Six-time Olympian Mary King hacks out every day. Whether you’re aiming to compete or simply love hacking, here are two of her top tips to ensure every mile you do really counts.
“I hack my horses every day, come rain or shine,” says six-time British Olympic event rider Mary King. “Sometimes it’s just for 10 minutes or so before a schooling session, other times we’ll go out for two hours or hack to the gallops. Hacking is your horse’s opportunity to see the world.”
Gates and spooky objects
If you ride around a corner and see a closed gate and sigh, it’s time to change your mindset. Opening and closing a gate on horseback is a brilliant way to teach your horse to step away from your leg and move his hindquarters around his front legs. He’s turning on the forehand without even realising it.
“I’ll often teach my horses to move away from the pressure of the leg out on a hack, using turn on the forehand and rein-back to open and close the gates.”
Leg-yield is also useful for walking past a parked car or spooky object – turn his head away from it but still maintain the forward momentum.
Ditches can be fun
Mary uses a narrow stream to start her horses over ditches.
“Initially, I’ll walk alongside the stream/ditch and let my horse stretch down to sniff, then I’ll turn towards it and ask him to jump. I’ll approach in a strong, rhythmical trot, one with power but not speed so I have time to react should he stop. If my horse skids to a halt in front of it, I’ll encourage him to jump from a standstill because he must learn that turning around is not an option.”
The reason Mary walks alongside the ditch rather than walking him straight up and halting to let him sniff, is because that can encourage horses to refuse when it’s time to jump. By the end of the session, Mary will jump the wider part of the ditch/stream, approaching in rising trot and on a loose rein so that her horse can look as he jumps.