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

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

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

The Prep

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

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

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

A few weeks later we were confidently jumping bigger fences

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

Day 1 – AP Team Showjumping

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

Coco was on her toes!

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

Last jump of the course

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

The form was mighty

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

3rd Place for Team Abbeylands!

Day 2 – AP Individual Showjumping

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

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

Number 1 and she makes it look about 40cms

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

Our flying finish over the last

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

Well deserved much after a great weekend

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

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

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


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,


Combined Training with Coco

Its been a while since I’ve done a proper update on Coco and what we’ve been up to lately. Well, we’ve well and truly settled into our new yard and the progress we’ve made since the move has been incredible. About two months ago I made the decision to get my big girl pants on and start pushing mine and Coco’s jumping. We had been coasting at the same level for a while so I decided to recruit Jer in to give me and Coco the push we needed. I seemed to learn something new about Coco with every lesson while also finding different areas of my own riding that need improving. So while we still have a lot to work on, we are now at the stage where I’m feeling much more confident about bringing her out. So we started with our first Combined Training show…


I’ll be honest, I was a bit worried about going to this event. I didn’t know which Coco I was going to get as she had been very difficult the week before the show. She was in season and not in any mood for work (can’t say I blame her to be honest). Well, I needn’t have been worried at all because Coco exceeded all expectations. I genuinely couldn’t have asked for more from her. 

For our combined training, we took on the BD Prelim 7 Dressage Test and an 80cm Showjumping course. Between tantrums and spooks I managed to learn our test a few days before the event and keep her keen by popping around a handful of jumps, making sure not to overdo it. We got to the venue and found that the entire event was going to take place on grass which Coco took to like a fish to water. We warmed up and entered the arena for our dressage test and I can genuinely say she didn’t put a single foot wrong. I was so proud of her. We even came out with a very respectable score of 31.7%.


Next it was on to the showjumping round and with that came the rain. This was the part of the day that I was most nervous about. I had a quick look at the course before I started some warm up jumps and the first thing I noticed was that there were fillers at nearly every fence. I quickly realised that this was going to be the real test for me and Coco. I was going to ask her to jump 8 fences that she had never seen before and in an arena that she had never been in deep end. Again, my fears were completely unfounded as Coco went in and took on every single fence like a pro and didn’t knock a single pole, giving us a lovely clear rou

This had been probably one of our most successful days together. I was absolutely beaming with pride and to top it all off we came home with a 1st place rosette!

Needless to say I was delighted with Coco! I felt like we were FINALLY starting to see the progress we’d been working towards for the last year and a half.  When you have so many setbacks and knocks to confidence it can be so hard to push yourself to try again. It’s a great feeling when it eventually pays off.

Make sure to check in soon for more updates on Coco and what we’ve been up to! We’ve had a busy few weeks 🙂

Thanks for reading,


Dante’s Diaries – Our First One Day Event

Yes, you read that correctly, Dante & I have finally cut the cord, we are officially out competing. Over the weekend we took part in our first unaffiliated ODE & holy shirt, the nerves !!

There were a lot of ups & downs during our preparations for our One Day Event, the week prior consisted of a lot of headless humans running around the yard, setting out Dressage arenas, setting up jumps, to lessons with Jer & Sue to prepare!  

What is an ODE you ask? Well it is a single horse and rider competing in all 3 horse riding disciplines, Dressage, Show Jumping & Cross Country.

From learning the wrong dressage test, to not having jumped any Cross Country fences for at least 4 months. Keep reading to find out how we got on in each discipline,  & how we pulled it off & got placed 2nd!


I will start off by saying this is my least favourite out of the 3. Dante is not the most willing horse to accept the contact, if you have been following us you will know how much work I have to do to get him to use himself properly. It can be torture at times! untitled7

As I wanted to challenge him slightly in his jumping abilities, we had to enter the 1m class, the only downfall with this is that I had to do the Novice Dressage test.

Being our first ever dressage test, and me being quite the ditz, I of course learned the completely wrong test to begin with, having a massive panic attak on Friday two days before the event forcing Coach Sue to come out and give me a quick run over on everything flat work related. After her tough instructions & excellent tips by the end of our hour session I had the correct test mastered & was slightly less nervous about doing it on Sunday!

