Recently I have been putting a lot of time into doing ground work with Dante, from a few de-sensitizing exercises, to very basic lunging, and also to the dreaded Mounting!
Personally I think ground exercises should be continuously done with your horses regardless off their age. Have a read below & Remember to always reward your horse after he does something good!!
In the lunge arena, always in the lunge arena(or an enclosed sand arena) The last thing you want is for your horse to take off in a spook!! Dante has quite good ground manners, some may say impeccable for a 5 yr old!
I decided to have a go at some de-sensitizing techniques, as he had always been quite petrified of whips! Well this is where it started, and to be honest there is no harm in trying out a few of these exercises, it will help you see where your horse is with‘spooky’ things & how well they trust you in guiding them.
Using the lunging whip, he was quite sceptical of it at first, I began to start de-sensitizing him with it. Using my voice, always using my voice I spoke to him, and slowly began to rub the end of the whip on the side of his neck, gently rubbing it back towards his hind end.
Tip: Be sure not to start aggressively tapping the whip as this could end very badly.
After repetitively doing this several times he began to relax, it did take him some time but he quickly realised that it wasn’t going to hurt him and near the end he started to take no notice of the whip and began to enjoy the rubs he was getting from it!!
Another desensitizing exercise we done, one that did take a bit more time, was putting a plastic bag at the end of a schooling whip and desensitizing him around his body with this, he did not like this one bit at the beginning, he backed away from it, quite abruptly but once I started to use my voice to assure him it was okay, he settled into it. Flaring nostrils & excessive sniffs of the bag later that’s for sure!!
Lastly I placed empty bags on the ground to seeing if he would walk over them, which he did, but to be fair we have done a lot of TREC which included walking over footbridges and doing things he wasn’t used to, while trusting me to guide him through things. It has really improved our teamwork together!
Tip: Always have a lunge line on your horse, and keep these exercises to a confined space. One wrong move and your horse will be gone!! and with that it will only make doing these exercises and gaining your horses trust a lot harder.
Dante gets lunged for approx 10 minutes everyday before I ride, sometimes it can be very tedious and annoying, sometimes I even skip doing it but when you see the outcome of lunging him before, it really is well worth it.
I use draw reins on Dante when I lunge him, without them I can get no work done or I spend 15/20 minutes if not longer trying to get him to work himself properly. I wouldn’t say he is well voice trained, or that he has done an awful lot of lunging in the past, I remember the first time I ever lunged back in October when I first bought him, he freaked out with the lunge line on him and took off out of the lunge arena, but he is getting there now and that’s all that matters!
Techniques I use:
Using the word‘Woooahh’ to transition downward, or to bring him back to a halt, I sometimes use my hand to stop him, I hold it out and up in the air pointed towards his face, I do this when saying‘woooahh’ sometimes doesn’t work, I combine the two.
Exaggerating the word‘Trot’ when getting Dante to move up a transition pronouncing it more like‘teee-rot’.
When moving him up to canter, a great trick I learned from Sue, instead of using my voice to move him up into canter, I simply turn my outside shoulder into him(as if I’m doing a 360 turn) this pushes him up into a canter, without using my voice, it’s as if he runs into my forward movement, Its actually pretty cool! Otherwise I make sure he is moving forward in his trot and use the word canter again in an exaggerated tone like ‘kkeeeannter on’.(I will try add videos of me using my body to push Dante into a canter, so you can see what I am trying to explain!!)
Dante’s attention span is very minimal, there are times where you can actually see his head turned looking out of the lunge arena trying to see what is going on around him instead of him focusing on the work I am trying to get him to do. He is very expressive with his ears, when I say the word listen and give a light tug of the lunge line(that’s attached to his bit) I can instantly see his ears flick into me, he is slowly realising that looking around the place whilst I am trying to get him to work is not what he is supposed to be doing!
Pole Work in The Lunge Arena:
I use a lot of poles in the lunge arena when I lunge him, not only does it keep Dante’s brain constantly thinking and anticipating what’s going on, but I have found it also really helps me translate the exercise into riding when I am on him in an arena! If he is difficult with certain things in the arena, I bring him into the lunge arena doing the same exercise in there! In a more confined space, (less space for him to run) it really does help!!
Canter poles, and trot poles are two of the main things I would work on. As in the arena when he sees them, he gets quite excited and rushes towards them, especially canter poles!
An exercise I love to do, you should all try giving it a go! Place three poles around the lunge arena (See picture below) I get Dante to trot around over the poles, counting his step in trot, its great to see him do it when he keeps a steady rhythm! I count the steps he takes in between each pole, and my aim is to make sure he gets the same amount of steps each time! In other words, keeping him at a steady rhythmic trot! I can work on pushing him forward in the‘teee-rot’ if I want to push him on and also hold him back to a more collected trot‘woooo’.
