Hacking can benefit any horse, from top class competition horses to youngsters. It is also important to not miss how it can benefit the rider.
Hacking is a brilliant thing for youngsters as it introduces them to lots of new things and increases their understanding of the riders aids. Once a horse has been backed and understands some basic aids, hacking out with an older sensible horse is a great way to ride away. They will naturally want to follow the horse in front which helps the horse to understand forward aids. As I previously mentioned, it is a great way to desensitise them. Whilst hacking horses come across all sorts of things including; cars, bikes, lorries, road signs, other animals and all kinds of ‘scary’ objects. The earlier a horse comes across items like this, the less likely they are to be spooky when they are older. However, you can also take unbacked horses out hacking if you are sensible about it. You could either walk out with another horse and rider, or you could lead your youngster from the saddle. Both work well and can help desensitise your horse.
Not only does hacking introduce your horse to all kinds of objects, it can also be a great way to improve your horses way of going. Whilst hacking you are able to do hill work which helps build your horses hind end. Getting your horse to go on different and sometimes uneven surfaces helps with the horses coordination and balance. Different surfaces also have different benefits for the horse. When you have lots of open space, it is a good way to help with your horses balance in faster gates such as canter. This is because you can stay on a straight line or do very gradual bends to help your horse find its own balance.
If you have a lazy horse, hacking out with others should encourage it to go forward so it can stay part of the herd. Many horses are often a little more awake on a hack which can make it perfect for practising bending or working in an outline if they lack the motivation in the school.
If you are lucky, while hacking you will come across logs and other makeshift cross country jumps. These can be a great way to start to introduce the idea of cross country to your horse as many youngsters are unlikely to have jumped in an open area. It can also give you the opportunity to test out your cross country pace and how well your horse jumps from it.
Hacking is great for improving your horses fitness. You can hack out for hours or minutes at whatever speed you feel like. Many professional riders hack their horses out weekly no matter what discipline they compete it. This shows that it is beneficial to all horses even if it is just used as a bit of down time for the horse.
Now on to the benefits to the rider. Hacking for most riders is a relaxing time to enjoy their horse and stop worrying about everything else in the world. This is reflected by the number of owners in the UK who own ‘happy hackers’. However, hacking is also down time for competitive riders as it gives them a break from schooling. I also believe hacking is a great way for a rider to gain trust in their horse, improving their bond, and their confidence. Being able to work at higher speeds and lengthen your horses canter safely is also a great way for a rider to find the confidence to have a go at hunting or cross country.
As you can see, hacking truly does having many benefits and is a very good use of your time. Not to mention its also a lot of fun! I’m sure I have missed things out, please add any if you can think of them. I know there are still plenty I have never even considered.