Pleasure riding is a form of equestrianism that encompasses many forms of recreational riding for personal enjoyment, absent elements of competition. Pleasure riding is called "hacking" in British English, and in parts of the eastern United States and Canada. In the United States, particularly the American west, the term trail riding is commonly used to describe pleasure riding, particularly on public lands. Many horses are suitable for pleasure riding, including grade horses and other animals of ordinary quality and good disposition. Such horses are sometimes called "hacks," particularly in areas where pleasure riding is known as hacking.
Recent studies in the United States have indicated the pleasure riding is the number-one equine activity engaged in by horse owners. Statistics provided by the American Horse Council in a 2005 study indicated that out of 9.2 million horses in the United States, the largest number, 3.9 million, were used for recreation, and this activity directly contributed $11.8 billion, or roughly one-third of the GDP effect of the horse industry. Later studies reinforce these numbers. A 2008 survey found that pleasure/trail riding was the primary pursuit for 78% of Wisconsin horses and 80% of horse owners. Similarly, a 2006 study in Virginia found that 48.4% of the horses in that state were used for pleasure riding.
The prevalence of pleasure riding and its economic impact also dispels the misperception that horse ownership is only for the wealthy. The 2005 AHC study also found that approximately 34% of horse owners have an annual household income of less than $50,000, 46% have an income of between $25,000 to $75,000, and 28% have an income of over $100,000.
Horse showing ranks second in the AHC study of horse activities, with 2.7 million horses involved. Even in competition, the term "pleasure" or "hack" is also applied to a number of horse show classes where the performance of the animals are judged on their manners, performance and way of going, originally to determine a horse's suitability to be a pleasure riding mount.
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- "National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry" American Horse Council
- p.4 Tretcher, David, et al. "Wisconsin State Horse Council General Population Survey and Horse Owners' Survey Report"
- Equine Boarding Operations in Northern Virginia, 2008 Survey Results