Using the same exercise, minus the middle pole, I do a lot of canter work also. I only tend to use this in a canter if I find Dante is full of energy or is simply not listening to me. It’s a great one to use to get him to concentrate properly, not just having him aimlessly canter around the lunge in circles!
Do remember though, keeping things interesting and keeping your young horse thinking & not anticipating every move really gets them working well. If you feel like there getting bored in the lunge arena, try all the same techniques out in a field see how they get on, sometimes a change of scenery is all they need, it will really pin point their progress for you!!
I often bring Dante into the lunge arena to let him stretch his legs, instead of doing proper work, again its letting him know that every time he sees me it doesn’t mean he has to have a gruelling work out!
Tip:Make sure to work your horse evenly on both reins in the lunge arena, also when you bring them back to a walk or even to a halt, don’t let them turn into you in the centre until you instruct them to do so! Remember, you are the boss!!
To Say Dante is a dreadful mounter would be an understatement. I dread it. He was never good to begin with, and being brutally honest I have been putting off that day I have been saying I would spend with him working on the issue! Recently we had bit of an incident, one that could of been fatal, but I am quite used to falling off him at this stage that my body seems to of adapted. I had one foot in the stirrup, two hands on the saddle(if I hold the reins he tends to start walking backwards) not sure if he spooked at something but the chair I was mounting off did fall over, and he took off down the arena with myself hanging onto the side of the saddle. Letting go and falling to the ground was probably the best option considering he took off in a tiff after I did!
I have learned with Dante that he is quite the sensitive horse. When he gets worked up it takes a while for him to settle down and forget about what had just happened, so with this I lunged him for 40/50 minutes out of the arena and into the lunge arena to try get his mind of what had just happened! Getting him to relax did take some time, but he eventually settled down. With this I hopped up on him in the lunge arena so that we at least finished on a good note! Safe to say we need to start working on our mounting skills ASAP, I don’t want to end up stuck somewhere not being able to get back up on him!
Note:Dante has no Back/saddle issues, it is one of those things I have been putting at the end of the to do list since I bought him, my patience isn’t the best, and good patience is exactly what you need when working on getting him to be a good mounter.
To say I was petrified to get back up on him the next day was an understatement, but he surprisingly stood still for me to let me mount. Which kind of surprised me! Maybe it registered in his head that if he doesn’t let me mount he will get worked in the lunge until he does! So something good did come out of it.
I will be trying continuously to do certain exercises to get him used to being mounted, and not having him walking away or walking backwards when I do!
Practicing getting up & down in the lunge arena more so that he realises it is ok, and if he acts up, keep working him until he realises that if he doesn’t stand still to let me mount he will be worked twice as hard until he does.
Try mounting him in different areas, he may be easily distracted in certain areas such as the arena or near the stable while mounting, see if there is any difference in his behaviour.
Mount in Stages. Start off on standing on the mounting block, reward him if he stands still. Move onto putting one foot in the stirrup and again reward him when he stands still. if he moves, start again from the beginning! Continue this technique until you are fully mounted, keeping in mind that when I am on him he must stand still until I instruct him to walk on.
In the arena, (this tends to be where he is most sceptical of being mounted) If possible get a reliable person the hold him still while I mount, letting him realise & figure out that standing still is what I want him to do, eventually not needing the person to hold him at all.
Tip:Do not loose the plot if he really starts to act up, I have learned(maybe the hard way!!) that patience is absolutely key. Any slight hint of me getting thick or angry, he feeds off it straight away and gets worse!!
As you can gather, I am quite new to a few of the things mentioned above, I had to learn quickly having a young horse! There were days he was so fresh it would of been dangerous to ride him!
Please do feel free to share any tips/exercises you use with me in the comments below!!
Please also note that these exercise are based around my horse, & his training to help him progress, they may not suit your horse!
But What’s the use in knowing things if you cant share them!!
Enjoy a quick video edit I done of him below, you will see what he like to be lunged! Check out our YouTube Channel No Bucking Way Blog where you will find loads more progress videos!
Head Tossing can be one of the most frustrating habits a horse can have. To start, it’s just plain annoying! One minute your horse is working nice and forward and then BAM the head comes flying up and all the work you’ve done is gone and you’re back to square one. But mostly, it’s frustrating because it’s generally a sign that your horse is in pain and there are so many potential causes.
What can cause head tossing in horses:
For the sake of this post I’m going to talk about my experience with Coco.
For the first few months that I had Coco I didn’t ride her too much as she had a pretty nasty saddle sore from before I bought her. I mostly kept her to lunge work and would only ride once or twice every two weeks. About 2 months into owning Coco she started head tossing. I quickly realised that any time I picked up the contact she would throw her head in the air so first thing I did was book the dentist. I had a 2 week wait for the dentist to come out so I decided not to ride her for those 2 weeks as she seemed so uncomfortable.
