How does hacking out help my horse?

Some of us love to go out hacking, for others it’s a no go.  Some use it for fitness and some for relaxation.  In our blog today we discuss why hacking can be good for your horse; both mentally and physically.

What is hacking?

Hack within the activity of equestrianism commonly refers to one of two things: as a verb, it describes the act of riding a horse for light exercise.  And as a noun, it is a type of horse used for riding out at ordinary speeds over roads and trails. (Wikipedia).  Day to day we commonly understand ‘to hack out’ as riding out on and off road with our horses.

What physical benefits does hacking offer for my horse?

As well as being a great change of scenery for you both, hacking can aid fitness work and improve stamina.  Careful controlled road work can be a great basis for your fittening work.  Walking and trotting steadily on the road helps to strengthen tendons and ligaments. Hill work builds strong muscle, develops balance and conditions the horses heart.

Riding on varying surfaces (road, to grass, or to off road tracks) can assist your horse with balance and coordination, as they develop an understanding for how different ways of going feel under foot.  More open spaces can allow for you to work on balance in faster paces and narrow tracks can improve leg to hand coordination from the rider and balance concentration for the horse.

What mental benefits does hacking offer for my horse?

Roadwork and hacking out helps to expand horses’ and riders’ familiarity with different types of scenario and surroundings.  This can assist in desensitising the horse to situations that may be unfamiliar or off putting.  This could help you when you head out to compete for example.  It makes your horse a little more ‘worldly wise’ so to speak.

Riding out can be good for your horse’s mental well-being. It can keep your horses mind mentally fresh and offer a change of scenery to keep him alert and interested. It can give the horse confidence as well as he learns to tackle new situations.  Hacking independently can give the horse a sense of braveness, so he does not always follow the one in front.  Likewise though for young, inexperienced or nervous horses, hacking with a sensible experienced buddy can give them lots of confidence!

Hacking can also be a way to de-stress for your horse.  When they work hard in the school, on the lunge or whilst out competing, hacking can be a nice way to wind down and just enjoy the time away from harder work with their rider!

What other benefits can come from hacking?

Riding circle after circle in your arena is enough to make anyone, let alone your horse switch off!  Staring at four walls every day is not an exciting life.  Training is of course very important and the building blocks to succession.  But as riders we also need to remember that your horse feeling happy and positive about his work is also important.  Hacking offers your horse a break and a varied routine.  Variety is the spice of life as they say, and this applies to horses just as much as humans.

Dealing with new things and listening to their rider also means that your horse will develop a better understanding of your aids and have confidence in what you are asking him to do.  Hacking can really engage your horses brain to develop a better understanding for ridden work. With the lighter evenings fast approaching and the warmer weather just around the corner, it is the perfect time to get out and about on your horse and enjoy the countryside around you.

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