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3 benefits of trail riding/hacking out

Trail riding, hacking, whatever you call it, there are a plethora of benefits that come with riding outside of the arena.

Aside from the lovely change in scenery, here are 3 benefits to taking your workout session out of the ring:

1. Change in footing

If your horse is only ever worked on perfect footing, that is what his body will adapt to. But if you’ve ever been to a show, you know that the footing can often be less than perfect. Why would you want to risk injury or performance because you didn’t practice on different footing at home? Riding outside gets your horse used to footing changing from hard to soft, which causes him to use his muscles slightly different and is great for improving his proprioception. Working on harder ground helps to build up the soft tissue, bone, and hooves to withstand higher concussive force.

2. Change in terrain

You can experience the benefit of working on changing terrain yourself. If you only ever walk or run on flat road or trails and you try to go up or down hills, you will notice it takes a lot more work and you might notice burning or soreness in your leg muscles. You are your horse’s personal trainer so you need to make sure that every muscle is getting worked. Hills give a full body workout, improve the cardiovascular system, and improve balance and coordination.

3. Good for the mind

Again, I’m going to compare to human fitness, but if you only ran inside on a treadmill or cycled on a stationary bike, you most likely experience bouts of boredom from looking at the same four walls surrounding you. Taking your workout outside gives your mind a mental workout too. Same goes for your horse. Having zero visual distractions can help with focus but at some point, your horse is going to have to learn how to focus when there are other things going on around him. This is great practice for when you want to go to shows or even just trailering off property to new surroundings. Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you only have to go in straight lines. Take the exercises you’ve been practising in the arena and try them on the trail. Transitions, lateral work, extending and collecting can all be done while out hacking. You may even notice your horse perform better on the trail than in the arena because of more impulsion!

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