Focus On The Poles – February Exercise 1

It has been forever since I have had the time to sit down and put together some of the exercises I have been doing with Dante over the past few weeks. Dante is on a 7 day working schedule and for our flat/pole days and likewise on our jumping days I like to be prepared with what I am doing so that our time isn’t wasted in the arena.

For the month of February, I shall be sharing with you guys a weekly exercise, a mixture of flatwork & poles, and some jumping exercises also. We are on lockdown here in Ireland, so I hope it is something you can do or use as motivation to get you through your week with your horse.

Keep scrolling below to see the layout and “how to” on this weeks exercise. There is also a video over on our Instagram page on how Dante rode the exercise, be sure to check it out.

The Set Up

For this exercise, see the set image below. You can use it as a flat polework exercise, or if you are feeling brave or as you progress over a few days you can turn them all into jumps. I never walked the distances out between to outer canter poles, this was in order for me to be able to adjust Dante to the stride I wanted him to do.

The trot poles in the middle are 5 heel to toe footsteps between, with the middle pole raised. These can be adjusted to 4/4.5 steps for smaller horses or ponies.

How To Ride This Exercise

  1. As always, I advise that a good warm up is done prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I focused a lot on transition work with Dante very helpful before we began, also making sure he was moving forward from my leg.
  2. This exercise can be ridden in sections first before progressing to one large exercise, depending on you and I guess how your horse is going. I began by getting an active forward trot over firstly the poles on the diagonal, and over the outer poles, getting Dante flexing around my leg in the trot, as we move up into canter this will become extremely helpful.
  3. Moving into our canter, I began by focusing firstly on cantering large circles over the poles at the top and bottom of the arena, focusing on having an even rhythm in the canter, making sure to also land on the correct lead as you move to your next pole.
  4. Once you are happy with this, you can begin to piece all of the 4 outer poles together. As you can see from my video on Instagram, I had a mixture of raised poles and small cavaletti’s as well as flat poles in this exercise. Variety for Dante works, he rushes more as the poles raise, so this was great to get him to approach flat poles the same as small jumps. My aim was to get a steady even forward canter the hole way around the poles.
  5. I haven’t mentioned the raised poles as of yet in this exercise, well let me add them in! They are used in this exercise to aid in changing your rein. I find this much easier to keep the exercise flowing so that you can keep the flow going instead of stopping and starting all the time. (As much as I would rather stop to catch my breath!)
  6. To finish, the entire exercise should ride as follows. Pick up your trot, changing the rein over your raised poles on the diagonal, pick up canter in the corner, ride a circle of canter over all your poles. Change the rein again over the diagonal, trotting over your poles, pick up canter and continue on with your canter over your poles on the other rein. Finish your exercise by transitioning down to trot and over your poles on the diagonal again, and viola, your done!

The Benefits of The Exercise

  • Improves your eye for a stride
  • Improves your horses canter and adjustability
  • Sharpens up your transitions
  • Improves flexability

Once you are happy with how your horse is riding this exercise, remember to always leave your horse on a good note, now keep in mind that your horse needs to do what you ask it to do so don’t worry if it takes a few turns to get this exercise right. I normally leave it up for 2/3 days to get it perfected.

I found this exercise super productive & really made me focus during my riding session. Plans really do work once you put them in place, It’s great to have a schedule to focus on and to keep you motivated, especially in this day and age!

Be sure to give it a go for yourself & do tag me in any videos you take of you doing this exercise! Next week I have a lovely jumping exercise that is sure to keep you thinking on your toes!


Darielle & Coco – The Mare That Keeps on Giving

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…. 

The Perfect Duo – Darielle & Coco

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. 

Always sit back when it comes to hoppy Coco!

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!! 

Until Next Time,