The Coco Chronicles ~ Here we go again…

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

My Instructor after my 3rd fall of 2019

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

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

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

So effortless and loving every second

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

Big bold head on her…delighted with herself she was

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading

Orla

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

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


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

The Prep

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

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

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

A few weeks later we were confidently jumping bigger fences

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

Day 1 – AP Team Showjumping

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

Coco was on her toes!

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

Last jump of the course

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

The form was mighty

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

3rd Place for Team Abbeylands!

Day 2 – AP Individual Showjumping

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

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

Number 1 and she makes it look about 40cms

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

Our flying finish over the last

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


Well deserved much after a great weekend

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

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

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

Orla

June Jumping Exercise #2 – “The Mercedes”

For anyone who follows us on Instagram, you may have seen this picture a few weeks ago. Well I have finally gotten around to writing this post to explain what this exercise is all about so check it out…

WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Jump-off practice
  • Maintaining a rhythm
  • Practicing lead changes over fences
  • Having a bit of fun!

HOW TO SET IT UP

Depending on what selection of jumps you have you can set this exercise up using

  • 4 x jumping blocks OR 5 x wings
  • 6 x poles (you’d get away with 3 poles if you don’t use ground poles)

Start by laying out 3 poles as per the diagram, ensuring that they are equidistant from each other. Next place your blocks/wings at the end of each pole. When setting the height, I decided to keep them relatively small so we could focus on doing the exercise right.

HOW TO RIDE IT

Once your horse is warmed up on the flat, give them a quick pop over one of the jumps on each rein by itself to get their head in the jumping game. Once this is done, you can get started with the exercise…

To make it a bit easier to explain, I have numbered the jumps and added arrows to help you follow the diagrams.

Step 1: Starting on the right rein, ride a large circle by jumping from jump 1 to 3 to 2. Do this two or three times or until you feel that you’ve been able to achieve a steady and consistent rhythm between each fence. Ensure you give it a go on each rein before moving onto the next stage.

Step 1 – Ride a full circle over each jump

Step 2: Next, you can start changing direction over each fence. Starting on the right rein over fence 1 and changing direction to ride left over number 2 and changing again to rider right back over fence 1. This incorporates your change of rein while keeping the loops relatively big so you have time to prepare for the next fence.

Step 2 – Start changing direction

Step 3: Lastly, it’s time to put you and your horse to the test by putting it all together. Start off on the right rein over number 1, changing the rein to go left over number 3, staying left ride a turnback to number 2. Change to the right rein over number 2 and turnback to number 3. Land left and finish over number 1.

Step 3 – Put it all together

This isn’t an overly complicated exercise to do but it can take a few attempts to get yourself and your horse settled into the rhythm of it. Here are some things to remember as you ride it:

  • Know where you’re going after you land – some of these turns are tight so you need to give yourself and your horse time to prepare
  • Remember to look up and around at where you’re going
  • Your horse may lose its momentum on the turn so make sure not to let your canter die by riding your horse through the turn
  • Before starting the exercise make sure you have a good consistent canter and you maintain that rhythm throughout the exercise. If you start to rush, you’re guaranteed to run into trouble
  • Don’t just use your hands when turning – make sure to turn your entire body – head, shoulders & torso – giving back-up with your outside leg to bring your horse’s whole body around on the turn
  • Have fun!! This is actually super fun to play around with and try some different combination of turns. It can really bring the fun back to jumping if you find your training is always quite serious.

Check out the video below of me and Coco giving a few different layouts a go! Coco was seriously enjoying herself with this exercise. By the end she really got into the swing of it and found her rhythm!

‘The Mercedes’

I hope you guys give this one a go and have some fun! If you do, make sure to tag us in your videos so we can see how you got on 😀

As always, thanks for reading,

Orla


Enough about the horse…

When you own a young horse all of the focus tends to be on them, making sure they’re getting the right training and making sure, as the rider, you don’t die. For a solid two years all of my riding time has been spent getting Coco to exactly where she is now. From a green youngster to a (slightly) more matured horse who can be expected to behave herself. So what happens now?

Well for me, its time to put the focus back on me and my own riding. I’ve definitely used the ‘ride the way your horse needs you to ride’ excuse for far too long and because of image_12.jpgthat my riding has seriously suffered. My position in general needs the most amount of work. I tend to squeeze with my heels as opposed to my calf so my heels don’t always stay down, my shoulders are always slouched so I tend to tip forward, I look down at Coco rather than looking up at where I’m going and I struggle to keep a consistent contact. These are all just bad habits that I haven’t been strict with myself about fixing but now is the time! So I’ve started doing lessons again with my good friend Sue Byrne.  

