In partnership with Wintec Saddles

What comes to mind when you think of a riding lesson? Perhaps for novices or beginners, it’s a group lesson in a school. For those with their own horses to ride, it might be a weekly session with a local instructor to keep the horse fit, learn something new or improve their riding. Those with competitive ambitions may have more structure, with lessons focused on developing their horse’s lateral work or fine-tuning their jumping technique ready for shows or stepping up to the next level. But have you ever considered having a lesson for hacking out?

For riders who don’t have easy access to an arena, or perhaps want to spend less time in one, hacking is a great place to educate your horse, improve their fitness and work on your own position in the saddle. Hacking lessons are particularly helpful to build up your confidence, especially if you can head out with an instructor you trust.

Hacking clinics are becoming more popular as a way to introduce nervous horses to hacking and prepare them for things they might encounter when out and about, all in a safe, controlled manner. Having someone experienced alongside to teach you how to navigate different problems or behaviours, such as napping or spinning, can be invaluable in improving your confidence and relationship with your horse.

You can enquire about going for a hacking lesson with your regular instructor, or ask around for recommendations from friends or fellow liveries. If you’re looking for a new instructor, the BHS has an online registry you can look through. Alternatively, keep an eye out on the websites, event pages and social media of any local equestrian centres. Hacking clinics are becoming more popular and might pop up, or you can contact the managers to express interest in attending one should they host it.

What you can learn in a hacking lesson

I asked the riders in our Hack 1,000 Miles Facebook group for their thoughts on hacking lessons, and here are some reasons why they think they’re great…

1. You can build up confidence with a new horse 

“I was given my horse Ben when he retired from a riding school. I had five hacking lessons on him with a riding instructor to make sure I could cope with anything hacking related – passing big lorries, cantering in fields, all that kind of stuff,” says Amanda Barker. “It was nice to experience scary things with an instructor when I rode him out for the first few times.”

2. You can prepare for any situation 

“I like to hack and then some! I’ve had loads of hacking lessons with my trainer working on the issue of the day. In the early days, it included stuff like leg yield to move to the left away from traffic, how to increase speed, plus tactics to deal with behavioural issues such as napping and bolting,” says Rosie Martin, who has completed the challenge twice with her cob Larry. “We then moved on to opening gates and making river crossings. It’s be a lot of fun.”

3. You can make hacking out more fun – for you and your horse 

“I’ve had lessons with my regular instructor out hacking. It was really helpful, as my horse used to be very nappy, spooky and difficult to hack,” says Sophie Joy. “It was definitely helpful and very different to going for a hack at a riding school. I think it was well worth it as we are very happy hacking now.”

4. You can learn from experience 

“I think riding out with experienced hackers is almost the same thing; it may not be as structured as a lesson, but we can learn from example – both the good and not so good!” says Ruth Ferris, who completed the Hack 1,000 Miles challenge in under seven months. “If you don’t have any experienced riders to hack out with, then going with an instructor is a great idea. There are myriad potential hazards out hacking, both in terms of your riding and the environment.”

5. You’ll find there’s always more to learn 

“I attended a super clinic that could be called a ‘hacking clinic’ set in the New Forest,” says Paula Wroath. “I’ve ridden and hacked all my life, but it was still great to learn more.”

This content is brought to you in partnership with Wintec Saddles, durable, comfortable, easy-care, weather-proof saddles for everyone. 

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