Top 5 Flatwork Exercises that Everyone Must Do!

Flatwork by far is one of the most important things to focus on with any horse young or old. It’s benefits are not only rewarding, but with a good Flatwork foundation you will in turn see massive improvements in your jumping.

Check out some of my go to exercises hat I have been focusing on the last few weeks, while there are adjusted to Dante & his ways, I am sure you will all find something to add to your Flatwork routines!

Bend Left, Bend Right

Having a big horse can have its hardships & challenges. Getting them to be supple even to do it whilst being relaxed is tough. Then try move on to bending them correctly, or flexing those neck muscles, this is where you come into difficulties especially if they are not used to it. But I have learned a way to help loosen Dante out, and this short yet effective exercise really helps me out before I start any jumping.

Exercise: After a good warm up, I let Dante have a 5 minute stretch on a long rein. When gathering up my reins to go back into work, I make sure both reins are even. Remaining in walk I bring Dante to the left circling him back to the right & I continue this pattern until he is accepting the contact and turning with a slight feel of the rein. Be sure to maintain a even contact on both reins, using your hips and body movements to back up your aids. It is all about backing everything with your legs also. In the long run I eventually will hopefully be able to do this with the pressure of my legs rather than using my reins as direction pointers.

Push On the Long, Hold on The Short

This is by far one of my most feared exercises. But one that has a fantastic effect on Dante. With him being so big and floppy he finds it hard to hold himself together. This exercise is brilliant to help him maintain his balance, & it really helps him grow his topline.

I will warn you, doing this with a horse for the first time be sure to remember to grip with your lower legs, this will help you keep your balance. To ride this, you are basically using the long sides of your arena to push & lenghten out your horses canter, using the short sides of the arena to shorten & really focus on collecting your canter.

Your legs will feel this exercise for sure as will your hips! Try using the motion of your hips to push your horse forward, you really want to be able to use this when you are jumping a round of fences, being able to push your horse for the longer stride is something we all want to do, as well as having to sit back and hold your horse for the shorter stride without your horse falling into canter.

One downside, your horse will take time to adjust to this exercise. They are clever animals, they will start to anticipate the exercise by remembering. So keep the exercise frequent enough that you can start to see the difference. I tend to keep this as an exercise I do in my jumping warm ups its helps get that extra bit of fizz out too!

Leg Yield – Lateral Work

Something I thought I would never have the patience for, let alone a horse that would actually cooperate with me to do it. I now finally understand the art of lateral work & the magic that it can create when you really begin to incorporate it into your weekly flatwork sessions.

We have started off simple with Dante. We have almost nearly mastered this in the walk, & only dabble in doing some lateral work in trot always trying to finish him when he does it correctly. I find this a great exercise to do toward the end of my flatwork sessions, as he is already loose & moving forward, I find it easier to get him soft & collected. Other times though, I use this exercise at the beginning of my sessions to get him to soften slightly, it depends on his moods!

How I Ride this: Starting in walk, from A in your arena i come in 1/2 meters from the outside track. The main thing is to keep riding Dante straight before I start asking him to do anything. Once I am happy I then begin to ask Dante to move over on to the outside track. Making sure Dante has his neck flexed away from the track, you should always be able to see your horses eye, I then open out my outside rein using my inside leg to push him over. Always make sure not to drop the contact on you inside rein as you need this to keep your contact. I have been using my schooling whip to reinforce my aids. When your horse reaches the outside track the most important thing to remember is to ride your horse straight! What i normally do is push Dante forward into trot remaining in that contact for a few strides once he is straight on the track.

20 Meter Circles – Push in, Push Out

Canter work can be boring, there are only so many times you can do those laps around the arena before you tend to get quite fed up. So instead of aimlessly cantering around your arena how about we add in some lateral work to your canter circles.

This is a great exercise to do, it also helps with getting your horse moving away from your leg. I do this exercise in trot to begin with then I move it up into canter.

Exercise: A good starting point to really open your eyes to this exercise is to place an object in the middle of your 20 meter circle, this can be a cone, a mounting block or your instructor! Start by riding your 20 meter circle, once you pass your starting point start using your outside leg to push your horse in toward the object you have placed in the middle, keeping on your circle, then begin to use you inside leg to start pushing your horse back out on your original circle. Remember to keep an even contact, try using your legs to do all the work with your reins as a back up. And the most important thing to remember, you should always be able to see the white of your horses eye as they bend & flex in around your leg.

Start Walking

Start Walking. Who would of thought it, how important can your horses walk be? Well trust me it is an important one. How else are you going to get good marks in your dressage test ehh!! It is a gait that is always forgotten, but I love focusing on Dante’s walk. This may be because this is the hardest one to get a steady rhythm in.

At the beginning of almost all of our riding sessions, Dante does this little skip & a hop out of slight protest against walking forward. He finds it hard to hold a contact a gather himself in an outline in walk, which worries me but also challenges me. I have learned that if I focus in our walking half way through our flatwork session or at the end I get a much better reaction.

While I focus on keeping Dante held together, I also do a lot of walk to halt transitions, using my legs & seat to push him forward. Focusing on your own position at this time is also vital. your seat in walk should be the same in all other gaits, so I take those 5-10 minutes to focus on keeping my shoulders back, my heels down and my leg positioned correctly just behind the girth. The say your muscles have great memory, & I feel like practicing in walk is one least liable to end in an accident!


Now that you have my 5 go to flatwork exercises, try piecing them together in one of your training sessions & you will have yourself a hardcore workout plan with some amazing results.

