There are so many benefits to hacking out, one of which is fitness. It doesn’t matter what discipline you do, they need to be fit, and taking them out and about offers so many benefits to their fitness…
1. Ride on different surfaces
There are so many places to hack – grassy bridleways, all-weather tracks, the beach, and on safe roads. Such variety helps to strengthen your horse’s legs.
However, doing too much hard work on the wrong surface can result in injury, so keep this in mind when planning where to ride.
2. Incorporate hill work and inclines
These are fantastic for improving fitness as they help to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness without having to work at the same high intensity you would on the flat.
3. Tackle natural obstacles
Out and about on new routes you will have no idea what you might come across. If it is safe to do so, ask your horse to step over fallen logs, wade through streams, or paddle in the sea, all of which will challenge them.
4. Try interval training
While you can do this in an arena, interval training is much more easily tackled in a wide open space, such as a field or lengthy bridleway.
5. Improve your horse’s mental wellbeing
Physical health is important, but so is mental health, and hacking gets your horse and about seeing new things and enjoying new experiences. This variety will help to keep them interested in their work and life in general, all of which will make all the difference when it comes to getting them fit.
How to track your improvements
“Pick a mile section of a hack with safe going and work out how quickly you can ride it, firstly in walk and then in trot once your horse is fit enough,” says endurance coach and rider Rachael Claridge.
For this test, choose an area with good ground – don’t trot flat out on unsuitable surfaces that could cause injury.
“This will help you to establish your horse’s natural speed in each pace. You can then refer back to this as the weeks pass to see if you are both getting faster – and fitter. This will also give you a gauge as to when it’s time to start increasing the distance.”
If you usually ride a route in an hour, but are starting to get back to the yard in 45-50 minutes, it is time to increase the distance so that your outing lasts an hour – you will simply cover more miles. This is a really easy way to see how much your own and your horse’s fitness have improved.
Meet the expert: Rachael Claridge is an endurance rider and UKCC Level 3 coach who has represented Great Britain in European and World Championships. She is based in Gloucestershire, and now coaches riders from Pony Club and Riding Club to Mongolian Derby competitors and international athletes. Visit rachaelclaridge.com.