I think I have found my calling in life. Last summer I put on my brave pants, bit the bullet and gave Polo lessons a go.
A few friends of mine worked in The Polo club and ever since they began to bring me along to Polo matches in Wicklow, I gained a rather soft spot for the sport… who cannot fall in love with a polo pony?!
Keep scrolling to find out all about my Polo journey…
A quick explanation about a game of Polo – the game consists of six periods called chukkers. They last seven and a half minutes with each including a halftime period also.
Each team has four players who in turn can bring/swap between 6-8 horses per game. Players usually change horses either in between chukkers or halfway between chukkers depending on how tired the horses get.
Now Let’s get into more detail from the ins & outs of my lesson. Polo is quite technical but once shown its quite hard not to forget.
My instructor on the day was Leo, he is an Argentinian Polo Rider, what an absolutetalent. Playing off a handicap of 2, (I knowright a handicap? Could this be golf on horseback?) Leo has experience playing all over the world.
The mostimportant thing he shared with me was that you don’t need any riding experience to start Polo, great for any newcomers out there reading this, or anyone who has always wanted to give it a go! With me having the experience, being able to ride a horse that is, it made a huge difference to our lesson, it made things easier for Leo it meant he could teach me how to play polo & not focus on the basics of riding a horse.
Holding The Reins Correctly
In polo, they ride using the western way of riding. You always hold your reins with your left hand, and the polo Mallet in your right hand.
How to Hold the Reins Correctly:
You Hold your left palm out flat
Place both reins on top and close your hand around them
Use your index finger between both reins to shorten & lengthen your reins for control
It takes some getting used to, but after a while it becomes second nature.
In The Saddle Polo Tips
I could not get over how reactive the horse was at first. Steering was done through the reins, & not through a contact with the horses mouth. Using the reins, leaning them up against the horses neck to steer in the direction you want to go.
The horses were so reactive to the movement of my body, I did spent a good 10 minutes playing around with this novelty!
To stop, you simply lift both reins up and sit back in the saddle.The horses reactions were almost immediate, it was very refreshing. Do prepare yourself though I bolted forward a few times – when you want them to stop they literally stop!
GRIP WITH YOUR KNEES! Something Leo constantly had to keep reminding me to do. The idea of this was to hold yourself in place to give you the freedom to move your body around in order to tackle players during a game. Your lower leg should also hang free & loose giving it the freedom to swing back, all while keeping your toes pointed inwards!
Holding & Using The Mallet
Getting used to riding a Polo horse came fairly naturally. As I got the picked up the basic, we moved fairly quick into the proper technique on how to hold the Polo mallet (the large Stick!) and the correct way to hit the ball.
Holding The Mallet Correctly:
You always hold the mallet in your right hand
Hold your right hand out straight, loop the handle over your thumb
Flipping your hand over, twisting the handle slightly for grip, you finish by placing the polo stick (with the number facing outward) into the palm of your hand.
The end of the polo stick should lie on the end of your palm just before your wrist starts.
Once you have a good grip you must then hold the stick with the end facing upwards and with your elbow tight in by your right side. See pics below!
It is a lot to take in, trust me. It took me a while to grasp it, Prepare for jelly arms!!
Let The Games Begin
There are 4 types of swings that Leo showed me. The forehand, backhand, neck, and tail. We focused on the forehand swing, one of the most common and easiest out of the 4.
In walk we began practicing by hitting the ball. It is quite petrifying to begin with, there is a fear of trying not to land on your face anytime you go to hit the ball. It wasn’t too long before I began to realised that keeping your eye on the ball and not in the horses legs gives you a better chance of actually being able to hit the ball.
One thing Leo did comment on was not to hit the ball as if I was holding a tennis racket, that was down to more practice being needed by me to get used to proper polo techniques.
As I got the grips with things, we began to hit the ball in canter. Dear Lord it was a million times harder. I did manage to hit the ball a few times, but there were also times where I nearly whacked the poor horse straight in the face…. I honestly don’t know how horses had the patience for me!
You almost forget that during a polo match you are playing against an opposite team trying to win the ball for points. The tackling part of the sport is something that will take a little longer for me to get used to.
When Leo went in for a tacklethe first time pushing me & my horse away from the ball using his upper body, I literally stopped the horse dead and let out a scream. As we practiced more, my competitivestreakbegan to show & Iimproved quite rapidly….. apparently you’re not allowed use your elbows… its a foul if you do!
We finished up shortly after this, I was just about able to breath, the fitness behind a polo player is phenomenal. I definitely have a new found appreciation for the sport that’s for sure.
What an amazing experience, one that I will most definitely never forget & one I always look back on with a fire in my stomach to get back on board & learn more. I do hope to start back up again this summer. You never know, you might see me playing my first official polo match in The Phoenix park yet!
A big thank you to Palo Alto & The All Ireland Polo Club who I organised this lesson with last year. Have anyone of you tried playing Polo? Let me know in the comments below. I do apologise if my Polo Terminology is not spot on, I’m am after all a beginner!