I pick days at the start of the week & the end to really focus on my flatwork, keeping things fun & exciting in between with field hacks & some jumping lessons. There is also no harm in ending any of your flatwork exercises with a small jump. If your horse loves jumping, it will certainly leave them on a good note doing something they love, who knows they may even start to think that if they perform their flatwork well they will be rewarded with that jump at the end of their session!

If you give any of the above a go, be sure to tag us in any videos, or if you have any go to flatwork exercises, be sure to write them in the comments below, I am becoming ever so fond of learning new flatwork techniques!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

Grill the Equestrian – Mark Kane, Equine Dentist

We’re back with another edition of our Grill the Equestrian series. Earlier this month we booked our trusty equine dentist Mark Kane to come out and give the troublesome twosome their 6 month check-up. We’ve both used a few dentists in the time that we’ve had Coco and Dante and we can honestly say that Mark has been the best by far, so we figured it was about time we gave him a grilling! From wolf teeth to difficult horses, we’ve got the dish on what it’s really like spending your days with your arms half way down a horse’s throat!


What made you decide to become an equine dentist?

I wouldn’t say I was sure I wanted to be an Equine Dentist straight away but what I was 100 percent sure of was that I wanted to work with horses. Unfortunately I wasn’t book smart enough for veterinary and my older brother Patrick was already a farrier ( a job I was way too tall for anyway ) so the rest kind of figured itself out

What kind of training is involved to get qualified? What’s the process?

There’s all sorts of different schools/courses with different training methods all over the world I flew to America and studied in the American School of Equine Dentistry, we travelled from farm to farm and ranch to ranch and it was a wonderful hands on experience. Dr. Raymond Hyde and Jim Koostra are both fantastic dentists and teachers.

What is your favourite part of the job?
Castle Lux Clover, competing at this year’s RDS Dublin Horse Show!

This is a toughie!! I love watching horses who I’ve worked on be successful in their respective fields. I’ve watched horses win championship races at Cheltenham and horses win classes at the RDS, but I think what I love most is treating a horse who isn’t in good shape dental wise, knowing that immediately after I close their mouth and walk away, they’re feeling 100 percent happier.

What is the hardest part of your job?

It used to be getting paid but after a few years of business I’ve smartened up to that! It can be hard juggling clientele sometimes, some people need you in a hurry for one reason or other, and even though you want to keep everyone happy, at the end of the day you’re running a business and it doesn’t pay to drive to Cavan on a Monday to treat one horse when you’re due there on Friday anyway, but I must say, all my clients now are very understanding like that.

What’s the worst thing that has happened to you when dealing with a difficult horse?

I’ve had plenty of bangs, kicks and bites, comes with the territory. One day I was working on a big 4yo sports horse in Kildare, he was nervous but we were getting along fine. Someone dropped a wheelbarrow outside the stable next to him and it made a loud bang, the horse spooked and caught me in the head with a front foot, thankfully he had no shoes on but I was pretty sore and dazed and that was the end of my work day.

What is one of the most interesting things you’ve learned?

I’ve learned that you can’t MAKE a horse do anything, they are half tonne animals and they’re an awful lot stronger than I am. Sure you can be assertive and show the horse you won’t be pushed around but fighting with a horse, there is only going to be one winner. I find talking nicely and whistling at them helps keep them calm! Works on my other half at home too 😀 😀

What is one of the most common issues you see in the horses you treat? 
Sharp points!!

Plain old sharp points!! Due to the fact horses teeth grow at a consistent and constant level and the upper arcades of teeth overhang the lower, this leads to the upper rows growing sharp points on the buccal (outside ) side of the teeth and the lower rows getting sharp on the lingual (inside) side of the teeth. The first thing most dental techs will do to balance a mouth will be to remove these points.

What would be your top tip for horse owners?

My top tip for horse owners is routine. Every horse needs to be treated a MINIMUM of once a year, if your dental tech recommends every 6 months then it’s essential to follow their instruction. If a horse is having proper dental treatment regularly there should never be an issue 

What kind of behaviours should owners look out for that indicate a visit from the dentist may be required? Are there any behaviours that wouldn’t necessarily indicate a tooth issue?

Head tossing, refusing to accept bit, dropping feed, pulling, there is any amount of signs, but again like above, if everything is treated in routine there should never be a real issue. Sadly sometimes by the time a tough bugger of a horse shows you something is wrong, something could be VERY very wrong. Biting! I have had calls to look at horses teeth because they keep biting their owners but I think that’s a very different issue 😀

Wolf Teeth! What is the story with them and what should owners look out for?

Wolf teeth operate very similarly to wisdom teeth in humans. They are useless and can cause bitting problems, they would have been used for fighting in the past but have become obsolete. Some wolf teeth cause no problems but most owners choose to have them removed as a matter of precaution, other times horses will react violently to a bit when wolf teeth are present. Interestingly I have seen an increase in “blind” wolf teeth (teeth that are present but have failed to grow through the gum), these can be extremely painful and I can only put the rise of these cases down to evolution.

What are the consequences of a bad dentist job? Can this cause other physical problems with your horse?

A bad dentist job can have all sorts of consequences, sometimes enough work isn’t done and issues like sharp points, waves, hooks , ridges, are just ignored which puts pressure on a horses TMJ joint. Other times far too much is done, over rounding of the horses chewing surface (called doming) making it difficult for them to break down their food or in extreme cases even killing the tooth.

Would you have any recommendations for helping owners figure out what size/kind of bit they should use with their horse?

