There are loads of benefits to doing some hillwork while hacking. Riding up hills is great for strengthening your pony and improving his stamina, while riding down encourages him to collect and balance himself. However, it’s important to make some adjustments to your position so that you’re totally secure in the saddle on hills.
TOP TIP – You’re likely to meet hills on a cross-country course and hacking’s a great way to practise for this!
When you’re riding uphill, your pony uses his hindquarters to push his body forwards. For particularly steep hills he might prefer to trot, rather than walk, as this allows him to push more easily.
When it comes to your position…
- lean forward in the saddle to keep your weight shifted forward
- keep your weight in your heels to maintain a light seat – this makes it easier for him to work through his back
- push your hands forward slightly to let him stretch his neck and shoulders
TOP TIP – If you feel unbalanced going uphill, hold your pony’s neckstrap or some of his mane. You’ll feel more secure and it’ll keep your weight forward to help prevent your pony becoming unbalanced.
When it comes to riding downhill, slow and steady really does win the race! To stay balanced, your pony will naturally shorten and collect his stride.
Adjust your position by…
- sitting up tall in the saddle and keeping your shoulders back. It’ll feel as though you’re leaning back, but your body will really just be upright, as if you were riding on the flat
- keeping your legs underneath you and your heels down – try not to push them too far forward or you might become unbalanced
- lengthening your reins slightly to allow your pony to use his neck and shoulders, while still maintaining a soft contact so you can control his speed
TOP TIP – Some ponies like to go down hills at a slow, steady pace, while others try to rush down. It’s important to let slower ponies work their way down at their own pace instead of pushing them forward and out of balance.
3 reasons why hillwork is great for your pony
- Hillwork is a great way to help build your pony’s fitness, as he has to work hard as you ride up them. Build it up slowly, starting in walk before you move on to trot and then canter.
- Cantering up hills is a great way to get more confident in the open. Your pony will be concentrating on going up the hill rather than adding in any naughty bucks or spooks!
- Riding downhill improves your pony’s balance and footwork, as he has to collect himself to get down safely. This will help him out in other areas of his work, too.
TOP TIP – Always walk down hills, especially if they’re steep. Riding down too fast could cause your pony to trip or stumble.