The last time Orla came over to the yard for a hack, it wasn’t exactly what we had hoped for. The weather was dreadful to start with & well the horses just weren’t feeling it. Dante wouldn’t go by certain parts of the road, and Coco wasn’t used to the traffic passing her by at certain points. It was a battle from beginning to end, so we ended up calling it a day 20 minutes in.
Recently we both bit the bullet and decided to give it another go. We have both been focusing so much on our arena work, that having a happy hack was just what both horses needed. Some time that didn’t require them to do much work, something they could enjoy and relax doing. What’s the worse thing that could happen!
Orla travelled over with Coco, accompanied by two older horses. Neither Coco or the 2 other horses had done much road work so it was bound to be an interesting journey.
Take a read below & find out how both Dante & Coco got on in their adventure!
As Dante was the only horse who has been on the roads the most, it was upto us to be the lead on our group hack! Yes I know what you’re thinking a young horse in front, what a liability, but no he is fantastic on the roads! I really can not fault him.
It did take time and consistent road work to get him as relaxed as he is, but it has really paid off! There was a stage where getting him to walk forward was a problem, or walking over a road marking would freak him out, but we have come a very long way and his horrific tantrums have finally began to ease off … slightly!!
On the roads, I kept Dante in draw reins. This is purely because you can never anticipate what is going to happen on the roads or what kind of drivers you will meet along your route, and with the draw reins, I have that extra bit of control over him if he does decide its a good idea to start running off or cocking the jaw up in the air to gain control (Yes my horse is a far cry from perfect!!)
Starting off on our hack, Dante did need a bit of persuading to get him going, with the 3 other horses behind him. Getting him to concentrate and moving forward was a bit challenging. He kept trying to turn back to look at them, but I wasn’t having my first 5 minutes on him being the beginning of a war! His confidence up in front wasn’t 100% but once he started listening to me he began to take being the lead horse in his stride, I will say, thank god for my schooling whip! He can get dead to the leg when he gets stubborn so its good to have that as a back-up.
5-10 minutes into the hack and he was in his element. The first part of the road we went on was quite a busy road, so staying in single file was an absolute must. There did come a point where cars would take speed for granted with one almost clipping the back of Dante as it rushed up along the side of us. Slowing down didn’t register in the drivers head, so you really do need to be aware of everything, knowing your hand signals is vital. You can never take anything for granted on any road you’re on.
Dwelling on these incidents is something you must not do! Pushing him forward was what I done and within 2 minutes he had forgotten it had happened. The last thing I wanted was for him to become sour to hacking!
As we continued down our route, we turned down much quieter roads. The other horses in the group were not so used to hacking on the roads, so we took it in turns leading in front, Not only to build up confidence in the horses but to get them all used to travelling/hacking as a group. Rushing and trying to catch up with the horse in front is not what we want!
The route we chose to hack on was approx. 1 hour long, I will mention that this has been the first time Coco & Dante have done anything together since we went to the beach back in April. There behaviour together this time around was unbelievable. You can really see the progression in the two of them, they still have their baby moments but they’re not as dramatic as they used to be!
Dante gets quite anxious at the back, more so when the ride is trotting, he tries his best to catch up with the horses in front, he will try his hardest to race up to the front. It can be quite a pain, it really starts to wind him up the more I try to hold him back, having him trying to bolt to the front is not something I want him to start doing on the roads. I have tried to keep my road work to just walking so as I keep hacking a relaxing task for him instead of getting him worked up in these situations.
On our way back to the yard, they all had a spring in their steps. To be honest I think the group of horses were delighted with themselves, the last time they came over for a hack it was lashing rain, and the horses were not exactly co-operative with things.
As we approached the yard, coming home we were greeted by a massive tractor with a huge trailer on the road. My immediate thought, oh sh*t!! I had never met machinery on the roads with Dante beside the odd van, so I had no idea if I was going to get a spook from him, a scared reaction or simply nothing at all. I am pretty sure all 4 of us were in the same boat as we met the tractor coming around a blind corner.