I always advise to start off with a plain snaffle, simpler the better, and work your way up as you need to. Its easy to notice a bit too large as it’ll be sliding everywhere in their mouth, but too small a bit will pinch their cheeks causing painful lesions so watch out for those.

Do you think you’d be cut out to do dentistry in humans or do you prefer working with patients who can’t speak back?

100 percent not 😀 if a horse kicks or bites me I can curse at them in retaliation, that wouldn’t go down well in a human dentists office 😀

Lastly, and it may be a stupid question, but should we as horse owners be brushing our horse’s teeth? 

No that’s not necessary, just make sure your dental tech brushes them for you at least once a year 😀


And there you have the ins and outs of being an equine dentist. We’ll be honest, it’s not a job we’d fancy doing ourselves so we’re grateful to have Mark on-hand to make sure Coco and Dante are kept happy.

If you’re in the market for a new dentist, check out Mark’s facebook page: Mark Kane Equine Dentist. He’s based in Co. Meath but travels all around Ireland and also makes trips to the UK so be sure to get in touch.

Hope you all found this as interesting as we did!

Until next time,

Orla & Darielle

August Exercise – Attack Those Poles

It is safe to say that it has been quite some time since we posted an exercise for you guys to try out! With a lot of focus recently being put on our jumping, we have finally taken some time out to focus more on our pole work. This is mainly to focus on growing that hind end even more, and if you keep on reading transition work is still playing a huge part in our training schedule.

Keep scrolling to find out all about our “Attack Those Poles” exercise.

What Will you Need

To start you will like always need a fully cleared arena, or space in your field. You will need, 13 poles in total, then depending on if you wish to raise the poles, you will need cavalettis or as you can see from my picture I used potties to give them a slight raise!

For Dante I always do 4 & a half steps between regular trot poles, with 5 footsteps in between any raised poles. In between the split up trotting poles I walked out 13 and a half footsteps.

(This gave Dante 2 trot strides in between each set of trot poles)

As per the image below you will see how your arena should look when you are finished setting up.

What This Exercise Is Good For

  • Maintaining a Steady Rhythm
  • Perfecting upward & Downward transitions
  • Rider composure
  • Straightness
  • Building Your Horses Hind

Guide On How To Ride This Exercise

  • As always we recommend a good warm up for your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. This exercises has a lot of transition work involved, with a great mixture of Trotting & cantering.
  • I would recommend focusing on your 20metre circles, upward & downward transitions from trot to canter and again from canter to trot, you really want your horse moving from you leg, this will help set you & your horse up nicely before tackling this exercise.
  • To begin, start by tackling the exercise in sections. Start of with the diagram below, keep all your poles flat (not raised) so as to give your horse a chance to get properly acquainted with the poles. Don’t forget that if your horse is not used to this much pole work their muscles will fatigue a lot quicker.
  • Going diagonal to diagonal, go over the line of trot pole twice to three times on each rein. Remember you are focusing on keeping your horse straight, aiming for the centre of each trot pole, keeping your upper body still & hands quiet as you ride through. Your legs should be used to keep your horse moving forward and also used to stop your horse from drifting to the right or left of the center of the poles. Once you are happy with this you can then move on to the next stage.
  • It is now time to start thinking about your canter. You will see two canter poles placed across the opposite diagonal to your trot poles. Start by going through them once or twice of each rein to get the feel for the striding, I have walked out 2 strides in between each pole. You will also see that you have to canter between your two trot poles. This will help keep your horse straight and avoid them from drifting.
  • When you are happy with how your horse is working in the canter, then can you move to piecing the entire exercise together. See the image below.
  • Start by trotting over your poles, again, at this stage you can keep them all flat or you can begin to raise them depending on the horse. Once you are over your poles, at the Marked X on the diagram above, you then must transition into canter, cantering around to your canter poles across the diagonal. Keeping a smooth consistant canter here is key.
  • Once over the canter poles, when you reach your corner focus on transitioning down to trot. Again try to keep it as smooth as possible, not to interfere too much.
  • When you are happy with all of the above, you can then piece the entire exercise together. The flow is basically Trot poles, Canter, Canter Poles, Trot, Trot poles. It is all about the consistency in your rhythm whilst there are obstacles in the way, this should not effect the way you ride. See the image below as to how it should ride with the X’s marked as your points of transition.

I will advise, that this is quite a heavy exercise if you are doing it on a horse that is not used to such variety. I would recommend doing this exercise over 2 days as not to fatigue your horse. And trust me, Day 1 can be sloppy! It really opens your eyes to how much you move & adjust your body once you see an obstacle in the way when really you shouldn’t change anything at all.

Give it a go, & tag us in any videos that you take so I can see how you get on! I love watching everyone’s progress.

As always, thank you for reading, if you have any questions on this exercise be sure to drop us a DM!

Darielle

What Yard Personality Are You? 

With Orla being out with her injury over the past 8 weeks, it has definately given me more alone time to sit back & reflect & really take a look at the equestrian world, and the innuendos that surround it. With that in mind we have had encounters with a numerous amounts of different equestrians over the years…

Keep scrolling to have a read, share them & tag your friends! Guaranteed to give some of you a giggle, whilst some of you may sit back wondering if you are in fact one of the below in question….


The “Has more money than sense”

Also known as the “label snob”. Lets not all lie to ourselves here, we know every yard has one if not a flock of these floating around and quite frankly who doesn’t wish they had their bank account to go wild on all those posh fancy horsey brands? They can be mainly seen with matchy numnahs & fly veils, tack worth more than a small mortgage & clothing as expensive as that new car you wish you had! Always seen frolicking around in their €200+ pair of jodhpurs, but be warned you will be judged if you mention you got a pair on sale for under €30, like Eww, who wears cheap riding clothes anyways? 