So far I’ve had two lessons – one flatwork and one jumping lesson. And from these lessons I’ve had 3 revelations…

The flatwork lesson was exactly what I needed. As soon as we got started Sue was shouting; ‘Look up!’, ‘Tits out’ and other memorable little phrases that I’ve been saying to myself as I ride ever since that lesson. We did some exercises to get Coco listening to my aids and worked on our canter transitions which have gone to absolute shit in the last few months. It was at the end of this lesson that I had my first revelation; I am the problem when it comes to the issues I’m having while riding at the moment. 

We did our jumping lesson at the National Horse Sport Arena (one of my all timeTwo Years of Coco favourite schooling venues). We started with my jumping position and looking at where I should be placing my hands and how my shoulders should stay behind my hands. We also worked on my ability to see a stride (my achilles heel) and knowing when and how to adjust Coco’s canter around a course. Revelation number two; my job is to get Coco to the jump as best as I can, after that its all up to her.

While these issues with my riding may seem so basic to some people, it’s incredible how much of a rut I’m in because I haven’t been working on myself. And so we reach revelation number three; if I want Coco to reach her full potential, I need to become a better rider. So that’s my plan. I’m going to take the winter to work on myself and my riding so that next year myself and Coco will be ready to boss it no matter what we do.


Have you ever reached a point in your riding where you realised you actually weren’t improving? What did you do to get yourself going again? Let me know in the comments.
As always thanks for reading 🙂 

Orla

Two Years of Coco

So as you may have read, Darielle and Dante celebrated their 2 year anniversary last week but did you know that me and Coco did too? (Although, we didn’t really celebrate as I had to get some wisdom teeth removed, hence the late post, so Coco ended up having a few well deserved days off!) Yes, me and Darielle both bought our delightful youngsters within a day of each other so between the two of us, the last 2 years has seen a ridiculous amount of ups and downs!


So where did me & Coco start…

When I decided that I was going to buy a young, inexperienced horse, I really didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself in for. I had ridden a number of green horses before

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The first time I rode Coco

that needed some schooling, and horses who’s owners let them away with murder and needed to be taught some manners. But taking on a just broken 4 year old, who had only 6 weeks of work put into them is a completely different story. There’s nothing that can really prepare you for your first youngster, no matter how experienced you are.

My journey with Coco so far has been a very turbulent one. We had our issues at the start when my resolve was seriously tested and I wasn’t entirely sure I was cut out for this milark. Then we had a period of improvement until injury struck. After recovering from injury we soared. We became a team and just got better and better. That was until progress was inexplicably halted and we were back to square one. Coco started refusing to jump and began a bucking habit. Once again I questioned whether I even knew what I was doing and my confidence hit an all time low. There is nothing more soul destroying than feeling like you’re only going backwards. But with time and support from good friends and trainers, we slowly started to get back on track. We moved yards which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for Coco. I loved my old yard but it just didn’t suit my highly strung mare. After this we started working on our trust issues and building our confidence in each other. We revisited old problem areas that I had been avoiding and we started going from strength to strength.

 

When you turn a corner…

This summer I finally started competing Coco. This was one of those goals that I was always striving towards but had never felt we were completely ready for. We had done small training shows and clear round jumping in places that Coco was more than used to but the idea of going out and competing somewhere completely brand new was something that terrified me. Fortunately though I needn’t have been worried. It turns out Coco absolutely loves getting out and about. Ever since we started regularly competing every other weekend she has been happier than ever.

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Last Sunday we had our ultimate test – we had a competition at Coilóg Equestrian, a place where all of our confidence issues with jumping started during our very first schooling session there. We had been back once since then and while it went much better than the first time, it still wasn’t smooth sailing. So to come to this particular venue and jump a course of fences without any practice rounds was pretty terrifying. Yet again however, I had no need to worry as we jumped our best round ever. All of our hard work and

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Coco flying around Coilóg last week

training kicked in and we flew around the course. We had one knock that was rider error but aside from that I actually could have cried with how proud I was of my Cocopops.

Jumping is the one area of horse riding that I absolutely love but is also where I lack the most confidence. So to take my 4 year old from an aggro hothead who would do anything to avoid jumping and turn her into a confident and happy jumper, that’s something that has made all of the hard times and battles worth it. It may be a small achievement to some but for me, its monumental.

So what’s next for me and Coco? I plan to finish out the year jumping our courses of 80s out competing, while at home I want to start pushing myself to jump a bit bigger. Main focus for the winter though will be improving both of our fitness so that we’ll hopefully be ready to get going with SJI in the new year!


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I hope reading about my journey with Coco gives some of you who may just be starting your youngster journey some reassurance that there is actual light at the end of the tunnel. If you put the time, patience and work into your horse, there’s no way they won’t come out the other end the better for it. And what’s more, you’ll find you have a partner for life out of it too.