Sue’s Tip: When transitioning to canter, keep your outside leg back the entire time until you are transitioning down to trot, this will not only help your horse cue a trot transition, but it will also help your horse stay in canter until your leg is placed forward.

Due to dreadful weather conditions, and no stud holes in Dante’s shoes, we were faced with doing our test under quite slippy ground conditions. Typical Irish weather, it stays sunny for 2 months & the one day you decide to do an event on grass it pours down from the heavens! We managed to cope, with a lot of our comments saying “unbalanced” – I am surprised they didn’t say well done for staying on him!

He was quite sceptical of his surroundings looking at everything he was moving forward but was also moving away from the outline of the dressage ring, it was a really awkward feeling to try ride him correctly, but overall I couldn’t have been more proud of him. He really did try his heart out. We scored a 55.4% which for our first ever dressage test, I am delighted with! And for a novice test at that too!



As we moved on from our dressage test, we walked back to the box to put our martingale, boots & the most important Jesus (neck) strap back on before going in to practice for our showjumping round.

This is were a few risks were taken. We went up to the jumping practice area & as Dante tried to move up into canter the ground had him slipping everywhere underneath him. I mean I nearly pooed myself, I thought we were going over on our side. With this I walked down to the jumping arena, which was also on grass.

After walking around the outskirts, the ground was in much better condition than the practice area. So we took a massive risk & jumped straight into our round, having already warmed up from the dressage test, I just bit the bullet & went for it. At this stage I wasn’t really planning on placing anywhere considering I was ready to quit due to the weather & him not having any studs in.


This horse never fails to surprise me. He jumped out of his skin. Approached everything with such care, and the cheeky brat even began to show off over the fences. The comments from people watching he was practically jumping everything as if the fence was up on the top hole of the wing. He is really starting to come into his own when it comes to his jumping, I could point him at anything he is so honest.

Finishing his round, I was delighted. I knew I never had anything to worry about when it came to his jumping, this is really where he shines & comes into himself.

Sit back & hold him with your legs, your legs keep him balanced helping him flow smoothly around the course of fences. Jer’s words are forever in my head anytime I jump a course!


Cross Country

Dante had a well deserved packet of polo’s & a good 30minute rest before we took part in the last part of our ODE, our Cross Country. I really wanted to call it a day after our showjumping. He went so well & I didn’t want to push my luck with him.untitled11

With an outfit change,  fresh numnah and his XC boots on we headed in to walk the course. I yet again was quite unprepared. I knew fence 1-4 out of 10 luckily I was last up so I got to watch everyone before it was my turn.

Watching people is one of my go-to ways of learning courses!

Our turn quickly approached, as we walked in Dante began to get that spring in his step, it didn’t help that half way down the field a speed boat kept speeding up & down the lake, this was quite the distraction & caused us quite some time to get going as he began bunny hopping away from the start of the course to try get out of things but with a quick boot on forward we were off!

Once we got going we were both in our element. From jumping fences from practically a walk to trotting in calmly to fences that freaked me out, we both started getting into the swing of things as we got half way around the course, We even jumped the big scary yellow man fence – the one fence I was 100% positive I was going to take the time faults for before I even entered the field! But we did it, we finished the course!


This horse is something else, we both really click & give each other the confidence and the boost we both sometimes need. The trust we have in each other is really coming along. And I couldn’t be happier. To top everything off placing 2nd overall really set our sights high – we are certainly off to a great start.


Once back to the yard, I undressed Dante of all his travelling equipment, gave him a quick leg wash as he had a lot of dried in muck around his hooves and applied a quick layer of Leg clay to his back hocks.

Applying the leg clay wasn’t due to injury, he is quite the bad traveller, always whacking and cutting himself in the box even with his travel boots on, and with such a long day competing, something that he wouldn’t exactly be used to, it is better safe than sorry!untitled12

A massive thank you to Daffodil Lodge Stud, they ran an excellent event, a great place to bring any young horse in training, such a relaxed environment. And OMG their hills, their horses hind ends must be out of this world!!

Following our success, hopefully over the next few weeks we will be getting more competitions under our belts, after doing this I am full of confidence, Dante is more than capable – no more excuses!