Want to see how my lesson really went? Check out the video below!
Christmas Time, all the dealsss & wine… Yes it has a great ring to it! We have been bending over backwards the last 2 months contacting brands & trying to source the best deals going for you guys our loyal followers. The absolute stress, but it is so worth it when you sit back and watch all your hard work being used as every equestrians bucking gift guide this holiday season.
With it being the season of giving, we have a special Likit gift to giveaway for one of our lucky followers too! All you have to do is head over to our Facebook or Instagram pages (or both for a double entry!) and share the Gift Guide post and we will choose one lucky winner for this amazing likit gift.
Without any further hesitation, lets get this bucking show on the road, scroll down to find out what discounts we have secured for you, what our must haves are for Xmas & more importantly the Black Friday Deals!!
Scroll, Scroll, Scroll & Share!!!
NBW Follower Discounts
Comfort Gut – Emerald Balms
One of Comfurt Gut’s lesser known products is their Emerald Balms. Handmade, this aromatic balm is rich in Avocado oil which is considered excellent for nourishing and moisturising. The essential oils found in Emerald Balm, which were carefully selected, are considered to have antibacterial, antifungal and soothing properties making it ideal for treating cuts, abrasions and scabbed skin. It’s also great as an everyday moisturiser for people who work outdoors.
Emerald Balms can be bought in a tube or in a range of tub sizes. Buy Now from just €14 and make sure to use Code: OFFER to get a special NBW discount!
A little bit racey, the slogan that just rolls off the tongue! Not only for the horse race enthusiast but this equestrian brand is one of our firm favourites. It has a massive range of variety from hats, waterproofs to soft shell jackets. and with that, yes we have another code for you!
Enjoy 20% off Adult/Childrens Softshell Jackets using code: YESBUCKINGWAY.
To shop follow this link to their website and lets all get #AlittlebitRacey!
This is a must have for any one obsessed with those matchy mathcy sets. PS of Sweden xmas colours – Atlantic and Violet are an absolute favourite. Their riding tights, specifically the Katinka tights are on our Xmas list, available in colours plum and rose gold (plus a whole range of other colours).
We of course have a special NBW Discount code for you guys to use on the site. Code: Bucking10 for 10% off.
Our newest and probably one of the most useful products we’ve had the privilege of trying out this year are the ZeroFit Baselayers. Between their two products, the Ultimate and the Move, you are well and truly covered this winter. The heavier Ultimate is perfect for those days where you’re hanging around the yard or at a show for hours whereas the lightweight Move is ideal riding-wear.
These baselayers retail from £40 but you’re in luck as we’ve got another handy code for you to use to buy your very own. Code:NBW01 for 20% off until 2nd December.
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With such a selection of products on the market these days, we wanted to highlight some of our recommendations from our own collection of tried & tested products.
Georgian Dollar – Sieta Riding Jeans
The perfect gift for any equestrian. Stylish. Comfortable. Fit for purpose. Great quality – what more could you want!? If this doesn’t have you convinced then check out our review of these jeans HERE.
A brilliant local producer of top quality showjumps, John O’Toole from Kildare has a massive selection of poles, wings, cross country jumps, cavaletti stands and anything else you may need for your arena at home. With prices starting from €17 for un-painted poles, these are definitely worth a look if you need to expand your collection and if you’re looking for something a little different, John also offers customised orders. Check out our full review HERE.
John takes orders over Facebookor you can call him directly on 086-7337925.
Santa’s Sack – Our Most Wanted!
Have you ever wanted to be your own physio? Or your very own pain reliever? Well look no further, throw away those hot water bottles Epiony is our new must have product. The Heat Pad has been made from a light weight super soft leatherette fabric combined with heat resistant insulation wadding to trap and reflect the heat back onto the muscles to sooth and relax them.
It is certainly a Christmas Gift I am hoping Orla will leave in my stocking this year…. Hint Hint…..
What Santa Sack is complete without a few select items from LeMieux? And in even better news they’ve got a fabulous selection of items not just for your horse but also for you! Check them out…
LeMieux Loire Headcollar
A lovely soft halter featuring fleece lining at the poll strap, nose band and cheeks.Buy Here for RRP: £38.95. Available in: Blackcurrant, Grey, Black, Navy, Ice Blue and Peacock
LeMieux Lustre Rug
Smart show rug that has it all. Incredibly soft faux rabbit fur lining polishes the coat to a perfect lustre, keeping dust to a minimum. Buy Here for RRP: £149.95. Available in: Navy or Burgundy
My LeMieux Madrisa Fleece
A luxurious long sleeved zipped fleece, perfect for layering in cooler weather. Wind and moisture repellent, as well as slightly sweat absorbing make this an ideal garment for the active rider. Buy Now for RRP: £59.95. Available in: Black, Hunter Green and Mulberry
Black Friday Deals
The Equine Warehouse – 50% off select items online – Click Here
Henry James Saddlery – up to 50% off site wide – Click Here
Hollywood Horse & Pony Trekking – €10 off a 90 minute Trek – Call 085 111 7448 Offer ends Sunday! Gift Vouchers also available.
