a good hacking horse -- what does that mean to you?

Well on a day I have free to be with my own horses, it is pouring with rain -- and I have to cast my mind back to think of the last good hack I had. I have recently become partners with a new horse, who needs some support -- but I have some good experiences to draw on as with Evie, my previous horse, we developed a great hacking partnership

So -- as it rains outside, I thought I would share one of my blogposts and see what others can add to what we all think is in the package that makes up a good hacking horse:

So here is my idea of a good hacking horse.

The easiest way to share this with you is to tell you about a ride I had on Evie, who is, as some of you know, a very good hacking horse.

I arrived at her field in the lorry, parking in the gateway and opening the ramp. She looked up as I arrived and by the time I was opening the gate, halter in hand, she was already strolling over to meet me. She offered her head softly for the halter, and followed me to the gateway, where she went through ahead of me on request, then turned and faced me while still on a loose lead rope so I could come through, keeping the other horses back, and safely close the gate.

She graciously accepted a treat for being so good as to come over to me, then on my invitation, walked into the lorry and loaded herself, waiting patiently for me to close partitions and doors before heading off.

On the short journey to the starting point of our ride, she travelled quietly and calmly – just giving one short sharp kick when I braked too sharply for her liking. Helping me improve my driving LOL.

At the car park, she whickered when I opened the doors and her eyes lit up when she realised we were ready to go on a hack. As I tacked her up she stood as quietly as she could, with a few excited steps which I smiled to see!

With Evie tacked up and the lorry locked up, I set off on foot, walking next to the saddle, checking out her mindset and mood. As we walked from the car park onto the track leading up to the Ridgeway, Evie sighed, lowered her neck – and purposefully walked to the first gateway. Here, she lined herself up alongside the gate and looked at me with a clear message: get on!

I checked the tack and myself – and gracefully hopped onto her back (well ok, I clambered up the gate and managed to haul myself into the saddle LOL).

She stood still. Waited for me to sort stirrups and sticks out. Waited for us both to make sure that standing still was possible. Then, on a thought and a life of my energy, set off in a walk towards the Ridgeway.

Following my focus to turn right onto the right of way, I lifted my energy and, the rein still totally loose on her neck, she softly moved up into a trot.

We trotted for two miles.

She took care of where she put her feet, choosing a safe route. Occasionally she would slow to an almost walk, pick her way through some stones or puddles – then immediately pick up the trot again and relax into it. Once when a deer startled past us, she turned her head back to me – when I didn’t react she relaxed and carried on trotting on her loose rein.

All I had to do was focus on the direction, and relax into my riding.

Now and then we would pass a turning and her ear would flick back to ask if we were taking this track. When I just rubbed her, she carried on following my focus.

After a long stretch alongside a huge freshly ploughed field, occupied by at least 20 buzzards, we came to a junction of 4 bridleways – I breathed out and invited her to stop by lowering my life. She gently came to a halt and looked around her. When I dropped the reins totally onto her neck and pushed on her withers, she lowered her head and grazed while I took in the scenery and thought about what a great horse she was.

Then I looked up, focused and we headed off again – I lifted one rein to clarify that I was only asking for a walk, and she sighed as she slowed.

We walked the next part as the track was very rutted. Every now and then she asked to trot but soon realised it was not a good idea on that surface and agreed to walk again.

At the end of the rutted track, we were at a cross roads where we could do a short canter and head back to the lorry, or we could head off on an extra 5 mile loop. I invited her on the longer route and without any hesitation she headed off.

On this part of the ride alongside the all weather gallops owned by the jockey club we walked along as I listened to the rattling song of the Corn Buntings on almost every fencepost. Quite special to see and hear them so close as they are on the at risk list of the RSPB. Ok, back to the ride.

You may have noticed there have been no spooks on this ride – Evie and I have a deal: if she is bothered by something, she can check in with me and she knows I will always stop and check it out – she seldom spooks now. More on that later!

We head off alongside the gallops, turn right and back into trot – she lifts her life and asks to go into canter, I agree by matching her energy and she rolls up into her ground covering canter and we lope along the track for a while until it narrows. Here we trot again, then walk through a short stretch of woodland. She chooses the path. For fun, I pick up the reins and ask her to follow the feel right through a puddle (normally she choses to go around puddles) she thought about it but then walked straight through it.

Back on a loose rein she chose her own way, staying on the trail but winding between the puddles. Good practice for my seat.

Turning and heading across the race gallops, we find our way onto the narrow stretch of all weather gallop the jockey club has put in just for us happy hackers. And roll up into a canter on the lovely footing.

At one point, when the white tape alongside the gallop is loose and flaps, she slowly shifts onto the adjacent track, further from the tape, but allows me to guide her back to the nice surface. She chooses her right lead so she can bend and watch the suspicious tape. Half way up the mile long gallop she relaxes and allows me to invite her onto her left lead with a lift of the rein and a shift in the body position.

