There’s no denying that schooling is an important part of your journey to be the best horse and rider combo you can be. However, it gets boring for you and your horse. It’s important to have some variety and hacking is the perfect way to shake things up while still working on discipline at the same time.
Variety is Key
Fight boredom by changing location. Just like going for a walk can clear your mind, it will do the same for your horse. A combination of schooling, hacking and rest days will keep them happy and well rounded. Your horse will be excited when you come to ride it and you will both benefit from a happy forward-going ride.
It’s a Scary World
If your horse only ever sees your riding school, then you may face problems if you ever leave your comfort zone. Whether it’s a visit to your friend’s house or a competition, sometimes it is necessary to move location. Just like with anything – the unknown can be scary and you may face problems like spooking and napping. By regularly hacking along as many different routes as possible, you will give your horse the chance to acclimatize to the great unknown. The more obstacles and hazards they see, the braver they will become.
Practice Somewhere New
If you are trying to master a new technique with your school or perhaps trying to learn a specific dressage routine – this can be done outside. Use nature as your arena and try to find a flat field. Be creative with your markers: bushes, plants, trees – all will work when you’re trying to create a school. Your horse won’t associate the practice with flatwork and you are likely to have more progress than doing the same thing in the ring repetitively.
There is also a bonus in practicing outside as the ground will be more rugged. When you ride in a soft, controlled area, it allows your horse to become lazy and not pick up its feet, however outside they will have to look where they’re going!
Social Enjoyment for you Both
Hacking alone is fun, but in a group is even better. It gives you and your horse a chance to be social and enjoy the company. If your horse is shy, then try going out with one calm horse and building up. This tactic also works on an excitable horse as soon the novelty will wear off. It is important your horse must know how to socialize, especially if you are planning to compete as this will stop the pair of you from getting into trouble.
Whole Body Benefit
Even though you can incorporate schooling into a hack, it’s also nice to use it as a chance to relax. After a particularly hard session, why not go for a hack to let your horse cool down and stretch their muscles. Let the reins go loose and their head stretch out. A few pats and cuddles wouldn’t go amiss either. It’s a perfect bonding experience where you can enjoy each other’s company and the scenery.
Hacking is the perfect way to improve your horses’ overall health and fitness. There are different obstacles and terrain. You can go uphill, practice jumping over obstacles or even do sprint training out in the open. Going outside gives you a whole variety of options that you can’t access in the ring. Even if you’re not getting your horse for a particular reason, having their fitness levels up means it will be able to face any challenges.
What if my Horse is Bad at Hacking?
Sometimes it can take a while for a horse to get used to the outside. Hacking alone is usually the best way to start, but if your horse is a bad napper then try to build up their confidence. Go out with a companion before attempting to leave again. You can even practice leaving the yard first with the other horse behind until it isn’t a problem. Your horse will have learned that it’s okay to leave and you shouldn’t have so many problems next time.
Even the biggest horse can be a scaredy-cat and if your house is big on spooking then it’s important to react the correct way. Instead of getting frustrated try and stay calm. Let your horse investigate and have a look. Afterwards, they should be able to walk past. If the worst comes to worst, then keep their head turned away and insist they pass the spooky object. Every time you overcome a hurdle make sure to give them loads of praise and maybe even keep some treats handy for this occasion.
When it all comes together it there is nothing better than the freedom of riding wherever you feel like. Just remember these key points:
- Charge your phone. It’s important for emergencies and also if you get lost!
- If you are planning to do road work then wear a high-vis, even in the day
- Enjoy the experience and have fun!