Jun 14, 2021

Lauren Nicholson's Top Tips for Successful Hacking

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus. USEA Photo

We all want to do the best with our young horses and to produce well-schooled, educated animals. However, it’s easy to get bogged down in detail and spend a lot of time in the arena. We shouldn’t forget that young event horses need to learn to deal with wide-open spaces, natural terrain, and obstacles - and the best way to do this in an unpressurized way is by going hacking.

US Olympian Lauren Nicholson says: “Hacking is an integral part of my program and really should be part of everyone's. It’s important for the development of the horse’s body - muscles, ligaments, soft tissue, and so on. Event horses are expected to run across the varying ground and jump solid objects, and they need to learn to keep their balance while doing so. Introducing that early on in their lives is essential.”

Here are Nicholson's top tips for successful hacking:

  • “If your horse is green or spooky, or you or your horse are a bit timid, find a more experienced, settled horse and rider to go with to get your confidence up.
  • “We are lucky here in Virginia to have access to undeveloped woodland and lots of open spaces, and we call hacking through that ‘bushwacking’ for the babies; going off-site and making new trails, walking through creeks, popping over little dead logs on the ground. Make the most of what is around you. It’s good for their brains to do something different and makes going cross-country pretty easy.
  • “Look for different types of terrain to cross at different speeds. Go up and down hills and banks. Help them learn to find their own balance and to think for themselves.
  • “Keep within your comfort level and, if hacking is something that makes you nervous for whatever reason, put it into very manageable steps. Don’t ask your horse to cross a creek alone, for example, if you don’t have the skill set to do it successfully alone. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to create a problem that might lead to a bigger issue.
  • “Be clear about what you want and be firm; give the impression of confidence to the horse, even if you don’t really feel confident.
  • “With my young horses, the first rule is that they have to stay on my line of direction, even if it is just from one fence post to another. So keep your focus, and keep calm, taking them back to stay on that line, even if they are doing everything they can to distract you from that, and eventually, they will give up and get on with it.
  • “Always give yourself enough time to achieve whatever you have set out to do.
  • “Take the emotion out of it. Like everything, hacking - especially on a young horse or one who might be spooky or resistant - is about training and repetition.
  • “Don’t forget that hacking is good for older horses, too; it helps keep them comfortable, enjoying their work, and is great for longevity and long-term soundness. It’s also great for fitness; remember how, as humans, it is much harder to run 10km at a good speed on natural terrain than it is on a treadmill in the gym.”
May 26, 2022 Education

Rule Refresher: What Will Be Expected of Me at the Beginner Novice or Novice Level?

Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels. You can access this guide by logging into your online services account.

May 25, 2022 Profile

Now On Course: Handing Over The Reins

I’m not one for the spotlight. As the voice of the Association, you don’t need to know my personal views, political, eventing, or otherwise. So despite my byline appearing on thousands of articles on the USEA website and magazine, this is probably only the second time I’m writing about myself (the first was about my love for lessons, and reading it now makes me laugh as I am still 100% addicted). But as I am now just a USEA member I thought I would share a bit of my journey to add to our member spotlight series, Now on Course.

May 24, 2022 Education

Tips for Successful Haul-In Schooling

You’ve likely spent some time scouring the USEA Calendar to line up your 2022 competition schedule. Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to plan some cross-country schooling outings to make sure you and your horse are as ready as possible. If you own or manage a facility that welcomes guests for haul-in schooling, you’ve likely noticed horses and their humans showing up in droves to get their practice in. A successful off-site schooling day has many, many moving parts. From paperwork and payment to safety, these best practices for hosts and guests will help everything go as smoothly as possible.

May 23, 2022 Eventing News

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S

US Equestrian is pleased to announce the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team for the CHIO Aachen CCIO4*-S at CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, from July 1-2, 2022. The team will be led by Chef d’Equipe Bobby Costello.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Real Estate Partner of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Horse Clothing of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA