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Hacking-Toughest Riding discipline???

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  • Hacking-Toughest Riding discipline???

    Simon Barnes, journalist and author thinks so.What do you all think? Gives credence to all the things we cope with out on the trails.

    "What is the toughest riding discipline of them all? Which is the most important, the most difficult, the most dangerous? I shall tell you: but first of all let me outline for you the dizzying array of skills necessary.

    You need, above all, a sense of calmness and trust. Without that you won’t get anywhere. But you have to combine relaxation with a constant awareness of the considerable difficulties and dangers that surround you. You need to be able to sit in a way that fills the horse with confidence.

    You need to master all the basic paces. Horse and rider both need to be relaxed at all of them, from halt to gallop. You need comfortable, instant lateral work, particularly off the right leg. You need calm, soft unfidgety hands. Your aim is to combine calmness and confidence with dynamic and forward-going movement at all paces.

    You need your horse to cope with other horses, close by or at a distance. Your horse needs to be sociable when among strangers and friends yet happily independent when on his own. You need balance and control; but with a sense of freedom and adventure.

    You need to trust your horse in extreme situations. You must allow your horse to be a wild animal and express himself with joy and abandon and yet you must be able to bring him back to civilisation with a touch, a shift in balance, a word.

    But above all, you need to understand each other’s fears; each other’s limits, each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to deal with situations that terrify a horse but hold no danger to him; you must deal with situations that terrify you, without imparting your terror to your horse. You must be able to deal with potentially life-threatening situations and to do so with great frequency. You must deal with them in a way that is completely calm and relaxed, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

    The reason you must bring out all these high skills in yourself and your horse is because everybody’s life depends on them. But then you must get used to the fact that your painfully acquired skills are held in low esteem – even despised in some quarters.

    The discipline I am talking about is hacking. Nothing is more dangerous – yet more pleasurable – to human and horse alike. If you can hack out safely, alone or in company, you are a real rider!

    If you can deal with such things as school buses, Volvo drivers, pheasants flying up at your feet, a long, long canter track, boy racers, fluttering paper bags, gloriously inviting gallops, pigs, cows, overhanging trees, fields of lunatic horses and the most scarey thing of all, the wheelie bin that wasn’t there yesterday, then you can count yourself a hacker. Or to put it another way, a very good rider indeed.

    And yet, even if you are the master of all those things, your skills might be sneered at. So you apologise in advance – oh I just hack out. I’m just a happy hacker.

    What? Only a master of the most testing and demanding and dangerous discipline in the horsey world, that’s all. You have to defer to obsessive show jumpers, dressage queens of either sex and showing people who prefer polishing horses to riding them – all these people are too precious to take their horse out for a merry hack and who think they’re better than you on that account.

    Let’s not be snobbish back, however. Every way of enjoying your horse that doesn’t harm him is alright by me. So we won’t ask what’s so marvellous about going round and round in circles and why it is so superior to a great cantering blast up the hill, and we shan’t point out that while a square halt is hard, it’s far, far more difficult to get your horse to stand still while an articulated lorry goes past. Especially when it then stops and whistles its brakes at you.

    So let’s make this Hacker’s Pride Month. Say it out loud; I hack and I’m proud! We won’t be snooty about it though. We won’t say, I know the real reason you won’t hack out. It’s not because you’re Anky von Grunsven and Bonfire come again. It’s because you are ever so slightly scared. And I’m not; so I hack.

    No, we won’t say it. We’ll just think it very quietly when someone looks at you with condescension because you’ve been for a hack while they have spent an hour trying to establish a leg yield. I’ve got nothing against leg-yielding myself but I do have a great deal against snobbery.

    No one will celebrate hackers for their skills of horsemanship, their mastery of fear, their overcoming of horsey temperament, so it is only right that we should do it for ourselves. Salute the hackers! Damn we’re good.

    And if you have any doubts on that score, just ask our horses!"

    Simon Barnes
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  • #2
    Every time a student says to me that they want to go trail riding, my heart sinks a bit. They have no idea how tough it can be out there, how strong their riding skills have to be, and how unflustered they have to be. It's not that they can't be or have all of t he above, it's just that their heads are in the clouds.

    They are in the dark about how much can take place out on the trails.

    And out on the trails we go, because riding out is both this and this !


    • #3
      Oh, YAY for this post!!!! I totally and completely agree!
      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


      • #4
        We REALLY need a 'Like' button! This post is awesome! Thanks for sharing!


