National Horse Sport Arena – Horse Day Out!

After a few weeks of trying to get ourselves out to the National Horse Sport Arena, we finally managed to find a weekend that suited! This was both Coco and Dante’s first time to this arena and their first time out doing some proper showjumping schooling so we were both really looking forward to this experience. Find out how they each got on below!


Despite the awful state I got myself into from the night before, I am not one to say no to a challenge! So with a good 5 hours sleep in me, I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning and headed down to Dante to get him ready while we waiting to be collected.

With work being so busy during the week, Dante had the previous day off, so I threw him on the walker while I waited, got that spark out of him! As our lift arrived, Dante had started to get pretty bad at loading, he used to be great but he is quite hesitant at the minute going into the box. He eventually walked in, after 10 minutes of coaxing him, it will definitely makes for another blog post down the line!!

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As we arrived to the National Sports Arena, we were the only people there. Unloading Dante, he was great, a quick look around the place, but his behaviour was very calm. He has great manners on the ground, he will literally stand there while I jump around all over the place! It is one of his best qualities.

We all tacked up & mounted up making our way down to the arena, it was so calm & peaceful, such a good atmosphere to bring them too. As instructed by Sue we were to get right into it, start warming up straight away. I had my draw reins back on Dante for my warm up, I have had a very difficult week with him, where he was testing and trying to get more control again by cocking that jaw up, so I was in no mood to have an argument with him that morning. I wanted to enjoy myself and with the draw reins on him he realised he couldn’t get away with certain things!

Dante was quite nappy towards the two other mares to begin with, trying to get him to trot past Coco during the first 5 minutes was tough! He protested against me when I asked him to go the opposite direction to her,  doing his usual, rear/bunny hop, trying to throw his weight around but I have learned to sit quietly, let him have the strop and kick him on through it! Ignoring his strops is vital! I have learned this the hard way. If he has a strop mid canter or mid trot I need to push him forward in that gait, bringing him back to a walk or a halt tends to let him think he has won.

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Correcting him on his bad behaviour, seemed to knock a bit of sense into him, he didn’t do it again lets just say! But holy god, he was so strong. He definitely knocked the hangover right out of me to say the least. We had a few practice jumps over a cross pole, and his approach to the fences was good, steady canter in but once he got two/three strides away he pegged it for the jump! He is so hard to read when it comes to strides, he needs to be held right up into the fence and he relies on me to pretty much do the majority of the work approaching. If I drop contact too soon he straight away falls apart also. So its something we both need work on!

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As we went into jump in the main arena, Sue had us jumping sections of the course first. Starting of with a single fence, then adding in oxers & doubles as we went along, with a few related distances. Dante was enjoying himself, but was lacking when it came to lifting his legs over the fences! He was running into them, putting in extra strides, getting too close, the list goes on! But regardless of the mistakes he was making, he listened to me when I asked him to do something which is all I could ask for! 

He was getting so excited approaching the first fence, that when we added in more fences afterwards he quickly realised that rushing around the place wasn’t the answer! I was very impressed with his steady canter through out the round we done, bearing in mind some mishaps, and some wobbly turns, there were a few times were a canter circle had to be done before approaching a fence just to get that steady canter from him!

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As we finished up doing sections of the course, Sue put a quick course together for us to do, consisting of 10 fences in total. It was a great test of fitness to both of us! Dante had a few knocks through out the course, again silly mistakes we were getting too deep into certain fences, but as long as I kept pushing him forward that was all that mattered. I did manage to whack my toe of one of the wings from the fences, as we approached the 3rd last fence of the round, Dante was kind of curve balling the fence, on approach we were wiggling and wobbling all over the place, I honestly though he was going to run out, my poor toe took the blunt of it and my stubbornness of not wanting him to run out of a fence didn’t help! We kept going after that, with our double left, he again ran into the first part of the double, but I picked him up fairly quick for him to ping over the second part which was a spread! When he meets fences correctly he really goes for that big jump! 

Overall it has been a huge learning curve, it has made me realise how much of a baby he still is! He relies on me for pretty much everything, but he is very honest about anything & everything I ask him to do. He will still try his heart out to jump anything i point him towards, even if he has gotten in too close or has met it completely wrong. 