The dentist did her check and found that Coco had a sharp tooth which was cutting her gums. After some work from the dentist and a few days off I hopped up and the head tossing had stopped! Once Coco’s saddle sore was all healed up I started schooling her properly. Within a few weeks her head tossing had started back again. It was just as bad as the first time, if not worse. So once again, I called the dentist out and she found that Coco had lost some baby teeth and had some more sharp teeth which were causing her some pain. We fixed her up, I gave her a few days off, hopped up, picked up the contact and her head tossing had stopped…but only for the first 10 minutes of our riding session. Now it seemed Coco would start throwing her head when she was fed up and wanted to stop working. To be sure, I ran through the list above– I had a quick check of her back, her saddle was fine, I ride her in a rubber snaffle that fits perfectly so the last thing to do was to get a professionals opinion. So I decided it was time to start lessons.
How to Break the Head Tossing habit:
Once you’re confident your horse isn’t head tossing out of pain there are a few things you can try to break the habit. Below are some different methods I was given to try during lessons with qualified instructors.
Give her a loose rein and let her relax
The first thing I tried was giving Coco a loose rein to let her relax. The intention was to show her that I wasn’t asking her to work on the bit or to move a certain way. Unfortunately with Coco being a spooky and speedy youngster this just meant that I had minimal control and she had free rein to do whatever she wanted. Not really what I was going for.
Ask her to move forward into the contact while keeping a long rein
Next I tried encouraging Coco into the contact on a long rein by keeping a bend in the knee and squeezing on every stride. This also did not work.
Correction when she head tosses
The last thing to try was correcting the behaviour. There were two different ways of correcting the behaviour– the first was giving her a smack on the shoulder every time she tossed her head but that just seemed to wind her up and make her more anxious. The last thing I tried was giving her a quick chug on the inside rein every time the head went into the air. As soon as she softened in the contact I would give with the inside rein to reward her for keeping her head still. Out of everything I tried, this was the only thing that worked.
After one week of doing this, Coco had completely stopped her head tossing in trot. She did it in canter for a few more weeks but eventually it dwindled out. I have come to realise that Coco is more comfortable being held in a constant contact. She wants to feel that you’re there with her and this is why the first two methods didn’t work. Giving her the lighter contact seemed to make her more anxious whereas when I have a steady contact I can hold her together. Coco now works comfortably and happily in a positive contact and she only starts head tossing when she’s jumping or when she’s really wound up and looking to get her own way..while it has become a lot more manageable, I put this down to her being a youngster so eventually she’ll work out of this habit.
Have you ever had to deal with a head tosser? What did you try to fix it? Let me know in the comments!
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.
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!
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!!
A good while ago I wrote a blog post about Scott & how he acts when I bring him down around the yard to help me out with Dante. In the space of possibly 2 months, he has grown up(not only gotten taller) but he has come out of his shell quite a bit also!!
I am certainly noticing the change in him around the yard, around Dante with all the different jobs I do regarding cleaning out the stable etc.
In my last blog postKids & Young Horseshe was not exactly fond of Dante, but tolerated him when he came up. Giving him the odd rub on the nose was a rare thing for him to do, but how things have changed!!!
To put it simple, everything is now about using the shovel & making sure Dante has fresh water….
Have a read below!
In The Yard
I am not sure if the shovel obsession is a‘boy’ thing or if he genuinely enjoys shoveling up the horse poo, But I know for a fact that he only likes to get Dante’s water as it gives him that quick 5 minutes to play around with the water buckets, with the occasionally bucket thrown to the ducks. Any excuse for him to be around water and he’s in!! At the yard he knows giving water to Dante is a must so he always gets the chance!
He Is not so fond of sitting in the wheelbarrow, or going for wheelbarrow rides so much anymore either, maybe it was all the straw he used to find stuck in the crevices of his clothes hours afterwards! Insisting on wheeling the wheelbarrow himself is his new thing, he does tend to give up after 2-3 minutes in, getting distracted by the ducks or wanting to go run off ahead getting up to god only knows while I struggle to push the wheelbarrow to the muck heap like a normal person!
Jumping in all the clean straw while I struggle to cope with trying to get a wheelbarrow full for Dante’s stable is a new obsession! You’d swear he had never seen a bouncing castle in his life, when Dante’s stable is refreshed and all fluffy with new clean straw Scott’s enjoys running and jumping into the middle of it! Why he does this, I have no idea but he ensures me that its great fun, so why not let him enjoy it!(it keeps him quiet!!)
