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Hacking/Trail Riding

Hacking/Trail Riding

Hacking or trail riding is about enjoying serious downtime with your horse (traffic allowing.)

Depending on where you live, hacking could be an hour-long ride in the glorious countryside or a few hours ambling in the wilderness or having a good stretch on the open plains. It can even be a leisurely stroll through suburban streets.

The common factor here is that it’s time out from training or stabling, allowing you and your horse to unwind in each other’s company, or with friends, in a more stimulating setting than the school arena.

Hacking provides an escape from routine, offering a sense of freedom and adventure.

Image by Marzena P. from Pixabay

There are many benefits to be had from hacking/trail riding, such as:

  • Exercise. It may look easy, but hacking is physical exercise and, as such, it helps improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and overall stamina for both horse and rider;

  • Mental Stimulation. A change is as good as a rest and hacking enables horses to encounter new sights, sounds, and terrain, which will help develop their confidence and adaptability;

  • Bonding and Relaxation. This is the big prize because shared experiences build trust, and with horses, that trust is a two-way street. Hacking can also have a zen effect, as it allows riders to reconnect with nature and enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors;

  • Training and Desensitisation. Hacking and trail riding exposes horses to many sights and sounds that they might not be used to – such as streams, bridges, wildlife – and this will improve their ability to navigate different environments;

  • Although primarily a leisure pursuit, hacking provides an alternative to arena-based training, a time-out session that enhances the horse's versatility and adaptability.

Image by Kurt Bouda from Pixabay

OK, so far so Disney, but despite hacking being a relatively safe sport to take up, it is not a hazard-free experience. It might be that you have to navigate high traffic, bad drivers, building work, unexpected sights and loud bangs, all of which can conspire to unsettle a horse. For this reason, it is advisable to have some level of riding skill and training under your belt to help your horse cope with the unexpected. Protective gear is also recommended, especially high-visibility vests when riding in traffic.

For more information, the British Horse Society has some excellent articles and guides on their website, and the Facebook page Between the Ears has some great images of just how wonderful an experience hacking can be.

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