and Road Safety training and exam which informs and equips you to have all the knowledge to ride safely on the road.
The British Horse Society also works hard on riders’ behalves to promote and secure the provision, protection and preservation of rights of way and access for ridden and driven horses over highways, byways, bridleways, and other land. Via their website you can access the BHS Ridemaps provides a map of riding routes intended to inspire you to explore new country with your horse. These rides and trails cover England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!
Alternatively TROT (Toll Rides Off-road Trust) offers members of their organisation with an extensive national network of horse riding routes on privately owned land. TROT work with landowners offerings riders opportunities to ride off road safely and legally. Membership costs between £8-£150.
Finally TREC is increasingly popular here in the UK and an element of the popular discipline involves organised rides in the countryside (the orienteering section), where riders have to navigate their way around a predetermined route allowing them to explore the countryside whilst completing a fun challenge!
Remember if your horse suffers from nerves and anxiety, they may benefit from a calming supplement in the diet with magnesium. Calmer Equine from Scientific Nutritional Products, the company I represent, can help to calm and promote relaxation for nervous horses.