Diligent readers will know that “hack” (short for “hackney”) originally meant “horse for hire”.
I’d no intention, when adopting the title, of any involvement with real horses. Indeed, the last time I was on the back of a hoofed mammal was in 1969, aged four at Longleat House. A donkey “race” ended abruptly with my mount deciding halfway round that it was going no further. It lay down in the paddock, trapping my leg and filling my special lucky blue nylon shorts with sand. Not so lucky after all, nor the last time I would feel stymied in my competitive efforts by being allied to a complete ass.
I must have silently vowed to never get on an animal again. But that changed at the weekend, when I found myself £80 the poorer, with the hack family on four real hacks of various sizes heading across a river bed and up a rocky path in Exmoor’s Doone Valley (home of Lorna Doone). This was the first of our deliberate attempts to expose ourselves to some healthy biodiversity, following the advice that wilder environments are better for you, and the example of self-experimenter Seth Roberts, who has been reporting much-improved sleep for spending more time outdoors. Camping by a rocky river, populated by swallows, grey wagtails, and next to a tree harbouring a family of newly fledged goldcrests — you can’t do better than that.
My great-grandfather was a Dorset horse-whisperer, and there’s a romantic atavist in me that wishes I had some of that. I have to say that I’ve surveyed the horsey world with a mixture of scorn and bewilderment over the years, but I found the whole experience of riding quite exhilarating. Despite being reasonably fit, just sitting on an ambling horse for an hour called on muscles I did not know I had. It seemed excellent for core stability training; my trunk and thighs ached as much as any workout I’ve done in recent months. In short, I was knackered but happy. The slow pace of riding also gave us ample opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the valley — the babbling river on one side, and the ancient forest on the other.
By the way, this time I wasn’t wearing my lucky shorts: they’d been targeted the day before by a seagull, which the Knackered Hackette tells me is exceptionally fortunate. At least it wasn’t a black swan...Donate and help me buy back my Fender ('About' tells you why)
- the hack is back
- Caveman lunch with taleb
- gym fees require heavy lifting
- corridors and lifts
- stopping time