Surviving The AIRC Riding Festival with Dante

What an experience the festival was, I mean like WOW! A massive thank you to AIRC & Mullingar Equestrian for all the organising, with over 2,000 entries/competitors, I think they deserve some recognition on all the hard work they put in to organising such an amazing event, not to mention all the volunteers & stewards keeping the show on the road over the weekend!

Both myself & Orla are part of Abbeylands Riding Club, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are thrilled to be part of such a fantastic, fun & helpful club! With a jam packed weekend full of individual showjumping & team showjumping, keep scrolling to see how we took on such a big weekend….

Arriving at The Venue – Mullingar Equestrian

This was our first ever Riding club festival, and being overwhelmed was quite an understatement. I didn’t know what to expect, what to pack or where to even go at times. We were lucky to have a hard core Riding Club “festivaler” with us to guide us along the way over the weekend. I think personally until you find your stable, unload all your belongings, grab some fresh water & haylage for your horse it really doesn’t sink in that your physically staying put for the coming days to compete! 

The Stables

To be honest, they were perfect. We paid €65 for two nights stabling which included bedding. It was great value & the stables themselves where quite spacious. Poor Dante being so big he took a while to get in to the stable at first, he had to duck his head under the cover going in! Once in though he was happy. He is not the best horse in the stable – he is filthy but the shavings were very generous & we managed the weekend perfectly.

The Grounds

Walking around the venue to get our bearings was quite something, the facilities in Mullingar are phenomenal. An International sand & International grass arena, 2 additional sand 1 & 2 arenas & not to forget all the warm up arenas & grass arenas. The venue itself was certainly stunning & a great choice for the festival if I do say so myself. With everything within walking distance of each other you don’t have to venture to far around the grounds whether it be getting your horse, or a bite to eat! 

Warming Up at The Venue

Riding on the Friday evening when we arrived was a major bonus. We were allowed the use of any of the 3 warm up sand arena’s which really helped to settle the horses into their surroundings that bit better. I think it really helped to settle their heads, rather than looking out of their stables and hearing & seeing limited amounts.

Dante was quite calm & relaxed warming up on Friday.

Day 1 – Individual Showjumping

Individual jumping was up first for myself & Dante on the Saturday. We arrived most mornings at 8.30/9.00am at the venue to feed & to do our course walks prior to the event starting. Course walks are so important, counting your strides and planning out your approaches to & from fences is key in riding that perfect round. I was thrilled with the course that was set in place for Day 1, it was mostly off the left rein, our better rein so there where no excuses!

Nerves to be honest didn’t play a massive role for us over the weekend. I didn’t have great or any high expectations set out for us at all as I only really had a full week to prepare so I didn’t bother putting that pressure on myself to “perform”. Going & having fun with Dante was my aim for the weekend.

Walking down to the arena to warm up was quite intimidating, people watching you, you watching people. Trying to remember your course all whilst sitting on Dante, who for once had that spring in his step, I think for him when he gets plaited up he knows its show time so he turns on! 

With a good 30/40 minutes warm up under our belt, jumping a handful of cross poles, verticals & Oxers I was set to head in. This is where I normally start to think “fuck, why do I do this” but this time I had a lot more confidence not only in myself, but in Dante. I was ready to go, I was ready to tackle this course of fences. 

The bell rang & away we went, over fences 1-3 with unbelievable rhythm & control, Dante was switched on and he was listening to what I was asking him to do. On our approach to the combination I set him in to deep in order for him not to get close to the second jump & well I quite frankly put him in way to deep to say the least, he tried to lift up over but ended up knocking a pole. He continued on after that as cautious as I have ever seen him, the rhythm he had was what I had been looking for these past few weeks & with that I was ecstatic with his round! Not all clear rounds are perfect, and not all knocks are careless. Sometimes you get a lot more out of rounds you don’t jump clear in. So I was thrilled!! 

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 1

  • We finally found our rhythm
  • We need to shorten our reins

Day 2 – Team Show Jumping

On such a high from Day 1 of the festival I had the morning of Day 2 to relax and chill out (get over a slight hangover) before my team jumping started, our allocated slot was at 4pm. With Dante being stabled all day on the Sunday prior to my jumping, I hand fed him for the guts of an hour to let him stretch his legs before I brought him out that evening. 

I don’t know how or what happened, but dear lord Dante had quite an attitude about doing some hard work on the Sunday.

A massive thank you to all the ladies from Cheval Riding Club who helped with holding him & helped in trying to put the plaiting bands back in his mane he just wouldn’t stand still, all the help was appreciated!(Note to self hire assistants for next year!!)

I knew our Day 2 of jumping was not going to be like Day 1. When he gets in these attitudes, I have learned that I never win. No matter what I do! 

Things only got worse. I arrived into the warm up, with 30/40 minutes allocated to get his head back in the game only to be told 5 minutes in that I had to go in to jump, I was quite rushed & pushed in to jump to be honest & looking back on it I wish I stood my ground and told then I wasn’t ready. 

We were jumping in the team Showjumping, which consisted each of our 4 team members jumping fences 1-12 twice.Not one after another, you jumped your second round after everyone else on you team had jumped their first. 

Our second round was a lot smoother. Not better, but more controllable. I just get on with it & pick the good parts about thing such as how calm & collected he was walking in & out of the arena!

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 2

  • A warm up of at least 30 minutes is needed before jumping
  • Stand your ground, if you are not ready don’t allow yourself to be rushed
  • He relaxed for his second round which was always going to be a bonus!