To say he was a tough ride was an understatement, he is one of those difficult horses. He can get quite strong at times, which can be difficult to manage, but one of these days the penny will drop with him and everything will fall into place for both of us! Keeping in mind he is such a big animal, I still dont think he has figured out he has a hind end yet!

Until then the fun we are both having together is fantastic, he is honestly slowly turning into more of a pet dog to me than anything else!!

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I’m going to start off by saying that Coco was just incredible. I couldn’t be prouder of my little mare. 

I didn’t have high expectations for this particular outing. I had learned from previous trips that if I was too excited or if I built it up too much in my head, I would generally end up disappointed. So the superstitious part of me decided to put any expectations I had in the back of my mind and just take everything as it happened.

We arrived at the campus and I unloaded Coco who was keen to have a nosey at where I’d brought her. Usually she’s very skeptical and on edge in new surroundings…today she was calm as ever. She stood patiently while I took all her travel gear off, tacked her up and mounted up (despite a dodgy leg up from our friend who brought us over). I thought maybe this was the calm before the storm? 

We walked them up to the arena and as soon as Coco’s feet hit the sand she instantly felt at home.  The arena itself was bright and very open despite being surrounded by a big brick wall which was perfect for keeping the high winds at bay. Coco was buzzy and eager to get moving so I brought her around the arena in her usual jog as she doesn’t do walking’ when she’s in new places. She had one spooky moment where the flower bed in the corner of the arena was just terrifying but once I got her to bend away from it she got over it and worked on as normal.

CocoI gave her a nice warm up in trot and canter, using our stretching exercises to calm and focus her on what I was asking her to do. She felt incredible, she had such energy! We warmed up over a cross pole a few times and she was jumping out of her skin. She really liked the surface of this arena so she made sure to give each jump extra effort and air.

Next we moved on to do a combination of fences and related distances before moving on Coco_jumping3to a full course. Fun fact today was the first time I had jumped any kind of oxer on Coco which quite honestly scared the bejaysus out of me. It was also the first time we had done any semblance of a course. So while my irrational fear of oxers was getting tested, so was my fitness!

I needn’t have been worried though as Coco took on everything like a pro. She is quite a forward horse; she sees a jump and eats up the ground to get to it so I have the job of holding her right until the last second to ensure she doesn’t just barrel through the jumps. I was concerned that I was possibly holding her too much but Sue assured me that I was doing exactly what I should be doing. 

At one point, Sue spotted a jump with a water tray and decided myself and Coco had to jump it. I had jumped her over a water tray by itself on the ground before and she didn’t seem too bothered by it but these unpredictable youngsters can surprise you so I didn’t know what to expect…Again, there was nothing to worry about as Coco popped the jump without a second thought! I have to say, this was a serious proud mammy moment.


We then took on the full course and Coco soared around it. She got a bit quick to a few jumps but she was generally very manageable. There was the odd wobble between related distances but as soon as she realised there was another jump coming she locked straight onto it and that took care of that issue.

Towards the end we did have one or two hairy moments. Sue raised the jumps by two holes, and we took on the course again. The last four jumps on the course consisted of a related distance and a double. Coco jumped into the related distance perfectly but out ofCoco_jumping4 tiredness and complacency I left her to do all the work of getting over the next fence and I completed landed her in it. Being such an honest horse, she got us over the jump in one piece so I picked her up and continued onto the double. Having learned absolutely nothing from the last jump, I did the exact same thing again and once again Coco saved my ass. I made the quick decision to pull her out of the last fence as I didn’t think we’d make it out in one piece if we attempted it..although I’m confident Coco would have tried. We gathered ourselves together and tried all four fences again, this time jumping each one properly, ending with a class finish over the oxer of the double.

Coco_jumping1I left the arena positively beaming. I could not have asked for a better performance from my youngster. It was such a fun experience and it had me brimming with confidence. Coco loved every second of it too. Her little face lit up every time she was faced with a jump..even when I was making a mess of it! I am now more convinced than ever that I need to get her out competing ASAP. 


A massive thank you to Sue Byrne yet again, I think it is safe to say we are all starting to see the difference in both Dante & Coco. More schooling is definitely on the cards in the future!! As for now I think we are both really beginning to enjoy our horses!


Darielle & Orla

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