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Why you should mix up your hacking

Scottie and friends hacking on the beach

There are so many great benefits of hacking your horse, from physical fitness to the mental stimulation of adding a bit of variety to your horse’s routine. But I think a lot of us are guilty of riding the same two or three hack routes over and over again. And while it’s still beneficial to get your horse out the arena, there is so much more you could be doing with your hacking routes.

Different types of hacking:

Shaking up your usual hacking routes up can really beneficial for your horse and your training routine. Obviously we all have different hacking available to us locally. But if you are able to go a bit further to experience new things it can be really beneficial.

Roadwork:

  • Can avoid muddy fields
  • Great for getting horses used to traffic
  • Great for building fitness when returning to work

Due to increased friction between horse riders and drivers, a lot of us are trying to avoid roadwork as much as possible. But if you feel safe to do so, there are some great benefits to doing roadwork with your horse out hacking. Walking and trotting on the roads is still the first step for building fitness in racehorses. If your horse is returning to work after time off or injury, lots of walking can be quite boring. But walking them out on the roads can help keep you both interested in what you are doing.

Even if you want to avoid the roads as much as possible, it is still important for your horse to be comfortable around traffic. So it is still important to get horses, especially young horses, out on the roads in sensible company so they can experience traffic.

Open Fields:

  • Faster work
  • Building confidence

Riding through and/or around open fields is a great way to build your and your horses confidence. Open spaces can be quite exciting and we experience them regularly out hacking and at shows. So it is important that we and our horses feel comfortable in them. You can build this up by starting to walk around the edge of open fields.

Open fields are also a great way to start introducing more fast work to our horses. Not many of us have easy or regular access to gallops. So we often rely on fields for faster work or prolonged faster work. This is especially important for competition horses who need a higher level of fitness. But it’s also fun for all horses and riders to blow off a bit of steam.

Forests:

  • Shady when it’s warmer weather
  • Different scenery & wildlife
  • Possible log jumps

If you are lucky enough to live near a forest or areas with lots of trees, this can be the perfect hacking for warmer weather as it allows you to get out of the sun. But forests and woods also have a different atmosphere. They can be quieter and “spookier”. There can be more or different wildlife such as deer and squirrels you might not usually see. So this can be a good experience to give your horse some exposure to new things.

There might also be options to step over or jump fallen trees and branches, what can be great fun! But having to negotigate different obsticles such as fallen trees, tree roots etc can also really help your horse understand where his feet are.

should you go hacking after riding

Beach:

  • Lot’s of open space
  • Often lots of other users (dogs, people, other horses)
  • Different surface
  • Working in and out of the sea

Who doesn’t love a beach ride? It’s something so many of us aspire to do with our horse. But it’s not just a fun day out, it’s also a great opportunity for your horse to experience new things. Beaches are usually a big open space with lots of other people using them. Your horse should have plenty of space but will also come across other horses, dogs, children and all those fun beach things such as body boards, wind breakers and bright towels.

You also get the opportunity to work our horses on different surfaces. Not many of us work on pure sand any more. Some of it will be firm, some of it will be really soft. It good for horses to get out and walk on different surfaces. We can also introduce your horses to the sea. Walking through the shallow water is great for engaging their legs, encouraging them to lift their feet higher. The deeper you go, the harder they have to work. If you want to try swimming then this is great for their fitness. The salt water can also be great for any small cuts and scrapes and even aches or pains.

Hillwork:

  • Fantastic for fitness & strengthening

There has been so much research over the years saying that hill work is great for our horses. So if you do have hills near you, you really should be utilising them! Fast work up hill is hard work, so it can be great at building fitness. But walking up hill can be great for building strength. Walking or trotting downhill really requires a horse to bring their hindend under them, so again it is really beneficial.

How to add some variety to your hacking

Adding variety into your horse’s hack routes doesn’t need to be drastic. You don’t need to travel to the beach every month or walk 10 miles to go up a hill. Look at the hacking routes you ride the most. What % of these rides are you on the road vs open fields. Is there an easy way to shake up this percentage? Do you always go up a hill? If so, why not ride the hack the other way round so you go down it sometimes too.

Last Updated on 10/11/2022

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