Hacking is a great opportunity for some impromptu schooling. It’s more fun than in the arena and the different terrain can help boost your horse’s fitness, too
Hacking doesn’t have to be a quiet plod round your local bridleway – there’s plenty you can do to make it more interesting for you and your horse. Not only is taking advantage of your surroundings a fun way to top-up his fitness, it’ll also help him develop and strengthen his muscles in ways that can’t be achieved on the flat, level surface of an arena.
On the road
Love it or loathe it, roadwork can be great for your horse’s fitness. The firm surface means you won’t be trawling through mud or avoiding uneven ground, so you can spend the time focusing on your horse. It’s a great place to start getting him fit, too.
Riding in straight lines will be easier for him than working on a circle, so it’ll allow his muscles time to strengthen before introducing more strenuous work. Road riding can help condition your horse’s legs, too, making them stronger. However, it’s important not to over-work him on hard surfaces – for example, long periods of trot work – because excessive concussion on his legs could put him at risk of injury.
Top tip – Always make sure that you and your horse are wearing high-vis so you’re visible to other road users.
Out in the open
A large, open space can be used as a makeshift arena. You’ll be able to ride serpentines and circles galore, and practise some lateral moves. You can perform transitions at fence posts or other natural markers, too – for example, you could trot at the first tree, ask for canter at the second, then come back to trot as you pass the third one.
Schooling outdoors is great practice for competing in grass arenas, which often have an uneven surface and slight gradient. Always check the ground you’re riding on is safe, though, so you aren’t caught out by deep, muddy areas or any hidden holes.
For more top hacking tips, and different types of terrains and gradients to transform your horse, get your copy of Spring Horse&Rider, out now!