The “ Blogger”

Well, how annoying are they! Come on, everyone thinks it!! These days every second Mary & Jo want to venture into the blogging scene, well it comes with a few consequences. If spotted around an equestrian blogger be prepared to turn into a professional photographer, videographer, personal assistant, groom…. the list goes on! Known for their use of common slang words slurring from their mouths 24/7 such as, take that again, stand at a different angle, follow our Insta with the ever so popular “Its for the blog” being one of the most annoying sentence finishers guaranteed to give people an eye roll. Once a blogger calms down & realises they are just as normal as the rest of us, they are often just normal down to earth people!

The “ Know it all”

Let’s just start this one by saying that google does not have the answers to everything…. Most “Know it all” equestrians can be seen with every single piece of experimental equestrian equipment because well google told them they needed it… Instead of listening to proper advice from the mythological creatures know as old school equestrians with years of experience & knowledge, they turn to apps, pretentious books & the world wide web to solve their problems. Can often be seen scattering & having episodes in the yard when google doesn’t turn out to be correct…. shock horror!! 

The “Momager”

The Kris Jenner of the equestrian world. Go to a show with a momager, and you won’t need to lift a finger. Anyone with a yard momager around should count their blessings, they come to shows they take videos, pictures, help tack your horse… some can even be seen on the sidelines of the dressage ring trotting out the test for you as you ride it. On the rare occasion you will see a manager go Crazy at fellow competitors, this is normal, if seen just ignore & walk away. Momager’s are a protective species & will do anything for their competition riders…. Do not cross a Momager! 

The “Wreck The Head”

Being in the horse world can have some consequences, it opens up the doors to some crazy, weird & wonderful personalities, some that you certainly won’t find down the aisle in your local Tesco! Have you ever gone to the yard or a show to be greeted by that one person who you spend hours trying to get away from? The mute button is non existent but to make things worse these equestrians are all “me,me,me”! They can be tough work but avoiding them makes it worse! They are spotted always lurking around scoping out that weak nice polite equestrian, but beware of these cling on’s, they can cause that essential horsey drama, my words of advice, be polite acknowledge them but never trust them!

The “Phantom Pooper”

The mystery of the yard shitter will always live on…. every yard has that same policy, the signs splattered everywhere, “pick up your poop” but every yard has that scatter brain that thinks they will get away with not having to poop & scoop. But be careful, as much as you think your getting away with it, EVERYONE knows who you are… your name is muttered anytime someone mentions poop. So just build that bridge, pick up the scoopey poopey and pick your shittttt! 

The “ Accident Prone Rider”

Rides that one time & ends up in hospital for 6 months…. Some people just don’t have luck on their side when it comes to horses, but then again some of these riders are dare devils who think they are invincible! These riders can mainly be found out at hunter trials, hunting, or basically trying to train their horse to fly on command! Always seen having the best craic in the yard, living life to the fullest, not the worst person to have on your team, A Guaranteed day full of lol’s, we all secretly wish we had some of their fearless thinking!

The “Horse Whisperer

Ever find yourself in that situation when your horse is just being a f*!kbag? Well, welcome to young horse world, your application has been successful! Make sure to source out the magic sorcery of the “man that rides horses for a living” when you move to a new yard, you will not turn back once you find this human. They can solve all problems, well horse related anyways! Some people wonder if they have the abilites of Dr. Doolittle, can they talk to animals? How do they get them to do good things? No one knows, no one asks questions, simply hand the horse over to be returned with a relatively back to normal horse hours or days later….

The “Worry Worm”

Well, the worry worm what can I say if you ever need a plaster they are the people that will pull out the worlds best & biggest first aid kit known to man. Be careful tho, one slight graze on their horses leg & expect the world to turn upside down. The vet will be called within minutes, the physio, the farrier you name it anything for their precious little darlings. Basically if they could wrap their horse up in bubble wrap they would! Yard owners beware, expect your phone to go off in the middle of the night with that “I had a dream something happened to my horse can you check on them & send me a pic please” text, don’t say you weren’t warned….!!


Well there you have it, And yes I know what your thinking is that one me? Well no, lets all sit back & embrace that we have all been one of the above at some stage in our equestrian lives, embrace it!

Without these personalities the equestrian world just wouldn’t be the same!

Thanks for reading, Share, comment & let me know what you think in the comments below, or if I have missed any core personalities! Better again, tag your friends to let them know there personalities have made the list!!

Darielle

Product Review – Eper-on Flex-on Spurs

The last few weeks or should I say months, you may have noticed my weird “boot attachments” in some of my riding videos or at shows. A lot of people have asked what they are, what they do, how they stay on & mostly where did I get them.

Keep reading to find out all about my Eper-On Flex-On Spurs! 

Flex On

A brand that I personally love, not only because of their stirrups, but because of the quality & sustainability they give you when you purchase an item from their range. The products in my opinion are build to last, whilst you think you may be paying above average compared to other brands, you soon learn that your money is being well spent when you still have a an almost brand new product 2-3 years after purchase!

What are Eper-on Flex-on Spurs?

The Eper-on from Flex-on is a new revolutionary concept for spurs which combines flexibility, fast fitting, customization and comfort. The futuristic design, allied with an innovative fixation system and a choice of technical material enables the spurs to adapt perfectly to your boots for that second skin feeling.

