The phrase Happy Hacker has always seemed odd to me. Especially as it is often preceded with the bizarre words “just a”….. as if somehow happy hackers are lesser riders. When hacking is totally terrifying and requires far more skill and confidence than pretty much anything else on a horse. At least as far as I am concerned! I am less nervous getting on a youngster for their very first ride than I am leaving the safety of a yard or riding venue for a gentle hack. Give me a cross country course or a race track over a country lane any day. Arenas and riding venues are controlled environments. The horse can always react to something or nothing so all riding has some risks but out on a hack you are combining the unpredictability of a prey animal with the uncontrollability of a small, crowded island. And it scares the bejeezus out of me.
I have always hacked my horses and have never come a cropper but there have been more near misses or ‘could have beens’ than I care to remember. From aggressive drivers, dogs and even cows; to unexpected pheasants, bikes and plastic bags. From dirt bikes to bin lorries to buses with air brakes. Unexpected pony eating grit bins or weird lines painted onto roads which sent my pony arse first into the road into the path of a truck. Every ride feels like a lucky escape as my paranoid brain scans the area for potential hazards. Not fun.
Hats off to Happy Hackers. They are heroic and brave. I am not!
But to get Amber fit enough to event, to stop her brain frying, to help her relax and to teach her to know where her feet are, (not her strong point at the moment), I need to hack. Regularly. After the bucking I had the physio to her and she was extremely tight through her neck and over her back – probably due to intense schooling and not enough time just hacking out on a long rein, letting her stretch and use her backside more. She is far too on the forehand and she really struggles to use herself properly. So like it or not, it’s just got to be done.
So today I took a deep breath and took her out with some kindly babysitters. She was fine. I hated it!
She was actually as good as gold apart from almost face planting as she tripped over a stone. She loved it, actually. Ears pricked, marching forward. I distracted myself from thoughts of impending calamity by staring at her beautiful, iridescent neck. When I first viewed Amber I thought she was plain and boring. To be fair, she was scruffy, underweight and very, very grumpy but still I must have been blind. She is simply the most beautiful horse in the world. Fact.
We got home safe and sound and I have already planned to hack out with others twice next week. I am determined just to make myself do it. I’ll never be a happy hacker but hopefully I can eventually become be a slightly less petrified one……