I was lucky enough to recently attend Your Horse Live recently and had a great time with the mixture of demos and shopping. Probably my two favourite activities outside of riding itself!!
The first demo we attended was that of Lucinda Fredericks.
Lucinda came in riding Headley Britannia (Brit). Brit is now 20 years old. Brit is still being worked and is still sound. Lucinda’s lucky working pupils get to ride Brit and learn from her. Brit won Blenheim, Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky which is an incredible record for any horse. Lucinda said it was not her ability which won at 4* but her attitude.
Lucinda said she does not believe in jumping that often. Recently Lucinda was at Pau and had a run out at fence 26. Lucinda said that the horse did nothing particularly wrong, and nor did she but it was just one of those things that happened. Sometimes the luck is with you and sometimes it is not. Lucinda said when the good days happen you have to absolutely milk it because there are not many of them.
As an amateur I found those words really interesting because you look at the success these riders have and forget that they have to work hard and that a lot of the time things do not go right for them either and that whether you are an amateur or professional eventing is a hard sport.
Lucinda said she decided at the age of 14 what she wanted to do and had to make enough money to fund her dreams. Lucinda admitted that she has had some shocking falls and was very nervous when recently coming back from a horrible fall at Tweseldown which put her in hospital at the beginning of the season. Lucinda came back at Houghton and said she wondered if she would get further than the 4th fence and was very worried about it all. Once she jumped the 4th fence she said she shed a tear, while thinking I am back!
Training is paramount. You train harder after a fall so the preparation at a competition is the best it can possibly be. Sometimes it does not work (Pau being the example). Lucinda said that Flying Finish is a big long horse and the issue was that he did not come back quickly enough and then just did not read the question well enough.
Lucinda does a lot of canter poles. Typical exercises would be practicing your rhythm, adding strides, reducing strides etc. Lucinda likes poles because they put no pressure on their legs while all the time practicing the essential things which are required for a good jumping round. Lucinda said that a lot of horses never achieve what they are capable of as not able to take the stresses and strains of eventing. Lucinda used Prada as an example of a horse who has the right brain but often her body cannot cope.
Lucinda said the first thing she always teaches horses is ‘whoa’ and ‘go’. The horse has to listen to the basic aids. From this you would introduce a bit of sideways movement off the leg so that you can place the horses feet wherever you want.
You want to support the front end and use your legs to make the engine go and get the back legs working properly. Lucinda says she teaches canter poles to young horses early on. Lucinda said that she counts strides because it makes you ride the canter and keeps the leg, hand and seat co-ordinated.
When coming to a fence focus as far out as possible, when the front feet are going over the fence you need to look at the next fence.
The number of strides is irrelevant it’s all about the quality and rhythm of the canter. Lucinda said its one of the reasons that people go for warmbloods now because the quality of their canter tends to be better as it has been bred into them.
Flying Finish was used as an example of a horse that is long and spends a lot of time training the canter to be shortened which was the issue that occurred at Pau.
Lucinda said that it’s always a problem if you try to be perfect all the time and not trust the horse. The horse’s brain has to work for you because if you have a problem they need to help you out.
Lucinda had an exercise set up which worked on many of the principles that she had discussed – adjusting the canter and rhythm.
Once the horse has opened up the stride, the difficult bit is getting them back without resistance but this can be trained. Like dressage it’s all about basic training.
Lucinda talked about bridle choices – for dressage you might need to close the mouth but that its not always necessary for jumping. Lucinda says she tends to use a flash for dressage mostly to keep the mouth shut and please the judges. Lucinda says she rarely has the noseband done up tight for jumping. Lucinda said she is not a fan of loose ring snaffles as likes the bit to be still in the mouth. Both Lucinda’s horses at the demo were in hanging cheek snaffles.
Lucinda said she is always changing her mind in bitting and tends to vary it. Often bits are swopped between Sjing and XC as mentally she feels it helps as both jobs are very different to the other.
Lucinda said she had a breakthrough with feed and now uses Pure Feed. Lucinda is sponsored by them but also said the horses look fantastic on their feed and she likes that it is high in fibre.
While watching Lucinda ride, I noticed that she uses a lot of outside rein to turn which I found interesting. The horses were strongly into the outside rein while the inside rein remained soft.
Lucinda said the best ride she ever had was on Brit at Kentucky in 2009. The vets could not believe how great Brit looked at the end of the event and what a sound horse she was. Brit was always kept extra fit as a smaller horse.
In summary Lucinda said that it was all about the day to day training of the horse. Your aim is to make horses adjustable. You do not need to be nasty but you need to spend time training the horse properly. Never run on bad ground because the long term consequences are not worth that one day. You need to work hard as a rider and riders need to learn feel which can only come through experience and correct training.