Lucinda Green’s Top Tips for Getting Back in the Saddle After Lockdown

Lucinda Green's Top Tips

Lucinda Green’s Top Tips for Getting Back in the Saddle After Lockdown

Lucinda Green
Lucinda Green

This month we welcome eventing superstar, Lucinda Green MBE to talk about climbing back into the saddle after lockdown.

For many of us, our horses have taken a break from competition this year and whilst some choose to give them rest over the next few months, a number will continue to keep their horses fit throughout the winter months, in preparation for what we hope will be a good spring.

For a few, this may mean bringing our horses back into work. Whatever you have decided to do we thought, in the meantime, to team up with Petplan Equine to bring you a two-part series with six-times Badminton Horse Trials winner Lucinda Green.

Here, Lucinda shares her expertise on what to consider when bringing your horse back into ridden work and how to prepare yourself ahead of your next outing, when of course, it is deemed safe to do so.

Things to consider before getting back on board

If your horse has had a few months off, it is always good to check their health before getting back in the saddle. Lucinda spoke to Veterinary Surgeon and Petplan Equine Ambassador Juliette Edmonds about what checks you should carry out before tacking up;

It is always a good idea to trot your horse up on a hard surface after time off to make sure he is sound. You may want to have your vet check your horse over before getting back on, especially if his time off was due to an injury. You will need to make sure he has no soreness across his back and that his saddle and tack all fit well as he may have changed shape. It is also important that he has had his annual dental check.”

Health Checks are essential prior to work commencing
Health Checks are essential prior to starting your horse’s exercise regime once again.

Once you are sure your horse is sound and you are happy to proceed, Lucinda adds;

I would start with road work, walking on even firm surfaces for the first two weeks. If your horse is liable to firework type behaviour, saddle up and lunge for a short amount of time. You want to remain on board and be comfortable, so you may need this just to be on the safe side, but make your lunge session as short as possible.”

Where to start

It can be hard to know where to start when bringing your horse back into work or even upping their workload to keep them fit throughout the winter months. Lucinda advises that riders should go back to basics and give their horses time.

Try and give yourself a month to six weeks of slow hardening work to bring your horse to a level whereby he is ready to start his fitness campaign.

After those four to six weeks take him for hacks using all three paces. Try and build up some hill work before gradually developing your flat and jumping at home. Hacking is a very important part of your horse’s training,”

comments Lucinda.

Although the ground may be harder or muddier you can still keep improving your horse’s fitness and suppleness by utilising hills. If you live in a particularly flat area, perhaps find somewhere you can travel to, if safe to do so, and incorporate hill work in all three paces. I would advise just walking downhill if the ground is really hard but whatever pace you work in, your horse must be straight.  Learning to balance downhill in all three paces is a very good exercise for both horse and rider.”

“Whatever pace you work in, your horse must be straight.”


Once we are allowed to travel our horses again, I would then advise planning trips to places which offer arena eventing and showjumping practice and perhaps some dressage in a friend’s arena, so it is somewhere different.”

With the shorter days and poorer weather, some of us have to operate on restricted turn out over the winter months.  For our horses, this can mean they are fresher than in the summer months. Lucinda comments;

Firstly, cut your horses feed; chaff and a balancer is plenty for horses in this kind of routine and ensure they have unlimited hay. Make sure you keep them active, especially if he is staying in for longer periods. Your work should be varied and keeps your horse engaged. Set goals for your sessions and your hacking to ensure you both have fun and enjoy each other.”

As we head towards the new year and what will hopefully be a more positive season, if restrictions allow, aim for a competition. If this is his first competition in a while, make sure your horse has had enough work the day before. If he becomes over excited when he knows he is going somewhere, take him for trips in the lorry or trailer, even if it’s just to hack out somewhere else,”

continues Lucinda.

Once you are in a routine and your horse has settled into the groove, he may be able to take a lighter day before heading to a competition, as this will be better for his legs.”

Lucinda Green
Lucinda Green

Dealing with resistance when returning to ridden work

Some horses may show some resistance when coming back into work and who can blame them when they’ve enjoyed a few months of holiday. They may seem a little hesitant to want to pick up a contact, Lucinda discusses how to improve reaction to the basic aids.

I would advise having a series of flatwork lessons, if possible, from someone who really understands contact and will encourage your horse to move in the best way possible. You must assess your horse’s reactions to your aids first or else you will never be able to develop a contact. You cannot just ask by yanking their head in, your horse needs time to develop his muscles again and become more supple.”

If your horse is too sharp, try keeping gentle pressure on with your lower leg against his sides, this can also give him confidence. It helps him accept the leg rather than running away from it. However, if he is resisting your leg and acting lazy, you may need to apply short, sharp kicks to teach your horse to react to your aid. The bottom line is; your horse must have a go button and a stop button.”

For more training content and for expert tips and advice from Lucinda, visit the Petplan Equine website.

With thanks to Lucinda Green.

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