Grill The Equestrian – Holly Lenahan

It has been a while, but we are back with another Equestrian to Grill! This time we were delighted to welcome Holly Lenahan who some may call the Irish Queen of Equestrian Social Media.

We gave poor Holly some tough questions which we think has made for one of our most interesting Grill’s yet. With the emphasis mostly on the woman herself we give you the inside scoop, from training exercises, to what it’s really like being an equestrian influencer.

We certainly didn’t go easy on her…


The World of Social Media Fame

How do you manage your time so well? Between your studies, your horse, your personal life and your blog, how do you have time for it all? 

I’d love to say it’s because I have such excellent time management skills, but realistically, the only reason I’m able to keep it all going is because my parents are so supportive. Without my dad helping by feeding and looking after them while I’m at college, there would be no way I could keep on top of it. I’m also so lucky to be able to keep our horses where we live so we don’t have to pay for livery and as they live out on grass all year round, that also cuts out a lot of costs.

How do you maintain your online presence? Do you just go with the flow or do you plan and keep to a schedule?

There’s definitely no schedule to it! I used to try and upload a video on a set day every week but I soon gave up and upload when I have enough time to film a good quality video. That has been difficult with college and studying, but I do try and pre-record videos if I know I’ll be very busy for a few weeks. Posting to Instagram and YouTube is also very dependent on who I can rope into videoing for me. Sometimes I wish I had a clone who loved taking photos and videos as much as I do and would film me every day! But that’s not the most realistic dream…

How do you find keeping consistent and relevant content coming on your channels? 

I sometimes find it very hard to know what videos people actually want to see, especially as it changes all the time. At one point, my show vlogs were my most watched videos, whereas now people are more interested in cleaning and grooming videos. And I’m sure it’ll change again. I try to just film videos that I myself would like to watch and that’s worked well enough for me so far.

Do you receive much negativity online? When you do, how do you deal with it? 

Yes I definitely get my fair share of negative comments. I mostly ignore them or block them because deep down I know all they want is a reaction from me. But that can be very hard sometimes as the comments can be quite vicious and personal and it’s difficult not to defend myself. I think deleting comments is the best way to deal with them, but I’m always worried that people might think that I’m trying to hide something or that deleting them is a sign of guilt.. But hopefully people understand it’s not very nice to see these kinds of comments.

Do you often get recognised at events you attend? 

I’m starting to get recognised more often now at shows and even in non-horsey places which is such a surreal experience. Sometimes people message me later that day saying they saw me but were too nervous to say hi, but I always say they should’ve come over! I’m just as socially awkward as anyone else so there will be no judgement from me! It also makes me realise that there are actual real people behind the accounts that comment on my videos and like my pictures, which just makes it even more crazy to me.

Would you change anything about your social media success? 

Honestly not really. I’ve met so many lovely people and made lifelong friends from my social media and I’m also quite proud of the fact that I’ve never been involved in any online drama or fights. Being on social media has definitely been a positive experience for me and I think part of that is because I really started getting into it when I was a good bit older than a lot of people who start now.

If you could tell your followers one thing, what would it be? 

If you have a goal, you should do everything in your power to achieve it, but if it doesn’t come to fruition, then reflect on what you learned and focus on your next goal. Reaching your goal isn’t the most important thing, the journey is where you learn the most.

Holly’s Life & Horses

As a vet student, do you ever find yourself being way too cautious when any issues come up with your horses? 

It’s definitely a case of the more I learn, the more worried I get about the horses. Suddenly a lame horse could mean a million terrible things instead of the simple stone bruise it is. But I think it’s also a good thing to be more educated as prevention is better than cure and I am able to spot issues quicker.

Do you have any plans to compete in Cross Country or Eventing, or is showjumping your main priority? 

Showjumping will always be my main priority. Although I have done a bit of cross country and even a one day event years ago, our horses are mainly show jumpers so that’s what I’ll be sticking with.

What is one of your favourite training exercises? 

It may sound basic, but this exercise single handedly gave me an eye for a stride. Basically you set up two poles, a set amount of strides apart e.g. 5 strides. And you canter down it in 5, then 6, then 4, then 7 if you’re feeling really brave. The most important thing is to treat the poles as actual jumps and ask yourself, if that was a jump, would I have knocked it? It teaches you to get a good rhythm, meet your poles accurately and ride straight. It also teaches the horses to extend and collect and become more responsive. So many benefits and all you need is two poles!

Who in the industry do you look up to? 

Edwina Tops-Alexander is my absolute idol. She’s such a competitive and sympathetic rider and also Australian like myself which is always a bonus. And not to mention she had a child at the end of 2017 and was back at the top of the sport very soon afterwards, what a woman!