The Need to Knows …

Firstly they come with a gorgeous storage bag, something that a lot of equestrian products dont have. This really impressed me.

They come with a choice of 3 interchangeable spur heads (if you purchase online you get the choice of 4 spur head types, rounded, Hammer Head, Prince of Wales or round Wheel Head) ) the standard shop model comes with 2 ball end tips (15mm). On the back of the spur there are 3 different spur position holes, this I found to be very useful. It meant that I could position the spur head to where I wanted it. It also meant that mid ride if I needed to remove the spur I could just take out the spur head instead of removing the entire spur itself. You simply insert the spur in and twist it clockwise to keep it in place.

Available to Buy From: I purchased my Eper-on Flex-on Spurs from TRI Equestrian in the Curragh, I luckily managed to get them on sale, I am a magpie for bargains, & once I seen the bright colour green I was sold straight away!! Unfortunately for me only last week when I was cleaning them, I checked the sizes out & one is a medium & one is a small. So do keep an eye on this, or get a staff member to check. They are also available to buy online from their website & they come in an array of different colours.

Price: From researching different websites the price really seems to vary from €65 up to €113 this comes down to the different types of customization. I was lucky enough to purchase mine on sale for €35 so do keep an eye out at those peak sale times through out the year.

Cleaning:There is not much fault in the cleaning process to these spurs. A quick hose down & a wipe of the sponge, & they are back to looking brand new.

How to apply them

I struggled with this at the beginning. But now that I know how to apply them, they are quite genius. They click in over your riding boot heel, with either side of the spur sliding under to keep them in place. The main thing to remember about these & the main thing to keep them in place is to make sure the spur is over the heel of your boot, this is the secret to keeping them securely on!  

Once I figured out the correct way to apply them, they haven’t moved & it made me fall in love with them even more. See below a great video on the product that shows you how to apply & how to measure the Eper-on by flex-on Spur correctly onto your riding boot.

Compared to Regular Spurs: Regular spurs, annoyed me to be brutally honest & these well they looked complicated but once I properly read up on how to apply them to my boot they were the dream. There was no more messing with straps or adjusting sizes, these Eper-on Spurs simply slid on my boot & slid right off when I needed to take them off. 

My thoughts on The Product

At first, I will admit I was sceptical. I hadn’t heard or seen of anyone wearing or using Eper-on Flex-on Spurs before, so I had to figure them out for myself. Being the proud woman that I am, of course when I realised the box didn’t come with any instructions, I had no other choice but to play around with them trying to figure out how to apply them for myself.

Only within the last few weeks have I finally gotten to grips with how I was supposed to use them correctly and honestly I dont think I will ever go back to a normal spur again.


So to conclude, while these spurs do take a few days to get used to, more so of the fact that you almost feel as if your not wearing them at all when they are on, I would personally highly recommend them.

I would like to point out the fact that you should always check the spurs sizes before purchase to save yourself from running into the issue I had!

If you have any further questions about the Eper-on Flex-on spurs, drop me a comment & I will help you as best I can.

As always, thanks for reading,

Darielle

How Important Your Position is In The Saddle ft. Wild Atlantic Rider & Smyth Breaking & Schooling

From Owning a young, unpredictable & unreliable horse there are some things that automatically go out the window. Your money being one & my riding position to be in at a close 2nd. Adjusting your body to survive some of the plunges, bucks or rears your young horse puts in at the beginning of their riding career can have a massive effect on your riding position.  

As the years have crept by, both Dante & Coco no longer belong in that “young Horse” category anymore, so I think its safe to say all of our excuses are well & truly out the window! While It is hard to let go of that small excuse it is an eye opener to see how much a young horse can damage your so called “perfect” riding position. The habits you pick up can be brutally painful to reverse. 

Drooped shoulders, which in turn puts my legs into a bad position not to mention my hands!

Step in one of my newly appointed instructors Anne Hatton. I have began doing lessons with her after seeing a great success rate in Orla, lets just say I am thrilled. It has been very refreshing to hear the focus in our lessons being put on me & not on my horse. From this. I realised how many bad habits I have picked up from the fear of Dante’s bad behaviour in the past, adjusting my ways of riding to suit him without realising, but now I am realising that my bad habits are nearly effecting us moving forward.

My position, This is something I struggle with BIG TIME. I have been focusing more on myself these last few weeks, I even took up Pilates in a hope to strengthen my core! We thought it would be a great idea to reach out to some of our fellow bloggers/equestrians & ask them their weaknesses, their tips & most importantly how do they maintain that “perfect” position?

Keep scrolling to see what they have to say! 

What are your tips for maintaining a good position in the saddle?

Amy & Katie – Smyth Breaking & Schooling

Smyth Breaking & Schooling – Amy: I find getting someone to video when I’m on the horse is the best way. Then I can pick up on any faults and work on them, while also getting someone else’s view. Practice, Practice, Practice!! Katie: my tips for maintaining a good position in the saddle is the allow your body to be supple and to move with the horse. You have to think of your hips down belonging to the horse whilst from your hips up belong to you. This means that you are allowing you horse to move under you while keeping your upper body in a quiet and still position. This has helped me mainly for canter work and especially trot work. 

Wild Atlantic Rider: There are many tips for checking your position but for me it’s really important to be self aware. I try to speak to myself when I’m riding the same way I would if I were teaching. I also believe in taking what you learn from your training sessions and actively working on them. We spend so much money on training and lessons, but unless you can take those tips and advice home and consciously implement them you’ll continue to slip into bad habits and will find it hard to improve and progress. 