In The Stable
Around Dante, he is getting SO BRAVE!! I still cant believe it. He has started to ask me to brush Dante to make sure he’s clean. Of course at first I was quite skeptical, as he has never showed much interest in Dante before, thinking will he actually go in and brush him, but he did, with me very closely by his side. I still l cant get over how quiet Dante is around Scott, it’s as if he knows there is a little person around!
Keeping in mind that Scott thinks its GAS to start brushing my hair after he brushes muck from Dante which is not ideal, so I’m not exactly encouraging him to groom him too often!!
In The Field
Leading Dante in from the field has become a lot easier. Scott used to hide behind the closed gate to the field waiting on me to come back with Dante. He now helps me lead him in from the field holding the end of the lead rope. He even talks to the horse asking him if he’s okay, and tells him he’s a good boy when he stands still while he pets his nose! Its lovely to watch the two of them together.
Scott has started coming into the field with me to get Dante, and Dante will straight away walk over to him! Scott does wait for me before he goes over to him to rub his nose, which is not a bad thing considering you never know how unpredictable horses are going to be! Scott is still is a little jumpy around him when it comes to certain things but to be fair the horse is a giant, so I wouldn’t blame him!!
He has a few favorite horses that he insists on petting before he goes home whereas before he would genuinely scream in a horses face if it came near him or leg it to the car to get home! He has even started asking to come down & watch how I ride Dante, it all makes me wonder if he will be ready to get started with some horse riding lessons of his own.
Only time will tell!
But for now, I am happy with how comfortable he is getting down around the yard and around Dante & the horses. It is becoming a part of his routine and gets him thinking about having to feed Dante and everything that is involved with looking after him!
Have you got any stories about your kids down at the yard around your horse? Or have you any way to keep them occupied at the yard?
Let me know! We do have our bad days where he doesn’t want to step foot in the place!
Since our last lesson me and Coco have had a busy few weeks filled with new experiences. We went back to Darielle’s yard for a hack but between spooky horses and getting drenched out of it we didn’t get very far but it was still good to get her out of the yard again. The following week we did our Try TREC Day. Give our blogpost about it a read to see how both Coco and Dante got on.
With all of this I decided it was time to refocus and have another lesson with Sue!
Before we started I gave Coco a quick lunge which ended up being a great idea because she was being quite spooky on one side of the arena. This gave her a chance to check everything out and see that nothing was going to jump out at her. I mounted up and started warming her up with a walk, trot and canter on each rein and then started some circles in each corner of the arena. While I did this Sue set up the jumping exercise for the lesson– a Turn Back Exercise.
So what is this turn back exercise?
There were two blocks set up where you enter, this was to help keep Coco straight into the first jump. The idea is to ride the exercise on a semi circle, starting over a jump and ending over a jump. There is a pole in the middle to help with striding and then two poles on the outside of the corners to help keep her in line.
What does it help with?
Control– you need to ensure you keep a steady rhythm so you can maintain control throughout the exercise
Balance– jumping on a circle helps your horse improve it’s balance
Precision– make sure you hit your strides by aiming for the middle of each pole
Improving turns– sit up and prepare for the turn well before the first pole so your horse is ready for what’s coming
How did Coco do?
I have to say..this was a difficult exercise. It seemed so easy but it was far from it. We started off by keeping everything as just poles on the ground. The first time I brought Coco into it was a complete failure. We tried it a few times before we eventually got it right. We put the two jumps into small uprights and that’s when Coco became difficult. She started bunny hopping into the jumps, making it impossible to see a stride or plan for the turn.
One attempt we made nearly ended in disaster. We completely missed our take off point and Coco caught her knees on the pole which didn’t fall because of the type of wings we were using. I thought we were both going down but I sat up and dropped my reins to give her a chance to get herself together and thankfully we managed to stay on our feet!
When we came into it again Coco was a bit wary so she needed some extra encouragement to get her over the fence. She also started to get quite evasive and began drifting on the approach so we decided to switch it up and come off the other rein. She still wasn’t great so any time she started to drift I put her onto a circle before the jump until she settled.
We played around with the exercise by moving some of the poles and widening the blocks at the start and by the end we had gotten the actual exercise down pretty well, it was just managing our approach that became the biggest difficulty.
A new unrelated problem did materialise in the last 15 minutes of the lesson. Every time I asked Coco to canter she would buck and drift to the outside. I think this is a problem with her saddle so I am changing her saddle and also organising for a physio to come out to her– will keep you updated on how this progresses.
Throughout the lesson I spoke to Sue about some of the problems I’ve been having with Coco– mostly around how nervy she still is and how difficult she has become on hacks. So as well as what I need to work on from our lesson, I also have some additional things to do:
Every time I ride I’ve to jump at least 7 times to try and take the excitable edge off Coco’s jumping
It has been suggested that I start Coco on a magnesium supplement. A few different people have recommended this as a way of calming her down and making her less nervy so it’s worth a shot
Get Coco out walking on the track by herself and use draw reins as a way of keeping control
Hopefully this is an exercise that some will find helpful. Let me know how you get on if you decide to give it a go!
