I must admit I do not hack my horses out as much as I should. But when I do, I find it the best therapy for both of us, mixing up our day to day work and heading out on a relaxing stroll.
Being from Australia I do envy seeing posts and photos circling around on social media from England and how they hack their horses out across the beautiful countryside. One day, this is on my bucket list, to go hacking like a true English lady across the countryside! However, until then I must hack out like a true-blue Aussie.
Now, there is a difference for me between hacking out and going on a trail ride. My trail ride I like to also refer it as ‘bush bashing’, I LOVE to make my own trail up to the top of the hill where it meets up to the main fire trail in the state forest. Hanging on the reins in one hand and pushing branches away with the other. Nothing quiet gets the heart racing and smile on the face. This takes a lot of effort and skill of the horse – and no doubt the rider too. I use this a completely different exercise. As it is quite physical, whereas my version of hacking out is a quiet stroll along the flat and a few hills. Keeping it relaxing and putting the horses in a different environment away from their usual arena work.
I’m sure I can relate to a few, day in day out arena work. Even though we might mix up our exercises throughout the working week we are still going around in that 60×20 arena. After a while it can start to feel mentally draining on the horse or even yourself, beginning to switch off and left wondering how you’re going to freshen up your work the next day. It is important to keep everything in your training fresh and positive (because who wants to be a negative Nancy every day!). Adding hacking out once a week or even twice a week to your program helps to keep your horse and you as a rider mentally fresh. Take that break from the ‘normal work’, sit back and relax with your equine partner, enjoy the scenery, take a beautiful easy stroll around. When I hack my horses out it’s only ever at a leisurely walk. It’s relaxing and enjoyable to have no pressure, long rein, keeping them relaxed and happy. Getting them out of the 60×20, keeping their minds fresh, keeping the work positive. Happy horse, happy rider.
Hacking out is also a great way for your horse to become more confident in different surroundings. I am fortunate where I am situated, I have the advantage to hack my horses around the property and out on a quiet road. It’s fantastic exposure, seeing different environments. It was only the other morning on my ride along the road I said hello to a fellow neighbour who I doubt I’ve ever spoken to before in all my 20 odd years living along the same road. An energetic good morning is simply enough to make a positive start to the day. It was also a good experience for the horse as I now know he is completely fine with rubbish from a plastic bag being tipped into a big rubbish bin!
Hacking out is also beneficial to the horse’s fitness, if your horse is coming back into work, or even during their prep or towards the end of the prep before a spell. They’re interested in the new surroundings, motivated to work forward into the direction of the ride. Hacking them out over different ground, slightly up hill and along the flat helps them build and develop muscle.
Even if you only squeeze in a 10-15-minute hack out around the property or even down along the road. That is 10-15 minutes of a new relaxing exercise, enough to break up the normal work and recharge for the next day.
Now the question is, when was the last time you took your horse out on a hack?