As always, thanks for reading,

Orla

 

Catch Up with Coco

I was taking a look back through some of our posts over the last few weeks and I realised it’s been a while since I wrote about Coco. A lot has happened since our last post and while you may have kept up to date through our Instagram account, @NoBuckingWayBlog, I thought it would be good to give an update on the little sass-pot that is Coco.

Where we left off…

Last I wrote about Coco, she had developed a really annoying bucking habit which I had put down as a behavioural issue. This meant that I was tasked with the job of showing Coco that I was the one in charge and I wouldn’t take her nonsense anymore. I certainly had a few fun weeks ahead of me.
The first time I rode Coco with my new take no shit’ attitude was a bit terrifying. From the second I got up she spent all her energy throwing her weight around, napping, bucking, spooking – doing everything she can to not work. After a few days of tough riding she eventually started getting the picture and I began to see some progress. 
The bucking became much less but every now and again she would explode with energy so I had to learn how to manage that. We had a lesson one evening with Darielle and Dante, we started off very well but out of nowhere Coco threw a buck and took off around the arena. From there I had the challenge of settling her back down so we could continue with the lesson. We ended well but it showed how much work I still had to do. 
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The following week, we were hit with a massive snow storm that stopped me from being able to get to the yard for a few days. Between the storm, the lingering snow and a hectic few weeks in work, Coco ended up having a good two weeks off, which I thought would set us back.
In all that time though, I had made the decision to move Coco to a new yard. 

The New Yard

IMG_6634.PNGThe yard we moved to is the same one that Darielle has Dante in. Its much smaller and quieter which I think suits Coco better. Our first week there, I was able to take my time to get both her and myself settled although it helped that we had been there a few times before so it wasn’t a completely new environment for her. 

The day we arrived (Monday) I put her straight into her new stable which was ready to go with a lovely big bed and a full haynet. Coco definitely wasn’t complaining. The next day (Tuesday) I gave her a little lunge and then hand walked her out to the cross country field for some grass and a look around. To my surprise, she was incredibly chilled out and not spooky at all. I even lunged her over a small log which she seemed to enjoy! The following day (Wednesday) I decided I’d hop up and give her a short session in the arena. I was ready for an exciteable and spooky Coco as she hadn’t been ridden in a good week or two before this. However instead I had a super chilled and happy horse which was actually a bit of a shock – it seemed she was really taking to her new yard! 

 

This positive attitude continued for the rest of the week so by the Saturday I decided to do a lesson with Darielle and one of the other girls at the yard. It was the first proper jumping session I’ve had on Coco in months and she was definitely on form. She was jumping out of her skin, so much so that I couldn’t keep with her! It was fantastic to see her enjoying her jumping again. Our only problem during that lesson was me – I wasn’t used to this confident Coco so it took a while for that to click.

From that lesson, I decided to bring Coco back to my old yard for their Easter show. I wasn’t sure how she would take going back to that busy environment especially so soon after we had just moved but she didn’t bat an eyelid, despite the miserable weather. She did her warm up like a pro and jumped confidently around the course. We didn’t go clear but that wasn’t our goal. All I wanted was to get her around the course without any stops and without any spooking and that’s exactly what I got. I couldn’t have been happier with her!

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Where are we now?

We’ve been at our new yard now for nearly a month. The first 3 weeks were fantastic – I felt like I had finally turned a corner with Coco. Unfortunately this last week has seen the return of spooky Coco. Its almost like a flick has switched and suddenly everything is terrifying. I’m quite disappointed, I really thought we had turned a corner. At first I thought it was an issue with her feed but even after I did some changing around I still didn’t see any improvement.
We recently had a lesson where we tackled her spooking and I’m finally starting to see some progress. I’m going to cover how I dealt with this issue in a separate upcoming post so keep an eye out for that!
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What’s Next?

So what’s next for me and Coco? Well, once we tackle the spooking issue, I think its time to start getting out and getting some experience.
  • I want to get Coco to as many different places as possible, even just for schooling sessions, to get her used to new environments
  • With this I want to do some clear round jumping. The plan will be to keep the experience low pressure and the heights low so Coco can keep enjoying herself
  • I hope to start doing some low level dressage shows
  • Our new yard has a cross country field so this summer I plan to get her over some of those jumps
  • Finally, I would love to bring Coco on a horsey holiday so hopefully we can get something planned for the summer!

So I have a lot planned but if experience has taught me anything its that when it comes to young horses, you can’t bank on anything so even if I was to accomplish just one of these goals, I’ll be delighted!

Thanks for reading 🙂
Orla & Coco