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Getting back on after a break

As we turn our attention towards spring, many of us will start to think about starting to ride again

While it’s still cold and a lot of horses haven’t done a lot they are likely to be fresh! I often get asked about the things I do to check my horse out if they’ve had some time off to give myself the best chance of having a calm and uneventful ride. Here’s my top 3 tips for getting back on again…

1️⃣ Check them out from the ground

Even the professionals don’t just get on a fresh horse that hasn’t been ridden for ages without preparation. If your horse hasn’t had turnout for a while, try to get them some time at liberty. If fields aren’t open yet and there’s no all weather turnout to use then loose schooling can be a good option to help get some of the extra energy used before you ride.

I would want to check my horse out on the lunge, with groundwork exercises that check forwards, backwards and turning so I know I have the basic communication in place. Then in walk, trot and canter looking for calm, rhythmical gaits.

Initially I would do this without a saddle but if my horse hasn’t been saddled for a while I would also want to do this in the saddle to re-accustom them to the feel. I often also pop them over a small jump just to make sure I’ve covered all the bases. When I’m watching my horse on the ground I ask myself these 2 questions…

❓Could I ride that❓

Imagine yourself riding and ask yourself “If I was riding my horse now and they were doing what they are doing on the lunge would I stay on?”

You may answer ‘Yes, I could stay on’ to that question and if so, answer the following question…

❓Would I want to ride that❓

This time ask yourself “If I was riding my horse now and he did what he is doing now, would I want to be riding him?”

The answer to these 2 questions might be very different. If the answer to either of these is ‘No’ then there’s more to do on the ground to get your horse ready to ride.

After the ground prep, I also like to see if they can stand still at the mounting block and wait to be mounted. If not, I will take some time over this, as well as a safety issue it’s a really good discipline to teach your horse.

2️⃣ When you get on If you’ve done your prep, answered ‘Yes’ to both questions and you’re ready to ride then there’s a few last things to check out once you get on…

✔️ Check your brakes and your accelerator! Does your horse stop and go easily?

✔️ Then make sure you can turn easily in both directions.

✔️ If not, take some time over this or get some guidance if you need help.

3️⃣ Here are some tips for your first ride in a while... Make sure you have a plan. This can be really simple like, pop into the arena, walk, trot, canter on each rein and finish or go for a quick hack round the block. Make it something you know you will both find easy and are well prepared for. Your first ride is not the time to stretch the boundaries or try and do the hard thing that you spent all last summer building up to doing. Do the easy stuff first and build on success and good feelings.

And finally... Don’t forget to smile and enjoy yourself 😃😃😃


Before trying any training technique it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.

If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on


Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.

Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK. Email for more details.


All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible for to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed or shown, with or without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.


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