In the March issue of Horse&Rider, top eventer Lucinda Fredericks shares some top tips for working with inexperienced or schoolmaster types. Lucinda’s top horse – Headley Britannia – became famous for winning Badminton and Burghley, and here Lucinda explains how she trained Headley Briannia’s children!
When Headley Britannia won Badminton Horse Trials in 2007, part of her prize consisted of embryo transfer procedures. The results were Little Britannia ‘Millie’ and Britannia’s Mail ‘Marley’, who are now eight-year-olds. Millie is a chestnut mare and was a real ugly duckling as a foal and Marley – well, he was a looker from the start and I’ve kept him as a stallion.
Millie and Marley grew up at home, were handled as two-year-olds and backed when they were three. As three-year-olds, they took turns coming in for a month of work while the other hung out in the field.
As four-year-olds, rarely did a lorry leave the yard without one or the other on it – they went everywhere, learning to stand on the box and be ridden in different places. They did well in four-year-old classes and were exposed to a many different experiences.
My farm backs onto Salisbury Plain and riding out has been a big part of Millie and Marley’s education. Their week might consist of a road ride one day, then schooling on the plain, a hill session, followed by poles in the school and jumping the following day. I vary their work, and pick a specific skill to concentrate on every time I ride them. On the road rides, I will quietly move them around my leg into shoulder-in and travers. Schooling on the plain I may practice trot-canter-trot transitions. One week our hill work may be in trot, the next in canter – you won’t progress as a rider or develop your horse if you amble about without a plan.
I struggle with the idea of going for a hack and, unless I take my daughter Ellie out for a ride on her pony, I’m focused and concentrating on improving my riding and developing an aspect of my horse’s way of going. Horses can relax in their stable and in the field. If they are being ridden, I believe they need to concentrate and put some effort into what they are doing. A consistent, workmanlike attitude is safer for everyone.
With young horses, a lot of what you do is about teaching them to look after their own feet and think about where they are going. I find riding out helps to settle quite whizzy horses and liven up horses who are more relaxed. If they want to be naughty, I stand up in my stirrups and press forward rather than hold them back. By the time they’ve gone up a few hills they tend to knuckle down and start behaving themselves.
Horses that know where their feet are feel nimble and rideable – it can be really uncomfortable trying to ride an unbalanced horse around a sloping grass dressage arena, believe me. Invest some time riding out and you will be able to feel the difference on a fitter, more agile horse.