Recently myself and Darielle did a Try TREC Day at Darielle’s yard. For those who don’t know what TREC is, check out Darielle’s post from her first TREC experience where she gives a brief overview of what it’s all about. The TREC Ireland website has even more information for those who want to learn more and see how they can take part.
If you’ve got a young horse and are looking for a way of getting them out and trying new things without the stress or pressure of a competitive environment, I couldn’t recommend a Try TREC Day more. This was such a great experience for both myself and Coco. I had never done TREC before so it was the perfect introduction to a sport I knew nothing about. And Coco had never really done anything like this before so it was great for her to be faced with new challenges.
For Dante, as we have already done TREC before this day was more about pushing him a little further and learning more of the rules so we could continue to enter more competitions. He placed 3rd in the last one he done, with that result it was a shame to not do it again!
The day started early enough and it was absolutely boiling hot!(like 27 degrees or something ). Don’t worry, everyone wore sun -ream including the horses! We were split into groups with Coco being assigned to the beginners group and Dante with a group who had done a TREC event before.
There were 2 Different areas set up for the day– the arena and the field. Coco started in the arena and Dante started in the field.
The Arena– PTV(Parcours en Terrain Varie) Obstacles / Cross-Country Phase
Here there were a number of different obstacles set up throughout the arena, all being different challenges one might face during an actual TREC event. We started off on the ground and did some in-hand obstacles first, the S-Bend and the Corridor.
The objective of the S-Bend and the corridor is to guide your horse between the poles without knocking or stepping outside of the poles. This is much easier said than done in the S-Bend but the key is to walk right into the corner to ensure you use all the space you have, the S bend stays the same width no matter the size of your horse!
Tip: When leading your horse in TREC you must hold your leadrope/reins behind your back with your horse following directly behind you. Look up where you’re going and your horse should follow.
Next we mounted up and tried both obstacles ridden and then moved onto some other obstacles.
One-handed Figure of 8– Pretty self explanatory, you must manoeuvre your horse around 3 barrels using just one hand on the reins. This is a paced obstacle meaning the higher the gait you do it in, the more points you can earn.
Mounted Immobility– you bring your horse into a circle and make them halt. Then you drop your reins and hold your hands out and count to 10, all without your horse moving outside of the circle.
Low Branches– another paced obstacle, here you must ride your horse underneath a low branch(stick on pegs in this case) without knocking it, this is a good test towards you & your horses trust, you really have to get down low on their necks.
With Dante in the arena I could feel that his attention span was completely gone! Luckily the arena is an enclosed space, so he had no way of bulldozing off! We started of as a group on horseback walking through the ridden corridors, moving onto the one handed figure of 8, we done this separately. He really began to get adjatated waiting, and when it was our turn, anytime he would turn into the group or face the group he would try to walk and sway over near them, he eventually got it but started to act the same way doing the S bend. His focus was completely gone, until we moved on to the low branches! We had only ever done this in walk before, I kind of had a fear that he would try to jump it at any other pace, but I am glad to say that we rode it in canter! It was great to leave the arena on a good note considering his tantrums were beginning to crawl back in before we broke for lunch, giving him zero chance to act out!!
Next we moved out to the field where there were a number of other obstacles laid out. When we got out here Coco started to act up a bit. The open space kind of blew her head so she picked up the pace and became quite mare-ish by kicking out at the horses she was napping towards(I don’t really understand her logic). So I kept her moving and worked her away from the other horses which she did happily enough(surprisingly)!
Dante on the other hand, surprisingly he was very relaxed(for once!!) He was used to the environment he was in and was used to the two other horses in his group, with the experience of the TREC day he had done recently he took everything in his stride! He walked when he was asked and trotted when he was asked, no hesitations! The only down fall with Dante was the mounting & dismounting, it is not his strong point. With a lot of stopping and starting I could feel him beginning to get slightly fed up waiting, but at the end of the day he has to learn his place!
A lot of the obstacles we faced out here are quite self explanatory but I will let the pictures describe themselves. The one thing I will explain however is the MA Corridor. This was quite an interesting challenge. MA in TREC stands for Maitrise des Allures or Control of Paces. Here you must canter down a 150m corridor as slowly as you can and then walk back as fast as you can.
Coco was surprisingly good at this(once she got over spooking at a chair, the starting flags, a log and a jeep). Her canter gets very short and choppy when she’s excited so she barely moves when she’s like this and she’s so keen to go fast that she bombs around in her walk so we got one of the best scores of the day on this one!