As we reach the top of the gallop, her canter slows and she asks if she can trot – I agree and we come to a trot then a walk – her head is a lot lower now as that was a long canter for her!

We walk a while – then stop at the crossroads of riding routes so she can graze. It is a lovely evening and I can relax sitting on her admiring the all round views.

When we move on, we end up on a favourite canter track and she offers to canter – although she can’t keep it up for long, she takes breaks but keeps offering. When I totally relax my body and mind though, she sighs and settles into a steady walk.

We walk to cool off as we make our way back up the hill to the Ridgeway.

As we turn onto the Ridgeway, she suddenly snorts and grows 2 hands – then turns and very forcefully nudges my leg. I get off – she moves to be behind me – and, as I look ahead I see why: there on our usually quiet and empty bridleway – is a group of people putting up tents in the wind and they are just staking out a massive flag! It has to be almost 8 feet square! No wonder she was taken by surprise. I am pleased she looked to ME to support her and now, allowing her to “hide” behind me I head over to chat to the campers. They are ex-soldiers hiking to raise money for “Help for Heroes” and offer to take the flag down when they realise Evie is bothered by it. They seem surprised when I say – oh no, please keep it up – and can we play with it?

We play online, using approach and retreat – within 15 minutes Evie has her nose on the flag and is playing with it.

We ride on. Now Evie knows we are getting close to the lorry so she relaxes. She is also a bit tired – and, strangely, this is when she is most likely to spook. Her mind is on the lorry, the food she will get and she “zones out” a bit. My job is to keep her interested so we do small movements of shoulder in and haunches in and out to keep her mind alert enough to realise that the rustles and noises are normal and nothing to spook at.

We reach the lorry. Saddle off and sweat rug on, I put her feed on the ramp. She munches away while I tidy the tack and gear. After finishing, she is already stepping onto the ramp and we load up and head home.

At the field, she unloads easily, goes through the gate and turns and faces me. I undo her halter, giver her a treat then she turns, walks slowly away and settles down for a long roll.
And I know I can do it all again tomorrow.

I will just add one thing – when we ride with other horses, it is the same. Other horses can canter past her and she will flick an ear to me, asking if we are going too – if I do nothing, then she stays in walk, on a loose rein…

THIS is my idea of a good hacking horse.

So – how about you? What is your idea of a good hacking horse?



Well-Known Member
Oct 13, 2004
On an island
A good hacking horse to me knows their job, knows that they are going to go out and about in the world but does not mind if they are alone or have equine company. The best hacking horse to me is a combination of one who knows not to be afraid of the variety of things life throws at you (with the exception of the odd thing that is new and they've not seen before!) and a horse that will listen when you tell him or her which way you are going and not just try and assume control!!!lol.

Tbh, I think also a good hacking horse in some ways can only ever be as good as the rider to a certain degree, I believe I could possibly turn the sanest, ploddiest cob who hacked the same route daily into a tb with a tail up like a brush!!!!! I am working on that though - baby steps................

Thyme & Me

New Member
Nov 23, 2011
You sound like Mark Rashid! He rides with intent and energy and constant 2-way communication. He talks about softness meaning that the horse is willing and available - when the inside of you (energy, focus, intent) is connected to the inside of her (willingness, generosity, communication) and you ride as one. The outside bit (aids/gaits) is just peripheral. That sounds like you and Evie. So if you can teach me to do that with Thyme, I want to hear from you!!

I have been playing around with the concepts and she really responds. Not in that test I've posted. (I was too busy steering and remembering the test to focus on connecting our centres). But sometimes I let her go where she likes and focus purely on the inside. And it has sometimes been quite remarkable.....

A good hacking horse is bold, confident, trusts you, but also trusts herself so can keep us both out of trouble. A good hacking horse probably needs a good hacking rider! And that would be someone who keeps riding even when you a re'just' hacking. Rather than sits aboard watching the view and ignoring the horse. If you ride like that, then the horse will be forced to make her own decisions if the chips are down - and those decisions may not be to your liking!


With out my boys life would be bland
Apr 16, 2009
Sounds like you have a great partnership and what a lovely ride.

Now I would class Chanter as a good hacking horse for me but I would not let anyone other than my OH hack him as he is not a novice ride but for me he is. That's sounds stupid I know so bare with me.

When we hack out on our own he is soft and willing we have great hacks together and each one teaches us both something new. If we are both in the same mindset it is amazing as I let him pick the pace, when we canter I let him pick the speed and the stop points. he is supper fit but never pulls in trot or canter and can be stop by a simple word in his ear. He hardly spooks at all now and trusts me when something is different or scary.

So to me he is a great responsive hacking horse but out someone else on him is TB side takes over and he is and can be very scary.

So yes I agree a horse needs to have certain characteristic to make it s good safe hack but a good bond/partnership can change a bad hacking horse in to very willing one.

Have I just typed total shi& sorry still feeling poorly,

Flipo's Mum

Heavy owner of a Heavy
Aug 17, 2009
Perthshire, Scotland
So yes I agree a horse needs to have certain characteristic to make it s good safe hack but a good bond/partnership can change a bad hacking horse in to very willing one.