Thanks for Reading,



Our First Show – Reaching That Goal

Recently Dante & I attended our first ever proper show!  Yes, you heard that right me & Dante went show jumping! For anyone who has followed Dante’s progress from when I bought him in October, I honestly thought this day would NEVER come!!!

He was quite the problem horse to say the least, but it just goes to show that sticking at something and working hard really does show results. We are still not perfect, far from it! These last few weeks I feel like we are both progressing well together, but now as a team. 

Have a read below, find out how our practice day went two days before the big show itself, find out how I got him washed & prepared! It feels like a lifetime since I have done it all!


Practice Round  

To give a quick explanation of what was going on, the yard I had previously been at run an annual jumping event against a neighbouring yard . where they both compete teams & individuals for a chance to win the winning cup. With the show being on Monday, the Friday previous a practice course was set up, for all teams & individuals competing on Monday. As Dante has never done a proper show or jumped a proper course I thought it was best to bring him here first, that way I could decide from his behaviour if he was ready to partake on Monday. 

OMgod I was so nervous. I really did not know what to expect from him. As we arrived at our previous yard Dante was on his toes. There was a lot going on, horses & people everywhere but I was very surprised by his relaxed behaviour besides the few looks here & there. I popped him into a stable to let him settle down, as I had a quick catch up with everyone, and to have a quick learn the course! 

I lunged Dante at home before I brought him over, it helps to get rid of that bit of extra spice in him & so that I didn’t have to spend the guts of an hour warming him up trying to get him relaxed. So with that I walked him into the practice arena & hopped right up on him.

It was so weird. I kind of feel like the two of us were walking around the arena for the guts of 5 minutes thinking what the hell are we getting ourselves into. I had a quick trot & canter on both reins and jumped the two practice fences set up, with that I headed down to wait for my turn to jump.

I was absolutely shitting it as they called us into the arena but the minute we walked in, it was as if the two of us turned our game faces on. The nerves were suddenly gone and before I knew it I was cantering into fence number 1. Dante was amazing to say the least, he kept a steady rhythm in his canter through out the full course. He was disunited quite a good bit and did keep changing legs in between fences but as long as I kept pushing him on through it we were flying. I have zero faults in his performance, I was delighted with him, besides a few knocked poles everything he done was a step forward in the right direction. 

Delighted with his performance, I decided it was time to take the plunge and finally start entering shows with him and that I did. Myself & Dante put our names down for Monday, unaware if we were going to be on a team or as an individual but either way I didn’t really care as I was so happy with the way he worked around the course we had just completed. 


After arriving home ecstatic about our performance, A day later I received a text to be told Dante & I had been selected to jump as an individual & as part of a team. That nervous feeling crept back in again, but I suppose you have to power on and get over these fears if you want to get anywhere!! 

So I began prepping & getting him ready for our very first show. He needed to be plaited, washed, groomed & our tack needed a little bit of a sprucing up! You may think I am mad, but I have began using hair masks for Dante for his mane & tail as it is very coarse & fluffy! (I needed something to tame it!) With a glass of wine, and a bucket of warm soapy water I began my mission to scrub Dante until he was sparkling! 

With baby shampoo & warm water I simply began to sponge him down scrubbing the visible dirt away, he’s a bay horse, so he is quite clean besides his 3 white socks, (I didn’t wash the bottoms of his legs until the morning of the show as he is not the cleanest horse when it comes to standing in his stable!!) Once his body had been hosed of, I used my Elvive hair mask. I simply rub it through his mane & tail, on the package it says to leave it in for 5-10 minutes but I leave it in for 15 minutes & rinse out.  After all the scrubbing was complete, I threw Dante on the walker to dry, leaving him in his stable with his cooler on! At least that way I had a good chance of keeping him clean!

Before every show, I plait the mane the night before, and bud them up the morning off. I can’t imagine it being too comfortable with rosebuds in over night. Regarding his tail, I don’t really tend to plait it, he likes flicking it and swishing it around the place & he keeps it relatively clean, so I did not see the need to! 

Show Day

As mentioned above, the morning of the show I washed his four socks (legs) before loading him up into the box, using a whitener shampoo to try keep them white, sealing them with a bit of baby powder to keep the colour vibrant! After all of this was done, I threw on his travel boots, his cooler & loaded him up into the horse box and we set off to the venue!

