Riding out with friends and hacking partners is always fun: you can grow your confidence, teach your horse to behave well in a group or pair and, of course, set the world to rights chatting. So why ride alone? Going with others can also make you distracted, whether you’re worrying about your horse’s behaviour or someone else’s; or simply because you’re having a top-class gossip.
The really special part about riding out alone is that get to focus on your horse completely, which is great for bonding and getting to know each other better, as well as an opportunity for you to have some ‘me’ time.
Some horses are happier going solo, but most prefer to be in a group: horses are pack animals, after all. It completely depends on your ned’s temperament, and you might need to work up to riding out on your own.
If he gets nervous without company, you will need to ease your horse into being alone on a hack. Taking the lead in a group ride when you’re out with friends is a great way to give him confidence. Once he’s fine in the lead, try riding out with a friend on foot or on a bike, sticking to familiar routes.
Once you’re confident enough to try a short ride alone, then plan it for a day with a decent weather forecast, when you know you’ll have friends or family around to help if you need them. There ’s no shame in turning around and going back if things go badly, or catching up with some friends who are already riding out. The main thing is that you both remain safe and relaxed. Make sure you’re also confident in your road safety if you’re doing roadwork.
Before you set out, let everyone know what time you plan to leave, and how long you’re going to be. Make sure your mobile is fully charged, and has your emergency information on it. Pick a short, familiar route with good phone reception — half an hour is plenty.
Wear a back protector, and something bright so you’re easily seen. If loved ones tend to worry, there are even apps they can download which track your progress on a map.
Once you’re ready to go, just take a few breaths and try to relax as much as possible. Horses are sensitive to nerves, and if your steed senses you’re tense about something, he’ll tense up too.
A few horses are loathe to leave the yard on their own, but you can always ask a friend to lead him out of the gate, just to get you successfully on your way.
You’ll very soon learn to enjoy it! Riding out solo with your own horse is one of the greatest pleasures in life. You can take the time to really appreciate your surroundings, and you don’t have to go at anyone else’s pace — you can bumble along smelling the roses, or make it a zippy ride to tire a fizzy horse out; whatever suits you both best.
As you get used to riding out à deux you can plan longer, more ambitious routes and explore new terrain, which is enormous fun. Just do remember: no matter how many times you’ve been out and how long you’ve been riding for, you must always tell someone where you’re going, when you’re leaving and when you intend to be back, and always take your mobile phone. Then, off you go — the world’s your oyster!