I shall start this post with some reassurance for you all, Dante is not for sale, he is not going anywhere anytime soon! With the sad news on Coco’s departure we have been feeling quite overwhelmed & well sad the last few weeks.
I have had a lot of feedback in regards to updates on Dante, so what better way to distract you all than with a full review of what myself & Dante have been getting up to. I honestly didn’t think you guys would be interested in reading about our progress, so I always kept it on the back burner, or updated you with short Instagram stories through our feed.
As I started to write this post, it really opened my eyes to how much he has improved. From a few months ago up until now, the difference in this horse is just unbelievable, They say Lux horses take there time to mature, I didn’t quite believe it at first but now almost 4 years later, I finally understand.
Find out below what it is I have been focusing on & what our future plans are!
I Am Focusing On Me
Hands down on of the hardest things to try and do. Your sitting up on your horse trying to focus on your flaws, and adjust them to the way you ride. It is difficult but trust me it is worth it. How many times do you find yourself staring at your horses neck looking for that outline, or looking down over the outside shoulder looking for your correct diagonal, or the correct canter lead?
Next time you ride your horse try stopping all of the above, And stop it especially when your jumping. I have learned that most of the above are problems you originally create from you leaning over your horses shoulder etc. etc. if you sit up tall and ride forward, you horse will most likely figure out there leg changes in canter themselves for example. I spend most of my time trying to facilitate Dante when I ride, which in turn had my position in the saddle slightly off, I was gripping with my knees, pulling his mouth, instead of just sitting there, going with him and trusting him!
The last few weeks though I have really spend time focusing on myself as the rider & less on him the horse the. He is 7 yrs old now, if he doesn’t know what he is supposed to be doing (within reason) at this stage well then I dont know?! But what I have learned is that the more I focus on my position the more eager & easier it is for Dante to do things correctly.
Ignoring Dante’s Bad Habits
Two of Dante’s worst habits, shuffling in the walk and puling the reins out of my hands mid ride. How I got rid of these bad habits? Well I ignored them. I spend the guts of two – three lessons hearing over & over “ignore him kick him on” whilst he tried his utmost best to try get out of anything it was I was asking him to do, with most of the time it being the contact he was trying to avoid.
Being honest, It was absolute torture! We spend two weeks alone with Dante alternating every second day in draw reins just to put some manners on him. Anytime he would revert to being “bold” the draw reins went on and he used to huff around the place is defeat against me his rider. It was a tough two weeks with a good few tantrums but I came out of it on the good end.
While he still shuffles and refuses to walk on when he is asked, I simply push him into trot and make him work straight away anytime he does it. Eventually it made him realise that walking forward is all I was asking him to do! This is still a work in progress with massive improvements. Compared to some of the previous bold Dante issues we have had, I am thrilled this is the bold I have been left to deal with.
No matter who you are or what you do, everyone benefits from Horse Riding lessons. With Dante I am fortunate enough to rotate between 3 different riding instructors. That might sound a little bit over the top but to me each instructor teaches me something different and it all benefits me in my riding.
You all probably know Jer, the wonder rider who helps me out big time when I am struggling to cope when Dante is being difficult. He is great, we focus a lot of Jumping & he forces me not to always drop my contact, one of my most annoying habits! He rides Dante from time to time to keep him on his toes. He really gets him & his jumping and it is great to have him as an instructor as well as someone that can sit up on him. With a horse as big as Dante, a male presence can really make a difference.
My newest addition to the teaching family is Sue Byrne, she has really turned my flatwork around. The small things we are doing in our lessons are making massive differences to our jumping & I am super impressed by how willing Dante is with learning all these new fancy moves. She has even started showing me the starting steps to some fancy footwork if I ever wanted to venture into dressage. I am very excited to continue our journey with Sue, I can see big things in our future with her on board!
And last but not least we have Anne Hatton, she is unbelievable. A woman with buckets of talent, experience & an eye for finding problems you never thought you had! She really focuses on your position on the horse. Sometimes fixing your position in the saddle can make the way your horse moves a lot easier, in turn it fixes all those unfixable issues you thought would never go away! We do a lot of combined flat work & jumping courses in Anne’s lessons. Getting that rhythm is key. It has been a while since I have done one of her famous lessons, one needs to be scheduled asap!!
The Power of Your Elbows
Holy God. Did you realise how powerful your elbows are? This really falls under the category of how important your position is in the saddle. There comes a time every know and then, that stopping Dante can become quite difficult. My little legs can only squeeze so much, but I have learned that focusing on using my elbows for power really makes a huge difference.
It does sound weird, but give it a go! You wont realise how much power you have in those elbows! And focusing on using your elbows really helps you focus on sitting up straight in the saddle with your shoulders back.
Flatwork Over Jumping
Flatwork has always been something that I just didn’t really have the head for. I find it boring and unless I make an actual plan and stick to it I really find myself aimlessly roaming around the arena basically doing nothing productive at all!
But recently, from my lessons with Sue Byrne, she has very cleverly shown me a lot of very useful flatwork exercises that I have incorporated into my daily routines. From lateral work, to small exercises to do in the walk to get Dante bending & flexing, flatwork now doesn’t seem like such a chore. I will be outlining these exercises in detail in a seperate post they are just too good not to share!
With the great progress I am now seeing in Dante from doing these exercises, his jumping & the use of his hind end has improved massively. He really is putting the head down & focuses a lot more, I am not sure if this is down to him maturing but the tantrums and fights we used to have are almost gone, which I am absolutely thrilled about! I love to bring him out to the field and focus on our flatwork, mixing up your routines & taking your horse out of the arena at least once a week is a massive must do!
Letting Other People Ride Him
This is something that I thought would never happen. I am not one to put people in danger or put people at risk of possibly injuring themselves because of something my horse may do. The last while Dante has been exposed to a lot from busy shows, young kids, nephews screaming at him & trying to brush him & to be fair to Dante he has been an absolute pleasure. Scott even leads him around the place now and Dante can’t be any better with him, he even drops his head down to his level, it is actually quite quite to watch!
Orla has recently ridden Dante for me, and with Orla back from injury of course I was shitting it when she was getting up on him. (of course it was her first day back riding to top it off!) Any horse is safe, but any horse is also unpredictable. I remember walking down to the arena & Dante was doing his sluggish walk with that evil side eye forever looking at me. All I could think was ah shit he better not act like a dickhead.
To my delight he was fantastic, and Orla got a walk trot & canter out of him without being flung over a hedge!! In the four years I have owned him he has always been a horse who people were afraid to ride maybe because he looked difficult or they heard me bad mouthing his full of attitude comments but I can finally confirm that he has transformed into a normal horse! Over the next few weeks I would love to get a few different people up on his back for his own experience. An adjustable horse is a good horse in my opinion! Any Takers?
What the future holds for me & Dante? Well I am currently looking at purchasing a new jeep, one that can tow myself & Dante around to show so we dont have to depend on anyone else to bring us. We are still members of our riding club Abbeylands, and hope to compete in the Autumn league to the best of our ability.
Registering Dante for SJI is the next on my list, I want to get him to the Cavan show in November & basically get some more mileage under his belt. I am really thrilled with his progress. I am also quite proud of the horse he has become, while we still have our hiccups & our learning curves, the positive comments I have been getting of people & my instructors has really opened my eyes to how far we have come. He is such a honest brave horse and is just so willing to do anything I ask, no matter how silly it is! It only leaves our future open to so much bigger & better things!
As always, thank you for reading & be sure to keep an eye out next week for my top 5 go to Flatwork exercises that I have been doing religiously with Dante!
Until Next time,