Do you have any bad habits in either your flatwork or jumping position? If so, what have been your go-to techniques to get rid of them?

Smyth Breaking & Schooling – Amy: At the moment, I’m a terror for letting my reins get loose as I jump with one of the horses. You’ll sometimes hear me going round the course saying “shorten your reins”! I have a point on my martingale that I try to keep my hands above that point to work on improving this bad habit. 

Amy Smyth on Sully at Mullingar Equestrian Center

Katie: My bad habit in flatwork used to be that I relied on my outside to ‘pull’ the horse out more so than push them out with my leg. I’ve overcome this habit by carrying a short whip horizontally and holding it with my thumbs,  as that allowed me to be more aware of where my hands where and what I was doing with them. Leg yielding on both reins with my horses has got me to use my leg more. Circles were a great exercise to do whilst straightening my habit out. I was more aware of my outside Rein and had to use my leg more to get a better, more balanced circle. By working on my bad habit and constantly correcting myself every time I felt myself going back to using my outside rein, I have now buried that habit.

Catherine on her horse Giselle

Wild Atlantic Rider : With Flatwork – my biggest thing was focusing too much on the outline instead of getting my mare, Giselle, more forward off my leg. This was causing me to be too “handsy.” Last April I was lucky enough to have a lesson with Judy Reynolds who really got after me to ride her forward and getting a reaction, while keeping the outline – it was harder than it should have been!! This is something my dressage trainer has said to be before, but From that lesson I have focused on the feeling we achieved that day, that Giselle should feel like she’s pulling me forward into the contact. When it comes to Jumping – Giselle loves her jumping, and it can be very easy to let her take over sometimes. However, if I don’t keep a good forward rhythm in my canter I feel my lower leg can get loose. My heels come up a bit and my toes stick out. So for me, the biggest thing is to ensure that your horse is taking you forward and keeping a good rhythm in your canter so you can sit still and move forward and sit back when you need to. When the spokes start to come off the wheels, that’s when your position goes out the door!

Wild Atlantic Rider Top Tips: – Grid-work, put a few bounces and a line a jumps in front of you and you have no choice but to learn to sit still, keep in balance and keep your weight in your heel.And you cannot underestimate the power of working with no stirrups – for both disciplines. Riding off your seat, strengthening your core and improving your balance will help on all fronts.

Do you do anything out of the saddle to help with your work in the saddle? 

Katie of Smyth Breaking & Schooling

Smyth Breaking & Schooling Amy: I do yoga/Pilates to work on my core & balance. Then go for walks/runs to maintain a level of fitness. Everyone works on their horses fitness but a lot of riders forget about their own. Katie: Fitness is key. I keep myself fit so when I’m out competing I can hold my own position (esp out cross country)  and I can stay alert and focused for quick decision making out on course. By staying active during the day and keeping to a somewhat healthy diet this allows me to be on form for the horses.

Wild Atlantic Rider: At the moment, I don’t do enough! But anything that will improve and increase your own fitness level is a bonus. I used to swim a lot, I found that helped as it’s a lot easier on your joints, while making you use every muscle in your body!


Orla’s journey with her position…

Before my recent fall, I had been putting A LOT of effort into sorting out my riding position. There were a number of elements of my position that were really bothering me – my hands, my shoulders and my lower leg – and I knew they were having an impact on Coco’s way of going so I needed to do something to fix them. For so long, the focus was always on jumping so it wasn’t until I started my lessons with Ann that I suddenly had someone shouting at me nearly every step, “Look up!” “Don’t get handsy!” “Shoulders back”. And I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was literally every step. So I knuckled down and on Ann’s orders, I started taking a minimum 10 minutes of every riding session to just focus on me and forget about Coco. In those 10 minutes I decided to try something that was recommended by one of our followers on Instagram.

Not perfect, but definitely an improvement!

I noticed that the issue with my hands was actually coming from my elbows. They were too ridged and were causing my hands to move with my whole body when riding.

Orla’s Riding Tip: So to get a feel for how much my elbows needed to open and close,I pulled the saddle straps out from my numnah and tucked my baby fingers into them. By doing this my hands were stopped from wandering with the rest of my body, my reins stopped slipping through my fingers and I could get a real feel for how much my elbows should be opening in the trot.

I did this every riding session for a week and in that one week, my instructor could see the difference in my position. It was funny too, as once my hands were positioned correctly, the rest of my position came together and Coco became much more forward going. It’s like it all just clicked into place. I’m hoping that once I’m ready to get back into the saddle it won’t be like starting from scratch and I’ll still remember everything I had learned but only time will tell!


When I focus less on Dante’s “head” and more on sitting up tall, The rest of my position tends to fall into place!

Your riding position at the end of the day will be what you put into correcting it. There will be some horses that you ride that you will have to tweak certain aspects of your position to suit the horse, or some horses will quickly tell you how not to ride with their reactions. I find that riding different horses from time to time really is an eye opener to the way you move in the saddle & it gives you great feedback on what you should be focusing on.

Have you any specific tips or tricks that you swear by when it comes to improvimg your position in the saddle?

Recently I have come across a lot of Equestrian Biomechanics exercises that I know I will definately be giving a go to strengthen up some of my weaker riding habits.

As Always, thank you for reading & a massive thank you to Amy & Katie from Smyth Breaking & Schooling and to Catherine from Wild Atlantic Rider for your input on the topic. Be sure to head over to their socials & give them a follow!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

The Coco Chronicles ~ Here we go again…

Horses are great levellers…one minute you’re sky high, the next you’re flat on your back.

