How to School your Horse out Hacking

How to school your horse out hacking: When it comes to summer, there’s no equestrian activity we’d rather be doing than hacking out. But hacks aren’t just good for a catch up with your friends and roam around the countryside, they can be hugely beneficial for your horse’s schooling too. 

Almost every horse can benefit from some schooling while out hacking. Spooky horses may start to relax as they’ll be concentrating on what you are asking them to do as opposed to the terrifying plastic bag, while schooling out hacking can build a young horse’s confidence and help you to bond. 

So whether you don’t have access to an arena, or you simply don’t fancy going in the arena today, let’s take a look at the best ways to school your horse out hacking. 

Transitions

Transitions seem simple, but so often we get them wrong! If your horse struggles with certain transitions, one of the best times to practise them is out on a hack. This is because most horses are more forward while out hacking, so you should find it easier to ride them up and into the bridle, away from the confines of an arena.

While out hacking, ensure your horse responds to your aids instantly. Try making regular changes of pace to keep him interested, engaged and concentrating on you. Walk for a certain number of strides, then trot for the same number and repeat – if your horse is spooky you should find they start to focus on you, and lazy horses will become more engaged and active. 

If you’re riding a very hot horse, you may not find short bursts of a certain pace as helpful, so try trotting and walking for longer until they feel settled, or practise some of our other schooling exercises. 

Lateral Work 

One of the best ways to get your horse engaged and working properly is by practising your lateral work. If the bridleway is quiet and you have enough space, practise some leg yields or shoulder-in. For shoulder-in, ensure your horse bends around your inside leg and that your shoulders mirror the position of theirs. While leg yielding, make sure your horse is moving both forwards and sideways. 

If you encounter something spooky, put your lateral work to the test! Try riding your horse in shoulder-in with his forehand facing away from the spooky object. 

 

Turns on the Forehand

If you ever have to open and close a gate on a hack, you’ll know the importance of a turn on the forehand. Trying to get a horse to correctly align themselves so you can reach down and open the gate, stepping the right way as you pull or push it open is no easy task, but having a turn on the forehand in your box of tricks can make it a lot easier. 

Keep your horse listening to you by practising turns on the forehand around objects, asking them to move their hindquarters while keeping their front legs still. When it comes to opening gates of course, the turn on the forehand doesn’t have to be perfect – but even having them knowing what you’re asking them to do can make it a lot easier!  

Stretching

Hacking is relaxing for both horse and rider, and encouraging your horse to stretch down while you walk (providing your horse is relaxed enough to release the rein slightly) can have huge benefits; adding swing and extension to his paces while allowing him to stretch his muscles out. 

Release the rein slightly and encourage your horse to stretch down by giving him a scratch on the neck and supporting him with your leg. You’re not encouraging him to get long and flat, instead he should be working from behind and stretching through his frame. Try it in walk at first, before moving on to trot once you’ve mastered it. If your horse is steady and relaxed, you could even give it a go in canter – although be wary in open spaces. 

Hacking is serious fun for both horse and rider, and it can also bring about a range of psychological and physiological benefits. Every once in a while it’s great to have a plod around with no pressure, but you may find that regularly schooling your horse on a hack gives him a new spring in his step, and it’ll almost certainly make him more amenable in the school. 

Schooling out hacking will build your horse’s confidence and help develop your partnership – you’ll be the dream team in no time at all

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