Event rider Andrew Hoy, who is currently in Tokyo contesting his eighth Olympic Games, regularly hacks his horses. Here he explains how to supple your horse on a hack in just 30 minutes.
Riding in the countryside is a nice break from the norm and will encourage your horse to be active if he’s lazy in the school. Make sure he’s warmed up: first walk on a long rein, encouraging him to stretch his head and neck forwards and down to loosen through his back, then introduce transitions in all gaits to improve responsiveness.
5 mins: Soften and supple your horse
Ask your horse to flex his neck to the left and right while walking in a straight line on a contact along a quiet bridlepath or field.
Make the movement smooth and straight before changing the flexion: the movement should be flex left – straight – flex right.
This is ideal preparation for shoulder-in and should keep him focussed on you rather than his surroundings.
5 mins: Ask your horse for inside flexion
Moving into shoulder-in, ask your horse for some inside flexion by using your inside leg on the girth to keep him working forwards, and your outside leg behind the girth to prevent his quarters swinging out.
Allow your horse to step into a good length of stride, while he works from your inside leg to your outside hand, which helps control the flexion from his withers forwards.
You could ride shoulder-in to a certain marker, such as every fifth fence post, to give yourself a goal.
Then ride in a straight line for the next five posts before asking for shoulder in again.
5 mins: Develop your horse evenly
Next, ask your horse to ride shoulder-in flexing in the opposite direction to build up even muscle.
Take care not to restrict his forward movement by bringing your rein back towards you and beware of uneven footing, which can throw your horse off balance and out of rhythm.
5 mins: Engage your horse’s quarters
Having worked on suppling his shoulders, now start to think about improving your horse’s lateral bend and engaging his hindquarters by working on travers.
In an open field, as preparation, start to ride your horse in an active walk on a circle – this will make it easier for him to learn and accept your aids.
To give his schooling more variety, ride your circle around trees if there are any in the field.
5 minutes: Start off right
If asking for travers for the first time, always ride the movement in walk, before trot or canter, as it’s essential your horse has time to understand the exercise and develop the correct muscle memory.
As you ride out from the circle, ask for travers by placing your outside leg behind the girth to help position your horse’s hindquarters on an inner track.
Apply pressure with your inside leg to help with his bend and to keep him working forwards in a constant rhythm.
Using your outside rein, keep him working in a straight line, controlling his bend so that he doesn’t coil round and over flex to the inside.
5 mins: Focus your horse’s mind
Now work your horse on the other rein, perhaps riding diagonally across the field or using an uphill slope, which will keep his mind focussed.
Keep your body upright to avoid your inside hip collapsing. Your horse will have a preferred rein, so ride on his easiest rein first making him happier to try the exercise.