The benefits of hacking your horse or pony.

 The benefits of hacking your horse or pony – By Castle Leslie’s Equestrian Business Manager, Jenny Richardson BHSAI

We’re renowned for our lovely hacking, here at Castle Leslie Estate. If that’s all you and your family would like to do with us when you come for a riding holiday, or spend some time riding if you’re visiting us for another reason, then you can be sure of enjoying glorious woodland rides with us, on well-trained, safe horses.

Hacking is one of the most basic pastimes that’s necessary for any horse or pony to learn. If you’re a horse (or pony) owner, I am sure you will agree that we should all expect our horses to be capable of this activity. In many ways it is the basis of preparation for any and all disciplines!

The equine should ideally be able to hack alone and in company without napping, spooking or pulling, although it may take some little time to establish with a youngster, or with a horse that’s being retrained and has not been given the groundwork when young.

A varied schedule

I’d like to share some of my views on why it is important to vary the hacking work you plan for your horse, in terms of fitness, muscle tone, obedience, boldness and variety, to keep him interested in his day to day riding programme.

If you are able to undertake road-work when hacking this is great to keep tendons and ligaments strong; for example, slow jog trotting up hills and walking down will all help with elasticity and tone. Hacking can also be seen as a no-pressure ‘down time’ period for both of you to enjoy the relaxation and scenery. Regular routes can be followed, which will give the horse the enjoyment of routine, on which all horses thrive. Every now and again, why not source out a new ride to challenge his boldness and obedience? Mix and match roadwork with bridle paths, and try to include some canter work, for interest and fitness.

Interval training

But what if you’re a little jaded with the ‘same-old’ hacking regime? Why not make some changes, to keep things more interesting? Showjumpers often take a leaf out of the eventer’s handbook, and put their horses on an adapted version of interval training. During your ride, why not time yourself over the distances where you choose to walk, trot and canter. This will add knowledge and structure to your hack, and you can then work on increasing or decreasing some of the intervals as required. For instance, if you thought you were able to canter for five minutes without your horse breathing too hard, but on timing yourself, discovered it was actually only for three minutes, you have actual facts and goals to work towards! You will obviously have to factor in the terrain over which you are working, in order to organise the correct places to plan your interval training campaign.

Jenny Richardson is Equestrian Centre Business Manager here at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate. Visit our home page at www.castleleslie.com

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