Hacking is in Our Heritage

Enjoyed by professional & amateur riders around the globe, riding out is part of what makes it great owning a horse!

Like many, I´ve been riding horses most of my life and being British I started in quite a robust style. My early days begun on the family farm where horses played a large part. The farm `way` was get on a horse and go – cross country, hunting, jumping, you name we did it without a question. Mostly at a fast pace and certainly no lessons.

It was a life of fun trips to beaches, through forests, over rivers, across fields  jumping everything we could find. It never occurred to me my horses would refuse anything and they didn’t.

Years later in Portugal  I am older, maybe wiser, certainly more cautious, but I still love hacking.

Nuno´s early years were in Lisbon, but even growing up in a city he was a country boy at heart. His grandfather, a horseman had a farm in the Alentejo. So during the school holidays Nuno loved to stay on his farm. He spent long days exploring the countryside and learning about the animals – especially the horses. Captivated, he set out to persuade his family to give him riding lessons and so he began with a military instructor learning vaulting and show jumping.

Many times he had the opportunity to ride in the fields with friends. learning the field skills of the ´Campinos´. Later in the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art he had less opportunity to ride out but the memories remained with him. As soon as he could he re introduced hacking back into his work.

All our horses are ridden out at least 2 times a week. During the rides they tackle hills, rivers, different surfaces, tractors, mountain bikers, quad bikes, dogs, crocodiles and even the odd lion. They always cope facing each challenge with increased confidence. Their bodies are strong and supple their attitude super positive, always ready to go. We see it as a vital part of well being, happiness and fitness.

The Real Benefits to Hacking
  • Perfect way to de stress and elevate the happy hormones for you and your horse –
    Being in nature is good for your health
    Eases stiffness throughout your horses the body
    Train your horse on different surfaces
    Improves your horses maturity and confidence
    Improves strength balance, agility and fitness
    Your horse will develop a great walk
    Engages your horses brain
    Adds variety to your training programme
    You can train exercises that sometimes are a struggle in the arena different surroundings and obstacles can make it more interesting for your horse
    Great way to practise ´Mindfulness´

Many of Portugal´s top riders ride their competitions horses out regularly!

Maria Caetano

Joao Torao

Rodrigo Moura Torres

What the Experts Say

Vasco Amaro Lopes

Owner and Veterinary Surgeon of Equine Veterinary Performance UK recently spoke on the Importance of Working on different of Surfaces.

Working your horses on a variety of surfaces is vital for their health and well-being.

Vasco says  – “leaving the arena and working in fields, tracks and hacking out is an excellent way to work the horses bodies, whilst keeping their brains fresh. Horses restricted to working in an arena can quickly get bored and become stale even spooky.

The advantages of exercise on a variety of surfaces on the soft-tissue structures are significant. Different surfaces offer different levels of ‘give’ and shock absorption, which leads to greater use of muscles and supporting tissue. It can increase bone density and stimulates the layer of cartilage on the end of the bones that cushions stride impact. Simply speaking, by using a variety of different footings to exercise your horse, you are increasing the stability and strength of the soft tissue structures and bones, thereby decreasing the risk of injury.

If you have access to hills, they can be a fantastic tool for increasing your horses strength and fitness. Slowly trotting up hills encourages the horse to engage their hindquarters, developing the muscles there, as well as the back and top line.
Utilising hills for canter work and interval training is hugely beneficial to a horses cardiovascular fitness too.

Incorporate plenty of hacking into your training regime, and utilise the natural environment around you to increase strength, fitness and decrease the risk of injury”.

Vasco splits his time between his clinics in the UK and Portugal, and regularly travels internationally to clients all over the world. From West Sussex, to Asia and beyond!

He can be contacted via his website and facebook

Carl Hester –  On Riding Out

Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin ride their horses out in the countryside every week – many would ask why take a risk with such valuable horses!

In an interview with EuroDressage Carl Hester said

On preparing for Tokyo 2021: “Another year for each horse is a huge amount of time in training and physical maturity.  Don’t work your horses hard as if you’re going to an Olympics. We do hill work and focus a lot on fitness. I have a few hills around here. We go walk, trot, canter up and down the hill. Less pressure and a little bit of fitness. We do general work to keep them ticking over, so they don’t become crazy.”

Horses enjoy a regular work routine at Carl’s yard. On a weekly basis, schooling sessions rarely exceed 20 minutes and are preceded by warm-ups and followed by cool-downs. These often consist of a hack down the road or through the fields.
Carl employs a two-days- on, one-day-off schedule. Giving the horses a day of purely conditioning work between their two consecutive learning days helps them retain new knowledge, he shared. Two days a week, the horses are simply hacked for fitness, often on surrounding hills. The seventh day is for rest, much of it in pasture.

To read the full interview go to EuroDressage

Tips for Hacking

Hacking in Company or Solo

If you don’t currently ride out or are nervous to start make sure you plan your activity putting your safety foremost. Remember young horses don’t have the same confidence as a seasoned hacking horse. Start slow – every successful tiny step is in fact a giant step forward.

Here are some tips on getting started –
  1.  Join with a buddy begin your hacking out regine together route and keep it fun
  2. If you are nervous about riding out on your horse go on another horse. An experienced hacker to build confidence.
  3. Try another rider – Of course we realise that nobody likes this but some riders are very confident and relaxed hacking. They could help your horse young or old to become confident outside.
  4. Give your horse lots of patting when they tackle new things
  5. If you are on a young horse have a somone come with you on an experienced horse. Take turns in leading and following to help your horse build up confidence
  6. Although riding out with friends is great fun it is also lovely to go alone. Solo riding means you can keep things at your own pace and really enjoy the peace of the countryside
  7. If you don´t feel confidence about the idea of riding out but want to get started how about booking a trail riding holiday to get a full inmersion. There are so many amazing places to explore around the World and Portugal offers several excellent treking holiday organisations . See details at end of this article.

There is a very nice article in FEI on riding out solo check it out – 5 Tips for Hacking Solo

Written By Teresa Burton contributions from Nuno Cavaco and Vasco Amaro Lopes

Images by Bruno Barata and Lena Saugen

Lusitano Trail Rides – Visit vine yards, beaches, heritage sites and enjoy wonderful Ribatejo countryside. All the horses are Lusitanos and you ride with Portuguese tack and meals are traditional Portuguese cuisine of the region.

Portugal Beach Riding – Riding along the longest unspoilt beach in Europe and through stunning Alentejo countryside