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Variety is more than just going hacking

Ponyo Sparkle Saddle Pad, variety is the spice of life

Adding variety to our horses work is really important for their mental wellbeing. No one wants to spend their life going round and round in circles doing the same thing again and again. Our horses are exactly the same. They can get bored in their work if we don’t keep it interesting for them. But it’s not just mental benefits, shaking up your horse’s work routine can also have physical benefits. Working them differently gets them using different muscles, which helps strengthen them as an overall athlete.

Get out hacking

I know this post is titled variety is more than just going hacking, but hacking is a great way to add variety into your horse’s routine. There are so many different benefits of hacking, from a relaxing stretch, to some hill work or even just getting them used to seeing new things. You can also add variety to your hacking, to keep it interesting and work your horse in different ways.

But I think we can get a bit trapped on the idea that hacking is the only form of variety for our horses and that simply isn’t the case. You can add variety to while schooling too.

What is variety?

Variety can be anything what’s a bit different. It could be something you do once or twice a year for a bit of fun such as a beach ride or going up the gallops. Or it could be something small you include every week or every month such as pole work or long reining. Variety will help keep your horse interested in their work. But if you choose the right types of variety for your horse, you might also improve their performance.

For example, many racehorse trainers now train their horses to work in a dressage outline to strengthen their topline, making them overall stronger athletes. Dressage horses can benefit from polework or jumping to help them tap into their power. Think about what you are doing with your horse regularly and any areas you think they could be stronger in.

Other ways to add variety to your horse’s routine

  • Polework
    Polework is fantastic for our horses. It gets them thinking, most of them enjoy it and it really gets them lifting their limbs and using their muscles. There are so many different layouts and exercises that you could do something new every week. Recent studies have really highlighted the benefits of just walking your horse over poles. So even beginners or nervous riders can utilise polework in their routines.
  • Jumping
    Every horse I have ever known enjoys jumping. They might be green or lacking confidence, but if you keep them in their comfort zone they really enjoy it. It requires them to user their brains and gets them using different muscles to push off and stretch over a fence. Even dressage horses benefit from the occasional jump! You don’t have to be jumping big courses or complicated grids. Just jumping a few cross poles still has benefits! If you horse is physically able to jump (older horses or those with certain injuries might not be able to) you should certainly look at popping the odd fence.
  • Cross Country
    If you do a lot of jumping, or just want to try something a bit different, cross country can be the way to go. Your horse gets to see some different obsticles and work on different ground. Again, you don’t have to go and jump a lot of big scary fences! Getting your horse’s feet wet in the water or going up and down some small steps, maybe over a ditch, are all really beneficial.
  • Lunging
    Lunging is a bit like marmite, but I don’t think it has it’s benefits. I think it is good to work your horse without them having to carry a rider and it give you a chance to see how them are moving and looking. It can be great in the winter when you maybe have less time to rider. You can just give them a nice stretch on the lunge instead. I saw great results lunging Scottie in a Pessoa alongside his ridden work when he was retraining.
  • Long Reining
    Long reining is a great tool I don’t think enough of us utilise. It helps encourage our horses to be more forward. It can help them build their confidence and we can even use it to help work through some issues we have been having undersaddle.
  • School On Grass
    You don’t have to go hacking to get out of the arena. If you have a field at the yard you can ride in, why not move your usual schooling session to the field? You can do your normal routine while asking your horse to adapt to working in a new environment. This can also be great show prep.

These are just a few ways you can add some more variety to your horse’s routine. I’m sure there are plenty others you can think of!

Last Updated on 25/11/2022

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