Keeping them Busy & Getting the Stride Right ~ Lessons with Coco

(I didn’t get any pictures or videos from this lesson so enjoy some old images I have of Coco which help to demonstrate what I’m talking about 🙂 )

Where we left off

In our last lesson, I was left with 3 things to work on with Coco; her head tossing, getting her to stretch down in walk and get rid of the bunny-hopping in her canter. We had made some headway in 2 out of 3 issues!

  • Her head tossing had completely stopped in walk and trot but was still an issue in canter
  • She rarely bunny-hopped anymore in the canter
  • We still have some work to do in getting her to stretch her neck down

So..on a rainy Friday evening, I kicked off my second private lesson with Sue Byrne. Being a proud mammy, I was looking forward to showing our progress since the last lesson.

We started off with getting the fizz out of Coco (as per usual) so I went for a few laps of the arena. Once that was done we started on some flatwork exercises…

Trotting Circles

I put Coco onto a circle at the C end of the arena. In trot, we worked on gradually bringing her in on a tighter circle and then gradually pushing her back out to a larger circle. This helps improve her balance and also gets her listening to my leg aids.

Trot on Circle

Standard Flatwork Exercises

We then moved on to doing a variation of different schooling exercises; large 20 metre circles, figures of 8, transitions and walking on a long rein. I found the long rein particularly useful as the aim was to encourage Coco to really stretch herself out over her back.

A Basic Dressage Test

Eventually we put it all together to make a basic dressage test. Sue called the movements out to me as I rode and we found that Coco really enjoyed herself! The variation of exercises kept her sharp and it meant that she couldn’t anticipate what I was going to ask her so she had to listen to me. We were then tasked with finding a dressage test which we would have to practice and then show to Sue in our next lesson.

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Part of the dressage test I’ve chosen to learn for our next lesson


Next we moved onto some trot poles which were set up in the middle of the arena. We trotted over them on each rein, changing rein each time she did these much better than last time! Sue then removed the middle pole to make it a canter exercise. When we started this, Coco’s head tossing came back into play as it always did with canter work. The exercise was then elevated to a jumping exercise…

Check out our blogpost about this exercise


Sue set up a jump using the current set up a small upright and placing poles either side of the jump. Coco always gets a bit fired up when it comes to jumping and her head tossing gets A LOT worse although we discovered that she was tossing her head when she was unbalanced so Sue advised I should pick her up and move her on which did help. Once we fixed this however, our next issue was me..I just couldn’t place her to the jump. 

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Getting the Stride Right

As I’ve mentioned before, this is something I have always struggled with. I have days where I can get it right nearly every time and days where I just can’t pick it. It’s incredibly frustrating and even more so when it’s a youngster I’m riding. They rely on us so much to get it right so I end up feeling really guilty when I mess it up. 

Anyway, to help with my problem Sue suggested the age-old solution of counting the strides out loud. Of course this is something I have done so much in the past but for some reason, when I count 1, 2, it completely throws me and I end up missing the stride completely. So instead of counting 1, 2, we counted 1, 2, 3, 4 (I’m not entirely sure what the difference is in my own head), and it worked a treat. As soon as I started doing this Sue could see the difference. As I counted, I was subconsciously able to keep Coco in a rhythm by slowing her down when I felt her get fast which meant I could read my stride and place her perfectly to the jump. And with that, we finished the lesson for the day. 

What to work on for next time:

  • No more laps of canter before a session
  • Learn & practice a preliminary dressage test nail that walk on the long-rein
  • Head Tossing in the canter

Despite the weather I had a good, productive lesson with plenty to keep both of us busy until our next lesson with Sue.

Make sure to keep an eye out for my blogpost on Coco’s 3rd Private Lesson…it’ll be an interesting one!!


4 thoughts on “Keeping them Busy & Getting the Stride Right ~ Lessons with Coco

  1. Riding smaller circles to larger circles is one of my favourite exercises to ride, even with my advanced horse as it really does work on helping them bend through their body and around your leg.

    1. So beneficial and very underestimated. Will definitely be doing more of that with Coco!

  2. Gorgeous horse! I see head tossing a lot in my line of work and it is usually either balance as you say, or muscle tension. If you have a massage therapist in your area definitely have her checked out. The circle exercises will help with that as well. You guys look cute together.

    1. Aww thank you so much 🙂 Yes I have a friend who studied equine physio so I’m going to get her out to check her out. I have a feeling she might be a bit tense through her back so want to make sure there’s nothing hurting her there either. Thanks so much for your comment!

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