Dante’s Diaries – Working on that Outline

Dante and I had a second lesson with Sue 2 weeks ago, from our last lesson we continued on from there, still a few basics to keep working on, but he is slowly improving every time!

I lunged Dante for a quick 5 minutes on each rein before we began, he had been off the day before our lesson so taking that extra spark out of him seemed like a wise thing to do! Entering the arena, we got straight into work, Starting off with 3 laps of trot on either rein, followed by a lap of canter on each rein, interrupting a 20metre circle into the lap of canter. 

Dante was working well, working into a loose outline, but being quite resistant to a gathered collected contact, that really worked him into a shape.

Working on that Outline:

We began to do some Work on maintaining an outline. Holding onto the contact, while pushing him forward from the leg, the aim was to get him working forward, aiming to get him to drop his head down in line with his withers, while keeping a collected forward going trot!

To do this I held an even contact on the reins, pushed him forward into trot, while keeping that contact on both reins, wrapping my two legs around him and squeezing until he dropped him head down, when he did, giving him that slight release & starting the process again.

At the beginning he was quite confused as to why I was pushing him forward but at the same time holding him back from cantering on, eventually the pin dropped and he dropped his head, but it would only be for 2 or 3 steps in trot. Any progress is good progress. We continued on doing this for 5/6 laps of the arena on each rein, he slowly began to drop the head but it did take some time for him to realise what it was I was asking of him!


Working on the Circle, incorporating lateral work:

Not gonna lie, it did take some time for Dante to listen to me properly and fully concentrate when I was asking him to work forward in an outline, so we put him on a 20 meter circle. With Sue standing in the middle, she mentioned that with him working on a circle bending around the corners would help him out quite a bit!

We began to increased and decreased the size of the circle. Using inside hand to get that bend. At all times I was continuously making sure I could see the side of his face/ his inside eye bending inwards! We began to decrease the circle in, trying to keep the circle small. While working on the small circle, i would use my inside hand, pulling it back towards my stomach to keep him bending around my inside leg. In a controlled trot he really began to work himself, you could see the muscles on him neck pumping away!!

Tip: Make sure your hand doesn’t cross over onto the other side of his mane, your left hand should stay on the left, your right hand on the right. 

Once happy with the small circle he was doing, I pushed him out with my inside leg back on the 20m circle. We continued this on both reins, and to say he really began to listen and work was an understatement! He was quite rushed on his right rein, slowing down the rise in my trot and half halting him helped a lot!

Note: There are NO straight lines in a circle! While working on a circle make sure he is bending around the leg at all times.

Canter Work:

Moving on from all the trotting we had done, we began working in canter! Dante’s Canter has improved tremendously, but holding him together is a little bit of an issue, he doesn’t like it!!  We started working on holding him together.  

To maintain this, strong leg was really needed. He has such a big stride that it feels like he has a big powerful canter, but the minute that leg comes off he straight away drops into a trot. This is partially due to lack of fitness, but he is still only a baby and his muscle tone is only building!

From this we done a lot of 20m circles trying to hold him together, as it gave me slightly more control rather than cantering the full arena!  Transitioning down from the canter is STILL one of my weak spots!! I have really began to overthink it, it came to a stage in the lesson where I stopped and asked Sue to explain to me how to do it again!! 

Transitioning downwards, I really need to sit properly into the transition & not stand up in the stirrups. This is making Dante plod forward into the trot or walk. Since I starting sitting into the transition, he doesn’t tend to plod and drop down anymore!

Tip: The less you think about it, the better you become at it! Over thinking can sometimes make everything worse!Photo01-07-2017,181310

Pole Work:

Coming towards the the end of our lesson, we moved onto some Pole work! Two ground/canter poles were laid out either side of the arena. (See image below) My job was to canter over one, and loop around the second making a giant circle. Sue placed the poles near the top of the arena, doing this it gave us quite a tight turn into the first pole, but also leaving a lot of open space after the pole. 

Picking up my canter in the far corner, I quickly realised like mentioned above he was not liking being held together, the minute I started to put leg on to push him forward he would change his canter lead, trying to get out of doing what I was asking him to do, I ignored this and let him canter on to the first pole.

2/3 strides out from the first ground pole, he would tend to grab the contact and leap forward down the long side of the arena, making it nearly impossible to firstly stop and then to secondly to to direct him around over the next pole.

Tip: Sitting back in the saddle, push your legs out in front with your weight in your stirrups to slow him down, making sure to keep his head up.  Wear gloves, my hands are ripped to pieces!! 


Doing this exercise a few times, Dante’s approach to the first pole seemed to be his biggest issue. Eventually, I managed to gather him after the first pole, with huge struggles, as you can imagine he is quite strong! But he was slowly beginning to listen to me, and was realising that he would be put through the same exercise over & over until he got it right! When he did come back to me, his canter into the second pole was lovely, he would canter into it, with no rushing at all!!

If it was excitement of the first pole or just him having a tantrum & showing his presence I do not know! The joys of having a baby horse!! 

Sue added in an extra pole, one across the center of the arena, (so now it was more like a circle with 3 poles.) On approach, again he often changed his canter lead but I kept ignoring this and continued to push him forward. The 3rd pole made me concentrate an awful lot more, and it rode lovely, it gave Dante less space to barge down the arena.  We done this combination twice, after the second time of him doing it we ended the lesson. He may have been on the wrong canter lead on approach, but he did not rush the exercise so finishing on that good note was ideal. 

Things to work on:

  • Keeping Dante Collected in the Canter, while keeping him moving forward
  • Loads of circle work, increasing and decreasing the circle
  • Transitions, don’t overthink them!!
  • Pole work, the rushing before and after, put poles out around the arena, and canter over them keeping Dante relaxed, making sure he approaches them in a relaxed manner.

Always remember the baby in your horse! It may take him a year if not longer to get to where you want him to be! His tantrums wont stop over night either you just need to control them and not give them a way out of them.

If you have any tips or any advice let me know in the comments below.

Progress happens with practice and efficient work!!



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