My Instructor after my 3rd fall of 2019

…and ain’t that the truth! So there I was, doing a jumping lesson just one week after Coco and I absolutely bossed the AIRC Riding Club festival in Mullingar – check out my blogpost all about it – and we were feeling as good and confident as ever. The lesson was part of a clinic being run at our yard with my usual instructor so there was a nice tricky little course set up for the occasion, complete with combinations and fillers.

The amount of air she gave that puny little water tray is ridic…

The lesson started like all our lessons, a quick walk, trot, canter warm up, some flatwork to get the horses engaged and listening and then onto jumping. We schooled over every jump a few times which I was grateful for as I was slightly concerned about the little water tray underneath one of the jumps. When it came to jumping it Coco gave it a good hard look as she leapt over it leaving plenty of room to spare. I was actually thrilled with how she handled it to be honest..yes she had a look but she stilled jumped it first time! In the past she’d refuse first time and then jump it the next time so I was delighted to see the progress we had made..we had real confidence in each other. We jumped it a few more times just to get the wiggles out and after a while she didn’t even look twice. So on we went with the lesson as we gradually started piecing the whole course together. I was feeling great with how Coco was jumping and she felt like she was having fun.

So effortless and loving every second

It was time to jump the full course and my instructor put the jumps up another two holes so this was a nice 90/95cm course. The first half felt so easy, we just sailed through it. As we got into the second half, this is where things started going slightly pear-shaped. Coco was getting tired and I could feel that so I slightly reverted back to my old ways of throwing her into fences which resulted in a few off strides..BUT this is what these lessons are for. You make mistakes, you learn from them, you try again and do your best to get it right the next time. So I gave us a minute to get our shit together and we started again from the second half of the course. We were ok through the combination, definitely better than the first time so I continued on to the related distance which had the water tray. I brought us back to our calm, steady rhythm and Coco jumped beautifully into the first jump – 1, 2, 3 strides (with a slight drift to the left which wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary for her) and BAM..Coco decided to dip out to the left of the water tray.

Big bold head on her…delighted with herself she was

My balance was completely gone as I fell over her right shoulder and my right foot held in the stirrup for just that bit too long as I tumbled down to the ground. As soon as I landed I knew I had done something to my ankle. I had hoped it was just a bit of a sprain but the pain wouldn’t subside so unfortunately we had to call it a day. I was raging I couldn’t get back up and get her over that jump at least once..I HATE ending on a bad note but there was nothing I could do. I hobbled back to the yard, using the boyfriend I had dragged to take videos (thank god!!) as a crutch. I got my boot off and started cold hosing my ankle all the while telling my instructor, “Ill be grand. I should be fine to do the lesson on Wednesday”. Little did I know that I had just landed myself with an avulsion fracture of the cuboid bone in my foot. Which is basically when the tendons and ligaments attached to a bone, pull a piece of bone off the bone (wow there’s a lot of bone in that sentence..bone. Bone. BONE).

So it’s been three weeks since all this happened. So far I’ve spent it building a solid case of cabin fever as my foot is stuck in a boot which means I can’t drive or ride (shocking). Coco in the meantime has been put out to the field for a holiday while I’m left hobbling around on crutches. I had my two week visit to the consultant on Monday so I’ve been told it’s going to be about 3 – 4 weeks until everything’s healed and I’ll need another 2 weeks or so before I can ride so it looks like I’m out of the saddle until the middle of frickin AUGUST #nocraic. I’m devising a plan of what to do with Coco when its time to get back to work so I’ll do up a little blogpost once I’ve got more details decided.

And that is all I have for you today so I’ll leave you with the below video of the fall. It’s not the most exciting video as you miss the actual landing but it is funny hearing everyone’s reactions.

I’m starting to laugh at it now…just a little bit

As always, thanks for reading

Orla

Coco’s AIRC RC Festival Rundown – The Hard Work Pays Off!

Where do I even begin? It’s been a few weeks now since we ventured to our first ever away show to Mullingar Equestrian and I still can’t get over what an experience it was. Darielle gave a great overview of what the facilities were like in her blogpost and the whirlwind of getting there and getting the horses settled etc. so I won’t go into too much detail on that side of things. To be honest, the only thing I want to talk about from the show is Coco and how damn proud I am of the two of us for what we achieved.


When the schedule of competitions first came out for the AIRC Riding Club Festival, I knew instantly what competitions I wanted to do – the AP Team Showjumping on the Saturday and the AP Individual Showjumping on the Sunday. Getting a team together for the teams competition turned out easier than expected as there were other members of my riding club, Abbeylands RC, who were looking to form a team so I was in there like a shot! With entries, stabling and accommodation booked it was time to start preparing myself and Coco for our first competition since our last diabolical outing to Coilog at the end of the riding club showjumping league. This was the competition where I rode like a donkey and Coco refused twice – we managed to finish the round but it was by far the worst we’d ever done in competition. So with that as my last competition, I knew I needed to knuckle down and get some good training in if I wanted to not make a fool of myself.

The Prep

After Coilog, I was quite disappointed in myself and how I rode (but at the same time also feeling proud for managing to finish the round as I was genuinely seconds from giving up and calling it a day). Up to that point, we had had a few weeks of competing and I was looking forward to some quieter weekends taking it easy, with no lessons or particular focus in my riding. It was nice to take the break, I think we all need it from time to time. But with the Riding Club festival looming, it was time to get my ass in gear and start getting myself and Coco ready for a weekend of jumping and so enter my brilliant instructor…Ann Hatton.

Doesn’t seem that big but those fillers freaked me out!

