One of the best ways to see the countryside is on horseback. By following the country code of courtesy and common-sense, you’ll fully enjoy riding through open fields and along bridleways.
Choosing your route
If you’re new to an area, find out exactly where you are allowed to ride before setting off.
Ask your local riding school or club for information about good hacking country in your district. Also, look at some local maps to find out exactly where the bridleways are.
If there are only a few bridleways near you, ask local farmers if you can ride across their land. Provided that you’re a responsible rider, they may well agree, particularly at slack times of the year just after crops have been harvested for example. Whatever you do, never risk damaging farmland or trespassing over other people’s property.
Courteous riding in the countryside is just as important as it is on the road. Other people enjoying the countryside deserve consideration, too. When riding on farmland, there are several things to remember.
Although you should keep to bridleways, try not to ride straight through herds of grazing animals skirt around them, breaking away from the path, if necessary.
If the bridleway passes through a field of crops but the track is not well defined, ride carefully around the edge of the field.
Always leave gates as you found them. There’s nothing more annoying for a farmer than his herd escaping through a gate left open. And he’ll never want riders on his land again!
People out walking may be frightened of horses, so slow down when passing them. Always greet people cheerfully.
If the ground is wet, try to avoid cantering. Although it’s fun, it churns up the ground and makes the way difficult for other riders to pass.
Riding in comfort
As with all other aspects of riding, pay attention to both safety and comfort. Wear a hard hat and sensible footwear and check that all your horse’s tack is securely fastened and in good condition. Since weather can be changeable, even in the middle of the summer, take a lightweight waterproof mac – tie it to the D-rings across the front or back of the saddle. Put a headcollar and lead-rope beneath the bridle so you can tie the horse up safely if you stop on the way.
On longer rides take a saddle-bag or a numnah with pockets for carrying things. A map, a hoof pick to take stones out of your horse’s hooves and a pocket first-aid kit, containing a bandage and plasters, are all useful. A piece of string also helps for emergency tack repairs. And why not take some sandwiches for a picnic – but make sure you bring your litter home with you!