KEEP YOUR HORSE HAPPY AND HEALTHY DURING MYHACKATHON
Thank you for taking part in MyHackathon. We wish you and your horse an enjoyable hacking journey. This guide will help you both stay happy and healthy.
Taking part in MyHackathon often means you’ll be changing your routine, so take some time to read the points below before you start. If you’re unsure about your horse’s fitness, you should consult a professional before starting any new exercise regime.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING PART
Age: Young horses who are still growing and developing aren’t able to take on as much as mature, fully-developed horses, and older horses may be less able to cope with long distances. Be mindful of this and don’t push your horse to do too much.
Medical history: The same goes for injury-prone horses or those recovering from injury or illness. They won’t be able to take on as much activity as horses who are fit, healthy and sound.
Individual history and personality: How often do they hack out? How confident are they with the different things you might encounter on hacks (e.g. traffic, dog walkers)? Have they had any accidents in the past that you should be aware of? How confident are they in general, with leaving home and encountering novel situations and objects? Do they get separation anxiety if asked to hack alone?
Fitness: Consider how much is right for your horse’s current level of fitness and how well they will be able to cope with the hacking programme, and adjust the pace and distance of each hack to suit you both. If MyHackathon means taking on a lot more activity, fitness should be built up gradually over several weeks (see Equimed’s 10 reasons for a daily horse workout). Consider following a training programme like this one from Horse & Hound.
Remember if your horse is not fit, or not confident out hacking, then you may still be able to complete MYHACKATHON, you may just want to focus on the lower distances. Each challenge is individual, and a horse (or rider) gaining confidence and enjoying hacking is the aim, more important than miles covered.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR DURING MYHACKATHON
Signs of tiredness or exhaustion: Make sure your horse has adequate rest and beware of overdoing it, especially with horses that aren’t used to frequent exercise or are returning from injury/illness. Signs of tiredness include stumbling, tripping, sweating a lot, panting/difficulties breathing, flared nostrils, weakness, stiffness, and dull, lethargic behaviour.
Signs of injury, strain, back pain or lameness: If your horse is showing any of these signs please stop hacking and make sure your horse is given appropriate treatment.
A change in behaviour: If your horse becomes lethargic, goes off their food or seems stiff in their movement, they’re doing too much. Refusing to move or being aggressive could mean your horse is trying to tell you they’re overworked, not enjoying their work, and/or in pain.
Nervous behaviour: frequent spooking, running, jogging, and calling, are all signs that your horse is finding hacking stressful. Stop hacking and try and identify the cause of the stress – you may find it helpful to consult a qualified trainer or behaviourist.
Temperature and climate: If it’s hot out, don’t let your horse get dehydrated. This can lead to heat stress, which can have a serious impact on health. Some horses are also prone to sunburn, if they have light skin and a thin coat. Pay particular attention to areas of skin that have less hair to protect them, such as the muzzle.
Diet: Make sure your horse is getting the right nutrition for their exercise regime. Most won’t need to change their diet, but keep an eye on their weight and adjust their meals if needed.
Hacking can be a wonderful way to spend time with your horse, get fit, and enjoy the countryside. Remember to hack safely, looking after yourself, your horse and the environment around you.