I started with a private lesson in Ann’s own yard to brush off the cobwebs and get my jumping legs back. It was incredible how rusty I had gotten and how much my confidence had been knocked by our last outing. Ann doesn’t take it easy though and by the end she had us back jumping a fairly decent sized oxer which sent shivers down my spine as I rode Coco into it. We ended better than we had started but there was still a lot to work on.

A few weeks later we were confidently jumping bigger fences

After that, I made a point of doing a lesson with Ann once a week to keep us progressing and to get me back to riding Coco the way she needs to be ridden and not panic riding into fences. It was the best thing I could have done. Week by week, we got better and better and by the last lesson before the festival, it really felt like me and Coco had become partners. I felt confident and ready and so did Coco…

Day 1 – AP Team Showjumping

For those who don’t know – AP stands for Advance Primary which is the level I’m registered at for Riding Club competitions. Showjumping at AP level is all 80cms with little or no fillers (although they can throw some sneaky ones in at particular venues). All AP showjumping competitions are judged on Optimum Time which means there is a set time to complete your round in and the person who goes clear and finishes their round the closest to that time, wins. For the teams competition, each member of the team jumps a round of 1 – 9 one after the other and then you jump again, so you jump two rounds altogether.

Coco was on her toes!

My first competition of the Riding Club festival was the Team Showjumping. My team were due to be jumping at 1pm so thankfully I was able to take it easy that morning. I got Coco into the warm up and she was feeling good, forward and springy – just what I like to feel in the warm up. What I was shocked to find was actually how good she was REALLY feeling which I discovered as my team mates arrived into the warm up ring with me! The minute another horse trotted past her or came too close Coco would take off. And it wasn’t just running away with me..she full on leapt through the air. She did it about three times and the last time everyone in the arena was actually in shock that I managed to sit her solid attempt at a capriole – bitch must have thought I brought her to the feckin Spanish Riding School with the moves she was coming out with! All I could do was laugh as she was just feeling so good and happy to be there. Thankfully it didn’t come across to her jumping which was all spot on in the warm up.

Last jump of the course

Once it was time to jump, I had my usual belly of nerves but today was different. I realised I wasn’t petrified. I went into the ring feeling confident and ready to tackle jumps 1 – 9 with my partner in crime and man she did not disappoint. We approached number 1 and I felt a small flicker of doubt from Coco as she struggled to focus on the task at hand but with a squeeze of reassurance she put her game face on and soared over number 1 to start our round. We tackled every fence as if we were schooling around in one of our lessons, with a small exception in the combination when she got a little too eager and decided to take the four strides in three (unsuccessfully might I add, she ended up chipping in an extra stride at the last second). I didn’t mind too much though as we finished our first round with a clear and a massive smile on my face.

The form was mighty

Onto our second round and I went into this one with the sole intention of having fun…and apparently so was Coco! We started our round and it felt like Coco suddenly realised that she had done this before and decided to take the course on without my assistance. She became quite strong and started trying to tank into fences. For the most part I was able to hold her off and get her to come back to me, with the exception of that bloody combination again. We only had one very unfortunate pole down that looking back on the video I realised there was genuinely nothing I could have done any better to stop it from happening, it was just one of those things that happens in showjumping. Regardless I was thrilled with her and how we rode together. By the end of the competition, our team had put in a fantastic effort to finish in 3rd place so we came home with a lovely frilly for all our hard work 🙂

3rd Place for Team Abbeylands!

Day 2 – AP Individual Showjumping

For the individual showjumping, the format was Optimum Time again. You jump 1- 8 and if you go clear you continue to jump 9 – 13 which is timed.

Day 2 and it’s time for the Individual Showjumping! I’ll be honest and say I was feeling just a little worse for wear after a few beverages the night before. I wasn’t jumping until 11.20am so I had a bit of time to get my head right (although I definitely would have appreciated more time!). I went into the warm up and decided to keep our warm up jumps to a minimum as she was jumping just as well she had been the day before.

Number 1 and she makes it look about 40cms

We went in to jump our round, with the commentator remembering our success from the day before wishing us luck. I gave Coco a little pep talk..”Alright Pops, let’s do this.” and we kicked off with a huge-mongous jump over fence number 1. You can just barely hear me laughing and asking Coco to slow down in the video as she tanked off after the jump. Thankfully I was able to get her back to me and we jumped 1 – 8 clear. Before you go on to number 9, you have the opportunity to circle before going through the timers so when Coco landed on the wrong lead after number 8 I decided to bring her back and get her on the correct lead. We set off for our final few jumps of the weekend finishing with a flyer over number 13 giving us a clear round and just 1 time fault. I was absolutely beaming!!

Our flying finish over the last

While our time fault kept us out of the ribbons, I was over the moon with how well Coco and I jumped. Of 190 competitors in the class, there were only 19 clear rounds so to finish in the top 19 in our first national competition..I mean, what more could I want?


Well deserved much after a great weekend

And then it was over 😦 I’ve said this to a few people since Mullingar – I have genuinely never had so much fun competing. It’s incredible what a difference it can make to feel prepared for your competitions. I rarely come out of a round happy with my own riding, there’s always something I think I could have done better, but in Mullingar I was of course thrilled with how Coco jumped but I was also delighted with how I rode. I feel like we’re really ready now to go out and start jumping some SJI courses…

…or at least I did until our most recent mishap which has put a very sudden stop to all plans. Post coming about that soon so keep an eye out!

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate every pair of eyes 🙂 If you’d like to see some videos from the weekend, check out the below!

Orla