Queen Elizabeth rides pony as coronavirus restrictions to ease in UK

The Queen has been for her first ride since the coronavirus lockdown started in the UK.
The Queen has been for her first ride since the coronavirus lockdown started in the UK. Photo credit: Royal Family Instagram

The Queen has been pictured riding in the grounds of Windsor Castle - her first public appearance since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Windsor is said to be the Queen's favourite royal residence and she has been photographed over the weekend riding one of her ponies, a 14-year-old Fell Pony called Balmoral Fern.

The 94-year-old regularly rides in the grounds of Windsor and has been a passionate horse lover and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses throughout her reign.

Wearing a colourful headscarf and smartly dressed in a tweed jacket, jodhpurs, white gloves and boots, the head of state enjoyed the sunny weather that has been a contrast to the sombre mood of the lockdown.

The last public picture of the Queen was taken as she was driven away from Buckingham Palace to her Windsor Castle home on March 19.

One of the Queen's corgis - she has two named Candy and Vulcan - could be seen next to her as they both looked out of the car window.

The Queen carried out official duties the day before her planned departure, but held her weekly audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone rather than face to face as usual.

The Queen has made two televised addresses to the nation during the lockdown, the first a speech to reassure the country that coronavirus would be overcome and those in isolation "will meet again", and another on a similar theme to mark VE Day.

She has been joined by the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle and it is likely a small group of household staff have been isolating with her. 

The pictures were released on the day the British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab defended the government's careful loosening of the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was the "right step to be taking" at this time.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire from some scientists for easing a lockdown put in place 10 weeks ago, with several saying it was a premature and risky move in the absence of a fully functioning system to track new outbreaks.

Britain has one of the world's highest death rates from COVID-19 and the government says it is easing the stringent lockdown cautiously to balance the need to restart the economy while also trying to prevent another increase in the number of infections.

"We are confident that this is the right step to be taking at this moment in time," Raab told Sky News. "We are taking those steps very carefully, based on the science but also based on our ability now to monitor the virus."

From Monday, up to six people will be able to meet outside in England, some school classes will restart, elite competitive sport can resume without spectators and more than 2 million people who have been "shielding" will be allowed to spend time outdoors.

The United Kingdom's death toll from people who have tested positive for 

COVID-19 rose by 113 to 38,489, the government said on Sunday.