To my surprise Dante took it completely in his stride, he was alert and had his ears pricked but with that bit of assurance from me pushing him forward he walked by it without batting an eyelid. It really is so important to keep in single file as much as you can on any roads you hack on, you never know what you will meet, if its a tractor a car or even a cyclist.
Overall I was ecstatic with Dante during our hack, its not everyday you have a young horse leading two mature horses on busy main roads. He was a great confidence giver to the other horses. That alone is an accomplishment in itself. Our trust in each other keeps shining through and its great to constantly see progress in him, regardless of his minor tantrums!
As Darielle mentioned, the first time I brought Coco to Darielle’s yard for a road hack really didn’t work out. The last time we had built ourselves up expecting a great day out so when it ended up being a total fail we were quite disheartened. This time however, I had no real expectations for the day. Myself and Coco were just getting back into the swing of things after our two week break so I just wanted to take things as they happened, with no expectations and see how we got on.
I loaded Coco up and brought her over to Darielle’s yard along with the other two horses. This day was the calmest she had ever been when I unloaded her. She’s usually quite skeptical when she leaves the yard and waiting for something to happen but she was so good this day. So with Dante in the lead we set off – I put Coco 3rd in the line as she would definitely not be a confident hacker (roads or otherwise). She’s very happy to sit behind other horses but as soon as she’s tasked with the lead she starts to get very worried. This is something I’ve started tackling on hacks in the field but it’s definitely not something I want to be dealing with on the roads – it probably isn’t the best location for a schooling session.
While Coco isn’t confident out in front or by herself, she’s definitely comfortable squished between horses. She was so calm and relaxed where she was which is exactly what I wanted. I figure the more I do these kind of easy-going and stress free hacks, the braver she’ll become in the future.
As Darielle mentioned, the first part of the roads we were on were quite busy so I kept a good sturdy contact and a strong inside leg ensuring I wouldn’t have a spotty arse wandering into the roads and subsequently a car!! Once we got onto the quieter roads we decided to go for a trot – or at least that was the intention. Unfortunately Coco had other ideas and decided it was all too exciting and she wanted to canter. And with that burst of energy we brought them back to walk. We tried another trot after a while and so long as everyone kept a calm and steady pace Coco was happy to follow behind in trot (thankfully).
As we ventured on we decided to test some of the other horses out in the lead. When it came to Coco’s turn I was so pleasantly surprised with how brave she was. She happily took the lead for a while until a pair of dogs behind the gate of a house’s entrance frightened the bejaysus out of her. The one thing I’ll say about Coco is that while she can be spooky, she is a good spooker (if there’s such a thing!?). When she spooks she’ll jump but she won’t spin and run. She has her natural reaction and then waits to see how I react. I generally lock my hands down and sit still until I can feel her stop and then Ill relax my hands and give her a pat. This has worked quite well so far as she used to be quite bad for her spooking and running. Unfortunately after this incident she kind of lost her bravery so I let her settle in behind the other horses again.
From then on Coco had refreshed her fear of house entrances and was quite hesitant any time we came up to any houses. Thankfully with the other horses there we were able to keep moving and we eventually made our way back to the yard in one piece. We did have an encounter with a very large and noisy tractor but to my surprise Coco didn’t even look twice at it. She’s quite funny in that she won’t react at all to the things that should terrify her and yet a random rock will stop her dead in her tracks.
Despite her spooky moments I was thrilled with how Coco behaved on the roads. I never once felt unsafe and for the most part she felt quite happy and calm. I think the more we do these kind of outings the braver she’ll become – although I do feel that the spookiness is just going to be part of her charm, but only time will tell!
All in all we were both delighted with how the day went. Both horses were so well behaved and we’re definitely starting to feel more confident about doing things with the two horses together. I think it’s safe to say we’ll absolutely be scheduling more hacks in the future and who knows, maybe we’ll all get out on the Munny Trail for a spin together!
We’ve got some fun times planned with the horses over the next few weeks so be sure to keep an eye on our Instagram to see what happens as it happens!
Darielle & Orla