Pam Millar

Dressage Trainer


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Schooling Exercises on Your Hack (click on "training tips" above for more)

(as printed in the Herald )


AFTER a long winter of either riding indoors, or only riding when weather permits, itís great to get out and take advantage of the summer weather and the light nights, not to mention a change of scenery. But going out on hacks rather than working in the school doesnít mean a complete end to your schooling. There are many exercises you can do to ensure your horseís training is continued while enjoying some good hacking.

Horses need to be warmed up for hacking just as much as they do in the school so start out with a steady walk including some stretching if possible, and follow this with some brisk and loose trot work. Once your horse is warmed up you can gather him into a steady, forward but not hurried trot. You may have more impulsion outside in the open Ė use this to your advantage and use smooth uphill stretches for some longer strides, which helps build the power in your horseís hind legs.

Where itís safe, on tracks for example, away from traffic, you can move your horse smoothly from one side of the track to the other by leg-yielding. You can make use of puddles or stones Ė navigate around them to increase the precision of his steps.

Tracks or the edge of a field are excellent places to practise shoulder-in or shoulder-fore - it can also be useful if your horse has a tendency to spook at things around him.

Opening and closing gates or negotiating through small spaces or around obstacles is a good way of practising turn around the forehand and rein back. Itís a good incentive for you and your horse to build on responsiveness and accuracy.

Opening up your horse for a good forward canter or gallop around a field can be a good thing but you can also vary the pace by introducing some transitions. For example canter to trot, trot to canter but also collecting the pace then opening it up again. Riding a lot of transitions really helps to build up the horseís strength.

If you have access to fields with bales lying after harvesting, then riding patterns around the scattered bales can help with bending, balance and general control in all paces.

Towards the end of a hack, remember to warm down in the same way as you would at the end of a schooling session. A free, loose walk is a good way for you both to relax and cool down.

So use your hacks to progress your schooling away from the confines of an arena, but do allow yourself time to relax and enjoy the hack too.