Professional event rider and trainer Anthony Clark explains why hacking your competition horse is essential for their physical and mental well-being and is an excellent opportunity to get out and do some schooling away from the confines of the arena. Keep your horse healthy with these pro tips!
“I hack my horses a couple of times a week. We build it into all our horse’s training schedules because hacking is hugely valuable for several reasons; Hacking keeps the horse’s minds happy, and the open spaces we are lucky to have on our doorstep help to keep the horses’ minds fresh and encourages them to be forward thinking.”
Schooling Out In The Open
Even if we are out hacking, we will incorporate some schooling. If your horse tends to become tense in the arena at home, integrating schooling whilst hacking can be highly beneficial in eliminating tension which some horses may associate with arena work.
On The Side
Lateral work is easy to incorporate and great for the horses’ brains, suppleing the horse and getting them to listen to the riders’ aids. We like to leg yield across the tracks in both directions or ride some shoulder-in next to the side of the track. Lateral work is also an excellent exercise to teach your horse, and shoulder in/shoulder-fore are particularly helpful when riding past spooky objects while hacking!
Practising your transitions and changes of pace in open spaces as both direct transitions (walk- trot-canter) and changes of tempo within the pace, such as collected canter – medium canter – gallop, are excellent for building strength and confidence.
The Young Ones
We hack the younger horses with an established, older sensible horse. Partnering an older horse with a younger horse is beneficial because it can give the younger horse more confidence and help with relaxation when riding out in open spaces.
We tend to hack out in pairs. Riding out in company is safer for the rider, and the horses can also have a social time out hacking. However, we also include some solo hacking outings to ensure that the horses become confident in their own company, but we often hack in fields together. Still, we will ride apart and pass each other, so the horses learn not to rely on each other. This is important training as part of your competition checklist.
Hacking on different terrain is excellent for competition horses. Various research has shown that hacking benefits your horse in a number of ways ; it helps develop fitness and muscle tone and supports tendon and ligament health. We use hills in all paces to help build the horse’s top lines and strengthen their backs with long, low, and slow work.
Trotting down gradual slopes can help horses learn to engage behind and become more balanced in their bodies and not reliant on the rider’s hand. Being mindful of footing, a slow and steady approach to canter uphill is also beneficial for an all-over body workout.
Hacking is fantastic for getting our event horses fit. When we start fittening work with our event horses, we start with slow and steady hacks with 10 mins walk and 5 minutes trot, and 10 mins walk and then build up to 10 mins walk, 10 mins trot, 5 mins walk and so on. We introduce canter on week four and build up to 5 mins of canter work followed by walk and trot to let the horse recover.
Anthony Clark is a talented eventer & coach based in Cambridgeshire.
Anthony has produced numerous horses from novice to Advanced / 4 * level. Anthony was also a member of the 2015 British 3 * European eventing team, which went on to win a silver medal. Anthony is proudly sponsored by Aloeride and produces horses for owners and trains riders of ages and all levels, including juniors and novice, all the way through.
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