I had a flashback today of one of my first hacks with my young horse when I was fourteen.
It was the end of winter and the evenings were just light enough for us to run up the field, throw tack on and whizz “Round the West”, which took about half an hour and was predominantly lanes and fields, just crossing the main road.
I and my younger friend, on her schoolmaster pony, went along the road first and came back through the fields in the dusk. At the bottom of the field I opened the gate from my horse to let us through. As I was leaning on his neck to pull the gate closed we heard the clatter of hooves, two of our friends who had ridden in the arena were walking up the little lane to cool their horses down. My young friend shouted in greeting and swung her pony around to trot off to meet our friends.
As soon as they started leaving my horse started jigging around, wanting to be with his friend. After all, at four years old he hadn`t developed the confidence to stand away from the herd.
“GET BACK HERE NOW!!” I shouted, furiously. I don`t usually get angry, but this kid was being very irresponsible. It had been drilled in to me that you never get separated; be it shopping in town, with family, or on a hack.
She trotted meekly back to me and I managed to close the gate with a calm horse and then we met our friends as they approached. On the way home I explained to my little friend how horses don`t like being left alone, and as I was on a young horse it was imperative she behaved responsibly. They are herd animals so gain confidence with the presence of others, especially if they are young or inexperienced.
I think this kid learnt her lesson that day, but whenever we hacked as teenagers we always went at the pace of the slowest. That`s not to say we did not hack alone, but it was very much a social event, hacking.