How can I prepare?
Firstly, decide which event you’re going to aim for, send off your entry and arrange transport in good time.
For level 1/2 you and your horse need to be fit enough for a 2-3 hour mixed pace hack. The fitter you both are, the easier it will be – but you’ll see all shapes and sizes of equines and riders at events.
In the weeks leading up to the event, take a 1:25000 map (the orange ‘Explorer’ series and yellow ‘Outdoor Leisure’ maps, available from most bookshops and Ordnance Survey) of your local area out hacking. Keep an eye on the map and get used to how long a distance on the map takes to ride while you’re out. Perhaps set yourself new routes to ride! If you’re not confident with orienteering, why not pair up with a friend and have a laugh while getting lost?
Download the rulebook here. It details how the most common PTV obstacles are to be set up, tackled and judged. It also gives dimensions for things like the corridor, s-bend and low branches – you may like to practise these at home, but as long as your horse moves off the leg ok and is fine with you leaning down over his withers while he’s moving you should be fine.
On many bridlepaths there are ditches, gates, steps, bridges, logs, low branches (and quite often flytipped scary rubbish too) that you can negotiate with your horse to practise for the PTV – be imaginative, but stay safe.
Practise for the control of gaits section on hacks too – you want a really nice very slow canter, and a fast walk. Get used to feeling when the horse is about to break into trot, and catch him before he does so.
It may be an idea to get your horse used to a rustly map being re-folded while you’re on his back. Don’t try this for the first time on a hack – stand in an enclosed space with someone on the ground to keep the horse steady in case he panics.
Handy pony courses are great fun – set your own up at home, or enter at a show, as you never know what organisers might throw in. Flappy tarpaulins to walk past/over, flags, things that aren’t seen every day – the more varied, the better.
If you can’t practise – don’t worry! Your first time is just for you to see what happens and get used to how competitions are run. Don’t pressure yourself to do well until you and your horse have got experience of what’s involved.
What do I need to take/wear?
Take a look at the Kit List page. Some things there – marked in bold red – are absolutely essential (you won’t be allowed to set off without some, and will be penalised for not having others), but there are also some recommendations that you may want to consider taking too.
Wear whatever’s comfortable – there is no dress code, as long as what you wear is safe. You will definitely need a hard hat to current standards, a fluorescent item (tabard/waistcoat, etc.) and some waterproofs, but the rest is up to you. You must wear a medical armband or similar in all three phases.
Tack must be safe and well-fitting, but as long as it fits those criteria there are few limitations other than no fixed reins. You may find that some pairs are in co-ordinated or silly outfits, this is not necessary but can add a little humour to the day!
Start times etc.
The times will be published online a few days before the competition – make sure you know when you will be competing, and read the competitor information well as there are often special instructions for access/parking.
Pack everything the night before so that there’s no panicking on the day – just quickly check that you’ve got it all.