        • #5
          Kind of funny that he kept saying he didn't want to be a snob but made condescending remarks about other disciplines. Please -- guess what, we event AND can ride through the mountains for hours. To imply that it is the norm for someone who competes in any discipline to never leave the ring is ridiculous. I often cross train with endurance riders -- oh and guess what, my eventer who leg yields, jumps 5' ditches or a huge wall (guess I'm 'obsessive' huh?), he's the one leading the endurance horses past "scary" things and he's the one standing calmly while all the rest lose their minds at the deer bursting out across the path. He's the one with best manners and most well-developed cues while the rest don't even have a decent set of brakes or steering.

          So, it's not the discipline, it's the person on the horse's back who matters.
          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
          We Are Flying Solo


          • #6

            Me much like!
            And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)
            "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
            So you might as well have a good time"


            • #7
              I love this!! Thank you for posting, I am going to copy, paste, print and staple it to the foreheads of some snobby (read scared) people I know!


              • #8
                Love It! I cannot agree more....I can't think of anything more mind numbing and boring than going round and round in an arena. I know arena work has it's uses but you can work on leg yields in the field and on the trails too.
                "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                • #9
                  I do feel for people afraid to ride out and go somewhere. Yes, it can be dangerous, very much so. But me, I'm too lazy to hike, I don't want to roll my ankle, etc...yet I love getting out into the woods. I love to trail ride...and that leg yield to the blackberry bush is a handy trick to have up my sleeve

                  Count me in the combined training group.



                  The snobbery/misunderstanding can cut both ways: A friend of mine who is a serious trail rider on some dang good horses...said she didn't understand dressage at all, why the Hell would you keep riding around in circles and never think you got it right? It's just a circle! Go somewhere!!

                  I just laughed and went on with things...but dang...I like my dressage work, I enjoy it, and getting a good circle, I kinda like that feel. Why the need to diss someone's fun?
                  Last edited by katarine; Aug. 19, 2011, 10:54 AM.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tabula rashah View Post

                    Me much like!
                    And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)
                    I think it is so you can get Dobbin to quickly move off the road when the articulated lorry comes roaring down on you. If you were riding with traffic, you'd be on the left side of the road and would therefore need to move further left.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by carp View Post
                      I think it is so you can get Dobbin to quickly move off the road when the articulated lorry comes roaring down on you. If you were riding with traffic, you'd be on the left side of the road and would therefore need to move further left.
                      Ahh, makes sense- LOL! My brain was just not getting it! So I guess American horses should move sharply off the left leg then
                      "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                      So you might as well have a good time"


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by katarine View Post

                        Count me in the combined training group.

                        The snobbery/misunderstanding can cut both ways:

                        "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                        So you might as well have a good time"


                        • #13
                          I love this post! But I have to disagree on one count....where the author says "it's because you're ever so slightly scared..and I'm not"

                          Well, I'll be the first to admit that I AM scared, but I go out anyway. And with each successful ride, the fear subsides, sliding more into the category of reasonable caution.

                          My previous horse was very prone to bucks, spooks and bolts on the trail (yes, real bolts of the mad dash for home can't be stopped variety). She's gone now, but that history lingers in my mind. I am trying to overcome that with a wonderful new pony, and we're learning to go out together.

                          I agree that the skills required to hack out are much underrated. And I agree that there is really no room in riding, or in life, for snobbery. We can each enjoy our horses in our own way, and can each learn something from another discipline.


                          • #14
                            I've been riding 45+years and have done a variety of disciplines: Hunt seat flat & jumping, dressage, western pleasure, equitation, games, fox hunted, team penning, Obstacle Challenges, and now I mainly camp and trail ride all over Fla, but I have also gone on weeks long rides around the world.

                            I have long believed that us trail riders are vastly underrated for what our horses and we have to cope with. How many riders in a ring come across rattlesnakes, bears, wild hogs, etc? Semis, barking ferocious dogs, tree limbs falling, etc

                            I do believe in getting riding instruction as I feel you can never stop learning, but I get far more enjoyment out on the trail and I know my horse prefers it as well. When we get into the woods, he seems to sigh and relax.

                            The toughest two rides I've ever done were both out in Wyoming on a week long ride. One day we rode for 10 hours (no exaggeration) and rode up and down steep canyons, through snow drifts, had to stop and wait out a hailstorm, the hardest wind I've ever ridden in, and lots of trotting to cover the ground we needed to cover (they were afraid of flash floods in camp).

