Francis Whittington’s top tips for a smoother ride cross-country *Promotion*

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    For the cross-country element of the Horse & Hound/Saracen eventing bursary, international event rider Francis Whittington meets bursary winner 25-year-old Zoe Gould and her seven-year-old ex-racehorse Musical Legend (‘Legend’), by Midnight Legend out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. The pair compete at BE100 and are looking to step up to BE novice level and maybe FEI one-star next year.

    Zoe is hoping Francis can help stop Legend from running onto his forehand in between fences which will in turn help to improve the shape Legend makes over a fence.

    Warming up
    Francis notices Legend isn’t taking any weight in his hindquarters where his hind-leg is pushing out behind him instead of underneath him, causing him to run onto his forehand and not carry himself.

    • “Legend needs to do the work himself and not rely on you. You need to stop kicking him every stride and make him take responsibility for himself instead of covering up his issues.”
    • “Ride more circles and changes of direction in trot and canter to encourage Legend’s hind-leg to come underneath himself more. Vary the size of the circles and the speed within the pace to get him thinking about what he’s doing.”

    Establishing balance and self-carriage
    Francis encourages Zoe to continue the circle exercise she used in her warm up in front of each cross-country fence to help Legend to establish balance in his canter before he tackles a jump and in turn create a better shape over each fence.

    • “You must be patient and keep circling until you are happy you have balance, control, and self-carriage from Legend before you even think about tackling the fence.”
    • “It’s not about galloping flat out. It’s more about balance and making sure that Legend’s inside hind-leg is hitting the ground in the right direction underneath him every stride. As tedious as it may be, constantly repeating the circle exercise will give Legend the time he needs to understand what you are asking of him.”
    • “Don’t pull on the rein — use your body instead to encourage him to remain in self-carriage.”

    Francis’ exercise to take away
    “Use the circle exercise at home to further Legend’s understanding, but don’t do it every day as it is physically and mentally very difficult for him. You could also try lungeing him without any support such as side-reins so that he learns to balance himself. As he improves you will be able to ride forward and up to each fence more easily due to the fact he will be waiting for you in balance on the approach to each fence.”

    Feeding the ex-racehorse during the winter
    Legend will have a six to eight week holiday once he has completed his final event. As he’s an ex-racehorse there will be a large window of time for him to lose condition.

    First and foremost Legend’s ration of forage must be adequate. “As a provisional winter ration plan we will keep Legend on 600g of Essential Balancer to replenish his reserves of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. The balancer will also top legend up with quality protein which will promote cell tissue and muscle repair,” explains Lizzie Drury, Saracen’s senior nutritionist.

    Legend will also need energy (calories) to help maintain his body condition through the cooler months.

    “We will put him on 2kg of Saracen Conditioning Cubes per day, which contain the high-fat supplement Equi-Jewel. Introduce this to the ration over a period of two weeks,” suggests Lizzie. “Saracen Conditioning Cubes are barley free and therefore ‘non-heating’ to support a manageable temperament.”

    If you have an ex-racehorse and would like to discuss your horse’s ration with the nutritional team, visit www.saracenhorsefeeds.com or call 01622 718 487 for immediate advice.

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