Do’s & Don’t’s – The Hidden Gems

  • Forever Equestrian at Mullingar Equestrian Center – Holy Fork. I think I spent €60 in total & walked out with so many bargains! Including numnahs, fly veils & a new jacket for myself. Be sure to add this to your list of must do’s!! Guaranteed to walk out with beautiful additions to your horsey collections.
  • Whilst it was a national show, try not to forget your riding etiquette at times, such as warm up arena’s left hand to left hand, only walking your horse in designated zones, no hurling abuse at each other going into arena’s (guilty!) 
  • The Local Mullingar Taxi Men – Note to self don’t have any craic in the taxi, you will only end up with the taxi man hurling abuse at you from his car when being dropped back to the hotel. Turns out he really took offence to Orla being called a wild whore,  Poor guy must of been having a bad day.
  • I think this really saved our asses over the Friday & Saturday, but the venue doesn’t serve drink until 6pm! Unless you have your own with you, there is zero drinkage available. You can be treated to some fine cuisine from the food trucks & bars around the venue itself, the pizza van was a stern favourite.

To summarise, the AIRC Riding Club Festival was unbelievable. I highly recommend you join your local club for next year so you can be making that journey with your horse or pony. If you are planning on attending any other big shows over the summer, this one certainly sets you up nicely.

A massive thank you to all the stewards & helpers over the weekend, the event itself ran so smoothly & without a blimp! It’s incredable what you can do when you set your mind to it, & its even nicer to see the support from people you dont even know, to everyone we chatted to over the weekend thank you, you really made our festival weekend one to remember!

A massive thank you to our 4th team member Emma from Rathangan Riding Club for joining very last minute in our team showjumping on Sunday maybe next year we can get better team results!

For myself & Dante, who know whats next for us. Our training schedule is currently in place, Watch this space, but for now why not enjoy our video below of our time at the festival!

Until next time,

Darielle

June Jumping Exercise – The Saucy Snake

Keeping things interesting, we pieced together this saucy little exercise! Incorporating some jumping while still keeping it quite technical. It gave both horse & rider some great results.

With the riding festival coming up this weekend, this is a great exercise to brush up on your tight turns, approach to fences and landing on the correct lead. Coco managed it tremendously well & well Dante ended up in abandonment after a fight broke loose!

Keep reading to find out what This “Saucy Snake” is all about!! 

The Set Up

You will need an arena or an open field to begin with, for set up you will need 4 sets of wings, 4 sets of cups & 11 poles. For the set up we kept all fences small, all standing at approx 50cm.  

The distance between the jump & the poles were measured with 10 generous footsteps either side. No striding was measured between the last two jumps. This is where your eye for a stride comes in to play!

 See below the diagram for how your arena should look. Be sure to clear out everything else in the arena as you will need all the space you can get especially if you have a bigger horse! 

What is The Exercise Good For? 

  • Letting your horse figure out the approach to a fence
  • Position over a fence
  • Maintaining a rhythm & keeping it consistant
  • Great practice for tight turns

Step By Step Guide On How To Ride This Exercise

1. As always, begin this exercise with a good warm up for your horse. Focus mainly on the canter, keeping it alive, active & bouncy. Once you are happy with your horse, that they are responding well to your aids then can you begin to piece together the Saucy Snake! 

2. Not to overwhelm yourself, or your horse, start this exercises by doing everything section by section. Starting with the image below, do this off either rein until you are happy that your horse is approaching the fence correctly & landing afterwards at ease, staying relaxed in the canter. 

3. Keep the jumps small, the aim of this exercises is to ride each part as if they are ground poles or canter poles. Your position over the small fence in the middle does not need to be dramatic, focus more on keeping a consistant contact the whole way through.

4. Once you feel comfortable with your horse’s approach, begin to piece more of The Saucy Snake together. Starting on a bend & moving over your diagonal, we found that this proved to be the most tricky line throughout the exercise. Riding Across the diagonal gives your horse more space to run, so sitting back and keeping your leg on, your horse held together & balanced is vital. Also looking up & around your arena. Looking down at the poles will not only cause your horse to run into them, but it will throw your horse off balance with you looking down over their shoulder!

5. Finally piecing the entire exercise together, the main focus is your canter, you need to keep it actively moving forward, energy behind but controlled (we don’t ask for much!) Begin the exercises as per the image below, starting at your curve, moving down the diagonal & then curving to the right finishing over your vertical on the long side. Sitting up & looking to where you are going is very important. Remember once you reach that first ground pole, your job as the rider is done until you reach the first stride when you land after the second ground pole.

6. Try to focus on using your body to direct your horse, with the aid of your legs, keep your hands quiet throughout the exercise. Remembering to look up look up look up!!! Opening your shoulders around the corners in the direction you are turning your horse also really helps.


This exercise proved to be quite difficult for Dante. I have managed to create a fear of turning right, when it comes to jumping & landing to the right, it is something I am working on, but Dante, being Dante takes every chance he can to gain that control. We didn’t manage to finish this exercise fully, due to his bad behaviour but Coco aced it. 

This exercise is definitely one I will be incorporating into my weekly routine, it really opens your eyes to the way you use your body around the course, and the control you really need in between fences!

Head over to our Instagram page to check out a video of coco smashing this exercise!

Let us know how you get on with this exercise, leave your thought & comments below & be sure to tag us in any videos of you giving it a test drive! 

Until next time, 

Darielle 

Grill the Equestrian – Judy Reynolds, International Dressage Rider

Next up in our ‘Grill the Equestrian’ series is a woman who needs no introduction. As Ireland’s most successful dressage rider and holder of the Irish international records for Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle to music, Judy Reynolds has brought Ireland to the world stage of international dressage. With our ‘Girl Power’ buzz still going strong, we couldn’t resist getting in touch to ask Judy a few questions about herself and her phenomenal success. Of course we had to grab some quick tips and fun facts while we were at it too 😉


About Judy Reynolds

What does an average day look like for you?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

We start at 7am, once the horses have been hayed and watered (hard feed is fed @ 6am) we start getting them out on the walker for 30 mins or the first pairs into the field already. I like the horses to have moved a bit before I ride them if possible. I will start to get my first horse ready for riding and Patrick continues with getting the horses all out along with the other daily stable chores. I will ride 6-8 horses a day and most days have some lessons after I finish riding, either at the yard or I travel regularly to give clinics. I also travel to Ireland almost every month for 2 days teaching at a time. The yard is finished up between 6 and 7 pm, but I will often still be teaching after this. 

