My horse enjoys hacking, but he proceeds with caution. He is what I would call a ‘micro-spooker’.
Although he never makes me feel unsafe, and an onlooker might not notice anything at all, I am aware that he is constantly making tiny adjustments to his behaviour to take into account the risks he sees all around him. His view is that just because that empty crisp packet in the hedge didn’t jump out and eat him yesterday, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to jump out and eat him today, so he treats it with the same degree of respect every time we go past.
He’s also very sensitive to even the tiniest changes on his regular routes. Whoaa, wait a minute, that pile of logs wasn’t there yesterday! This requires a rethink! Let me take a step sideways, just in case there’s a monster behind it.
Of course for him, there’s no rush, no deadline to get back home, so if he wants to pause and contemplate a new obstacle to make sure it’s not out to get him before he proceeds past, he’ll take his time. Better get home safe than not at all!
It’s really quite a common sense approach and demonstrates a degree of caution that I think some humans could learn from.
I was driving home in the horsebox the other day. The road was winding, with very few passing places, and I was aware that I had a handful of cars behind me but there wasn’t much I could do about it.
As I approached a totally blind bend, with double white ‘no overtaking’ lines in the middle, a van and a car shot out from behind me and overtook. This was a very dangerous manoeuvre and did actually make me jump out of my seat! They roared away ahead of me in their impatience to gain a couple of minutes in their journey.
Unluckily for them, given that we live in the middle of nowhere, the car that had been immediately behind them turned out to be an unmarked police car. I saw its blue light flashing in my wing mirror, so I tucked into the side as soon as it was safe and let it go past. As we approached the next village, we saw the van had been stopped in the middle of the road by the police.
A very burly policeman was standing leaning in through the driver’s window delivering an extremely stern old school talking-to, complete with finger wagging. The other car had pulled in to the side and was waiting for the same treatment. We allowed ourselves a moment of smugness as we tiptoed past.
It made me wonder how other people approach the etiquette of horsebox driving. I know it is frustrating to be stuck behind a much slower vehicle, and I try to be thoughtful. If I see a build up of more than a couple of cars and there’s a convenient stopping place, I will pull off the road to let them all past. Also, if I reach a straight section of road with good visibility, I will sometimes slow down and indicate left to let people know it is safe to pass, but this does make me nervous. If a car came out of nowhere, perhaps travelling too fast in the other direction, or pulling out from a side road I hadn’t seen, I could be responsible for causing an accident. Sometimes the safest option is just to hold everybody up for a bit.
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The irony is that quite often, I will catch up with all the cars that were in such a hurry to go past me at the next set of traffic lights or roundabout.
There is really very little to be gained from impatience, which I try to remember whether I’m in a car or on a horse!