Driving into the venue I was half expecting Dante to start kicking and jumping around the box in excitement, but needless to say he was lovely and calm. There was so much going on, horses walking and trotting by the box people everywhere, after 20minutes of him standing around in the box he began to get quite anxious.

To be fair to him he could hear everything going in but couldn’t exactly see anything, so I don’t blame him! I took him out of the box, let him have a stretch and put him into a stable to let him properly relax before getting him tacked up & ready!

The Warm up 

There warm up arena, which is an indoor arena, it is quite small & uneven so I decided it was best to give him a quick warm up out in the field before hand. Dante was taking everything in, no bold behaviour, but he was looking at everything and had that real spring in his step. As I began to trot him he was really using himself, I could feel the power in him! This quickly came to an end as a few kids from the yard kept cantering up & down the field with their ponies and this was really beginning to set Dante off. I felt as if I had lost his concentration completely as he was way too focused on what was going on around him to bother listening to me. So as I pretty much brought everything with me just in case, I decided to throw my draw reins on him so I had slightly more control & I headed into the indoor arena to try get a good warm up done before our first round.

To be fair to everyone, they were so accommodating towards us when we went into the indoor, they gave us the space we needed to get a proper warm up. He was working so well, in trot & canter he was a bundle of energy, but it was controllable so it gave me a good ground to work with. He was very responsive to everything I was asking him to do, which did surprise me. He can be quite a difficult horse at time in terms of keeping him from getting flustered. So with this I acted quick, took the draw reins off and I popped him over two or three jumps before we headed into the arena for our first round. 

Tip: I highly recommend not over jumping a horse too much before entering your round. Working on transitions and making sure your horse is listening to you is far more beneficial. I would keep my jumping at a max of 4 times, unless you run into major problems or really sloppy jumping.

Round 1 Midi

I was left to wait 5-10 minutes outside the gate before I entered the arena. My nerves were totally forgot about at this stage as Dante literally would not stand still. The tables had turned, I am pretty sure Dante began to gain more nerves than me at this stage. So with a few reassuring pats on the neck & talking to him trying to relax him he settled as we walked into the arena.

The crowd was huge. There were people talking, shouting, microphones being spoke into & Dante didn’t bat an eyelid. I was amazed, we were both in our happy place, back jumping!! Dante awaited instructions from me and instead of flapping around, I got straight into it, I heard the bell and I began to approach the first fence. 

He was fantastic. He came back to me in between fences when I asked and didn’t rush or take off unannounced. He did have a good look at a big red sign hanging up on one of their fences, but as I ignored it and rode him on he began to ignore it too. I wont lie, our jumping was slightly sloppy. We knocked around 4/5 poles, not to blame Dante but he wasn’t really lifting his legs over the fences, he wasn’t appreciating the height of them one bit, they were 70-80cm! 

Overall I was delighted with his first round, knocking poles didn’t really bother me one bit, as I was more focused on how he behaved over anything else. This was all a brand new scene to him so keeping him relaxed was key. Beside it was more like a warm up for our team event coming up next!

Round 2 Maxi

He was yet again taking everything in his stride, the crowds, the noises. As we entered the arena for our Maxi round, I could feel him a lot more relaxed underneath me. With the first round out of the way he knew what he had to do & we both knew the course.

Again, we got straight into it, once the bell sounded we started approaching our first fence. I will admit his strides are so hard to read at the moment! But that will take time as we both have only started jumping properly! 

Once over the first fence, he did knock it, but as we approached the second fence, I pushed him. I pushed him for the big stride and he met the fence perfect. The next 4-5 fences I kept pushing him for the longer stride and he met everything spot on. 

I was delighted with him, but when it comes to our jumping at the minute we both just need time to adjust to each other more & get used to each other. His jump can be huge at times, I am just about getting to grips with staying in the saddle!!  But jumping the bigger fences seemed to be a lot more comfortable for both me & him.

We finished the course with 8 faults possibly 12, but again I didn’t really care about the knocks, his behaviour was all I was worried about for his first show out! That and well we had no refusals either! So overall I was delighted with his performance. 


We ended up placing 3rd in our Midi round & 4th in our Maxi round, so with these results I was delighted! But like I keep saying, I was mostly concerned about his behaviour over his performance, bringing him to this show has really opened my eyes to how far we both have come!