Have I just typed total shi& sorry still feeling poorly,

I agree ObC. A good partnership/ bond and trust is making all the difference with my situation.


New Member
Mar 23, 2012
Gateway to europe
For me a good hacking horse is something calm but forward going, can be big or small but has to be good in traffic and comfortable. Keen to go anywhere you ask and not mind leaving its mates at home:smile:


Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
Agree with Tina. I think of Moët as a very good hacking horse. She is off the leg and willing, yet not strong and stupid. She does not nap and is happy to go out and about. She is responsive to things in that if something worries her she stands until decided its not too scarey. She is good in company and alone.

She's just perfect (for me)....and to think I almost sold her a few years ago cos I was so scared of her!


Active Member
Dec 30, 2006
A good hacking horse to me is one that is fun. I like to feel like Joy is enjoying herself as much as I do and neither of us see it as work.

Also, she needs to be able to do what I want in terms of speed and direction so that we can safely hack.

We can't do anything fancy but hacking is our thing.


Well-Known Member
Mar 15, 2008
I will add my thoughts.

I had a pony with a pony brain so we did go where i wanted but sometimes we had little discussions about that fact on route. I call it character and i wouldn't change it.

A mount who enjoys being out and about, and is connected to me.
One who knew if met walkers we were probably going to stop, so rest a leg i could be a moment.
One i can take to the local pub.
One whom stops and waits if i lose my balance, slows the pace if i lose a stirrup.
One i can have a blast with a group across a field on a loose rein knowing a lift will ask to slow things a bit.
One who doesn't really care if at front, beside, behind or just us.
One who lets you know they are about to spin before they do it.
One who enjoys being out for hours and carrying the saddle bags.
Is safe to get off and lead or tie up somewhere new. (added this as friend cannot lead hers she can only ride when hacking.)
One who has spotted the jump and agrees yes lets do it!
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Jul 16, 2003
Visit site
hm, my hacks are never as eventful :redface:

I sort of drag pony in, tack up and head off down the road, deciding en route where I'll go and how long for :happy:

i spend 99% of my riding time hacking, so I expect mine to

- be safe (heavy traffic, dogs, walkers ... village fetes ... fotball matches ...)

- go where I ask them to go (and this includes through puddles, past 'stuff' etc) at a speed chosen by myself. This includes hacks in company, open spaces etc.

- go first, last or in the middle without any problems (eg no racing or getting all het up when other horses canter the opposite way)

- be co-operative at gates (ok, this I need to work on more - Angel keeps skinning my sharer's shins!)

- don't nap (I've spent a great deal of time with my youngster to prep her for hacking solo)!

- all in all: BE A FUN HACKING BUDDY :happy: luckily, both of my horses are just that :D

stuff like loading, letting me get on in peace etc. I consider basic manners and 'life skills' :)

ps: totally agree with newforest's list as well!!!


Well-Known Member
Mar 15, 2008
Notpoodle-people who know me may ask why take to the local pub is so far down my list!
We have two within hacking distance and i would probably add that in with your football matches and fetes, places that have crowds. I dont show but i do live within hacking distance of the beach, if your horse will go past all the arcades, tea rooms, car park, quad race track, bowling green, tennis and bouncy castle! None of the livery people use the beach. So this will have to be something the cob does solo. Perhaps later on, it will still be there. For now my goal is the pub.


Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
My Summer was the BEST hacking horse.

She was alert enough to be interesting, but as safe as houses. We hacked through the heaviest of traffic, over fields, alone, in company, and she never varied.

I am hoping (and I am sure it will happen) that Tobes will grow to be the same.


Well-Known Member
May 27, 2007
Hacking has never been Harvey's forte and i am unsure of how much he has done in the past before i had him.

Now though I would say he is a good hacking horse (did i just say that?!)

He hacks alone and in company, first or last.

He doesn't pull and he stays in whatever gait he is put in.

He will hack on a long rein or on a contact and doesn't snatch at grass unless invited to.

he is good in traffic including lorries, buses and tractors and will let you manoever him to open gates etc.

He doesn't generally nap or spook anymore.

If you get off he will stand for you to get back on.

He's happy to have a really good gallop if you want to

He is happy to wait nicely while you go to the co-op, pub, have a picnic etc etc

The only things he does that arn't so good is when we go to the beach he gets a bit worried and overexcited so we are building up to going back on the beach - the main problem are the people with kites with boards under as they don't really have a lot of control as to where they go and they go FAST.

can you tell I'm happy with him at the moment!


Well-Known Member
Mar 15, 2008
Just to add, i guess your current horse should be a good hacking horse. If it is not then the it won't be enjoyable for either of you.
I hope my cob has the potential to be a good hacking horse, she is just 4 and being led out on her own. She hasn't seen much of life yet but what we have done she shows promise with.


Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
I think it takes time (and as my YO says - a horse only knows what it has done) to be a good hack.
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