Monday, April 6, 2009

Road Hacking Safety

I'm writing this post after hearing the news of a tragic traffic accident involving top Canadian eventer Jessica Ruppel and her young horse Bella. They were victims of a hit and run by a pick-up driver while road hacking with a friend on March 31st. Sadly, her horse Bella was euthanized on the side of the road, luckily Jessica only suffered minor injuries. The full story from the Toronto Star here:

It's a well known fact by anyone who road hacks in Ontario how scary it can be. Even on low traffic country roads, the lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to sharing the road with horse and riders can be shocking. In my personal experience, I have been sped by at high speeds, with the drivers not even merging in the slightest bit into the opposite lane. I have had people honk at me, and completely ignore my hand flailing aimlessly to slow them down. It is frustrating to say the least but beyond that it is just plain dangerous - deadly at times.

I was very spoiled when I lived in Scotland. The hacking there was incredible, the horses were 100% road safe, and for the most part the drivers respected you and your horse. I would say 95% of the time drivers slowed right down and passed wide, some even stop completely and turn their cars off. The behavior was surprising at first, but greatly appreciated, especially when ponying one horse while riding another.

However - if you are like me, road hacking is not only a great source of enjoyment, it is a necessity. I road hack very often and it is my main source of conditioning work. I would have a hard time cutting it out of my system, so I always do my best to ensure my horses - and my own safety.

Some Safety Tips for Road Hacking

Hack only on a safe, experienced horse;

You should know whether your horse is road safe. Never go out on a road with traffic on a horse that is not road safe, it is an accident waiting to happen. If you want to get a green horse accustomed to traffic, start out on very quiet roads with large shoulders so you can get off the roadway ENTIRELY when the cars pass. If possible, go out in a group. It will really help with a nervous horses confidence. Get your friends to help and have them pass wide and slowly by you until your horse is ok with it. It takes time, and patience. Never let a green rider take an inexperienced horse on a road hack.

Wear bright colours, reflective gear;

It's common sense. You want people to be able to see you easily and from a distance so there are no surprises. Always wear bright colours and whenever possible use reflective gear. There are tonnes of products from helmet covers, boots for your horse, vests, whips, breastplates etc you can get with reflective gear. You can find sticky reflective strips at the dollar store that are easy to apply and work well. A great excuse to go shopping! There are some really cool ideas here:

If possible, ride in pairs or groups;

I know it isn't always an option, and in my case it rarely is an option, but safety is in numbers. Larger groups are more visible and drivers are likely to have more respect for a group of horses than for one rider. If an accident should occur, there is someone to go for help or to catch a loose horse. Also, horses are more likely to feel safe and behave when they are among other horses.

ALWAYS tell someone you are hacking out, and when they should expect return;

The only thing worse I can think of than being involved in an accident, is lying there injured and helpless for hours because no one knows you're missing. If there is no one around, call or text your friend and ask them to call or text back when you expect to be done. If they don't hear back from you they will know something happened and can send help. I always bring my phone, it is possible it would break in the event something happened but I would rather take the chance and hope it survives enough to dial 911.

Know your laws, and hand signals;

Most of the time I hack out, drivers completely ignore my hand signs. However, there are some who respect them, and at the very least I am doing my part in ensuring my horse and I are safe. In Ontario horses have the same legal rights as a motorized vehicle. That means you stop at stop signs, you signal when you are turning. I was always taught to ride on the same side of the road as cars do in the direction you are going. There are always discussions on which is correct, I would think if horses are considered vehicles they should travel in the same direction. For me, exceptions to that would be if you are on a blind hill with narrow shoulders, or maybe a sharp curve. I like to be on the opposite side when descending a hill so the driver isn't surprised by my horses bum and has to slam on the brakes to slow and pass. If possible, post horse crossing signs in the area you frequent. Drivers will know to keep an eye out.

Dress and prepare for the weather;

Once when I was living in Scotland, my employer and I headed out for a hack on a lovely breezy day. Half way through we encountered a massive hail storm with gale force winds. We had no jackets, couldn't see, and had to ride sideways all the way home. It was stupid of us, we should have checked the forecast and we would have seen that coming. If it's windy, wear a jacket. If it's sunny, wear sunglasses. If it's chilly, wear gloves and dress warm. Throw a quarter sheet on your horse. It not only makes your ride more enjoyable, but you will be distracted by discomfort and that could be dangerous

Know your route, know your limit;

Check the roads before you go. Make sure you know where any potential spook areas might be. Is there a bridge over water? Are there loose dogs, cows, or say, ostriches? (YES, that happened to me). Look out for railroads, they can be very scary and dangerous. Are you riding at the hours the school bus is dropping off kids? Are you riding during the garbage pickup time? Buses, dump trucks, transports are extra scary for horses. Try and avoid them if at all possible. Don't ride down any road if you feel at all uncomfortable about the situation. The road is NOT a place to school a spooky or young horse. If your horse is acting up, get off and walk them. You will have more control on the ground to avoid vehicles. It is not a place to race your friends, or dilly dally along with your head in the clouds.

