Well, it seems as if it has been months since I have done any Dante updates. I have successfully been doing my weekly lessons with my trainer Jer over the last few weeks, and the difference in Dante has been huge. Dante is ridden 5 times a week, jumped once or twice, 3 days of flatwork/polework & an easy day which may consist of a walk around the field! So it is safe to say he is in proper work at the minute!
Dante has finally began to mature & grow up, he is willing and I can see & feel that he is really enjoying this new learning curve. A lot of people told me that Lux horses take time to mature, and well I can honestly say that is 120% true!
Below I am going to run through some of the aspects of my training schedule, some rider error & some horse, mainly rider! There are a lot of things that need to be fixed but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day & either was Darielle or Dante! I am hoping our riding routine and some of the aspects of my training will help you guys who are trying to bring along your own horses, a lot of it is fine tuning at its best!
Flatwork, His Outline & The Trot
Firstly if you have seen one of our recent Instagram post, you will see a massive improvement from what he was! He finally is beginning to carry himself in an outline, with no more gadgets to encourage him down. I will admit, it took an awful lot of time and it was also more of a trust issue with Dante than anything else, he struggled to trust what my hands where doing or what my legs were guiding him to do. But determination got the best of me, some days I would only ride for 15 minutes, once he done something correctly I would finish up the session, this seemed to really sit in his mind, and soon after he figured it was easier to do things he was asked as it meant less work!
My legs are also undoubtedly stronger. When it comes to Dante everything is leg based, the less hands the better. If I had a euro for everytime I heard my trainer shout “Stop interfering with your hands let him do his job” I reckon I would have at least an extra €50!! He is a very sensitive horse, and very reactive at the same time to the smallest of touches, as the rider I need to learn to trust him, he’s not going to do any of his stupid carry on anymore.
The two words any old school equestrian hates to hear… Riding Gadgets.
I have started Alternating between riding with spurs or a schooling whip for one or two days a week. This was a suggestion from my trainer to encourage him to move & ride forward in his movements and what a game changer it has been. In the long run this will only help me the rider not have to rely on using so much leg strength to get him moving, some lessons 15 minutes in and my legs would be struggling to cope! So far it has worked, I basically have to sit there and when I feel him slacking he gets a squeeze and were off again! He is quite the clever horse I will admit. Dante gets used to things way to quick, he becomes blind to them after a while.
Keeping things different like rotating days for using spurs, a schooling whip or riding with nothing will be sure to keep him guessing and on his toes!
Straightness Training has been our next mission. We began to notice on his weaker rein that Dante was drifting an awful lot into fences on his right rein. This was corrected by putting V poles up on the side of the fence he was drifting into, to keep him straight but we then began to notice he was doing it during his flatwork sessions on the same rein also. To correct this I have linked the exercise below that I have been doing. I won’t lie it was a tough start but now I don’t need to poles as a guide to get him to flex!
With his straightness training, the overall goal for Dante is to focus on his weaker rein to help him build up his muscle correctly to keep it in line with the rest of his body. Watch this space, I am hoping I will begin to see massive improvements in his balance from this exercise alone!
Click here for a more detailed look at the exercise I have been doing!
Dante’s Canter work has reached a hole new level of improvement! I am still quite shocked and in disbelief when I look at videos of him! We need to focus more on getting a bouncy canter making him work forward, with a lot of work needed on lengthening & shortening his stride, keeping him collected on the short sides of the arena and lengthening him out on the long sides.
I found on the lenghteneing of his canter he kept changing his lead onto his stronger rein, instead of bringing him back to a trot I kept pushing him forward. The reasoning behind this was A, he has mastered his leg changes so he had no excuse, and B, he has a terrible habit of switching legs to get out of hard work, pushing him through it as uncomfortable as it may be for him let alone for me, hopefully it will teach him that it is not the way out of work! Once he eventually does switches back to a correct lead, I transition down and reward him.
Keeping A Consistant Contact
My biggest downfall. It can be so inconsistent at times, no wonder the horse used to get so confused! It most definately throws him off when jumping especially on his landing.
I let my reins slip to easily getting too long & in turn I am not exactly helping him stay balanced. Keeping an even contact is so important, this is something I need to improve ASAP! The other downside to letting my reins get too long, when I go to gather them back up I tend to interfere to much with him trying to do his job. Basically I have to trust him more now, I need to just sit there, keep my leg and and stop pulling at him in fear he is going to take off!! I have to let it go and ride him on.
Enter my trust worthy Branch that has helped a lot with this issue.
I simply use it as an aid to assist myself with keeping my hands steady & to stop my uneven contact. Give it a go yourself, try riding with a short whip or in my case a branch. Hold your reins like normal, and place the whip across your horses whither’s holding it under your thumbs, It will basically help position your hands in the perfect place & help you forget about thinking what you are doing with them!
Corners & Transitions
When riding in the corners, of the arena, my instructor told me to ride into as much “corner” as I possibly can. Keeping him flowing through them & keeping myself in a good upper body position (not leaning forward, sitting up tall with my shoulders back). Doing this in walk trot & even in the canter, focusing mainly on keeping him moving forward in the contact not breaking out of the gait that he is in. Practicing this will help with his jumping in a sence of his approaches and landing before & after fences with tight corners or bends.
Downward transitions, they are the devil. They need an awful lot of work, especially from canter to trot. I need to stop letting him run through the contact. He is basically plodding down into the trot transition, instead of flowing through it. I need to sit back and hold him together keeping leg on to push him forward. Again, my contact needs to remain consitant!!
Dante gets a visit from the physio every 3 months, or as close to every 3 months that I can do, he is a big horse. Standing at 17.2hh and constantly growing in muscle mass & strength, my physio recommended more regular visits to keep on top of his muscle gain. On her last visit she was pleasantly surprised with his progress and to say I was happy I was doing something right was an understatement!
- Overall appearance – the thumbs up from our physio, massive improvements & muscle gain & growth. He was filling well in his hind end & neck, his topline has improved massively.
- Our downside was our saddle. My physio recommended we get a professional fitter out. We previously had gone to holmstead who unfortunately after 5 saddle tries we were unsuccessful. We need something to give his shoulders & whitters more freedom & space in order to bulk up at the same speed as the rest of his body.
- Exercises to continue – raised trot poles, on the straight & across the diagonal, changing between regular & raised trot poles. Canter work incorporate bounces, flat and raised. Transition work is also a massive help in building up your horses muscles.
Dante’s jumping to be fair to him, doesn’t really need an awful lot of work. He nearly has too much talent when it comes to his jumping. Everything at the minute basically comes down to fixing the smaller issues before & after the jump and with some good flatwork over the next few weeks.
It really just goes to show how important your flatwork is for a good jumping foundation. Without your flatwork you have nothing! I do feel like I could still write a full post on our jumping schedule for you all, would this be something you would be interested in?
Have you training schedules you & your horse are focusing on pre season at the minute?
I do love to keep things switches up, by bringing Dante out to the field and doing sessions out there, it is great for a change of scenery. Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you will be attempting our straightness training exercise.
With my lesson scheduled for tomorrow with my trainer, I do hope he is pleased with the results! Until Next Time,