Inside the Horse’s Mind: Three Ways to Make the Most of Hacking, Presented by Kensington Protective Products

A long hack or trail ride is ideally incorporated into the horse’s weekly programming at least once or twice. It’s crucial for conditioning their bodies and legs to a variety of footings, inclines, and surfaces, and exposes them to all sorts of scary obstacles like water, tractors, and wildlife.

Even if you’re taking your horse on a hack as a mental break from the grind of training, there are ways to incorporate challenges to keep him focused on you and working the proper muscles.

  1. Keep him in a stretching frame. When possible, keep your horse working over his back in a long and low frame. This will encourage him to stretch while still giving him a long enough rein that he can use his neck to balance across the differing terrain.
  2. Add in some leg yield. On the straight lines of your hack, keep your horse fresh off your leg by incorporating a few steps of leg yield both directions. This will add some engagement so that he doesn’t get too heavy or disconnected on the straight lines in the walk and trot.
  3. Use the “spooky” obstacles to teach your horse to go forward, no matter what. Hacking is one of the best ways to prepare your horse for a show, in that it gives you the opportunity to condition your horse’s response when he becomes spooky, nervous or tense. The key is that he has to stay going forward, no matter what he’s nervous about. This will help mitigate any rearing or spinning or refusal-type behaviors from cropping up in the future

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