When I first bought him back in October bringing Dante to this show was my goal, and I am still fairly shocked that we reached it, considering how much trouble I had with him up until 2 months ago! 

So for everyone reading this, if I can do it ANYONE can do it!!! 

Onwards & upwards from here!



Try TREC Day!

Recently myself and Darielle did a Try TREC Day at Darielle’s yard. For those who don’t know what TREC is, check out Darielle’s post from her first TREC experience where she gives a brief overview of what it’s all about. The TREC Ireland website has even more information for those who want to learn more and see how they can take part. 

If you’ve got a young horse and are looking for a way of getting them out and trying new things without the stress or pressure of a competitive environment, I couldn’t recommend a Try TREC Day more. This was such a great experience for both myself and Coco. I had never done TREC before so it was the perfect introduction to a sport I knew nothing about. And Coco had never really done anything like this before so it was great for her to be faced with new challenges.


For Dante, as we have already done TREC before this day was more about pushing him a little further and learning more of the rules so we could continue to enter more competitions. He placed 3rd in the last one he done, with that result it was a shame to not do it again!

The day started early enough and it was absolutely boiling hot! (like 27 degrees or something face with open mouth ). Don’t worry, everyone wore sun -ream including the horses! We were split into groups with Coco being assigned to the beginners group and Dante with a group who had done a TREC event before.

There were 2 Different areas set up for the day the arena and the field. Coco started in the arena and Dante started in the field.

The Arena PTV (Parcours en Terrain Varie) Obstacles / Cross-Country Phase

Here there were a number of different obstacles set up throughout the arena, all being different challenges one might face during an actual TREC event. We started off on the ground and did some in-hand obstacles first, the S-Bend and the Corridor. 

The objective of the S-Bend and the corridor is to guide your horse between the poles without knocking or stepping outside of the poles. This is much easier said than done in the S-Bend but the key is to walk right into the corner to ensure you use all the space you have, the S bend stays the same width no matter the size of your horse!


Tip: When leading your horse in TREC you must hold your leadrope/reins behind your back with your horse following directly behind you. Look up where you’re going and your horse should follow.

Next we mounted up and tried both obstacles ridden and then moved onto some other obstacles.

One-handed Figure of 8 Pretty self explanatory, you must manoeuvre your horse around 3 barrels using just one hand on the reins. This is a paced obstacle meaning the higher the gait you do it in, the more points you can earn. 

Mounted Immobility you bring your horse into a circle and make them halt. Then you drop your reins and hold your hands out and count to 10, all without your horse moving outside of the circle. 


Low Branches another paced obstacle, here you must ride your horse underneath a low branch (stick on pegs in this case) without knocking it, this is a good test towards you & your horses trust, you really have to get down low on their necks.


With Dante in the arena I could feel that his attention span was completely gone! Luckily the arena is an enclosed space, so he had no way of bulldozing off! We started of as a group on horseback walking through the ridden corridors, moving onto the one handed figure of 8, we done this separately. He really began to get adjatated waiting, and when it was our turn, anytime he would turn into the group or face the group he would try to walk and sway over near them, he eventually got it but started to act the same way doing the S bend. His focus was completely gone, until we moved on to the low branches! We had only ever done this in walk before, I kind of had a fear that he would try to jump it at any other pace, but I am glad to say that we rode it in canter! It was great to leave the arena on a good note considering his tantrums were beginning to crawl back in before we broke for lunch, giving him zero chance to act out!!

The Field

Next we moved out to the field where there were a number of other obstacles laid out. When we got out here Coco started to act up a bit. The open space kind of blew her head so she picked up the pace and became quite mare-ish by kicking out at the horses she was napping towards (I don’t really understand her logic). So I kept her moving and worked her away from the other horses which she did happily enough (surprisingly)!


Dante on the other hand, surprisingly he was very relaxed (for once!!) He was used to the environment he was in and was used to the two other horses in his group, with the experience of the TREC day he had done recently he took everything in his stride! He walked when he was asked and trotted when he was asked, no hesitations! The only down fall with Dante was the mounting & dismounting, it is not his strong point. With a lot of stopping and starting I could feel him beginning to get slightly fed up waiting, but at the end of the day he has to learn his place!

