The ins and outs of ‘hacking out’

  • When equestrians talk about hacking, they’re not usually referring to cyber crime – hacking horses is an important part of many horse riders’ daily and weekly routines.

    What does hacking mean when it comes to horses?

    “Hacking” is the term used to describe non-competitive horse riding that’s undertaken outside of the arena, usually on the roads or bridleways. Most horse riders who go on a “hack” will do so for pleasure, but hacking is also a great opportunity to undertake training and fitness work. Riders will usually choose to ride on bridleways where possible, but often they’ll have to ride on the road to reach them.

    If “hack” is being used to describe a type of horse, rather than an activity, it’s referring to a horse that can enter a particular type of competitive showing class – however, this is less commonly used in general equestrian conversation. The ideal show hack is of Thoroughbred type and should be capable of carrying an average adult. The hack must be a pleasure to ride and have excellent manners.

    How to use hack/hacking in a sentence

    “Did you go for a hack today?”
    “I saw a group of riders out hacking earlier.”
    “This would be a lovely place to hack out.”
    “I’m riding in the school today, but I’ll be hacking tomorrow.”
    “She’s entered her horse in the small hacks” – this example uses the type of show horse, rather than the activity.

    Horse hacking vs horse trekking

    Hacking and trekking are similar horse riding activities, but are not exactly the same thing.

    Almost anybody can go horse or pony trekking – even if they’ve never ridden before – as long as they are suitably mounted in terms of weight. Horses and ponies used for trekking are often trained to follow the one in front of them and are unlikely to deviate from this.

    Hacking requires the rider to have a little more control and know at least the basics of how to ride a horse. Horses on hacks will be more independent rather than only follow the horse in front.

    Is hacking good for horses?

    Hacking is a great way to introduce variety to a horse’s training. It also provides the opportunity for a horse to see more of the world, which will help them get used to different environments. This is particularly important when training young horses or if the horse is likely to go to competitions or events away from their home.

    Is hacking horses dangerous?

    All types of horse riding carry some form of risk and hacking is no exception. Riders reduce the risk of riding on the road by wearing hi-viz clothing and dressing their horse in hi-viz accessories to ensure other road users – including drivers, cyclists and walkers – are aware of a horse’s presence as early as possible.

    Why are horses allowed on the road?

    Although horses and horse riders are vulnerable road users, they are legally allowed to ride on the road and have the same right to be there as any other legal road user. Vehicles should pass horses at no more than 10mph and must allow at least two metres of space when doing so.

    Horse hacking near me

    If you’d like to book a hack in your local area, you could book onto a horse experience day or book a hacking lesson at a local riding school.

    What is a ‘happy hacker’?

    “Happy hacker” is a term that can be used to describe a horse rider who is usually not focused on competing in a particular discipline, but is taking part for leisure purposes and enjoys hacking as their main activity rather than riding in an arena. It can also be used to describe a horse who is well used to being ridden on the road and in the countryside away from home. The term is often used in horses for sale adverts – happy hackers are sought after horses by many novices and leisure riders.

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