In keeping with our recent theme of getting out of our comfort zone, Drifter and I went for our first solo hack the other day. As I’ve mentioned before, there isn’t any off-road hacking near us, so we were out in the lanes. I woke up on a sunny Sunday and felt like it could be the day. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet bought any knee-boots, so I needed a tack shop that was open on Sundays so I could buy some in the morning and hack in the afternoon. The internet yielded the relevant information and Mr S and I went on a little road trip to find it. I bought the only pair of knee-boots in the shop, hoping they’d fit, and headed back with them. Luckily they fit OK. I don’t have a photo yet, but I’ll try to take one, because there’s nothing geekier, to my eye, than a horse in knee-boots.
The short circular hack goes through the village, where there are many parked cars to pass along the road, which I didn’t fancy. I don’t particularly like driving through that way because oncoming drivers can’t see around the cars so I didn’t fancy hacking that way. The other route goes through lanes crossing a golf course and most of the route does not carry much traffic, so I decided to go that way. It’s a circular route but I set out with the thought that if it wasn’t going well I could just come back the way I came after 5 minutes or so.
The first piece of road was the busiest of the whole route in terms of cars, and the road is narrow enough that a car and a horse need to use the passing places to, err, pass each other. We met a few cars and managed to use the passing places, sometimes more easily than others. A little further on we were able to turn into a gateway to let another couple of cars pass us, one of which he got a little upset about although I was able to control the “moment”. Then we were able to leave that road onto a much less used lane. We relaxed a bit until we came across a dreaded puddle, but by now I was settled into asserting myself enough that we passed the puddle nicely and had a bit of a trot on the other side. The trot was very forward but we were both glad to use our energy productively so we progressed with good pace. The lane was pleasantly quiet and warm and we returned to a calmer walk after a while. Further up the lane we were well into the golf course and I was alert to the possibility of electric buggies crossing from one golf hole to another, but we were spared that joy. We were passed by a cyclist and I was pleased to see Drifter is not remotely concerned by bikes.
Unfortunately we were not spared the CRACK of golfers teeing off. He was tolerant of a few, but became more and more resistant and eventually I could not prevent him from turning round and heading back the way we’d come. This was complicated by the fact that I could hear a car coming so didn’t want to try turning him back round to the original direction and end up blocking the lane broadsides on to the approaching car, so I had to acquiese to his direction so that we could get to a suitable place for the car to pass us. Once the car was gone I manged to wrestle him round again and successfully pushed him on, past the point at which he’d turned before, and into the even narrower turning on the right. Here we met oncoming traffic, but only in the form of another horse and rider out hacking. I was a little jealous at how relaxed they seemed compared to us, but I assumed they’d had more experience than we had and reminded myself Rome wasn’t built in a day. This lane took us away from the golfers and was narrow enough that no one would drive down it if they could avoid it, so we met no cars. However, a polite cyclist did ask if he could come past and it became apparent that he’d been politely sitting behind us unable to get past for quite some time. Oops sorry! I don’t know if Drifter knew he was there but I certainly didn’t!
Aside from this embarrassment, this lane was the most relaxed part of the hack. But as we left it I saw the signs for the children’s farm. As I began to wonder if he’d object to the donkey in the field around the corner, he found a puddle with a swinging squeaking gate over it to worry about. As we passed them a moped came by, which he barely spared a glance – clearly mopeds are safe and puddles are lethal. Around the corner I found the former donkey field had become a car park and a play area. A little kid on top of the slide stood up, waving her arms and screaming “A Horsie! It’s a horsie! Look at the horsie!” I am grateful that said horsie, being older than the child and better mannered, did not stand up and scream back, but nevertheless he clearly communicated his dislike of the situation as she came running at us, still yelling. On his behalf I rose to the occasion and defused the little bomb girl by telling her his name and age and asking hers. Once she calmed down Drifter did too and we were able to proceed, with her voice trailing after us asking us to wait for her to come with us. No chance sunshine!
And we were back. The ride took about an hour and I was drained but proud. We’d braved all kinds of monsters, both real and puddle-dwelling and got back in one piece, sans little girl, despite her best entreaties that her mummy wouldn’t mind!
So now we know we can do it. It was quite stressful at times and I won’t be doing it very often, but it’s nice to know we have the option to get out and do something different.