Training a Horse to Hack Alone

Training a Horse to Hack Alone with Harriet Morris Baumber

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Here event rider and trainer Harriet Morris-Baumber offers advice on training a horse to hack alone.

Training a Horse to Hack Alone with Harriet Morris-Baumber

Hacking out with your horse is one of the great pleasures of riding unless your horse sees a lion behind every tree, or performs a Grand Prix standard pirouette at the sight of a crisp packet.

When advertising a horse for sale, ‘hacks alone’ is often seen as a positive sign of a well-rounded horse and something that most leisure riders would require, so how can you ensure that your horse is happy and confident to venture out into the country without the security of his friends?

For a competition horse the skills developed out hacking will also help when entering the show ring, as learning to cope with the unexpected will help your horse to keep his concentration and focus on you, the rider.

Event rider and trainer Harriet Morris-Baumber has experience of providing clients with hacking lessons and finds that very often the tools and skills riders develop in these sessions prove useful to them in other situations, such as at the start of cross-country or leaving the warm-up arena and going into the ring.

Event rider and trainer Harriet Morris-Baumber
Event rider and trainer Harriet Morris-Baumber

Here’s what Harriet has to say …

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A horse that is unsure will take great confidence from a rider who is clear and decisive in what they want and where they want to go.

Learning to feel where disobedience starts is absolutely critical to overcoming any spinning, spooking, stopping, or general naughtiness and recognising any one of a number of micro manoeuvres that can be the first sign of trouble is also important to catching and correcting negative behaviour before it escalates. 

The first tell-tale sign that something is about to happen could be your horse slowing down or backing off or even a crafty slight step out or side-ways with a hind leg.

To feel all these things and be able to correct them comes from having good discipline in your schooling. If you’re not sure which tactic your horse uses you can simulate something spooky in the arena and practise walking past it and then feel how your horse reacts.

Watch our short video here

Knowing what will ‘change his mind’ is also key. Some horses will react well to a tap behind the saddle while in others this will provoke a bigger counter reaction, therefore a nudge from the leg or a tap down the shoulder will be far more effective.

Riding with two whips, one on each side can be really useful, either two short whips or two schooling whips. Short whips are great for a tap down the shoulder and longer whips are good for a tap on the bottom without having to take a hand off the rein. Having one in each hand means you can be ready on either side if the horse ‘wriggles’ and tries to be disobedient.

Having people on the ground can be very useful when trying to give your horse confidence to hack out alone. A person wearing a hi-viz jacket walking ahead will really help traffic take notice of you. It goes without saying that hi-viz gear is an absolute must to be safe and be seen and should be worn by the horse, rider and any helpers on foot.

Getting a horse to stand patiently while waiting for traffic to pass can be helped by the person on the ground standing at the side of the horse.

Harriet continues …

If you are in any doubt as a rider, or don’t feel confident enough to tackle a horse who is showing signs of trouble when hacking, it is best to get some help and advice from your trainer.

Harriet is available for dressage, show-jumping and cross-country lessons at her base near York.

To find out more call Harriet on (07795) 562745 or visit www.harriet-morris-baumber.co.uk

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  1. […] their greatest reward was to feel relief from fear. So I learned to always give them a choice. In training, if I could feel them under fear response pressure, I’d give them a way out, so they could […]