If you could train with any equestrian in the world for a day, who would it be? 

Edwina or Marcus Ehning. Marcus is an unbelievable rider. The connection he has with his horses allows him to appear motionless on their back. It’s always a pleasure to watch him compete.

Where do you see yourself 2 years from now? 

Oh no, I’ve been having a bit of a crisis lately about what I’m going to do when I graduate next year and then you come at me with this question! I can honestly say I don’t even know what country I’ll be in 2 years from now, let alone know what I’ll be doing. You’ll have to get back to me with that question!

What is your favourite thing about bringing on a young horse?

Young horses are my absolute favourite to work with. There’s no feeling more satisfying than when you’re trying to communicate something to a young horse and they have this eureka moment where it just clicks. They also make a lot of progress really fast so it’s such a rewarding experience.

Ok to wrap us up, here’s a hard one – if you had to sell all your horses except one..who would you choose to keep? 

That is an awful question! Fiona is the first horse that comes to mind because I don’t think she’d do very well in a lot of yards and I wouldn’t like to see her get passed around, but in this hypothetical situation, I’ll sell her to my dad to ride (Is that cheating? I don’t care). And I would keep Dali as the rest of the horses would easily sell to good homes and he is probably the horse with the most unknown potential at the moment so I’m really excited to get working with him.


We have to admit, we really did enjoy coming up with these questions. A massive thank you to Holly for taking part & we would like to wish you all the success in your studies over the summer.

Be sure to head over to Holly’s Instagram @hollylenahan & check out her Youtube account while you’re at it, She’s guaranteed to inspire you with her fantastic content, not to mention the videos of her Dad, if you havn’t seen them they are a must!!

Keep your eyes peeled for our next grilling coming up very very soon. We’re staying on the girl-power track with a very well known Irish record maker! Can you guess who’s up next?

Until Next time,

Darielle & Orla

August Monthly Exercise #3 – The Bend & Flex

This weeks exercise was extremely challenging to say the least. There was quite a mixed review regarding doing a flat work exercise or a jumping exercise, so I decided why not do one that benefits both!

As Dante progressed through the exercise I could see a huge improvement so hopefully you all will see the same with your horses at home.

Have a read below, & be sure to give it a go, it has been one of my favourites so far as it was quite challenging, but then again who doesn’t love a challenge!

What you will need: 

8 poles, 8 sets of wings & a clear arena once the exercise is set up.

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Setting up this exercise, I will admit it looked like it was going to be quite difficult. I set it with 1 stride between each fence, walking out the stride diagonally across as per the image below. Bend & flex 2-page-001

How I measure Dante’s strides – one stride is 8 human strides/footsteps (2,4,2), two stride double is 12 human strides/footsteps (2,4,4,2), three stride double is 16 human strides/footsteps (2,4,4,4,2)

Note: The 2 at beginning are for landing, and the 2 at the end are for take off, remember Dante is a big horse so these strides may vary for a smaller horse or pony.

 

What this exercises is good for:

  • Flexability
  • Control
  • Practicing tight turns into jumps, great for jump off practice
  • Flying changes
  • Accuracy into fences
  • Working on consistency in your horses rhythm

How To Ride This Exercise:

  1. Start off by warming up your horse as normal
  2. Have the exercise set up as ground poles. I started by looping Dante over sections of the exercise in walk, then I began doing it in the trot. Trotting down over the first loop, and repeating it until Dante became comfortable and was flowing nicely, only then did I put the full exercise together, still keeping everything in trot.
  3. Repeat the same as above in canter once you feel comfortable. Start by riding the first loop in canter, then as you progress put the full exercise together. You should still have the poles flat on the ground at this stage. I found it quite difficult to get the turns after the fences in canter, so a lot of practicing was done to focus on  controlling his pace & keeping a steady rhythm through out the turns, this was absolutely vital for a correct approach.
  4.  For more of a challenge, I put the four fences up to cross poles, I would suggest keeping the fences low enough for this exercise, I wouldn’t put them any higher than 70/80cm. The point is to improve your accuracy & turns before & after fences, having them too big will make it way too difficult & could result in your horse finding it extremely difficult to turn afterwards.
  5. Use as much of the arena that you can when you are riding your circles after the fences, give you horse as much space as you can.
  6. Once they went up into jumps, I did the same as above, I rode it in sections before adding everything together. Remember to look where you’re going, turning your body in the air in the direction you want your horse to go, this will assist him with his leg changes. Focus on using your body and leg to direct your horse instead of trying to pull at your horses mouth.
  7. Once you are happy enough with jumping sections of the exercise loop everything together. Don’t worry if you break into trot between fences, push your horse on, sit back tall after the fences and use your body & leg to bend your horse around the corners. I rode this exercise twice, once off the left & the right rein, leaving him on a good note once he completed it correctly.

