Dante’s Diaries – A Lesson with Sue Byrne

As you’ve (hopefully) read in my recent blog post about behaviour issues with Dante, we have had numerous amounts of lessons, some bad, some okay but never any lessons where we finished up saying, woo we finally cracked him. He always performs well, bless his 3 & a half little white socks but there was always that worry at the back of my mind as to why? Why is he continuing to keep all his habits, why is he not progressing!?

Enter Sue Byrne! What a saint to put up with my constant giving out & wanting to stop and walk cause I cant cope with exercise, she has been amazing!! I know her probably two years now and have done a lot of lessons with her before I owned Dante. She has improved my riding so much! Our friendship has even gotten got to the stage where Sue would randomly send me texts at 10pm telling me she was thinking about me haha!! On a serious note though, they were because she was always thinking of ways to improve Dante & I. She is such a helpful person & so generous with her knowledge! 

Anyways moving on…. The day after I got Dante back from boot camp we had a lesson! Outlined below are our lesson details, what we did & how in awe we were of his progress. So in awe that it was worth writing a blog post about!

What We Did

Dante was lunged for approx. 20 minutes before I rode. Sue was kind enough to show me a few of her own lunging tricks which were extremely helpful. Lunging him before I ride really helps to take that little bit of fizz out of him, which makes riding him all the more enjoyable. We even done a bit of de-sensitising work with him which I will cover in a separate blog post in the coming weeks! 

Into the arena we went, and straight away Sue instructed me to get him working into a forward trot. As I learned from his boot camp, keeping him moving forward is key to getting him working properly.  I now ride Dante in draw reins as they give me more control and assist in encouraging him to use himself properly. He is awful for throwing his head up in the air, and we found that from the last few lessons we had done without them, we spent the majority of the lesson trying to keep his nose down. I am still getting used to riding with the two reins, so every so often I would get a shout from Sue to keep the contact on both my reins. Something I am much better at now a week on from the lesson!


After we established our forward rhythm in the trot, we moved onto an exercise which I quite enjoy, Serpentine’s. Sue had suggested to do two loops instead of the regular three, missing out on the turn through X’ in the arena just so he could get used to his body turning, and give him the extra space he needs. He rode this exercise very well he really relaxed into his trot, but we found the turns onto his right rein were a lot harder for him and not as free flowing as his left. I realised that riding this exercise in a consistent forward steady rhythm is more important than trying to make sure you’re riding a correct diagonal through all the change of reins. 10-15 minutes into this exercise I began to take him for granted he was doing it so well, responding to everything correctly, so I subconsciously turned everything off and unfortunately the worst happened…we had a fall!! 

The Fall A Rider’s Mistake

We were finishing up on the last bend of our serpentine, I left my diagonal change until after x, which didn’t give me enough time to give the correct aids to bend around the corner which threw him off slightly. He was veering towards the left and I wanted him to go right, it was a total miss-communication and BAM I fell on my arse! See a clip of the fall in the video at the end of the post. I was fine, he was fine, I got back up and did the exercise again and finished off the exercise by completing a full serpentine of the arena and back through where we had our scene’. I had been taking some of the bends quite tightly, as if I was trying to ride them at a 90 degree angle, so when I got back up Sue advised that my turns don’t have to be perfect. The exercise is about him bending correctly around my leg so I should ride everything on a curve.

Top Tip: Just because your horse is doing something well, never stop giving the correct aids. I learned that the hard way!

Transitions Trot to Canter & Canter to Trot

OMG, my position has gone to poo!  I have found it very difficult to sit properly into a downward transition, I find myself flopping all over the place (I actually really genuinely feel bad for my horse). During this part of the lesson, we focused on trying to achieve neat downward transitions from canter to trot, and then back up into canter. Getting his trot going at a forward pace and making sure I was on the correct diagonal was the best way of ensuring a clean transition. I find Dante gets quite wound up and flustered if I over-exaggerate the canter aids or make too much of a fuss when asking him to transition up.

Once the canter is achieved I cantered him 6-7 strides as instructed by Sue, then asked him to go down into trot. This is were I began to get sloppy. I would drop my shoulder and both of us would almost plonk down into the trot. Instead Sue instructed me to sit up tall as I begin the downward transition and keep my leg on to ensure he keeps moving forward in his trot. The most important thing for me to remember with this exercise is to make sure I am trotting on the correct diagonal & at a steady forward trot before transitioning up into canter, doing all of this incorrectly really puts Dante off balance. Over time I hope this will become better for us, I have been practicing ever since! 


We finished up our lesson with a few jumps. Always good to end with something he loves to do! I wont lie, I haven’t jumped properly in what feels like a year, so I am slowly building up my confidence again and with Sue’s lessons I will be back in no time! We began by trotting into a small straight fence with a placing pole in front to help set him up to the fence. He has slight problems with straightness and tends to veer towards the right when he approaches fences. After a few attempts at the jump with the ground pole, which he jumped well, Sue placed V Poles either side of the fence to help with his straightness. This kept him focused on the center of the jump, and you could really begin to see improvements as he approached the fence a few times afterwards! Overall his jumping is always improving, he used to rush a lot on his approach to fences, but he is slowly realising that is not the answer. Practice makes perfect, right?

Below I have included a short video clip of our lesson. Have a look!

What to work on for next Time

  • My DIAGONAL I need to keep an eye on keeping the correct diagonal! I can be dreadful at times especially coming towards the end of a lesson when I tend to be in bits!! 
  • Canter to Trot transitions, sitting up tall instead of flopping down into his trot.
  • Try not to fall off…. Again!
  • Keeping the contact consistent, gaining a proper contact back again after he stretches in walk, before I ask him to do transition back into work.
  • Lunge before riding. 

I feel that Dante & I are finally back on track. Hopefully the progress continues to show in my riding and in his.

With the help of Sue I’m sure we will be there in no time!! 

Have any falls caught on camera? Tag us and show us! If you cant laugh at them afterwards is it really worth it!?



5 thoughts on “Dante’s Diaries – A Lesson with Sue Byrne

  1. I think consistency is super important in training, and it shouldn’t matter what level you are at, your aids should always be the same. Well done you – seems like you made some fantastic steps forward! 👍

  2. I really enjoy working on my transitions. Delight is very downhill and tends extends underneath him without extending his front end so he trips a lot. It’s a lot of work to get him balanced on the correct leads and keep him upright transitioning down because I tend to fall apart. Love that you were able to get video. I tried, but my 6 year old is a terrible camera person.

  3. Hope you’re not too sore after your fall! So glad none of mine have been caught on camera!! I would recommend thinking about leaning back ‘too much’ during a downward transition as this helps you stay more upright rather than collapsing, but apart from that it just improves with repetition and hard work!

    1. Definitely agree!! Its working myself out of bad habits and sitting up straight which is a work in progress! The fall on the other hand! Drop & roll works every time, we have had worse falls luckily not caught on camera!

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