And there you have it folks, our Ultimate Bucking Christmas Gift Guide. With only a month left until Christmas, this is definately going to help those loved ones out at Xmas time for getting you that perfect gift! Dont be shy about tagging them as a hint either…
As always, thank you to every brand who took part & gave their time to us when we reached out, without the weeks of emails I dont know where we would be!
Dont forget to share & tag to be in with a chance to win our Likit! Competition closes Black Friday
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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!!
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?
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!
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!
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.
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!
Coco & Darielle, it just has an amazing ring to it, am I right? What a team, what a duo & now that Orla is back riding she has broken us up!! Myself & Coco have grown together over the last 3 weeks, in our last session we had together she may have tried to bunny hop me off but that was just Coco showing how upset she was that I wouldn’t be riding her on a daily basis anymore….
With the return of Orla to the riding scene after her drastic injury, I though it would be a good idea to piece together something from my time together with Coco. You all seen some clips of us over on our Instagram page, but I feel like you never really knew how we actually got on, the ins & outs of our journey, Well here you have it.
When I took Coco on board, the plan for me was to focus on flatwork/polework with her, to keep her in work so that she was kept content, busy & working. Orla of course was on the ground (not literally this time!!) setting up poles, or talking me through some of Coco’s “moments” I have learned an awful lot from my three weeks with her…. keep reading to get the inside scoop!
My Growing Confidence
This is a word that is thrown around quite a good bit in the equestrian world, You see a lot of people struggle with certain horses, they often tend to find that one horse that suits them and well the rest is history they are bound together for life.
Then slots in Coco…. I have seen the good, the bad & the ugly when it comes to her. I will be honest here, I have found it quite hard to contain my laughter at times with the amount of falls I have witnessed Orla take on her over the last year! And to be fair to the horse she had never been nasty with any of them, she was mainly distracted or had put herself in at an awkward stride, and well Orla got given the blunt end most times!
Not being confident on Coco was something that never really popped into my head. I guess coming from riding Dante, who is a horse that not an awful lot of people (No1!!) seems to want to ride. I think I may have this un-found confidence when it comes to not really caring about the horses background and simply giving them a chance to prove themselves when I jump on board.
If anything Coco has helped me grow in confidence over the last 3 weeks. Of course it wouldn’t be Coco if she didn’t put up some sort of fight at times (those poxy corners!) but she was never unmanageable, she never put the fear of god into me or scared me away from riding her. She made me grow into a better rider, some of her qualities I have to commend Orla on, you have done a fantastic job! She is a challenging mare, but she makes the rider work & think, she wont give you an easy ride, she will instead give you a learning curve.
What Have I Learned?
I may be a bit of a dare devil… This may sound ridiculous, but I don’t really seem to care about the consequence of my actions. I am also not sure if this is a Good or Bad trait?
Little of you know the full story from the day Orla had her nasty fall. As Orla sat on the arena floor in bits, of course like any horse owner, you never want to leave you horse on that sour note. So after some shifty eyes from Orla of her basically telling me you are getting up on her… I of course, got up on Coco to jump her over a few fences…
Long story short I fell off her that day also… she dropped the shoulder in front of a fence and boom, off I went! I was not injured to the extent of Orla, or any extent at all really, so I got back up again and continued to push & push her until she jumped all the fences I wanted her too. She is a stubborn mare, and I think she may have met her match that day, but she caved & eventually we ended on that good note.
From this point, I think myself & Coco have bonded on another level. She has thought me an awful lot of things that I feel any horse owner should live by ….
Always think two steps ahead
Sit back or you will be headbutted
Some horse just don’t like corners or sheep
Never trust a Mare
Always Buy a Gelding
Was I Getting Too Comfortable?
I have had Dante 3 years now, and in the space of those 3 years, I think I may have only ever ridden two other horses, and one of those was of course Coco. It is outrageous to think before I owned my very own horse, week in week out I had no problems at all adjusting to different horses but I have gotten way too comfortable.
It is horrible to say, I used to hate riding other horses. Other horses don’t know your riding habits, to put it simply they are not adjusted to your habits. The majority of those habits you shouldn’t be doing at all but your horse is so used to them that you get away with it! Adjusting to a new horse is something that just seems so different and from riding Coco I have learned to spread my wings & fly, It is extremely rewarding.
My advice to you all, go out there and ride other horses!!! Doing this, you will quickly learn how much you have progressed & of course slacked on certain aspects of your riding. It is only a benefit to both you & your horse. Different horses bring out different qualities in you, so go get your horse friends together & do a horse swap, if anything it will be hilarious but you will also get an entire new understanding to what your equestrian friends have to deal with on a daily basis!
Give it a go & see how you get on, my plan now is to get Orla up on Dante for a spin, she has been putting it off wayyyy to long!!