Dante on the other hand, well he walks like a snail, it felt like it took us an hour to walk down the corridor! Not exactly helping in the points department, his cantering on the other hand is good, on approach to the corridor you are only allowed to circle a maximum of 3 times before entering, this helped us a lot to get a good rhythm, a few extra circles would of helped not going to lie!! Like Coco he had a few looks at the beginning, there were two flag posts at the start of the corridor that he was not familiar with so a lot of leg was needed to get him through! It is harder than you think keeping them cantering at a controlled pace and also having to keep them in between the corridor which is no more than a metre in width!!
Ridden Footbridge In-Hand Decline Ridden Step-Up
Slalom Mounting Ridden Drop
The Road– POR(Parcours d’Orientation et de Regularite) or Orienteering Phase
Here you’re given a map with a set route to follow. There are a number of checkpoints along the route with a certain speed required between each check point. You don’t know how many checkpoints there may be or where they will be so you really need to follow your map. For this we had to go out onto the roads. We were all paired off and thankfully myself and Coco were paired with a bombproof horse who could take the lead as we haven’t done much(successful) roadwork.
Darielle and Dante went out last, and OMG he really surprised me out on the roads!! He has done a good bit of hacking recently, but with him always in behind a lead horse his new found confidence kind of shocked me! He was paired up with a horse, that was used to hacking but was quite spooky, Dante paid no attention to anything without any hesitation he would give the other horse a lead, which was amazing as he tends to be a sheep and copy other horses! Likewise when I felt Dante getting unsure of things the other horse would lead out in front there were the perfect pair!
The route was supposed to be done in about an hour however unfortunately myself and Coco missed a turn and ended up about 50 minutes off course. We did manage to find our way back but we ended up being the last ones in and I finished the day with a numb arse and a fed up Coco.
Tip: Know your rules of the road and your hand signals. You never know what you could face when you’re out on the roads. And wear as much Hi-Vis as possible. Better safe than sorry!
Despite getting lost towards the end, it was a great day that I was delighted to have brought Coco to. I was quite apprehensive about it at first as I wasn’t sure how Coco would behave. Of course we had a few… ok a lot of baby moments but in the end she did everything I asked of her so I couldn’t have asked for any more than that.
With Dante, I constantly continue to learn more about him when we do things together! As relaxed as he was through out the day, he needs to be constantly moving or on the go. All the stopping and starting was fine in the field but when we moved into the arena he started to throw a few tantrums and began to get fed up. Despite this he was amazing!! As for the POR, I cant wait to practise doing more of this especially using a stopwatch!!
What did Orla learn:
I have learned that I need to keep pushing Coco and myself to get out and try more things and I also need to give her more credit. While she may start kicking up a fuss, so long as I stay calm and keep her moving forward she eventually gets to where I need her to be. It’s all just learning experiences at the moment and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
What did Darielle learn:
Trust Dante more! I need to start pushing him on a bit further and not assume he will have a tantrum. For my next TREC competition I am going to start doing a lot of the obstacles in trot, he is well capable! Its a constant learning curve with him and the more we do together the more we really begin to trust each other and click as a team! Once Dante does something good, I do need to start giving him credit where credit is due.
So have we convinced you to give TREC a go? You may find its not really your thing but its amazing how much you’ll learn about your horse in these types of environments so it’s definitely worth a go if you get the opportunity.
Please be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or if you have any interesting stories from your own TREC experience!
Recently Orla came down to take a few video’s of what we had hoped to be a jumping session with Dante but unfortunately due to my lack of confidence with his jumping it didn’t go that way! Looking back at the videos she did take of the few jumps we went over, Dante was doing nothing wrong!! I was out of my comfort zone, I didn’t know his strides or I couldn’t anticipate him to make out how he was going to approach the jumps!
I will admit, I do need to start doing more pole work & canter poles with him to get myself used to feeling his stride, and for him to learn not to rush into every fence that he can see! The last few weeks I have been focusing a lot on his flat work, his basics in walk trot & canter getting him moving forward and being responsive to my aids, with that in mind I think it is finally time to step it up a notch.
When I am on my own, I tend to tense up quite a bit and drop my shoulder on my approach to fences, often letting go of the contact to soon cause Dante to loose balance and to get sloppy. I think it is more of a case, that I haven’t grasped him yet when it comes to jumping, So with that in mind I thought it was best to get a lesson and finally put everything at ease and get on with what me & him really love to do, JUMP!
Like most jumping lessons, you go in you warm up on both reins, and get straight down to business, this is exactly what we did!! Dante was on his toes, but in a very good way!!
I popped over a few single fences to begin with, and my instructor was quick to point out that 2-3 strides out from the fence I tend to drop the contact, and lean slightly forward on approach like I mentioned above! I could feel myself doing it out of habit at this stage! I haven’t jumped in so long, getting myself used to doing it properly again was going to take some time, especially with a green horse underneath me that feels like an octopus, legs going everywhere!!