                            The other time, was the first day of the ride and the truck bringing the horses broke down. We drove back from the trailhead, saddled up beside the highway, climbed on horses we'd never ridden and rode 20 miles (I was also leading a pack horse) through the forest, climbing up and down ravines, jumping huge trees that were down on the trail, etc. We covered the 25 miles in a little over 2 hours as we trotted and cantered the whole time as dark was coming in.

                            Those were some rides and I'm proud I was up to the challenge. I am glad there are so many disciplines available to us and variety is great, but please realize that especially the serious trail riders are very good riders and capable of so much more than you would think.


                            • #15
                              Katarine, your horse is gorgeous. He is beautifully proportioned, and such a pretty face and neck. I had to check and see what breed he was. You must love him.


                              • #16
                                Who, Me? Love that hunkadunk dee dunk? NEVER.

                                He's very, very, cool: One man's trash is another's treasure


                                • #17
                                  I didn't care much for the author's article. Why? Because it is just another way to " divide" people by what they do with their horses. I do what I want and could really care less if someone else feels superior. Riding is dangerous, period. I just ride for my own pleasure. I used to show, again, for my own pleasure. Why do people get so caught up in what others think ?


                                  • #18
                                    Do you have a link for this article? I'd like to post it some other places. Thanks.
                                    In memory of Apache, who loved to play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjZAqeg7HyE


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Hi Malda,
                                      It was a quotation from an English forum "New rider" in the Mature section. It is quoted with the author. After reading 'good books to read' in OFF Topic Day on Coth, someone recommended Simon Barnes so after googling I came up with that essay and here is another gem of his writing. He has written a few books and many of his journal pieces from the The Times are put into the book-"The Horsey Life: A Journey of Discovery with a Rather Remarkable Mare"

                                      "Why shouldn’t city folk feel the horsey love too?"
                                      Simon Barnes: Commentary-the Times

                                      It was hosing down with rain. There was me, three Cockney ladies effing and blinding at the tops of their voices, one beaten-up lorry, one old banger and four rather scruffy horses. And we won the lot that day. We cleaned up. Us lot from Codicote – the disreputable lot – had done it again.

                                      These women all did crappy jobs for crappy money. All their money went on horses. They were London overspill types: ancestors hadn’t seen a horse that wasn’t pulling a tram. And they loved all the horsey life and rode beautifully and their horses lived the life of Riley: they were great mates of mine and we shared head-spinning adventures almost weekly.

                                      This was in Hertfordshire, a few miles outside the M25, a few miles from London. That’s the trouble with towns: there aren’t enough trees, there aren’t enough birds and there aren’t enough horses. And many people find so much of what they seek in horses. That’s why there are more than a million horses in this country kept for nothing more – or nothing less – than pleasure. Than joy. Horsiness is not something to do with poshness. Horsiness is a life-enhancing disease that affects all kinds of unexpected people. I come from a nonhorsey family: these days I have cut back to four horses, which I keep at home, ride and muck out daily. But you can’t do that in a city. The cities are full of people who have horsiness in them, and it is crying out for expression. But in a city, the door of horsiness is banged-to at birth. A way of finding meaning and joy is cut off by circumstance.

                                      So I support any campaign to change this: not for the sake of future medals but for the sake of the profound fulfilment that can be found in horses for those who get a toehold into the horsey world. Horses cost money, but it’s all about priorities, as the Codicote Gang demonstrated. Horsiness is not about social class. Horsiness exists for itself alone. I have talked horse with rulers and dukes and my friends from Codicote, with millionaires and paupers, with Olympic medallists and those who got fifth at the local show. And it’s always been the same glorious unending conversation. If Hoof in Town opens doors for people, then I am cheering because it will improve the quality of life for all it touches."
                                      Related Links

                                      * The new face of British equestrianism

                                      The Horsey Life: A Journey of Discovery with a Rather Remarkable Mare by Simon Barnes is published by Short Books on October 2.


                                      • #20
                                        I love this...I bought my mare from a WP "trainer" (sarcastic yes), because she was not good enought for WP, and was "just a trail horse".

                                        Well, she had never been on the trails...took me two years to get her to "just a trail horse" status...and during the process, I found out how hard it can be, particularly with a horse that was abused in WP training and who did not trust anything or anyone.

                                        My other "trail horse" gelding I got last December (yes, I finally got a horse as a Christmas present after 54 years!). He also had been ridden a lot on the trails...with other horses...but not alone. We are getting there, though!