Would/Have you ever ventured into the world of showjumping?  

When I was younger I did lots of working hunter ponies so I jumped quite a bit though never really show jumped. I still jump my dressage horses to give them some variety although any jumping rider would laugh at what I call ‘jumping’! The horses have fun though and that’s what’s important. 

How do you maintain your fitness? Do you spend much time in the gym or is it purely horse riding that keeps you in shape? 

It is not correct but at the moment it’s just riding that keeps me going, I keep planning on joining a gym but regular fitness gyms don’t inspire me so I’m holding out for inspiration! I ran the Dublin marathon in 2005 (I think) and really enjoyed the running, although I am not a natural runner. I was meant to run it with my sister Isobel but an injury prevented her from joining me, after this i was all ran out for a long time. 

If you could swap with any equestrian for the day who would it be with & why? 

I would love to swap with Isabell Werth so I could learn what makes her so darn good! She is amazingly talented at training all different types of horses to Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

What is the best advice you’ve every received?

Anybody who told me I couldn’t do something, I am stubborn and will work very hard to prove them wrong! 

You’re originally from Kildare, do you think living in this horse-mad county influenced you in your choice to pursue a career in the equestrian industry?

Yes I’m sure it did. We grew up on a farm, having ponies at home and I rode every day after school whatever the weather. We did everything with the ponies from hunting to working hunter to showing to pony club camp so I got a great all round education. Although it wasn’t really planned it was a very natural evolution that I ended up making horses my career. 

The Success Story

You have achieved so much in your career, first Irish woman to reach the final of an Olympic Games (2016), first Irish rider to qualify for a World Cup Final (2017), first Irish rider to reach the freestyle to music final at WEG (2018). What is your ultimate career goal?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

I really want to get to another Olympics and I would like to repeat/improve on some of these successes with future horses. Although I’ve ridden 4 different horses to championship level, I’m only known so far for my partnership with jp, I would like to be known as a rider with multiple successful horses. 

How did it feel when you reached the final in the 2016 Rio Olympics? 

That was a dream come true, to be an Olympic finalist, no one can ever take at away from you. It was an unspoken goal of mine in the run up to the Olympics to make the final, we knew it would be possible but not easy. The elation when we realised that I was into the final is like nothing I’ve felt before, it was also a sense of relief as I was carrying some emotional baggage with me in terms of not feeling really worthy of my place among the best dressage riders. Since then we have gone from strength to strength in part from having this belief that we now ‘belong’.

Most recently you competed in the FEI Dressage World Cup in Gothenburg. You were sitting at the top of the leaderboard for quite a while. How do you handle the waiting game after you’ve finished a test?

After I’ve ridden we often get some food as I won’t have eaten much the few hours before riding. I will watch the scores come in or watch the tests on tv/phone/monitors. I don’t often watch a lot of tests in real life, I’m too antsy to sit still for that! 

Judy’s Tips

When training for dressage, what are the key things for any rider to remember? 

It all based on transitions so they are the most important thing. To give the horse time to understand a concept and then reward them as soon as they offer signs of understanding something new, even if it’s not perfect yet. For me the basics are extremely important, I will spend a lot of time making sure I can ride REAL straight lines, corners, circles, transitions as and how I want them before starting to train ‘movements’. If you train tricks before you have the basics that is all they will be, tricks. 

What are your tips for a horse who struggles to accept the contact? 

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

Make sure your horse is truly working from behind. Horses can be forward going but not really pushing themselves forward with the hind legs but rather pulling themselves forwards with their front legs. The horse must be truly in front of the leg, only then can they search for a contact. If I have a new horse in for training who really doesn’t have a concept of contact then I will lunge them using a chambon as I find this helps at the beginning to get them searching forward and down and from there I can work on the contact while riding. 

What is one training exercise you swear by?

Transitions! If in doubt, ride transitions. And leg yielding, this can help any number of issues and you can get quite inventive in how you use it. 

What advice would you give to young aspiring dressage riders?

Get the best training possible and if you are serious about a career in dressage try to spend time in Europe. When I moved to germany at first I thought I was a good rider, went to my first show and promptly came last! Turned out I hadn’t even scratched the surface in terms of what I had to learn. I also believe that competing against those who are better than you is the best way to improve. 

Things We Didn’t Know

Who do you see as your biggest competition?

The Germans! 

How do you go about picking music & creating a routine for freestyle? If I had it my way I would be in there dancing to backstreet boys I want it that way! 

If you want to you can do that! You really are free to use what you want, though saying that it is worth bearing in mind who will be judging you and they don’t necessarily have the same musical tastes as you. First off we make the floor plan, this can take some time, working out how best to show off your horse’s strengths, putting the movements together so they flow and make sense to the judges. You almost want them to have a feeling that they know where you are going before you do it. Personally I like a symmetrical floor plan. Then you have to make sure it’s within the required time allowed, nothing worse than coming up with a great routine to find it is 20 seconds too long! Once we have that done, we film the floor plan and send it to the freestyle composer. Ralf Roder has composed my last 2 freestyles, he’s really easy to work with.  I give him an idea of what I want and then we spend time sending ideas back and forth until we are happy with the direction it is going and Ralf then puts a version together. My previous freestyle was 80’s divas, I wanted it to be music that I enjoyed listening to but also the judges could relate to, my rule was that if my dad hadn’t heard of it, it wasn’t going in! My current freestyle is based on lord of the dance by Michael Flatley, Patrick and my dad had been trying to convince me for years to use Irish music, finally I gave in and the response to the music has been amazing, people love it! 