Be sure to cool your horse down for at minimum 5 minutes after completing this exercise. For a horse that wouldn’t be used to using his body like that, it will be very challenging on them, and if you have a horse like Dante that is willing to keep going regardless of his fitness make sure to let them have a good stretch letting them walk off on a long rein.

I would  recommend having ground help with this exercise, a lot of readjustments may need to be made, and getting up & down off your horse can be quite painful!

I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this weeks exercise, be sure to keep an eye out next Sunday to see what Orla & Coco have to offer!

Thanks for reading,

Darielle 

 

April Monthly Exercise – The Grid of Choice

A few weeks ago we decided to set up a technical grid exercise. Its one that we were both looking to give a go for quite a while so with some nice weather we decided to set it up. All I’ll say is that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in for!

 What is this exercise good for?

  • Working on your lines
  • Practicing doglegs
  • Getting your horse to listen and wait for your aid 
  • Working on landing on the correct lead

How to set it up?

This exercise is set up on the centre line of the arena. Place a cross pole between K & F, count two strides from the cross pole and place a vertical. From the second jump, count
two strides and place another vertical. Beside the last vertical, place another two jumps on the diagonal.  These should be two strides on a dogleg from the second fence. 

How to ride it?

  1. To start, leave everything but the cross pole as ground poles so you can check your strides.
  2. The first time, go straight down the centre layout. The second time aim for the jump on the right & lastly aim for the jump on the left.
  3. Once you’re happy with the striding you can start raising everything  into jumps one at a time.
  4. This can be quite an intimidating layout to come into for both horse & rider.  It’s worth going through the grid a few times and making sure you’re comfortable on the different angles before upping the height.

Challenge Yourself

  • If you really want a challenge, try jumping through the grid the other way around, starting with your fences on the angle. 
  • Turn the middle fence into an oxer to really encourage your horse to stretch out and use himself

How did Coco get on?

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I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever done a more difficult exercise on Coco. It was incredible how intimidating the layout was once you get over the first fence. You had to know exactly where you were going before you even entered the grid and it really showed if you didn’t. 

On our first attempt through this layout, Coco refused the second fence. It was partly because she was napping to one of the other horses and partly because she could see the fillers on the last few fences. She was much better the second time although still very unsure of the fillers so I got a few funny jumps. 

I also have to mention that I did fall off. We put the second fence into an oxer which I was completely unprepared for. I had a rubbish approach into the first jump which affected our pace and momentum for the second fence. I thought Coco was going to attempt it but she refused and I ended up over her head. Completely my own fault. I got up and tried again, first without the back bar of the oxer and then again with the back bar up. She did that well so I finished her there. 

Overall I was delighted with how she handled the grid. It showed how much we still had to work on but also some positives like the fact that she jumped the scary fillers first time and happily jumped the oxer after I had landed her in it the first time. They’re small improvements but I’ll take every positive step I can get at the moment.

How did Dante get on?

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“Oh Dear God” that statement right there pretty much sums up how Dante got on with this exercise, his head was officially blown! 

 

On his first approach to the grid, the striding had to be adjusted quite some bit after Coco, pushing them all out slightly. The first fence was kept as a cross pole and the remaining combination staying as canter poles, He went through this good, not paying any attention to the second part of the grid until we started adding in extra fences, then things got slightly messy and out of control.

The difference between himself & Coco was massive in a sense of even their spacial awareness, he needs all the space he can get to try make the tight turns, having him falling over his feet was the outcome when he couldn’t figure out where his legs were supposed to go. After doing the grid & demolishing it a few times, I thought it was best to cut out the dogleg at the end, partially eliminate the full grid, and stick to the first two fences working on getting him to relax and focus. 

He was so overwhelmed with the 3rd section of the grid, I really do forget how much of a baby he still is, it’s going to take him another while for him to find those legs of his. Another huge element to the grid, was adding in ground poles to each of the fences, without them he really struggles to find his take of point.  

To summarise everything up, Dante needs all the help he can get when it comes to grids, for example having trot poles on his approach to help him concentrate and to stop him from taking control charging off. 

Doing this exercise put a lot of things into perspective for me & where Dante is with his progress. While some people may think because he is big and well capable of jumping big fences, that he should just be in jumping 1m/1.20 fences, they are completely wrong. Getting him to jump small & to appreciate the jump no matter the height, staying relaxed & focused on his approach is what I am aiming for. 

 


Is this an exercise you’d ever give a go? If so, let us know how you get on! We’re dying to hear how other people found this exercise.
Thanks for reading,
Orla & Darielle