We tackled a grid!! Yes, anyone who has seen Dante previously will know how longgg and exaggerated his stride can be but he has drastically improved!! So, the grid was set up with 3 trot poles on approach, a straight fence with one stride in between finishing with another straight fence. Ground poles were laid out in between fences to assist Dante to see his stride(It really did help!) Approaching the grid, I really did have to hold him and make sure not to drop that contact, it was my only sense of control over him barging forward! He can be quite the difficult horse to try hold together whilst trying to keep him moving, he tends to break down from the canter if strong leg is not used whilst I do try to hold him back!
The more we jumped the more excited he got, there were a few times where I would approach the fence and circle him away just so he wouldn’t try to take off, a few times I even trotted him in and brought him to a complete halt in front of the trot poles just so he would start to realise that rushing wasn’t the answer.
Tip:Keep their minds thinking all the time, if you are jumping and feel that your horse is anticipating the fences, or beginning to rush off on you, change the exercise for 5 minutes, do 2-3 20 meter circles in trot and get them listening to you again before approaching the fencesagain.
As we continued on, towards the end of the session he started to veer towards the right of the second fence as it was turned into a spread with a bit more height on it, so we placed V poles up to assist him with his straightness, it helped but needless to say he started to jump the fence a foot higher than it already was!!
Finishing up, we set up a single fence in the center of the arena with a canter pole before it, this was more so to assist myself in holding him right up until the last stride. At the moment with Dante I don’t really need to get into a full blown jumping position, regardless of the height of the fence sitting still and quiet seems to be the best way for him while jumping, if i start to do anything else like throw myself forward into any sort of exaggerated jumping position he turns into slush and starts to fall all over the place!
I myself have a lot to work on with my jumping, remembering to sit up tall in between fences is a major one and trying not to drop the contact whilst holding him into fences, With him being a baby, and still quite unbalanced & green I can really see how much he relies on me for certain things!
Besides everything. Dante has really come along in his jumping, I am delighted with him and his progress!
It was a lesson I really needed, as I felt I kind of got nervous on him when I tried to jump him by myself, partly because I really didn’t have much direction and I didn’t want to do anything to set him back a few steps. It is safe to say my confidence levels are back up, I am finally getting used to his new set of quirks now that there are fences involved!!
Over the weekend, I set up few fences for us, and to say we both enjoyed it was an understatement, have a look below!
Hope you enjoyed! I will definitely be keeping you all up to date on our jumping, head over to our Instagram account for even more videos & pics!!
For my third lesson with Sue Byrne I decided to mix it up a little bit…I brought Coco to Darielle’s yard. It was our first time doing a schooling session outside of home and it was definitely an experience…
A New Environment
Monday of the June bank holiday and it was lashing rain all afternoon. There was a show on at my own yard which I had been at since early afternoon so I was already pretty soaked before I’d even left my yard. I loaded Coco up and we headed over to meet Sue & Darielle who had just finished a lesson with Dante.
As soon as we arrived and I unloaded Coco, she was already sceptical about her surroundings. She had a look around, taking in her new surroundings, smells and sounds which is absolutely what I expected. I quickly tacked her up and began the walk up to the arena…this was not an easy walk. The whole way there she was looking at EVERYTHING. She spooked about 3 or 4 times, with me quickly moving out of her way each time for fear of being flattened! We eventually got to the arena and I hand walked her around the track a few times so she could check out the bushes, the corners and the signs on the fence. I did this until she began to relax which she did(thankfully). And so it was time to mount up…
Before I go any further there’s one thing I feel you should know about Coco, something I have come to learn after 8 months with her: that which is not scary when I’m on the ground beside her can suddenly become the scariest thing in the world once I’m on her back. So I mounted up and of course everything became uber scary all over again. Now, it didn’t help that just as I started my lesson, someone decided to go into the trees in one of the corners and start chopping wood.(It’s actually amazing how many different sounds can come from chopping wood!) It also didn’t help that one of the dogs from the yard decided to bolt into the arena! And it reeeeally didn’t help that the rain started to get worse! BUT…these kind of new experiences is exactly what Coco needs to learn and grow so on we went with the lesson.
Dealing with a spooky youngster:
Throughout the lesson Coco spooked at a lot of different things but there were two corners where she was adamant there was something trying to kill her. The corner with the man chopping wood and the corner with all the bushes.
We approached the corner with all the bushes first and at the first sign of spooking I straight away kicked her on and gave a lil“GEET ON” to show her that I was not going to tolerate this sh*t. She walked on and I believed the battle of this corner was won.