Vancouver K – tell us about his personality? Has he any quirky traits or bad habits?  

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

Jp is a very special horse, I think if we would let him he’d be on the sofa with us watching tv at home. He has a huge personality and relates a lot of his character thorough his facial expressions. He has multiple bad habits, he knows he’s the most important horse in the yard! After riding, I take off jp’s bridle and he has a scratch, while he’s doing this I hang up his bridle and get him a treat. If I’m not quick enough he will literally follow me into the tack room for his treat (Patrick calls this free range dressage). If you are hand grazing him and he doesn’t think he has been out for long enough, if you try to direct him back towards the stable he will just park himself and refuse to move. He is very stubborn! If you want to wash him after work, he must first be allowed to drink from the hose, if you don’t he will make sure you get wet! 

Have you got any lucky charms that you bring with you when you are competing?

Photo Credit: Katharina Lachs

We have a whole support crew of teddies! One very special one in particular, known a little P, is a cuddly horse teddy that comes complete with hand made white bandages, fly veil embroidered with ‘jp’, and a numnah that has the olympic rings embroidered on to it along with the names of our friends who made it for us before going to Rio. He also has a necklace with all the lucky charms we were given before Rio. Little P has been to every show since and regularly gets covered in mash and various things as jp likes to share! 


Anyone else seriously considering getting a horse teddy of their own? No..just us? Alrighty then..

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Judy for answering our questions for us. We actually learned so much, we’re kind of raging we didn’t ask more! If you’d like to keep up to date with Judy & JP, make sure to follow their Instagram accounts (yes JP has his very own account!) @judyreynoldsirl and @jpvancouverk.

Lastly, a big thank you to Katharina Lachs for providing us some pictures. Make sure to follow her on Instagram, her pictures are stunning, @katharina_lachs_fotografie.

As always, thanks for reading,

Orla & Darielle

Your Tips for Having Steadier Hands while Riding

Over the last few months I’ve started noticing that my hands weren’t very steady so I decided to ask some of our followers on Instagram for their tips and advice on how I might be able to improve my hands. I got a lot of solid advice on that post so I thought it would be good to share the advice with everyone. Everyone’s account name links to their instagram account so be sure to check them out!

SHORTEN THOSE REINS

wildatlanticrider: You have to be really conscious of it and be strict on yourself.. but start with a shorter rein, that’ll help. My mare takes advantage and will spook if I’m not consistent with the contact. If Coco comes out Of The frame, even with the shorter reins, just keep focusing on your line and riding forward with the steadier contact.. It’ll feel weird at first but practice makes perfect! #alsoaownerofaspookymareWild Atlantic Rider is a fellow blogger so be sure to check her out!

Trying to be more conscious of my rein length

d_foran02: Shorten reins and lift your hands up and forwards. Encourage her to follow your hands and lift her frame a bit more in front. Also second making sure she’s really listening to your leg and bending her body around it. Hands are just for slight flexion changes so should remain quiet majority of the time. If she pops off the bit use your leg to encourage her back on to it and try avoid using your hands unless she really distracted. It helps keep a steady frame in the long run but kills you

ITS ALL IN THE ELBOW

jennie_connell: Reins a little shorter and hands a bit in front of you and allow the elbow to open and close when rising and sitting.
insidetrackeventing: Soft elbows – if you keep your elbows fixed there is no give and your hands won’t move with the horse. Its something that comes as you get stronger in your core – another fellow blogger, Inside Track Eventing!

IMPROVE THAT LOWER LEG

Doing some light seat canter work to help stretch out and strengthen my lower leg!

sarahburritt: …to improve your flat work you should first start with your seat and lower leg because the movement in the hands and upper body often comes from instability in the lower leg. I recommend starting with dropping your stirrups a hole or two and work on extending the leg because you’ve got room to go there for a very nice look and you need to build lower leg strength and not use your heels to apply a on and off stabbing pressure. It will be hard and you will feel a little unstable the first couple times but you will build lower leg strength and a nicer position, take more breaks if needed but try to hold your leg on and really think about straight lines between you thumb to wrist to elbow and shoulders to hips to ankles. 

HANDY (excuse the pun) TIPS

Getting there, slowly but surely!

laurensmyth93: Hold a whip horizontal under both thumbs 🙂 did the job for me!
smarty_marty_: Remembering thumbs on top, keeping an even contact on both reins and elbows by your side. Ride the contact from the leg…
becksbackinthesaddle: One of the things that I learned is opening and closing my elbows – I never knew you were meant to do it! One of the exercises that I have doing on the lunge is threading my little fingers through a loop (threaded through the d rings on the saddle) in trot. It gives you a senses of how much opening and closing your elbows need to do just to keep your hands still. – Last but not least of the bloggers, Becks Back in the Saddle!

SOME OF THE MORE AMUSING SUGGESTIONS…

danger_byrne: Hold a cup of scalding tea in each hand , and you definitely won’t move your hands

rayconnolly2157: Furry handcuffs maybe …


I definitely found a lot of this advice very helpful (although maybe not the furry handcuffs). I’ve slowly started seeing an improvement in my hands and my contact on the reins so thank you to everyone for the advice!

Have you got any tips for improving your hand position? Make sure to share in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Orla

May Flatwork Exercise – Pain in the Pole!

This exercise was quite deceiving, going to ride this exercise, myself & Orla were slightly cocky in a sense that we thought it was going to be a simple flatwork exercise, well it couldn’t of challenged us more … 

This Incognito evil pole exercise tests you, your patience & your horses suppleness! Be aware, it really will pin point areas of your riding that you need to work on. 