A lot of the obstacles we faced out here are quite self explanatory but I will let the pictures describe themselves. The one thing I will explain however is the MA Corridor. This was quite an interesting challenge. MA in TREC stands for Maitrise des Allures or Control of Paces. Here you must canter down a 150m corridor as slowly as you can and then walk back as fast as you can. 


Coco was surprisingly good at this (once she got over spooking at a chair, the starting flags, a log and a jeep). Her canter gets very short and choppy when she’s excited so she barely moves when she’s like this and she’s so keen to go fast that she bombs around in her walk so we got one of the best scores of the day on this one!

Dante on the other hand, well he walks like a snail, it felt like it took us an hour to walk down the corridor! Not exactly helping in the points department, his cantering on the other hand is good, on approach to the corridor you are only allowed to circle a maximum of 3 times before entering, this helped us a lot to get a good rhythm, a few extra circles would of helped not going to lie!! Like Coco he had a few looks at the beginning, there were two flag posts at the start of the corridor that he was not familiar with so a lot of leg was needed to get him through! It is harder than you think keeping them cantering at a controlled pace and also having to keep them in between the corridor which is no more than a metre in width!! 

snapshot_741-e1499205252411.png  19242947_1900819996824167_9124763354318738955_o  snapshot_642.png

Ridden Footbridge                  In-Hand Decline                    Ridden Step-Up

slalom  mountingstep4  img_3781.jpg

Slalom                                   Mounting                                 Ridden Drop

Shamrock Gif                                                                         Shamrock

The Road POR (Parcours d’Orientation et de Regularite) or Orienteering Phase

Here you’re given a map with a set route to follow. There are a number of checkpoints along the route with a certain speed required between each check point. You don’t know how many checkpoints there may be or where they will be so you really need to follow your map. For this we had to go out onto the roads. We were all paired off and thankfully myself and Coco were paired with a bombproof horse who could take the lead as we haven’t done much (successful) roadwork. 


Our Route is mapped out in pink!

Darielle and Dante went out last, and OMG he really surprised me out on the roads!! He has done a good bit of hacking recently, but with him always in behind a lead horse his new found confidence kind of shocked me! He was paired up with a horse, that was used to hacking but was quite spooky, Dante paid no attention to anything without any hesitation he would give the other horse a lead, which was amazing as he tends to be a sheep and copy other horses! Likewise when I felt Dante getting unsure of things the other horse would lead out in front there were the perfect pair! 

The route was supposed to be done in about an hour however unfortunately myself and Coco missed a turn and ended up about 50 minutes off course. We did manage to find our way back but we ended up being the last ones in and I finished the day with a numb arse and a fed up Coco. 

Tip: Know your rules of the road and your hand signals. You never know what you could face when you’re out on the roads. And wear as much Hi-Vis as possible. Better safe than sorry! 

Despite getting lost towards the end, it was a great day that I was delighted to have brought Coco to. I was quite apprehensive about it at first as I wasn’t sure how Coco would behave. Of course we had a few… ok a lot of baby moments but in the end she did everything I asked of her so I couldn’t have asked for any more than that. 

With Dante, I constantly continue to learn more about him when we do things together! As relaxed as he was through out the day, he needs to be constantly moving or on the go. All the stopping and starting was fine in the field but when we moved into the arena he started to throw a few tantrums and began to get fed up. Despite this he was amazing!!  As for the POR, I cant wait to practise doing more of this especially using a stopwatch!! 


What did Orla learn:

I have learned that I need to keep pushing Coco and myself to get out and try more things and I also need to give her more credit. While she may start kicking up a fuss, so long as I stay calm and keep her moving forward she eventually gets to where I need her to be. It’s all just learning experiences at the moment and I’m enjoying every minute of it. 

What did Darielle learn:

Trust Dante more! I need to start pushing him on a bit further and not assume he will have a tantrum. For my next TREC competition I am going to start doing a lot of the obstacles in trot, he is well capable! Its a constant learning curve with him and the more we do together the more we really begin to trust each other and click as a team! Once Dante does something good, I do need to start giving him credit where credit is due.

So have we convinced you to give TREC a go? You may find its not really your thing but its amazing how much you’ll learn about your horse in these types of environments so it’s definitely worth a go if you get the opportunity. 

Please be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or if you have any interesting stories from your own TREC experience!

Orla & Darielle