On to the wood chopping corner which was just a nightmare. She wouldn’t even get within 10 metres of this corner. I brought her around on a circle a few times and each time she spooked away until Sue had the genius idea of walking over to the corner. Once Coco saw that Sue was there she walked over, hesitantly, but she walked over and into the corner with Sue leading the way. It was one of those moment that really reminded me that she is still such a baby(I think I even said that to Sue at the time). I really take for granted how good she is for a 4 year old.
One massively helpful tip Sue gave me when dealing with a spooky corner is to bend her head to the inside so she can’t look at what’s spooking her. This has been a god send, however doing this and keeping her straight was no easy feat. Because she was spooking, her hind end would swing out so I would have to keep a really strong inside leg to make sure she didn’t just run to the inside through her shoulder.
Eventually we got to the point where we could do a few laps of canter past the corner and she would pretty much ride past it without the dramatics. At the start any time she got to that end of the school she would get very short and bunny-hoppy and try to nap to the gate but with some serious pushing on my end I was always able to push her forward. At some point the chopping stopped so we were able to relax and not worry about that anymore(THANK GOD!).
Next, Coco started spooking at the bushes corner again(it obviously offended her at some point while she was dealing with the other corner). Again we used the method of bending her head to the inside which did work but it was hard to keep up so we decided not to dwell on this too much. A lot of the time the best way of dealing with Coco’s spookiness is to take her mind off it with some poles or even better JUMPING!
Sue put up a small upright with a trot pole before it so I brought her into that and she jumped it nicely. Where the jump was placed meant I had to ride into it from the corner with the bushes so I had to do my best to make sure she had a decent approach. This sometimes meant I had to turn for the jump a bit sooner than usual but generally it worked out.
Letting Coco figure the jump out for herself
We removed the trot pole and started cantering into the fence and as we got into it, Sue pointed out that I had a tendency to pull Coco back just before the fence. This was my reaction to her picking up the pace before the jump and me trying to place her so I had to force myself to stop this and let her figure the jump out for herself. When I did this it resulted in a flatter jump but it meant Coco had to figure out the stride without me which would make her a smarter jumper in the long run.
When the fear took over…
We started jumping the upright from the other direction and for some reason she just would not jump it. There was something freaking her out from this side so when I brought her into the fence she started drifting out to avoid jumping. I asked her to jump it 3 times and she refused every time. Eventually I realised I needed to get tough so I brought her into the fence, she was all over the place trying to avoid jumping but I kept my leg on and gave a bit of a shout to drive her over the fence and she finally jumped it! I gave her a big pat and a well done when we landed and brought her straight back into it. This time there was no holding her back..she launched herself into the jump clearly with new found confidence.
As the lesson got on we tried her over a few different fences. One was a jump on the diagonal with a filler under it. I was expecting her to take a look at the very least but she didn’t bat an eyelid. She bombed herself over it which I was delighted with. She is seemingly a brave horse where it counts! Eventually we created a course of 4 fences. I did it a number of times as a way of testing how Coco jumps best. We tried 3 different methods…
We did this the first time we jumped and it wasn’t our best round. I set Coco up in a nice rhythm and ensured my leg was always on but not pushing for a stride– and that was it. She didn’t meet the jumps very well and got quite flat into some of them so we decided to try something different.
Moving her up and creating a fast pace
Next we tried the round at a faster pace. I moved Coco up and created some more energy into the fences while still letting her figure the jumps out for herself. We pretty much demolished the course!
Holding to the Fence
The last time we did it, I tried picking her up and holding Coco to the fence. The difference in her jump was incredible. She used herself properly and lifted her back legs clean over the fences whereas before she was dropping her hind legs and“jumping with her fifth leg” as Sue called it! So this is definitely how I need to ride Coco around a course.
One thing that I found from jumping our first course was that Coco is a bit of a drifter. Every time I landed after the second last fence and made my way way around to the last jump she would drift through her outside shoulder and start bunny-hopping away..almost as if my outside leg just didn’t exist! I never once made it from the second last fence to the last, one straight after the other. I always needed to circle her back around. So this is something we definitely need to work on.
To wrap up, this was definitely the toughest lesson I’ve ever had with Coco but it was also the best. Coco was such a challenge but it just meant when she did something right it was so rewarding. I really got a glimpse of the talent she has and I also realised that I still have the determination I need to handle my youngster and push her to where she needs to be.
What to work on for next time:
Set up course of poles with tight turns to try and tackle her drifting
Coco’s canter transitions are still quite bad so I need to put more focus on fixing this issue
I need to plan more schooling session or just days out of the yard so Coco can get used to being in new surroundings and seeing that she’s not going to die!
Thank you to Darielle for standing in the rain and getting some videos for me! We were all well and truly drenched by the end of the day!!
Hope you enjoyed reading about my most recent lesson with Coco. It seems we’re just getting started!