Keep scrolling to find out more… 

The Set Up

You will need to clear up your arena for this one, as you will need all the space you can get. You will need 11 poles for your set up, with 3 x Cavalettis, or blocks to raise your poles. 
Between each trot pole there are 4 & a half footsteps.

As you will be placing some poles diagonally, make sure to measure your footsteps in the center. This will not only mentally force you to ride straight but help to get the correct trot striding.

Between the cavalettis, measure out 5 footsteps as your horse will need a little more space to stretch and lift over the poles. See this image below for your set up.

What This Exercise is Good For? 

  • Engaging the hind
  • How important your body position is whilst riding 
  • Getting your horse to listen to you 
  • Improves your horses suppleness

Step by Step Guide on How To Ride This Exercise

1. As always we recommend a good warm up for your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. This exercises is based solely on trotting but you should not neglect any canter work that you usually do in your warm up.

2.Our focus before we began this exercises was mainly to establish a forward moving trot, a horse moving into our hands from our leg & seat. Practicing 10 metre circles into 20 metre circles helped to loosen out the horses as this exercise does involve some tight turns once you get into it.

3.Once you are happy with your horses warm up & reactions to your leg, you can then begin on the “easy” parts of this exercise. Start by ignoring the cavalettis section of the exercise focusing on the trot poles, put your horse over these a few times off each rein. Remembering to look to where you are going and not at the ground at the poles. Your aim is to piece both sets of trot poles together as per the image below on the left.

4.Once you are happy with your horses approach over the two sets of trot poles, then you can begin adding in some tighter turns as per the image on the right above. this is where your body comes into play & your inside leg. Sitting up tall around the corners, using your shoulder to half halt, with your inside leg directing your horse . Once you cross the centre both legs are on to keep your horse straight until you reach the set of trot poles. This took some time & practice, but once you perfect the turns, you will find this exercise to run a lot smoother. When you are happy with the turns around the cavalettis, then you can you progress to piecing the entire exercise together.

5. See the image below. Now it’s time to add the cavalletti poles to the equation! This is were we ran into a few technical difficulties, but practice certainly makes perfect. Practice the cavalettis by themselves first if you wish to get a better feel for them before you put all 3 sets of trot poles together. The secret is to keep your horse straight on approach bending them around your leg as you move over the poles. Let your horse stretch down over the poles, dont be afraid to give them their head. I found that after the last pole they ran into their trot, prepare for this by sitting back in your saddle with your leg on, this will help to keep your horse held together.

6. Your really working your horses muscles with the tight turns and the trot poles, we would advise not to over do this exercise. Once your horses completes it to your satisfaction, reward & end your session. Always be sure to cool your horse off afterwards, by giving them a long rein to stretch in the walk.


This exercise was a real eye opener to how much more pole work we should be doing! The hind end really gets put to the test especially with the surprise cavaletti’s in the mix!

I think between Dante & Coco, they both managed it considerably well, with both of us finishing with great results. We did both come to the conclusion that more raised trot poles are needed, especially on a bend!! Head over to our Instagram page to check out the video of both horses giving it a go.

Be sure to try it out, & let us know how you get on by tagging us in your videos!

As always, thanks for reading & be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our May Jumping exercise “The Saucy Snake”!

Darielle

5 Top Tips For Riding The Best Showjumping Round

How many of you struggle to bring what you learn at home out with you to shows? Yes, me too!

Sometimes the nerves take over and get the better of you, but don’t be too hard on yourself, I have compiled my Top 5 tips for riding that perfect round, well hopefully!!

Like I do on show days prior to getting up on Dante, I take my few minutes to compose myself & try get my shit together, Keep scrolling to find out my 5 Top Tips That help me along my way!…


1. Walking & Learning Your Course

Course Walking has nearly become one of the most important things for me to do prior to jumping, this is something I have only recently learned. I used to have the mentality of Fuck It i’ll just go in and jump, and see what happens, what the worst that can happen? Well, this is not the case anymore. There have been many courses I have come across where the arena has been tight and without walking the lines, you really are setting yourself up for trouble when you go to ride them. 

Walking the course creates a plan in your head, a plan that is personalised to suit you & your horse. When walking the course you should always pay attention to the distances between combinations, off your corners, & the type of approaches you are going to take to certain fences. Always keep in the back of your mind the type of canter that is needed, this is the glue to keeping everything together at the end of the day!

You will soon learn that the course of fences in the arena have a certain flow to them, you’re going to be travelling around the arena & unless the course designer is the devil, you will find that most courses have an even flow about them. A top tip for learning your course, look at your oxers! They can only be jumped in one direction so these key fences will be the backbones to the layout of your course! 

A lot of venues are posting the course layout the day before on their social media channels prior to their event, to these venues, I commend you! It is so helpful and takes that bit of pressure of the rider trying to learn the course on the day.

I personally find it very helpful to learn the course from watching other riders jump it, but ultimately walking the course will give you that extra bonus. I also find that referring to the jump as the “butterfly jump” or “the rustic” is easier for me to memorize rather than learning fences 1-12. If you are jumping more than one round of jumps in different jumping classes, memorize one course at a time. Trying to learn more than one course will only mess with your head & more than likely end up with you jumping the wrong fences! 

2. Fillers

It is very rare these days that you get a course with no fillers, crazy coloured poles or big fancy wings. My best piece of advice, make sure in training that you take the opportunity to show your horse as much as possible to ensure that when you get to competition and go in the ring they are not taken aback by what is in front of them. 

You can always improvise with different types of fillers at home such as cones!

When introducing something spooky such as a filler, speed is most definately not the answer. It may get you over it the first time but it will sit in your horses head that he jumped more from fear rather than with confidence. Get as much schooling as you can in at home, when it comes to adding in fillers, water trays etc. Try bringing your horse out for schooling days if these facilities are not available at home. This will help grow your horses confidence, and yours. There are a lot of riders out there that have a fear of jumping courses because of the fillers, remember your horse can feel your fear too!

