In partnership with Wintec Saddles

If you’re preparing for competitions, it can feel like time in the arena should take priority to get your horse ready, whether you are riding between the white boards for dressage or soaring across fences in the jumping ring. It can mean that hacking falls to the wayside – but maybe it shouldn’t, because hacking offers plenty of benefits that are useful for every discipline.

1. Finding confidence

Hacking is a great way to build up your horse’s confidence, as well as your own, because of everything you can encounter when riding out. It can take time for your horse to become comfortable and relaxed out hacking, particularly if it’s not something they’ve done much of in the past, but getting them more comfortable hacking will translate to better confidence at shows for you both.

2. Desensitising in new spaces

Competitions can be busy, overwhelming environments for our horses, which is why hacking can help to prepare them. You encounter all sorts when out and about – vehicles, farm machinery, noises on the other side of hedges, dog walkers… the list is endless. And whilst it’s daunting, they’re likely to encounter similar when at a big show.

3. Improving fitness

No matter what discipline you do, your horse needs to be fit. If they aren’t, they’ll struggle to do their best – that might mean falling behind the leg, knocking poles when jumping or struggling to collect or lengthen their stride whilst doing a dressage test.

Hacking offers the opportunity to better your horse’s fitness as you can ride for long periods in all the paces. You could also give interval training a go, which when done correctly saves time and reduces the risk of injury whilst improving fitness.

4. Bettering their paces

Whilst you can do plenty in the arena to improve your horse’s paces, sometimes taking them out of the arena can help.

Getting out hacking can improve forwardness, balance and rhythm. It’s also a great opportunity to practise shortening and lengthening each pace.

You can also work on your contact – although not for hours at a time if you’re heading out for long rides.

5. Practising your gallop

There’s only so fast you can go in an arena, and if you have a cross country competition on the horizon, or want to improve your individual show in a showing class, you’ll want to work on your gallop. Hacking along bridleways can offer the opportunity to practise opening up their stride, as long as the conditions are safe.

6. Time to relax

Hacking isn’t just about work. It offers the chance for you and your horse to relax and switch off from a busy training schedule. You can enjoy the time in each other’s company and improve your bond and trust in each other – which will in turn, better your competition performance.

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

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