In partnership with Wintec Saddles

Flatwork is an essential part of every horse’s training and should be regularly included in their exercise routine — including horses who exclusively hack. Yes, really…

“Flatwork will give your horse or pony the foundations to help them be more obedient, attentive, responsive and flexible. This will undoubtedly make your horse much more enjoyable to ride regardless of your ambitions,” says List 2a dressage judge and trainer Sharon Butterworth.

Here are 5 benefits of schooling your hacking partner on a regular basis:

1 It improves strength and fitness

Schooling your horse regularly allows you to work on their strengths and weaknesses and helps to avoid any imbalances, which can lead to stiffness, tension or injury.

Ensure that your horse has plenty of variety in his workload and is not doing the same thing every day.

“Schooling for 20 minutes three times a week will have a big impact on your horse, and the more he cross-trains the better,” advises Sam York FBHS.

“The more a horse stretches, bends, hacks and jumps, the fitter and more agile he will be to cope with different terrain or to negotiate a gate. The more riders incorporate a range of activities into their exercise routine the healthier they are, and it’s the same with a horse.

2 It teaches good habits

For an enjoyable hack, you’ll want to be on a horse who understands and responds to your aids — and that comes from good training. Not necessarily in an arena — you can school just as effectively in a field or while hacking — but it’s important that you do do it.

“Be systematic with your training,” advises Sam. “Make sure you are riding equally on both reins and repeat a simple task until you have improved it and next time try something else.”

Italian event rider Vittoria Panizzon adds: “I believe it’s important to do the basics in the correct mode all the time, otherwise you are training the horse to use the wrong muscles and then trying to retrain them when riding in an arena, which is confusing for the horse.”

3 It helps your position

Flatwork is not only beneficial for horses, but also essential for riders as it gives you time to concentrate on your position in the saddle and work on improving your balance, core stability, flexibility and fitness.

“When you are schooling, check that you are sitting straight in the saddle, have your weight evenly in both stirrups, and that your arms are relaxed and hands are in the right place,” says Vittoria Panizzon.

You’ll be a better rider for it — vital for comfort on long distances.

4 It develops a deeper seat

Regularly riding without stirrups is a great way to transform your riding and develop a deeper seat.

It doesn’t have to be done when you are in the arena; slipping your feet out of the stirrups for a few minutes when you are hacking off road works well too. Be sensible, though, and do this only when it is safe to do so.

“Taking your stirrups away will help your fitness and core strength. Flatwork can be more physically demanding than jumping, so don’t be surprised if you wake up sore and stiff the day after a schooling session,” explains Sam York.

5 It hones how well you use the aids, and how well your horse listens to them

Working on the flat also gives the rider a chance to practise their aids, and it’s an opportunity to develop the relationship between horse and rider.

“Flatwork is the essence of communication and is key for a good relationship between horse and rider,” says Sam York.

“The more time you spend schooling the better you will get to know your horse and become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Set up your phone to video you so you can watch yourself back and become more self-aware.”

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

Related articles