3. The Warm up

 A correct warm up should be done with every horse no matter if you are jumping or doing flatwork session. When I mention a correct warm up, I am referencing a warm up at a show.
Extending my warm up over 20 minutes before I went in to jump was something that I honestly threw shade at when people suggested it. My god, I am such an asshole towards how stubborn I was. Of course, there are times when a long warm up just can’t be done under certain circumstances, but I now try my best to get at least a good 30-40 minute warm up done prior to going in to the ring. 

A lot of work is focused on getting an active & engaged canter, pushing & then holding back between paces, using my seat to control his speed. I find this gets rid of a lot of spice, in turn helps your horse to relax when it comes time to go in to jump.

When it comes to jumping in the warm up, I always start over a small vertical, I don’t bother with cross poles at a show, they won’t be in the ring so why jump it in the warm up? That’s my opinion, a few may be split! There are times when I will have to jump Dante more than usual, this is more so that he stops charging & starts listening to me. 

Always jump an oxer in the warm up! 100% of the time, they seem to always be the opening fence in your course.  Remember, If your horse is jumping well in the warm up, finish and get into the ring as soon as you can. Over jumping will only leave your horse flat & tired when they go in to perform in the ring.   

4. Having The Right Canter

I recently only learned how important the “right canter” really is when it comes to showjumping. It is a key element in maintaining no only a balanced well established round, but also in keeping your horses rhythm in tip top shape.

You should pay serious attention to this in the warm up, getting an active engaged forward going canter is what you are looking for. If you find your horse is not willing, start doing some transitions, so that your horses is responsive to your leg aids. I posted about my troubles with Dante knocking fences during his rounds, & almost everyone had noticed that his canter, it was flat, had no power to it so in turn he was knocking poles all over the place.

A great way to imagine how your canter should feel like, imagine sitting & bouncing on a yoga ball, that is the feeling you are looking to achieve in the canter when you are aiming towards your first fence. Let me tell you something, that comment has stuck in my head & has only helped me move forward in getting my Canter to where it should be so Thank you Eve O’Shaughnessy!

There is also no harm is wearing spurs if needs be, a bigger horse means you have to do a lot more to get them moving & engaged, especially if you have short legs like myself, it can be hard, so a back up aid is always an option.

5. In The Ring

This is a fear I struggle with big time. Once I enter the ring, I begin to focus & think more of who is watching me, where is the first fence, or is this over yet? I often find that I forget to breath half way around the course, or I often find myself starting before I hear the bell ring. If you suffer from the same issues dont panic. Every equestrian is in the same boat, in some shape or form! 

The good news is that all these fears can all be overcome. The easiest one being the bell, when you enter the ring, take your time, trot a lap or canter a lap, show your horse the Spooky corner if you need too. The timer does not start until you canter past the laser which is normally 3/4 strides out from the first fence.

Breath! Whilst riding a course of 12 – 14 fences it can be tiring, It is scientifically proven that breathing can often be very helpful from time to time… LOL! Take Deep breaths before you start, relax your mind, this will also keep your body more relaxed. If you forget to breath or forget to exhale out your breaths your body becomes rigid & stiff, this will give your horse a not so relaxing feel. So remember, always Breath!

Keep yourself focused. Instead of looking at the crowds, I always, always look to the next fence. This is not only what I should be doing but it keeps my mind focused, it also makes me work towards what I should be doing. This will also keep your mind off anyone or any big crowds gathered by the ring. Let’s be realistic here, they are all probably just crowded around chatting amongst themselves not paying attention to you, so you don’t pay attention to them! 


So there you have it, 5 of my Top Tips for riding the perfect Showjumping round. The hardest part is always approaching the first fence once you get over fence number one you are closer to the finishing line than you think! So enjoy yourself, take time to acknowledge that getting to the show is an achievement in itself!

It will all flow & fall into place and before you realise you will become that ring master perfectionist! Having someone with you is always a massive bonus, that extra bot of confidence, between myself & Orla it is great to have one another at shows, the tips & advice we give each other is always top notch!

Do you have any pre show tips? Or any tips to help get you around a course of fences smoothly & efficiently? Let me know in the comments below!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

Grill The Equestrian – Holly Lenahan

It has been a while, but we are back with another Equestrian to Grill! This time we were delighted to welcome Holly Lenahan who some may call the Irish Queen of Equestrian Social Media.

We gave poor Holly some tough questions which we think has made for one of our most interesting Grill’s yet. With the emphasis mostly on the woman herself we give you the inside scoop, from training exercises, to what it’s really like being an equestrian influencer.

We certainly didn’t go easy on her…


The World of Social Media Fame

How do you manage your time so well? Between your studies, your horse, your personal life and your blog, how do you have time for it all? 

I’d love to say it’s because I have such excellent time management skills, but realistically, the only reason I’m able to keep it all going is because my parents are so supportive. Without my dad helping by feeding and looking after them while I’m at college, there would be no way I could keep on top of it. I’m also so lucky to be able to keep our horses where we live so we don’t have to pay for livery and as they live out on grass all year round, that also cuts out a lot of costs.

How do you maintain your online presence? Do you just go with the flow or do you plan and keep to a schedule?

There’s definitely no schedule to it! I used to try and upload a video on a set day every week but I soon gave up and upload when I have enough time to film a good quality video. That has been difficult with college and studying, but I do try and pre-record videos if I know I’ll be very busy for a few weeks. Posting to Instagram and YouTube is also very dependent on who I can rope into videoing for me. Sometimes I wish I had a clone who loved taking photos and videos as much as I do and would film me every day! But that’s not the most realistic dream…

How do you find keeping consistent and relevant content coming on your channels? 

