Healthspan March 13, 2018

For some, hacking signifies a muddy cross-country adventure whilst for others it’s simply a light trot around the nearest field. Whichever way you look at it, there are plenty of physical and psychological benefits of getting out and about for both you and your horse. 

Happy horse, happy rider

Research carried out by the University of Brighton and Plumpton College suggests that riding stimulates positive feelings with a massive 80% of respondents revealing that horse riding made them feel cheerful, relaxed, happy or active.1 Central to the positive experiences people felt from horse riding was the relationship with their horse - as well as the more obvious physical benefits for you and your horse, riding can strengthen your bond, boost your mood and keep your horse mentally alert and stimulated.

Up the ante

Mixing up the terrain that your horse rides on is a great boost for their fitness as well as keeping them engaged and mentally content. Exploring and taking advantage of your surroundings is a great way of getting out and active with your horse and there’s something for everyone:

  • Hills - Wherever you are, chances are you are never too far away from a hill or two. Slowly going up and down them is a great opportunity to help your horse build stronger muscles (particularly in their hind legs) and develop their balancing skills. Tackling challenging hills will also benefit their core strength and stamina but remember to start off slow and steady until your horse becomes more accustomed to inclines and declines.
  • Large open spaces - Scout out a large opening or grassy field before you go out hacking and use it as a practice arena if your horse is gearing up for a competition or simply a fun playground if they are approaching their twilight years. Here your horse can hone a variety of competition skills. However, be aware that the uneven ground may mask muddy holes or dips so always check the clearing first.
  • Roadwork Although riding on the roads may seem like a daunting experience for some horses and riders, it is great for their fitness and varying their workload. Roadwork can help strengthen horses’ legs but take extra precautions to stay safe on busy roads. Read our guide to staying safe on the roads.

Alternatively, if your sense of adventure is leading your further afield, try out these hacks:

  • Beach riding - For those of us lucky enough to live near the coast, taking to the sands is a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both you and your horse. Even if you are not near a horse-friendly beach, a day or weekend trip to the seaside can be great for getting your horse used to travelling, helping with their fitness and giving them a break from their usual routine. Another benefit is the fact that horses can swim at the beach. This can strengthen back muscles, boost their confidence and help soothe any aches or joint pains.Before you set off make sure you check which beaches are open to horse riders and at which times of the year to avoid any disappointment when you arrive.
  • Cross-country Going off the beaten track is beneficial for your horse’s fitness levels but it also keeps their brain alert and active as they navigate the varied terrain. A cross-country route can also introduce your horse to new things such as streams, steep banks and natural jumps that will help increase their confidence and reduce their fears. A cross-country route is also the perfect chance for a group outing which horses, being extremely social creatures, will love. ___________________________________________________________________________________________




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