Most importantly: WEAR A HELMET!

If you never wear a helmet, now is the time to start. Cement is hard, your brain is soft. When you fall on the road without a helmet and hit your head, you WILL be seriously injured. I did just this when I was 7 years old, I was wearing a helmet. I was lucky to get away with a broken nose and two black eyes. Imagine a car hits you? Your brain will be splattered all over the road. Please please PLEASE wear a helmet!!

Happy Hacking everyone! For more information on safely hacking, the BHS has a book "Hacking Out Safely"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Single AND Successful?

It has to be one of the questions I hate hearing the most.

"Why don't you have a boyfriend?"

Blah. What do you mean WHY. There are tonnes of reasons why, but is it any of any one's business? It's usually NOT the reasons the people assume. What does it really matter to anyone but the single filly in question?

"But you are so beautiful/ smart/ fun/ sweet/ rich/ desperate/ drunk/ you fill in the rest".

Ya know what? Most people KNOW these things. They don't need someone coming up and telling them they are so great so "why don't they have a bf"? What's so GREAT about being in a relationship anyways? Are only good people in relationships? Can good people NOT be in relationships and still be considered good people?

You never hear anyone ask "Why DO you have a boyfriend?". "You're so smart, pretty, fun, and cool you would be better off single!" Well at least I've never heard anyone ask that.

Why is that? How come in this world you are nothing, people feel sorry for you, are condescending towards you, and think there is something wrong with you if you are single?

I am NOT anti-relationship. I know all the great things can come from having a deep loving bond with someone. That doesn't mean my life is shit because I don't have that bond right now. Nor does it mean that I am out searching day and night for it, or want it.

I admit, there are nights when I wish I had someone to cuddle into. Evenings when I wouldn't mind curling up for a flick, or heading out on the town with my gentleman. However, there are those memories of being in a relationship and having to give up riding time, girls nights, or just alone time to keep the boyfriend happy. Memories of having to explain why I spend 4 hours a night at the barn and why I hate sitting on the couch watching TV doing nothing. Memories of jealousy when I booked my first trip to Cuba.

I know these are things that come with the territory of being a "couple". Just like there are perks, there are conditions also. The same applies for singles, (although I do believe we have more freedom). I just want to remind everyone that being a couple isn't the be all and end all. Sure it can be nice, but so can being single. Please don't patronize us single people for being single. A lot singles are that way by CHOICE, not because no one will date them! Whether they don't have time, don't have the interest, or just plain don't care, they have made a choice and are happy. Just like there are ups and downs of being a couple, there are ups and downs of being single.

A single filly is doing all the work in life that a couple would do together. We have it a lot harder but we don't feel slighted. We are strong, successful, and happy. Please remember this next time you feel the need to ask the dreaded question....or say "don't worry, some day you'll find the one"

gag me with a wooden spoon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Boys Are Back in Town!

After a few months of chaos, I finally have both my boys back in the city! My parents brought Fandango and Archie up this weekend and they were taken to their new stables. Archie is not good a good traveller and he was completely sweat out and exhausted after his ride. He went in his new stall and settled well. Fandango on the other hand is as laid back as one gets and handled the drive very well. He settled very well into his new place also.

He is still swollen from the surgery so he isn't doing much at the moment. Enjoying lots of hay and he has his own private round pen beside a field of geldings for turn-out until he is completely healed. Then, he can finally be turned out in a group! His temperament is already significantly different. He has a different look in his eye, more pony like. He sniffs the noses of other horses and doesn't scream or stike out. It's all very strange to me, I'm so use to him being such a noisy, poofed up boy when the horses are around. It's a very positive sign and I could not be happier! The barn he is at now is a small hunter/jumper facility that is in the process of major changes due to new management. It's nice and low key, and my friend works there so I get constant updates on my boy.

Archie is now at a fancy dressage barn. It will be interesting to see what he thinks of it. It's a beautiful facility, with new barns, a nice big arena and outdoor rings. He is allowed as much turn-out as he wants which is ideal for him. He isn't great in a stall for long periods of time. The owner is a great coach from what I've seen, and I am in desperate need of coaching. I haven't had steady lessons since I was eventing in Scotland and I am very excited to finally get back to structure. Ideally I would love to be at an eventing barn, but there is so little quality coaching in my area I want to stick where the gettings good.

Both the boys had their full set of shots, and their teeth checked before they came up. Fandango had his feet done and Archie is getting shoes put on this week. They are all ready to start to get conditioned for the summer! I actually won a personalized conditioning package by Philip Dutton at the Hunt Ball on the weekend but I'm not sure what it entails. Kind of interesting! My first lesson on Archie is next Monday night, I'm excited to see what it will be like!

I should pictures from Fandangos surgery soon also. I will post them as soon I have them! These pics are from last summer, I'll put up some new ones shortly!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...