I sometimes find it very hard to know what videos people actually want to see, especially as it changes all the time. At one point, my show vlogs were my most watched videos, whereas now people are more interested in cleaning and grooming videos. And I’m sure it’ll change again. I try to just film videos that I myself would like to watch and that’s worked well enough for me so far.

Do you receive much negativity online? When you do, how do you deal with it? 

Yes I definitely get my fair share of negative comments. I mostly ignore them or block them because deep down I know all they want is a reaction from me. But that can be very hard sometimes as the comments can be quite vicious and personal and it’s difficult not to defend myself. I think deleting comments is the best way to deal with them, but I’m always worried that people might think that I’m trying to hide something or that deleting them is a sign of guilt.. But hopefully people understand it’s not very nice to see these kinds of comments.

Do you often get recognised at events you attend? 

I’m starting to get recognised more often now at shows and even in non-horsey places which is such a surreal experience. Sometimes people message me later that day saying they saw me but were too nervous to say hi, but I always say they should’ve come over! I’m just as socially awkward as anyone else so there will be no judgement from me! It also makes me realise that there are actual real people behind the accounts that comment on my videos and like my pictures, which just makes it even more crazy to me.

Would you change anything about your social media success? 

Honestly not really. I’ve met so many lovely people and made lifelong friends from my social media and I’m also quite proud of the fact that I’ve never been involved in any online drama or fights. Being on social media has definitely been a positive experience for me and I think part of that is because I really started getting into it when I was a good bit older than a lot of people who start now.

If you could tell your followers one thing, what would it be? 

If you have a goal, you should do everything in your power to achieve it, but if it doesn’t come to fruition, then reflect on what you learned and focus on your next goal. Reaching your goal isn’t the most important thing, the journey is where you learn the most.

Holly’s Life & Horses

As a vet student, do you ever find yourself being way too cautious when any issues come up with your horses? 

It’s definitely a case of the more I learn, the more worried I get about the horses. Suddenly a lame horse could mean a million terrible things instead of the simple stone bruise it is. But I think it’s also a good thing to be more educated as prevention is better than cure and I am able to spot issues quicker.

Do you have any plans to compete in Cross Country or Eventing, or is showjumping your main priority? 

Showjumping will always be my main priority. Although I have done a bit of cross country and even a one day event years ago, our horses are mainly show jumpers so that’s what I’ll be sticking with.

What is one of your favourite training exercises? 

It may sound basic, but this exercise single handedly gave me an eye for a stride. Basically you set up two poles, a set amount of strides apart e.g. 5 strides. And you canter down it in 5, then 6, then 4, then 7 if you’re feeling really brave. The most important thing is to treat the poles as actual jumps and ask yourself, if that was a jump, would I have knocked it? It teaches you to get a good rhythm, meet your poles accurately and ride straight. It also teaches the horses to extend and collect and become more responsive. So many benefits and all you need is two poles!

Who in the industry do you look up to? 

Edwina Tops-Alexander is my absolute idol. She’s such a competitive and sympathetic rider and also Australian like myself which is always a bonus. And not to mention she had a child at the end of 2017 and was back at the top of the sport very soon afterwards, what a woman!

If you could train with any equestrian in the world for a day, who would it be? 

Edwina or Marcus Ehning. Marcus is an unbelievable rider. The connection he has with his horses allows him to appear motionless on their back. It’s always a pleasure to watch him compete.

Where do you see yourself 2 years from now? 

Oh no, I’ve been having a bit of a crisis lately about what I’m going to do when I graduate next year and then you come at me with this question! I can honestly say I don’t even know what country I’ll be in 2 years from now, let alone know what I’ll be doing. You’ll have to get back to me with that question!

What is your favourite thing about bringing on a young horse?

Young horses are my absolute favourite to work with. There’s no feeling more satisfying than when you’re trying to communicate something to a young horse and they have this eureka moment where it just clicks. They also make a lot of progress really fast so it’s such a rewarding experience.

Ok to wrap us up, here’s a hard one – if you had to sell all your horses except one..who would you choose to keep? 

That is an awful question! Fiona is the first horse that comes to mind because I don’t think she’d do very well in a lot of yards and I wouldn’t like to see her get passed around, but in this hypothetical situation, I’ll sell her to my dad to ride (Is that cheating? I don’t care). And I would keep Dali as the rest of the horses would easily sell to good homes and he is probably the horse with the most unknown potential at the moment so I’m really excited to get working with him.


We have to admit, we really did enjoy coming up with these questions. A massive thank you to Holly for taking part & we would like to wish you all the success in your studies over the summer.

Be sure to head over to Holly’s Instagram @hollylenahan & check out her Youtube account while you’re at it, She’s guaranteed to inspire you with her fantastic content, not to mention the videos of her Dad, if you havn’t seen them they are a must!!

Keep your eyes peeled for our next grilling coming up very very soon. We’re staying on the girl-power track with a very well known Irish record maker! Can you guess who’s up next?

Until Next time,

Darielle & Orla

Small Fixes with Big Results – 8 Tips To Improve My Jumping

This post has been brewing for some time now! Over the last few months I wanted to pull together a post about where I currently stand with Dante’s jumping. The most annoying part about this post comes down to the fact that the things I have learned on my jumping journey come down to me the rider & my bad habits…

On a positive note, I have began to see a huge difference. From the way Dante collects himself, approaches fences & even lands afterwards, to how I as a rider ride him & position myself over fences I think we have really started to show progress.

Keep reading to find out what I have been doing to get to where I am know..

Flatwork

Without basic flatwork you have no foundations to work from. Jumping is not just about jumping a fence. Balance, rhythm, straightness, it all springs from your horses ability in his flatwork. I spend a lot of time at home working on transitions in walk, trot& canter. This not only gets Dante listening to me, but also help to engage his hind end.

The ability to lengthen & shorten your horses canter stride as well as pushing them forwards & holding them back is very important. This can all be practiced during your flatwork sessions, using the long side of your arena to lengthen & the short side to shorten up your horse. I am focusing on doing this using my body movements in the saddle.

Polework

When practicing for a jumping session, it does not necessarily mean you must jump. Sometimes doing pole-work, or jumping smaller fences can be more beneficial.

I find scattering poles around the arena, letting Dante approach them randomly helps him learn and appreciate me more as a directional giver. Basically he needs to wait & rely on me for where he is going rather that rushing off or tanking off across the arena doing his own thing.

Not only that but it will improve your eye for a stride & help establish your canter as you move over the poles. You will start to see yourself holding & pushing for the longer or shorter stride without even realising!

Jumping Position Over A Fence

This is something that needed some minor adjustments. From my 3 years of Dante, I have had a number of different instructors with nearly all of them having a different opinion on how I should ride his jump. To be fair they have all been extremely helpful, from everything I have learned there is nearly a bit of everyone’s advice in my jumping position, if that makes sense!

Firstly lets mention that no drastic hand throwing is needed. Something that needs practice to get rid of, I think we all fall victim to this at some stage of our riding. A common issue amongst a lot of equestrians, the “Throwing your hands half way up your neck” was certainly not one that worked for me. When it comes to jumping your horse you don’t necessarily need to throw your body or entire self at your horse whilst going over a fence. Your jumping position should be a natural movement, moving with the horses body giving them enough freedom to clear the fence comfortably.

Keep My Toes Pointed In

A terrible terrible trait of mine. Another habit to add to the list. I have a tendency to ride from the heel, in turn I point my toes out. Not only does it look horrific but it stems to a list of other problems such as constant leg on from my heel, which could be a reason behind Dante being dead to my leg at times. Riding with such pressure in my heels has effected my overall position, It has resulted in me gripping with my knees rather than with my lower leg & calf.

Fixing the problem is currently ongoing! Constant shouting to tell me turn my toes in really works when it comes to fixing this one. That and no stirrup work. Something I am neglecting… When I do start thought, this will help strengthen my calf & lower leg muscles & help with my overall position in the saddle.

“Your heals and lower leg are your seat belt. If they aren’t on there is not much keeping you in the saddle”- this quote I read recently really did make me feel better about my heel issue though, I cant be that bad!

Quiet Hands

Once you achieve the “Quiet hands” phase you will begin to see a lot of improvements in your riding. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably one of the most aggravating, tedious things to try & perfect, but time & patience is key. And trust between you & your horse!

Focus on riding with your hands out in front, in line with your hips. I tend to ride with quite open reins, the width of my hips also. I find this opens Dante in his movement. You are focusing on getting your horse to ride into your hands from your seat & your leg. Technically your hands are just there to establish a light contact to the horses mouth. Pulling the mouth off your horse is what you are aiming NOT to do.

You need to work your horse up into your hands, basically your legs do all the work here & after your first few days of focusing on this your legs will be dead!! But trust me.. it is worth it when you see the results you get.

Body Position

My Body has a mind of its own… if that makes any sense! Landing after a fence for a while became extremely troublesome, I put this fear of turning right into my head, and it did not look pretty.

Body position plays a massive role in how Dante lands correctly, I have the worst habit of leaning over his shoulder & looking down at the floor. I do this for a good 3-4 strides after a fence in the direction that he lands. Looking back on videos it is so horrific to watch. No wonder we were having such difficulties!!

My focus is to keep my body centered in the saddle!! Sitting up tall & keeping those shoulders back.

The Canter – Rhythm & Balance

You have nothing without a forward going canter . Dante’s canter work is coming along well but it still need loads of improvements. My main focus is getting his engine turned on, once I have that moving & activated,maintaining a forward canter is key, he is a divil for breaking into trot from his canter.

Once the ignition is turned on it makes jumping & maintaining a steady forward going pace much easier. Loads of focus on getting Dante moving from the leg is key. Maintaining an even rhythm whilst keeping Dante balanced in his canter is another thing that is improving, but still needs work. Lengthening & shortening his stride is so important, all whilst keeping a maintained rhythm & balanced canter, my work is really cut out for me over the next few weeks as I focus more on these points.

I try to get these reactions from using my seat & legs! Interfering to much with his mouth only results in him getting pissed off at me. I tend to hold on to his mouth as he moves forward in the canter, the fear of him bolting off always comes back to me! This is a fear I need to let go off, he isn’t that crazy 4 year old anymore.

Don’t Look At Your Fence

Look up, look up, look up!! Why do we just not listen to this? How many of us out there put the absolute fear into ourselves looking at fences we are about the jump, looking at the ground pole, or the scary filler as we approach instead of looking up and giving your horse direction as to where they are to go to next, well I am Guilty!!

Look up and & over your fence, basically looking to where you want your horse to go. I didn’t realise how much I looked at the jump until I started to focus and pay attention to certain aspects of my riding. Once you start looking up & not at the fence, the difference you will see, not only in your riding but in your approach to fences!

No wonder we knock so many !!


I have been focusing a lot on improving my position & my over all approach to jumping with Dante. The above of some of the main point I have been focusing on. And they have shown an overall massive improvement in our work together.

I will also like to mention that everyone should also invest in a neck strap for their horse! Everyone needs a Jesus Strap!! Expecting the unexpected with horses is something you should always anticipate, I still get reared & spun around at times.. you can never be too careful, & well sometimes when your grabbing the mane it tends to get pulled out….

I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments below if any of my tips will help you in your riding & be sure to keep an eye out for my next post, I will be running through my 5 top tips for riding the best Showjumping Round!

Until Next Time,

Darielle